10 Dec 2014

Why box ticking British Values is a bad idea

There are three reasons why box ticking British values is a bad idea.

1 Capturing evidence for promoting British values doesn't work like this

2 It will annoy teachers, because of number 1

3 Ofsted teams don't look at tick boxes

The advice from the DfE 'Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools' has some examples of what this might look like. It is not prescriptive.

  • include in suitable parts of the curriculum, as appropriate for the age of pupils, material on the strengths, advantages and disadvantages of democracy, and how democracy and the law works in Britain, in contrast to other forms of government in other countries;
  • 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;
  • use opportunities such as general or local elections to hold mock elections to promote fundamental British values and provide pupils with the opportunity to learn how to argue and defend points of view;
  • use teaching resources from a wide variety of sources to help pupils understand a range of faiths, and
  • consider the role of extra curricular activity, including any run directly by pupils, in promoting fundamental British values

It also outlines the links with SMSC where schools should:

  • 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 of 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.

There will be some parts of the curriculum such as PSHE, history and religious education as well as tutorials and assemblies which are the natural home for this. However, it is well worth discussing at whole school and departmental level what contribution each subject area can make to this agenda.

Some schools are doing a light touch map of their contribution to SMSC and this can be adapted for British values. An example of an SMSC map can be found here. Some schools are using this to highlight what they are doing already and making a note of what they can reasonably incorporate. This is a much more effective way of working than tick boxing because it encourages us to think about what we are already doing and how we can develop our practice.

A final point: Ofsted teams are likely to pick up the following elements from talking to students and pupils and in lessons: aspects such as respect for other pupils, ability to distinguish between right and wrong, tolerance between different cultural traditions by enabling students to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures.

This is too important and interesting to be covered by a tick box.

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