Promoting British Values by Dr Michelle Springer

17 February, 2015

British-Values-V1.01“We don’t really know what these British Values are supposed to be. More than that, we don’t really know how to promote and measure and evaluate values at all. And so we are nervous.”

The active promotion of British Values has been put in my ‘safe hands’. Partly because I am the Head of PSHE (or Everything-That-Is-Not-Part-Of-The-Academic-Curriculum) but partly because, as my head teacher says, I am Australian and can be trusted not to inflict the school with Old Etonian Values. (Not that there is anything strictly wrong with Old Etonian Values. And, being Australian, perhaps I don’t even fully understand what that means!)

But that’s the problem…

We don’t really know what these British Values are supposed to be. More than that, we don’t really know how to promote and measure and evaluate values at all. And so we are nervous.

But what are we so worried about?

We get wound up when the government starts to talk about things like values. And even more so when it’s attached to ‘Britishness’. The ‘British’ (whoever they are; The English? The Welsh? The Irish? The Scottish? All of us surely) get nervous when national identity is brought up. For a lot of people it feels like it’s bordering on racist or nationalist. People equate it with the fervent waving of the St George flag or inflammatory headlines about a flood of immigration.

But we don’t need to think of it in terms of being British or any particular nationality. We are not being expected to teach the importance of orderly queuing or of offering a cup of tea in a crisis. We can just think of it in terms of what is ‘right’. Treat people with respect. Don’t discriminate. Respect the law. Or maybe that’s just me showing a blatant ethnocentrism.

If you read the DfE non-statutory guidance for the Promotion of British Values in Schools then your fears should surely be assuaged. The key tenets of the guidance are things that few of us teaching would really disagree with (although this is not to say that you couldn’t debate them);

  • democratic process
  • the rule of law
  • the separation of power between the executive and the judiciary
  • freedom of belief
  • equality
  • acceptance and tolerance and
  • combatting discrimination.

Although the duty to promote British Values has arisen out of the Prevent agenda and the identified need to prevent extremism and radicalisation, much of what is outlined in the guidance on promoting British Values is not new to those working in Citizenship and PSHE.

The aims of the Citizenship curriculum in particular are almost identical – to foster awareness and understanding of democracy, government and how laws are made and upheld, developing respect for and understanding of diverse identities and participating actively in the community for its betterment. With this already in existence, there will be little need to shoehorn ‘British Values’ into the curriculum and even less need to get concerned about it.

“It is an opportunity to have some interesting conversations.”

Much of what is expected in the British Values agenda is seen in other aspects of day-to-day school life too – assemblies, student leadership, whole school policies and work around SMSC provision. Rather than an issue to get into a flap about, it is an opportunity to have some interesting conversations.

The main theme through all of this should just be educating our young people to be good and thinking and safe. This duty shouldn’t change what we already do in our schools. It should just make us think about and identify the good things we do. The things that help young people to flourish in the world and be the best they can be and to appreciate and respect themselves and others. And we can’t argue with that… can we?


Dr Michelle Springer, Freelance Educational Consultant and Curriculum Leader for Wellbeing, will feature as a keynote speaker on our SMSC Conference 2015. Attend to create a cohesive programme to deliver Outstanding SMSC and uncover how to promote and teach British values through SMSC.


Find out more about the SMSC Conference, click here.

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