Schools must teach British values in schools – Ofsted chief
Schools should teach pupils British values as some children are brought up in environments “actively hostile” to the UK, the head of the school inspectors department has said.
Amanda Spielman said the UK’s education system played a “vital role” in upholding British values of “liberalism, tolerance and fairness.”
In a speech to city officials, she said: “We know that even in the UK some children are being brought up in an environment that is actively hostile to some of these values.
“The education system has a vital role in upholding them. If children aren’t being taught these values at home, or worse are being encouraged to resist them, then schools are our main opportunity to fill that gap.
“Education has to be the values anchor in a stormy sea.”
She pointed to the number of unregistered schools found operating in the UK. Ten were found operating in Birmingham, with eight now registered or closed while the other two are operating legally.
Ms Speilman said teaching British values in schools was the best antidote for pupils who had been taught negatively about the UK: “That is why what we call British values are so important. And we shouldn’t be afraid to say that British values are not universal values.
“I often hear people react against the word ‘British’ in this context. But while they may not be unique to Britain, they are certainly not understood everywhere in the world. Even where they are understood and valued they aren’t always fully reflected in practice.”
Ms Speilman also hit out at “superficial” exercises for pupils which taught them nothing about the UK’s ethos.
She said: “A colleague’s son had come home with a homework: to craft a picture of the Queen out of sequins. A charming task in itself perhaps, but that’s not teaching children about our common values.
“Pupils should learn how we became the country we are today and how our values make us a beacon of liberalism, tolerance and fairness.”
Teaching British values could have helped avert the Birmingham Trojan Horse scandal in 2014, she said: “Not only were there issues with promoting British values in many of those schools, but in some cases members of the community were attempting to bring extreme views into school life.
“The very places that should have been broadening horizons were instead reinforcing a backward view of society.
“While those inspections are a long way behind us and many of the schools involved have completely transformed since, it is fair to say that the wider social and cultural issues leading to the events still need addressing.”