Fundamental British Values: Prevent Strategy Ideas for Teachers

January 10, 2022
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The Prevent Strategy places a mandatory duty on education professionals to promote fundamental British values.

This guide explains what these values mean and offers ways to incorporate them into everyday life through lessons and special events.

What are the Fundamental British Values?

“Fundamental British values” are a set of social attitudes thought to maintain social cohesion and equality. These values are:

  • Democracy.
  • The rule of law.
  • Individual liberty.
  • Mutual respect for, and tolerance of, those with different faiths and beliefs.

A teacher discussing British values with students

British Values Explained

Democracy describes our national electoral system and the skills needed to participate in it successfully. Democracy relies on listening to the needs of everyone and adapting a decision until the vast majority agree. The democratic process requires rigorous thinking, perspective-taking, patience, and understanding.

Individual liberty is the right of British citizens to make choices regarding the elements of their life that are outside of government control. This refers to freedom of speech and the right to make choices about our education, food, beliefs, opinions, work, family, etc.

The rule of law refers to creating an attitude of accountability and respect towards the laws and rules of institutions and nation-states.

Mutual respect and tolerance is an attitude that recognises and respects the individual liberty of others – even if their choices, lifestyle, and beliefs are ones you don’t share.

As well as promoting these values to students, the conduct of all school staff should reflect them. Teachers can be issued with a Misconduct Order where there is evidence that their behaviour undermines British values or promotes political or religious extremism.

How Can I Embed British Values in Lessons?

Schools should have a clear strategy for promoting these values, in their work, as well as methods of showing how this strategy has been effective (e.g. through lesson plans or pupil voice).

Some subjects, such as PSHE, health and relationships education, history, citizenship, and religious education, offer quite explicit subject links. The statutory programmes of study across all key stages, for these subjects include learning outcomes relating to understanding stereotyping, promoting tolerance, respecting differences, and understanding the role and workings of democracy in Britain.

However, opportunities should also be found for embedding British values in lessons within subject with less explicit links – for example, through the texts that are chosen to be studied in English, or in discussions related to the works and artists studied in art and design.

The following are some ideas to further promote British values within school. We have split these up into age ranges, although most strategies can be adapted to suit different age groups.

Teaching British Values in Early Years

Early years settings are well placed to begin to establish the fundamental British values, and they are embedding in many of the routines and learning experiences children will encounter.

Examples of ways to foster this include:

Incorporate Choice

By providing child-initiated learning experiences, where children are given opportunities to decide on the activities they wish to pursue, you can help to foster the concept of individual liberty, whilst providing a framework of rules which nurture tolerance and respect. For example, a child may need to wait for an activity to become free if another child has chosen before them.

You can also begin to develop an understanding of democracy by offering choice at a group or class level.  This can be something as simple as offering two stories to be read aloud and asking for a show of hands to make the decision. Children will experience having a vote that counts, contributing to a decision, and also abiding by group choices that may or may not reflect your personal wishes.

Reflect children’s individual interests

Anyone who has worked with young children has witnessed the power of show and tell.  Children enjoy sharing their interests and news with their peers. Viewed from a perspective of British values, this simple forum for sharing offers both a reinforcement of their individual liberty, showing that their interests and ideas are valued, and promotes ideas of difference and tolerance as they learn about the things that are important to their peers.

Learning experiences within the early years should reflect and build upon the interests of the children, providing them with stimuli to encourage questions and engagement.

Establish clear and consistent rules

By establishing clear and consistent rules for behaviour, you are able to reinforce the importance of rules, alongside the values of tolerance and respect. These should be expressed in child-friendly terms which are easily understood – for example ‘kind words’ might be enough to remind children that we do not call people names or try to hurt their feelings with our words.

Teaching British Values in Primary Schools

School Councils

Most schools recognise the importance of including pupil voice in their decision-making process. School councils allow children to put themselves forward for a position of responsibility. Representatives are usually voted for by their peers to represent them (often one or two councillors per class), in order to put their ideas, questions, and sometimes concerns, to a larger meeting of the school council.

Representatives usually hold the position for a set period of time (e.g. a term) and then other children have a chance to put themselves forward.

As children get older, they could be encouraged to put forward a more detailed pitch for why they think they should hold the position and what they would want to do for their peers, as their representative.

This process works for all school-age children and gives them a chance to be involved in a democratic process on many levels – as voters, representatives, and constituents.

Mock Elections

Sometimes schools take the opportunity to mirror current events and hold mock elections in line with general elections or occasional referendums. This gives children an opportunity to learn about what is involved, and deepen their understanding of the importance of such events that they will encounter in the media.

Depending on the age of the children, this could provide excellent learning opportunities to look at party political agendas, with an emphasis on tolerance of differing viewpoints.

Co-constructing class rules or values

In primary schools, the first week of term often provides a good opportunity to write a set of class values or rules which will form a contract for the year ahead. This allows opportunity to discuss why rules are needed and how they benefit the whole community. Teachers can tie this in with learning about laws in a wider sense.

Once the ideas are agreed, the class can work together to create a display for the classroom so that they can be easily referred to, or perhaps a charter that is signed by every member of the class – including the teaching staff.

Try to make these positive values or rules – so rather than ‘We do not interrupt’, opt for ‘We listen to each other’.

Teaching British Values in Secondary Schools

Strategies such as school councils or mock elections will also work well in a secondary setting, although you will be able to delve further into the intricacies of the democratic process with older children.

Co-constructing class rules or values

With regards to older children, some secondary schools have successfully created ‘school values’ in consultation with pupils. These can then become the basis of reward system – for example if one of the chosen values is ‘kindness’ then children who are found acting kindly to a peer can be rewarded with achievement points or some other form of recognition.

Both class and school rules should be reflective of a wider school culture of tolerance and respect.

Student in mock school election

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Want to Learn More?

Our Prevent Duty Training gives you a clear and concise overview of the Prevent duty. There are opportunities throughout to apply your learning through scenarios and case studies, and Choose Your Path sector-specific content. You can also find our Prevent Duty Guidance Pack for Teachers here.

Embedding British Values in the Wider School Culture

Across all key stages, lessons and strategies on the British values will not be successful in isolation. The key values need to be embedded in every area of school life, from official policies, to the ways children are greeted in corridors.

Children need to see the values reflected in the school culture, and to feel that they as individuals are treated with respect and tolerance, and they are in turn expected to treat others that way.

The following are some ways that schools can help cement such a culture:

  • Behaviour policies – the values of tolerance and respect should be reflected in a clear and consistent behaviour policy.
  • Celebrating differences – again this needs to be done on many levels, from choices in books for story time to acknowledging and celebrating a range of festivals in assemblies.
  • Actively rewarding the values that you seek to instil – again this can be reflected in behaviour policies but it can be as simple as remembering to thank someone for their kindness.
  • Valuing pupil voice – this needs to go further than having a school council because it is the ‘done thing’. Pupils’ views should be sought, listened to, and acted upon in an appropriate way. There should be a number of ways for students input into this – for example, focussed email surveys (where there is an opportunity to remain anonymous) can be useful.

Part of the Prevent Duty for the education sector is to promote British values and to be able to evidence this, through lesson plans and policies, etc. However, these values are not new to education. They are something you will already be promoting through your teaching practice – from teaching nursery-aged children to share resources and take turns, to encouraging A-level students to examine an issue from multiple viewpoints in an essay. We hope some of the strategies in this article will help you to recognise where you are already promoting British values in your practice, and to build upon them.

Further Resources