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Promoting British values in the curriculum
How can we promote British values through our curriculum? Two of our associate education experts explain how schools can incorporate British values into the curriculum, and the limitations to doing so. We also include a downloadable template to record how your school promotes British values.
This article features advice from two of our associate education experts on how to promote British values.
Top tips include:
- Use assemblies and collective worship sessions to address how British values are relevant to all pupils
- Take a holistic approach rather than focusing on how to cover British values in individual subjects
- Develop a strong school ethos which promotes British values
Expectations for pupils
The Department for Education's (DfE's) non-statutory guidance on promoting British values in schools outlines the understanding and knowledge expected of pupils as a result of schools meeting the standard to respect ‘fundamental British values’. These include:
- An understanding of how citizens can influence decision-making through the democratic process
- An understanding that the freedom to choose and hold other faiths and beliefs is protected in law
- An understanding of the importance of identifying and combating discrimination
It also sets out actions that schools can take to promote British values.
In another article from The Key, you can read more about the requirement to promote British values.
Promoting through the curriculum
We asked one of our associate education experts, Sue Rogers, how subject leaders could show evidence that they are promoting British values in their lessons. She suggested that:
- Subject leaders should look at the DfE's list of British values (set out in section 1) and identify opportunities in their subjects where these values can be demonstrated
- Teachers could review schemes of work and highlight topics which broadly reflect these values
Schools could look at the following subject-specific approaches:
- English: Many books will have themes covering tolerance, mutual respect and democracy. Lessons could look at how these themes are presented and how characters embody these values. Poetry, songs and languages from other cultures could also be examined. Lessons could explore the meaning of concepts such as liberty, democracy and tolerance
- Citizenship: Pupils should be able to understand their personal rights and freedoms, and they should be advised on how to exercise these safely. Pupils should have the opportunity to learn about different models of democracy and take part in votes, pupil voice questionnaires and pupil councils. Topics such as anti-homophobia, equal rights, and e-safety should be taught
- Religious education (RE): Lessons should reinforce messages of tolerance and respect for others. Children should have the opportunity to visit places of worship that are important to different to faiths. Schools can actively promote diversity through celebrations of different faiths and cultures
- History and geography: Pupils should analyse events in UK and world history where British values have been tested such as both World Wars. In geography, pupils could look at how different cultures live and work throughout the world
KeyDoc template: promoting British values
We have produced a KeyDoc that you can use to show how your school promotes British values as part of spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development. It contains a series of questions, with space to record evidence to support each answer.
Embedding values throughout the school
Sue explained that in some subjects, like maths and science, it would be more difficult to demonstrate British values. However, schools should take a holistic approach wherever possible when teaching British values rather than concentrating on individual subjects.
Bill Bolloten, another of our associate experts, agreed with Sue that the curriculum provides many opportunities for discussing and promoting British values. He added that many schools will already be addressing these through subjects such as personal, social, and health education (PSHE) and RE.
In primary schools, the PSHE curriculum may involve discussions about friendship and how we treat our friends. There are natural connections between this and the British values around mutual respect. Schools can use assemblies and collective worship sessions to address how British values are relevant to all pupils.
Bill cautioned schools against creating a separate curriculum strand for British values. As part of SMSC development, British values are not easily ‘taught’. Instead, they need to be lived through the school’s ethos and values. Producing a set curriculum or skills progression risks turning British values into a tick-list of activities rather than a meaningful, character-building part of the work the school does.
He advised that Ofsted will be looking for evidence of how British values ‘flow through’ the school.
Another article from The Key includes more information on how to develop SMSC education.
Informing parents about British valuesAnother article features a downloadable pamphlet to inform parents about fundamental British values, answering questions such as:
- What are 'fundamental British values'?
- What does this mean for my child?
- What does this look like in school?
Promoting values when pupils are withdrawn from RE
A school leader asked us how a school can ensure it is promoting British values, such as respecting other faiths and beliefs, when parents withdraw their children from RE and collective worship.
Bill told us that schools must respect parents’ decisions to withdraw their children from RE and collective worship.
However, teaching pupils to respect other faiths and beliefs should not be limited to RE or collective worship sessions.
British values and SMSC should be embedded throughout a broad and balanced curriculum, as well as in the school’s ethos and vision. Sections 3 and 4 of this article suggest ways of doing this.
Bill also stressed the importance of communicating the importance of SMSC to parents, and suggested publishing information about the school’s ethos and vision and its SMSC provision on the school website.
Approaches in schools
Reflecting British values in school values
Oasis Academy Shirley Park, a primary school in Croydon, identifies how the 5 British values reflect the school's own values. For example, tolerance for others' religious beliefs reflect the school's values of:
... 'mutual respect' is promoted in English through the use of talk partners and paired reading...
In a document on British values across the curriculum, the school explains how British values are promoted through its core and foundation subjects. The British value of 'mutual respect' is promoted in English through the use of talk partners and paired reading and in maths through pupils working in pairs or groups.
British values-related objectives
Gledhow Primary School in Leeds outlines how it promotes British values across the curriculum. It has identified 12 objectives related to British values, linked to curriculum units and learning outcomes:
|Objective||Year and subject||Unit||Learning outcome|
|To be aware of significant personalities, events and turning points in British history||Y3 History||Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada||We can explain why the Spanish Armada was defeated|
|To be conversant with examples of British creativity and/or culture||Y5 Science||Forces||We can describe how Isaac Newton developed the theory of gravitation|
Super learning days
The promoting British values policy of St Clement's High School in Norfolk explains British values are promoting during the school's "super learning days". For example, cultural diversity is celebrated on one of these days enabling the school to promote the British value of tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs.
Promoting British values outside of lessons
Upton Junior School in Kent has outlined how it reinforces British values throughout the school. It says:
Visits from authorities, such as the police, fire services or lifeguards, reinforce the importance of the rule of law
- Democracy is promoted through a pupil council, pupil questionnaires and a rewards system based on pupil votes
- Visits from authorities such as the police, fire services or lifeguards reinforce the importance of the rule of law
- The school ethos and behaviour policy revolve around 'respect' as a core value, and discussions and assemblies focus on what respect means and how it is shown
- A ‘language of the term’ subject promotes languages spoken by students for whom English is an additional language. Members of different faiths or religions are also encouraged to share their knowledge and experiences
For more examples of British values statements from schools, see the following article from The Key:
Another of our articles highlights schools that include information on 'British values' in their policies British values in their policies.
Bill Bolloten is an independent education consultant, specialising in equality and diversity, and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. He has more than 20 years' experience of providing management and professional development support to schools.
Sue Rogers is an education consultant. She has been the headteacher of three schools, worked as an adviser to local authorities, and taught in the primary and secondary phases. She is also a former inspector.
This article was updated in response to a question from the headteacher of a medium-size urban primary school in the north east.
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