Believe it or not, this is nowhere near as exasperating as you might think – and it’s certainly nothing entirely new either. Fundamental British Values has already been implicitly embedded in the Early Years Foundation Stage since 2014. But that’s the problem – they’ve been in there, they just haven’t been clearly or directly expressed. This is why so many of us need further clarity and guidance on what British Values means to us in the early years. Hopefully I can give some reassurance and alleviate the confusion.
Let me break it down for you
The Fundamental British Values are:
rule of law
mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths
Now don’t panic, nobody expects us to have graduated with a law degree, a politics degree, a history degree or even a theology degree. And we already have the knowledge and resources we need to be able to successfully demonstrate to Ofsted that we’ve got these Fundamental British Values covered. That said, PACEY have some great new resources available from their website and further resources at the bottom of this page might be useful too.
So, let’s start with democracy. Think of democracy as a situation where everyone is treated equally and has equal rights. This is probably a very fair description of your own setting. Well, within your setting I’m guessing you support children’s Personal, Social & Emotional Development (PSED) by giving them opportunities to develop their self-confidence and self-awareness, to make choices and decisions about what they want to explore and how they’re going to use the resources you’ve made accessible to them. Like here for instance: Hollie has filled up a bucket with water and fetched a paintbrush which she’s been painting the fence with. Does she mind Sean dipping in with a brush of his own? No, she lets him dip away and instructs him, in fact, to paint the decking for her. They are taking turns, sharing, collaborating and making decisions together. Skills that are essential if we are to get on in the adult world. I’m sure you can think of lots of other examples.
Okay, now we have just one cardboard box and 2 explorers who want it for their rocket. Who goes first? What will we each do while we’re in the box and out of the box? Now we’re negotiating: setting rules for how long we can each spend in the box before we have to let somebody else have a turn. Negotiating who will pass over the construction pieces and what’s to be done with them exactly? Now we’re trusting that our friend, our collaborator, will be fair and will stick to our plan.
Rule of law: this is about understanding that rules matter and you’ve seen this too in PSED – sorry, nothing new to report here either. This is about learning to manage our own feelings & behaviour: about learning right from wrong: about behaving within agreed and clearly defined boundaries: about dealing with the consequences. You’ve probably got ‘house rules’ a bit like this right? (we like to keep ours simple, less for young children to remember). It really doesn’t get any harder than this guys.
The remaining two values are both embedded within PSED and Understanding the World. For individual liberty we focus on children’s self-confidence & self-awareness and people & communities. We help children to develop a positive sense of themselves. Every time we provide opportunities for children to gather wild flowers, mix their own colours for leaf painting or take part in a sack race we are helping them to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and increase their confidence in their own abilities.
And every time we share a favourite book with a child, splash in rock pools or build a compound for our dinosaurs together we are giving children the time and space to explore the language of feelings and responsibility, reflect on their differences and understand that we are all free to have different opinions.
And finally, mutual respect and tolerance: where we learn to treat others as we want to be treated; how to be part of a community; manage our feelings & behaviour; and making relationships with others.
“you push, I pull” ~ figuring it out together at the local museum
sharing time, space and resources with our friends
Naturally we should have an ethos of inclusivity and tolerance in our settings – where views, faiths, cultures & races are valued and where we encourage children to engage with their wider community.
at the local farm
sharing the experience of caring
It is our job to help children to appreciate and respect their own culture and the culture of others; to know about similarities and differences between themselves and others and among families, faiths, communities, cultures & traditions and to share and discuss practices, celebrations & experiences. Wherever possible, it’s good to share special moments with our children’s families whether that involves welcoming them into our own settings or accepting invitations to their own family celebrations.
Eid garden party at the child’s own home
Every time we see children becoming close friends and we encourage their parents to arrange play dates beyond the setting, we are giving parents and children opportunities to learn the importance of tolerant behaviours such as sharing and respecting other’s opinions. Afterall, if children see and hear the adults they love respecting other cultures, religions & values then this will have a significant positive impact upon their own behaviour and overall development. But being good role models isn’t quite enough. Remember the old Confucian proverb?
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
This means that for children to truly learn the importance of tolerance, they need to be given lots of opportunities to practice tolerance and to challenge stereotypes, for example, sharing stories that reflect and value the diversity of children’s experiences and providing resources and activities that challenge gender, cultural and racial stereotyping. And I’m not talking about putting out the odd multicultural jigsaw or doll here – I’m talking about having an accessible and continuous provision of a diverse range of musical instruments – everything from djembes to kotos to manjeeras; junk modelling materials to make anything from Native American dreamcatchers to Anansi spiders to Gwiazdy stars; lengths of fabric that can be saris just as easily as they can be superhero capes or Roman togas. If what we bring to the setting is diverse, then so will children’s experiences of the world and the people around them.
So will we get away with sticking up a few posters and dotting a few multicultural books about?
No it won’t I’m afraid, but then again that’s never been enough to show that we actively promote respect for and tolerance of other faiths, cultures & races; challenge gender stereotypes; involve children in their wider community; challenge behaviours (whether of staff, children or parents) when they are not in line with our fundamental British values. It’s more about what we do and what we say every. single. day. And that’s completely free.
So what’s the bottom line?
Well, it’s all good news really. There’s no need for extra planning; no need for extra paperwork; no need for extra toys or equipment; and most importantly no need for worrying. What’s not to love?