Bizarrely this isn’t about forming orderly queues, having afternoon tea or making small talk about the weather. Which is a shame as I consider myself very talented all three…
My first instinct when I was “told” what values we should be teaching was despair. I looked at the list and noticed the omissions which are so many values I hold dear and dramatically shook my head. After all I mainly teach Religious Studies so I’m used to spending a great deal of time exploring morality, ethics and values from various perspectives each day. Following a bit of reflection I’m a lot calmer; I’d like to share why for those of you whom, like me, were initially shocked by the list.
What’s it all about?
The whole British Values idea has come about following the Trojan Horse scandal which, to summarise briefly, means an incredibly small minority of schools were teaching anti-British values and for want of a better word abusing the trust they had to support those young people by pushing radical agendas.
It flagged up certain values as a key priority for schools in the eyes of the powers that be. Is that such a bad thing? I know our school is focused on developing good people as well as trying to secure academic success. It’s also given RS a bit of extra credence, which, in this ebac world, is honestly appreciated.
So what’s the problem?
1) The Values Chosen?
The main British Values that have emerged from government documents are:-
Respect for the rule of law
Personal and Social Responsibility
Respect for British Institutions
(Note that this is not intended as a definitive list or as guidance, but to give a flavour of the values being promoted at present. If you want to make sure you are Ofsted ready I’d recommend following their guidance rather than mine, that’s what it’s there for.)
I don’t have a problem with these values; I do have a problem with the ones that have been omitted. Where is love, compassion, charity, caring, thoughtfulness, the value of family and friendship. What about these values? I’m sure you can think of others that are close to your heart too.
Upon consideration I thought to myself these are the values they’re worried about after the Trojan Horse crisis; not an exclusive list of values. I can’t imagine if Ofsted turn up in our schools when we’re doing a fundraiser they’ll reprimand us for promoting charity and caring for others. I’m sure no right minded person wouldn’t want us to promote a wide range of positive values that produce well rounded, thoughtful and caring young people. They’ve just found a few values they’re worried about.
2) Measuring The Values?
The natural reaction to any declaration that will be measured is “Are we doing this?” With the values above I’d wager that the vast majority of schools are and should be very proud of the young people they send out into the world to enjoy their lives as part of society. As schools we make a huge investment in the whole child.
The scary part is the next question “How do we prove it?” The obvious way is to audit what’s going on in school. Once you’ve gone through the visitors, assemblies and RE syllabus you’ve probably covered most of them. I’m not suggesting that SMSC or values education is the sole domain or responsibility of RS departments; but I am confident we make a valuable contribution.
In reality the role models the teachers in school provide is likely to be the most powerful way of sharing values with your learners. Everything we say and everything we do is seen by our students and it has an impact.
Although I’m not an Ofsted inspector I’m aware that they tend to be quite astute. If an inspector were to walk around your school, watch the children interacting in around the school and lessons, and talk to them they’ll have a pretty good handle on the values of your young people and your school.
3) “British” Values?
This for me was the confusing part, if we look at the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights a lot of those ideals are held by most nations on Earth. If we look around the world many nations have democracy, care for their families, have the Golden Rule which appears in almost every religion and culture. It’s hard for me to understand what’s so British about values that most people around the world hold. I imagine that some groups may worry that their values may be forgotten amongst this phraseology; I think the semantics of this may cause more concerns than the reality when we look at the shared ideals of most people. I can however imagine the political implications of Britain suggesting that all nations should have identical values to us and forgive them on those grounds for their choice of terminology.
Stay calm, teach them to be beautiful human beings who appreciate and respect life and each other and we should be OK. Everything else is semantics. Well, apart from missing out drinking tea; what could be more British?
Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE