What should schools should be doing to promote British values?

Following “Trojan Horse” the Department for Education (DfE) released departmental advice on what schools and academies should be doing to ensure that they are effectively promoting British values and preparing their pupils for life in the UK. The following guidance is taken from two documents released by the DfE on the promotion of “British values” as part of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of pupils. There is separate advice for maintained schools and academies.   

The Prevent Strategy, released in 2011 to combat extremism in the UK, defined “British values” as the promotion of “democracy, rule of law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and the rights of all men and women to live free from persecution of any kind”. Both maintained schools and academies should promote these values as part of their provision for SMSC.

DfE expectations

For maintained schools, the DfE has made it clear that they are expected to promote British values, although currently this is not a legal duty. However, the DfE plans to apply this to maintained schools through changes to the Ofsted inspection regime and through guidance in the Governance Handbook. Under the Education Act 2002, all maintained school must do the following:

  • promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society

  • prepare pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life

The departmental advice states that any “systems that undermine fundamental British values would be completely at odds with schools’ duty to provide SMSC”.

Academies have a statutory duty to promote British values. On 29 September 2014, the government amended the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 so that academies must now “actively promote” British values. This means that they should:

  • ensure that they have a “clear strategy for embedding fundamental British values” in pupils, and show how this has been done effectively

  • challenge opinions or behaviours in schools that are contrary to fundamental British values

According to the departmental advice produced by the DfE, to promote British values academies and maintained schools should:

  • enable students to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence

  • enable students to distinguish between right and wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law in 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

  • encourage respect for other people

  • encourage respect for democracy and support participation in the democratic process, including respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in England

Overall, pupils should have a good appreciation and understanding of the democratic process; the rule of law; the separation of executive power; and freedom of belief. Pupils should also be tolerant of other beliefs and views contrary to their own, and be able to identify and combat discrimination.

Although schools do not have to promote teachings or beliefs that they do not accept, they should never discriminate against an opinion, belief or lifestyle. For academies that are not bound to the national curriculum they should also take care, when teaching religious education, to stress the difference between religious law and English law.

Actions schools can take

There are a number of actions schools can take to ensure that they are promoting British values. These are:

  • 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 views

  • use teaching resources from a wide variety of sources to help pupils understand a rang of faiths

  • consider the role of extra-curricular activity, including any run directly by pupils, in promoting fundamental British values

Further Reading

Connect With Us
  • NGA, 36 Great Charles Street, Birmingham, B3 3JY
  • Phone: 0121 237 3780 | Contact Us
  • Charity Number: 1070331 | Company Number 3549029

Copyright © 2019 National Governance AssociationA Dreamscape Digital Solution