British values: the horse that needn’t have bolted

It is extraordinary that politicians and journalists still seem unaware that the national curriculum already includes a subject to develop ‘British values’ of tolerance, respect and responsibility and prepare them for their part in a democratic society with its political, legal and economic institutions. It’s called ‘citizenship’.

And it’s been on the statutory national curriculum since 2002. There is even a GCSE and an A level in it.

On Sunday, Hugh Muir wrote in the Guardian: ‘the initiative [to promote British values] has an element of shutting the stable door’.

His perception is understandable, simply because of government neglect. This important subject is losing ground: as the national curriculum doesn’t apply to free schools and academies; and as the government is doing so little to promote citizenship education to schools, leaving headteachers neglecting it.

So now schools are being told to promote ‘British values’ and Ofsted has changed its assessment criteria for SMSC (spiritual, moral, social and cultural development) to include ‘acceptance and engagement with the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance’.

If the Department for Education and Ofsted had put their weight back behind an effective, engaging and rewarding programme of citizenship education in all schools, this horse would still be in the stable.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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