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Promoting British values in schools

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Last updated on 29 September 2016
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How can schools promote British values? We explain the requirement to promote British values in school and look at how schools can embed values in their curriculum and activities. We also explain how Ofsted inspects the promotion of British values.

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Contents

  1. 1 The requirement to promote British values
  2. 2 Embodying British values in the school ethos 
  3. 3 Teaching British values: the curriculum
  4. 4 Inspection of the promotion of British values
  5. 5 Updated independent school standards
  6. 6 Further resources and programmes

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The requirement to promote British values

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What are British values?

According to the guidance from the DfE, the fundamental British values which schools should promote are:

  • Democracy
  • The rule of law
  • Individual liberty
  • Mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs

In June 2014, the then secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, announced that schools would be required to promote British values from September of that year. The move followed concerns about a perceived promotion of strict Islamist values in some schools in Birmingham.

Department for Education guidance

The Department for Education (DfE) has subsequently published guidance on promoting British values for both maintained and independent schools. The guidance suggests steps for schools to take to promote British values, including: 

  • Use teaching resources from a wide variety of sources to help pupils understand a range of faiths
  • Ensure that all pupils within the school have a voice that is listened to, and demonstrate how democracy works by actively promoting democratic processes (such as a school council whose members are voted for by the pupils)
  • Include material in the curriculum which considers the strengths, advantages and disadvantages of democracy, and how democracy and the law work in Britain, in contrast to other forms of government in other countries

The Governance Handbook

The Governance Handbook includes advice that applies in academies, free schools and maintained schools. For example, it says:

Every effort should be made to ensure the school’s ethos promotes the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs; and encourage students to respect other people, with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010 and accompanying guidance.

The board should ensure that this ethos is reflected and implemented effectively in school policy and practice and that there are effective risk assessments in place to safeguard and promote students’ welfare.

We have produced a KeyDoc you can download, which offers a list of questions to help monitor the promotion of British values:

Embodying British values in the school ethos 

The way a school operates is more valuable than separate lessons on individual values

Russell Hobby of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) and Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), both say that the way a school operates is more valuable than separate lessons on individual values.

The BBC quotes Trobe of ASCL as saying:

... the best way for schools to instil such values in pupils is to reflect them in the way the institution is run.

Schools have to embody democracy in the way they work and within the ethos and culture of the school – within a framework of rules, regulations which are there for the benefit of everyone.

It's not just a question of sitting and teaching children about it.

The following article from The Key explains that there is no need for a specific British values policy, and suggests how British values can be incorporated into other school policies. 

‘Values education’

Some schools have chosen to adopt policies on ‘values education’ as a way of formalising the values they will promote and how they will do this.

For example, Washingborough Academy in Lincolnshire has a policy statement for values education. Page 2 says:

We ... believe that values education has a crucial role in education, because it plays a part in raising achievement and it encourages pupils to be self-disciplined active learners.

Values education supports quality teaching and learning, whilst making a positive contribution to the development of a fair, just and civil society.

The values the school has chosen to adopt include tolerance, cooperation, respect, understanding and responsibility, though it does not refer to these specifically as 'British' values.

On page 3, the school explains that teaching and learning about values takes place in the following ways:

  • By teachers explaining the meaning of the value
  • By pupils reflecting on the value and what it means to them and their own behaviour
  • By pupils using the value to guide their own actions
  • By staff modelling the value through their own behaviour
  • By ensuring that values are taught implicitly through every aspect of the curriculum
  • Through the work of the school council
  • By involving all staff, governors and parents in the values programme, through newsletters which explain how school and home can work together to promote positive values

Supporting pupil voice

One way to promote democratic engagement is through pupil voice.

One way to promote democratic engagement is through pupil voice

Hertfordshire Grid for Learning has developed guidance for its schools on how they can ensure that school councils operate effectively.

It says that some of the key characteristics of effective school councils include having an adult tone and the commitment of the senior leadership team.

Rights and responsibilities

Some schools have chosen to outline the importance of rights and responsibilities within their policies and procedures.

For example, Nether Kellet Community Primary School in Lancashire has included a section on rights and responsibilities within its behaviour policy. The policy says:

  • I have the right to be heard
  • I have the responsibility to listen to others
  • I have the right to be safe and healthy
  • I have the responsibility to keep myself and others safe and healthy
  • I have the right to learn
  • I have the responsibility to do my best at all times and look after equipment
  • I have the right to have friends
  • I have the responsibility to be kind to others
  • I have the right to be myself
  • I have the responsibility to respect others’ differences

Community cohesion

The Governance Handbook explains that all state-funded schools are required to promote community cohesion.

All state-funded schools are required to promote community cohesion

It says that the governing body decides how to fulfil this duty in the light of their local  circumstances.

2007 guidance issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, now the DfE, says on page 3:

By community cohesion, we mean working towards a society in which:

  • There is a common vision and sense of belonging by all communities
  • The diversity of people’s backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated and valued
  • Similar life opportunities are available to all
  • Strong and positive relationships exist and continue to be developed in the workplace, in schools and in the wider community

It says schools can contribute to community cohesion through:

  • Promoting diversity and shared values in teaching, learning and curriculum
  • Ensuring equity and excellence for all pupils
  • Engagement and extended services to provide opportunities for people of different backgrounds to come together

Teaching British values: the curriculum

The citizenship curriculum, which is statutory for secondary age pupils, includes aspects on the British political and legal system.

Teaching should equip pupils with the skills and knowledge to explore political and social issues critically

The DfE says:

... citizenship education should foster pupils’ keen awareness and understanding of democracy, government and how laws are made and upheld.

Teaching should equip pupils with the skills and knowledge to explore political and social issues critically, to weigh evidence, debate and make reasoned arguments.

It should also prepare pupils to take their place in society as responsible citizens, manage their money well and make sound financial decisions.

The Guardian publishes a ‘How to teach ...’ series looking at how to teach topical issues. Some of those covered include:

  • Social justice
  • The UK Parliament
  • Migration
  • Black history month
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) history month
  • Political campaigning

Inspection of the promotion of British values

Ofsted assesses whether maintained schools, academies and free schools promote British values

As part of the common inspection framework from September 2015, Ofsted assesses whether maintained schools, academies and free schools promote British values. The inspection handbook sets out what inspectors should look for.

Paragraph 144 says that inspectors assessing pupils' social development should look for:

... acceptance and engagement with the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs; [pupils] develop and demonstrate skills and attitudes that will allow them to participate fully in and contribute positively to life in modern Britain.

Updated independent school standards

The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 for the SMSC standard apply to all independent schools, including free schools and academies. 

The regulations state that to meet the standard for the SMSC development of pupils, the proprietor of an independent school must:

  • Actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs
  • Ensure that principles are actively promoted which -
    • Enable pupils to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence
    • Enable pupils to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law of England
    • Encourage pupils to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality in which the school is situated and to society more widely
    • Enable pupils to acquire a broad general knowledge of and respect for public institutions and services in England
    • Further tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions by enabling pupils to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures
    • Encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010
    • Encourage respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic process, including respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in England
  • Prevent the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school; and
  • Take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views. This should be:
    • While they are in attendance at the school
    • While they are taking part in extra-curricular activities which are provided or organised by or on behalf of the school; or
    • In the promotion at the school, including through the distribution of promotional material, of extra-curricular activities taking place at the school or elsewhere;

Further resources and programmes

Below we have linked to a number of resources and programmes that could help your school to embed 'British values' in the school’s curriculum and activities.

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