There seems to be some kind of confusion about Fundamental ‘British’ Values and quite frankly I’m confused about why practitioners are so confused about them. Granted, I’m also confused about why they’re called British at all, when they’re really just human values. Aren’t they? Doesn’t that ‘British’ come across as somewhat snooty? As if because they’re ‘British’ they’re more superior to any other set of values. Are these values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs specific to us – really? But let’s not go there now. It is what it is. They’ve clearly got us all in a tizz though because this is still my most requested workshop, even though all of those values have always been there – under all of our noses – all of this time.
These values have been deeply embedded within the EYFS (although perhaps a little too implicitly) since 2008 and even then they were nothing new. Afterall, have we not been providing playful learning opportunities that help children to develop positive diverse and communal identities; and to promote their well-being, empathy and emotional literacy for, like, ever? And all the while challenging inequality, bullying, discrimination, exclusion, aggression and violence – all of which we know fosters and secures children’s pro-social behaviours, responsible citizenship and sense of real belonging (Mealeady, 2015). Indeed our Fundamental British Values are so deeply embedded in all that we do and all that we say every single day that we don’t even realise we’re doing it.
That ‘Trojan Horse’ imbroglio that came to light following the inspections of 21 schools in Birmingham between 5 March 2014 and 1 May 2014 took our ‘British’ values straight from implicit-but-everyday-good-practice through to explicit-and-really-quite-scary. It linked the Statutory Framework for Early Years Foundation Stage 2014 with the expectation that early years practitioners will promote Fundamental British Values and comply with the Prevent Duty. It told us that the definition of ‘Britishness’ meant fighting to prevent the dangers of Islamic extremism from taking a hold of our education system. It told us that an emphasis on tolerance as a measure of Britishness had to be put at the heart of our curriculum. Whoa, how’s that for making us question whether we were doing the right thing by continuing doing what we were already doing and already doing well?
Were we supposed to be doing things differently now?
Well, there’s a very good reason why I never stashed my non-statutory 2002 Birth To Three Matters framework in the loft (hey, check it out, that acronym BTTM means something waaaaay different now) when the Government shelved it back in 2008 – because it was brilliantly simple – and I’m not the only one who’d love it to be reinstated. From that very first component card that I ever read, A Strong Child – A Sense of Belonging, it was abundantly clear what my role was: to help children to acquire “social confidence and competence” by developing attitudes and beliefs that are shaped by the value that others place on individual differences and similarities. By helping children to develop a strong sense of identity both individually and within a group so that children feel they belong.
Heck, there were even tips for observations, effective practice, play & practical support, planning & resourcing, meeting diverse needs and it even identified the possible challenges & dilemmas. And this is something early years practitioners have been working with for the past 14 years in the very least.
And then of course it was all tied up really tightly with the the Equality Act 2010 and its requirement for equal treatment in access to employment as well as private and public services, regardless of the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Did we really need anything else?
If you’re still confused and still haven’t read your handbook and still need to know what our Ofsted Inspectors will be looking for as evidence that we are promoting Fundamental British Values then here it is in black and white.
What Fundamental British Values are:
- an extension of our duty to safeguard children and protect them from harm.
- an extra well-penned sentence in our inclusion policy.
What Fundamental British Values are not:
- Union Jack flags, red double deckers and posters of the queen
- making tea in a teapot with a crocheted cosy and drinking it from a bone china cup and saucer
- scoffing fish & chips from yesterday’s newspaper and reading the works of William Shakespeare
but above all they’re definitely not a standalone topic that’s getting covered the week after half term.