Addressing fundamental British values in schools

Welcome to the Expert Subject Advisory Group’s latest newsletter, where we look at how to address fundamental British Values, update you on the College of Teaching, and share some of our free resources.

Our resources
If you haven’t yet taken a look at our new website, click here to access free primary resources. As we’re focusing on British Values in this month’s newsletter, you might be interested in the resources produced by our Citizenship group to support the implementation of the revised National Curriculum.

If your school has identified an issue in the primary curriculum that we could help with, please get in touch.

The College of Teaching – your chance to shape the vision
The College of Teaching is now proceeding with the recruitment of an independent board, as described in the Claim your College proposal. This proposal is supported by the DfE, which is supporting the set up of the College whilst enabling the College to remain independent. To read the Claim Your College proposal, make your voice heard, and add your support, please visit the Claim your College website.

Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development, ‘British values’ and citizenship – what should schools be doing?
The DfE guidance for all schools on ‘Promoting British Values as part of SMSC in schools’ (November 2014) caused much confusion and consternation. What are these ‘British Values’, what should we be doing in our school and what will happen if we get an Ofsted inspection visit? Whilst there is scepticism from some about attaching the word ‘British’ to the values the DFE define as fundamental – ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and believes’ – many agree these universal values along with human rights, should be taught and explored as part of a broad and balanced curriculum in every school.

Many subjects have a role to play in SMSC and values education, but one obvious and sometimes overlooked place to begin is Citizenship education. Citizenship remains a National Curriculum and GCSE subject in secondary schools and has a non-statutory National programme of study in primary schools. The subject includes teaching about democracy, the law, liberty, human rights and equality. When done well, Citizenship enables pupils to put these values into action when exploring controversial issues and as pupils take part in active citizenship projects and campaigns that are challenging and engaging for pupils. Citizenship is a subject that promotes values through teaching pupils respect for evidence, critical thinking skills, how to debate and the acceptance of others’ opinions. Citizenship lessons provide space to explore debates about identities, ‘Britishness’, ‘British values’ and what being a citizen means in a global world, within a safe and secure learning environment.

The revised Ofsted inspection framework (2014) makes clear inspectors will be examining how well school leaders ensure the curriculum is ‘broad and balanced, complies with legislation and provides a wide range of subjects, preparing pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life in modern Britain’ and ‘actively promotes the fundamental British values’. So the message is clear: Ofsted expects school leaders to take action to ensure they demonstrate what their school is doing in the curriculum and beyond, and Citizenship should be a key part of this positive action.

Legislative requirements
Maintained schools have obligations under S78 of the Education Act 2002 to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, to promote spiritual, moral, social, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society. The emphasis is placed on actively promoting fundamental British values. Pupils are expected to have knowledge and understanding about: freedom to choose and hold other faiths and beliefs which is protected in law and an acceptance that other people have different faiths or beliefs to oneself (or having none) should be accepted and tolerated and should not be the cause of prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour.

On a S5 inspection, Ofsted inspectors have to check that schools meet the requirements in legislation including:

Further information:

Liz Moorse is Chair of the ESAG for Citizenship, part-time Senior Manager of the Association for Citizenship Teaching and a freelance education consultant.