What are British values?

According to Ofsted, British values are:

  • democracy;
  • the rule of law;
  • individual liberty;
  • mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith
  • .

Schools must promote British values, says UK Government

As of November 2014, schools must now promote British values.
Advice from the DfE is to do so through SMSC, though Ofsted will assess it through the curriculum too.

Image: 'UK Grunge Flag' by Nicolas Raymond

In its press release on 27 November 2014, the Department for Education told all schools to promote 'British values' and produced advice for doing so through SMSC.

Ofsted wants to see a school ethos and climate that promotes 'British values' at every level. Inspectors will assess 'British values' through SMSC, the curriculum and school leadership.

And Ofsted now pays a lot of attention to SMSC when deciding whether your school is 'outstanding', 'inadequate' or somewhere in between.

(Although this website is concerned mainly with primary and secondary education, the British values and Prevent agendas affect early years provision too. This page on childcare.co.uk explains how British values and Prevent requirements affect childminders and early years providers.)

But what are 'British values'?

According to Ofsted, 'fundamental British values' are:

  • democracy
  • the rule of law
  • individual liberty
  • mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith.
School Inspection Handbook from September 2015

How must we teach it?

Advice from the Department for Education is that British values should be promoted through SMSC.

For maintained schools, this is set out in Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC.

For independent schools, free schools and academies, it is set out in Improving the SMSC development of pupils in independent schools.

(Oddly, the DfE makes no mention of the statutory citizenship curriculum; it's as though ministers have completely forgotten they have a subject purpose-built for making sense of such things already.)

What must be taught?

The advice here is basically the same for maintained schools ('state' schools) and independent schools (private schools, academies and free schools):

  • Enable students to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence
  • enable students to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law of England
  • encourage students to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative, and to understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality of the school and to society more widely
  • enable students 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 students to acquire an appreciation for and respect for their own and other cultures
  • encourage respect for other people, and
  • encourage respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic processes, including respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in England.

The only difference for independent schools is in the penultimate paragraph, which now includes them in requirements regarding the Equality Act's protected characteristics:

  • encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010.

How will it be assessed?

In its revised Framework for school inspection, Ofsted is clear that schools will struggle to get a decent rating if they fail to deliver good SMSC, which now includes 'British values'.

Ofsted added 'British values' explicitly to the Social strand of SMSC in its School inspection handbook 2014:

'The social development of pupils is shown by their:
  • 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; the pupils develop and demonstrate skills and attitudes that will allow them to participate fully in and contribute positively to life in modern Britain.'

In that incarnation, the Schools Inspection Handbook stated explicitly that school leaders must also demonstrate that they were addressing British values through the curriculum. However, this has changed in the School Inspection Handbook from September 2015:

'Inspectors will consider:
'Inspectors should consider how well leadership and management ensure that the curriculum:
  • how the school prepares pupils positively for life in modern Britain and promotes the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith.'
  • actively promotes the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.'
School Inspection Handbook for September 2015, paragraph 138 School Inspection Handbook 2014, paragraph 152

Confusingly, there is a slightly different definition of the last point elsewhere in the current document (at paragraph 135): 'mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs,' which omits 'those without faith'.

Citizenship has it covered

While teaching 'British values' may seem a tall order, never fear: schools have the tools to cover much of it already.

School leaders often overlook the citizenship curriculum, but it's still there for schools (there's even a GCSE and A level in it) and it was purpose-built for exactly this sort of exploration and learning.

Citizenship education underpins much of SMSC. For example, exploring human rights and our political and legal systems through the taught citizenship curriculum goes a long way to learning 'the difference between right and wrong' and 'the consequences of behaviour'.

Resoures for discussing values in the classroom

Many teachers are unsure how to approach values teaching. And many worry about discussing the controversial issues that may arise when exploring values. This is understandable, particularly now the Government's Prevent agenda has put a duty on schools to monitor and report on potential extremism (in force from 1 July 2015).

We have a few resources to help teachers explore values appropriately and fairly, and to develop strategies for responding to controversial events.

Training

The Citizenship Foundation offers a British values training package for primary schools.

We don't currently offer similar training for secondary schools, but the Association for Citizenship Teaching does periodically.