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6 February, 2015

As the 'British values' debate rumbles on, what exactly is expected of schools?

Journalist Cristina Odone clashed with Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt on BBC's Question Time last night, saying good teachers teach 'real values' not 'British values'. Schools must promote British values, but there is little agreement on what should be taught; so, what exactly is expected of teachers?

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Image: 'UK Grunge Flag' by Nicolas Raymond (flickr.com)

The language we hear from government is of 'promoting fundamental British values' and of young people 'accepting', 'respecting' and 'tolerating' - as though we all agree already on what those values are, accept that they are unique to Britain and believe we should follow them unquestionably.

But this week a number of private school headteachers questioned Government advice to use the SMSC (spiritual, moral, social, cultural) framework to promote 'British values'. One said he did not believe schools had 'a monopoly over the truth' and that he encouraged his students 'to question authority'.

Can values be assumed simply because schools demand that they are, particularly if they're very different from those that young people experience at home? Or must they be arrived at through mutual exploration and understanding?

Schools, then, are in a difficult position: whose values should they teach and how should they teach them?

This is something schools may need to work out for themselves; so, to help you get a better understanding of what the Government expects of schools in the first place, we wrote a quick guide to British values and SMSC.


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