Call for schools to teach ‘British values’ sparks controversy

Following the investigation of an Islamist takeover in some Birmingham schools, Michael Gove wants democracy, mutual respect and tolerance to be taught in schools in England.

The Education Secretary announced a series of measures to combat  growing ‘Islamification’ in schools after Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw warned that the activities of some hard-line Muslim governors had led to a culture of fear and intimidation in several Birmingham schools, The Independent reports.

Mr. Gove said he wants democracy, mutual respect and tolerance to be taught in schools and in a statement the DfE announced: “We want to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation on all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”

David Cameron backed Mr. Gove’s pledge, saying: “I think what Michael Gove has said is important and I think it will have the overwhelming support…of everyone in Britain including people that have come to settle in Britain and make their home in Britain.”

Some leading politicians questioned the move, with Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt arguing: “Amongst the greatest of British values is an education system which welcomes and integrates migrant communities, builds successful citizens in a multi-cultural society, secures safety and high standards for all and you are failing to do so.”

The Coalition’s Faith and Communities Minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi also questioned Mr. Gove’s announcement: “We need to make sure that all communities in this country feel like they are British and they are part of the whole. It is important that the way in which we tackle these matters is done in a way which in which we resolve the problem and not make matters worse.”

Do you think that teaching ‘British values’ in schools will help to combat extremism or will it make the situation worse? Share your views with the Eteach community!

16 thoughts on “Call for schools to teach ‘British values’ sparks controversy

  1. Hm.. from where do “British” values derive? What is the philosophical or theological base for these values? Or are they just some nebulous set of be-nice-to-everyone relativistic pc axioms without any root or foundation. So often we go with the crowd and sometimes it’s good to stop and ask – and keep asking – “Why?”

  2. Hm.. from where do “British” values derive? What is the philosophical or theological base for these values? Or are they just some nebulous set of be-nice-to-everyone relativistic pc axioms without any root or foundation? So often we go with the crowd and sometimes it’s good to stop and ask – and keep asking – “Why?”

  3. I am worried about the bigger agenda here. I wonder if Gove’s opinion is partly based on misinformation and fear of a religion he knows little about. Okay so I agree gender segregation is a step to far but surely the school reflects the community within it sits and if it is predominantly Islamic then it is not a surprise they Islamic values are part of the milieu of the school. Gove and his ofsted friends reaction for me is a reminder of the old ‘no blacks, irish no dogs’.

  4. I dont have a problem with the words Mr Gove uses. I suppose you could argue that democracy,mutual respect etc are not exclusively British values. And if the word British makes people feel uncomfortable then perhaps they could look at the parts of being British that they relate to. Perhaps the development of individual liberty from Magna Carta onwards. Or the various movements that have helped to bring about this about eg the Lollards, the Trade Union Movement, The Peasants Revolt, all British in their own way.
    Mr Gove underlines values which the education system should be nurturing. I dont think in this case he is making things worse. He is doing a good job of that in other areas.

  5. This is something I have been arguing for for a long time. One does not have to be a right-wing fanatic to see the simple fact that Western values, such as individual liberty, rule of law, tolerance, secular state, etc. – the values that have developed over centuries through countless countless conflicts – will not perpetuate themselves on their own unless citizens actively and self-consciously appropriate them. These values are simply the logical precondition of a pluralist society, ones which only extremists could oppose. Teaching them in school is the least we can do.

  6. Hi All

    “Mr Gove underlines values which the education system should be nurturing.”

    My son went to a local primary school he was taken on a trip to see a mosque, he was not taken on a trip to see a church! I mover him to another school which had good solid British vales taught!

  7. If we are talking about British values in the context of the islamist Birmingham schools thing
    then I would have to say that he is spot on regarding his vision for what education should bring to British school children. “Democracy, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”, Can anyone name a single Islamist country that subscribes to these values?

  8. It is laughable that a member of parliament should pontificate about democracy, mutual respect and tolerance ……… rarely a week goes by without an MP being exposed as corrupt, self-seeking and totally removed from the realities of the society they purport to represent. Take the latest revelation that IDS’s office threatened ‘food bank’ charities with closure because they were publicising the desperate plight of the lowest paid in the country. I say put their own house in order first…..

  9. So binge drinking, abusing anyone not ‘British’, teenage pregnancy and where to get the nearest McDonalds, KFC, Chinese or Indian takeaway are to be taught in schools. Rule Brittania

  10. Of course British values should be taught, warts and all; remember the way perfidious albion carved up the world creating many of the conflicts that we still have to deal with today and their far reaching implications in relation to: Northern Ireland, Palestine/Israel and the heinous ways in which British policy was forced on African nations and of course how the Balfour declaration treated the Arab states abysmally. I am sure such truths sit uncomfortably with English tolerance and fairness of ordinary people, yet mistakes of the past should be part and parcel of an education in values that a country likes to portray. Above all a country should learn from its mistakes, own up to them but also provide its young people with the truth in the hope that they are not repeated…

  11. Of course democratic (not ‘British’) values should be taught in schools. People who are uncomfortable with this should leave and go to a country — I nominate the emerging Islamic State of Syria and Iraq — where other values are taught, if indeed they have schools at all.

    And — while Britain certainly committed its share of imperialist atrocities, so did many other imperialisms and sub-imperialisms, including Persian and Arabic and Turkish. The difference is that the latter did not evolve beyond the atrocities stage, as we can see in the papers every day.

  12. I agree with Mr Gove’s words and would go further by extending ‘individual liberty and mutual respect to be ‘individual equality, liberty and mutual respect’.
    Individuals, which in the context of education, particularly includes both boys and girls, should be treated equally and allowed to reach their potential.
    If anyone wishes to go to Britain and does not agree with Mr Gove’s statement, then they should explain themselves and if the explanation does not sit well with the statement then they should consider why they think that they should settle there in preference to anywhere else in the world. That also goes for people who were born in Britain even though they may have the right of residence resulting from centuries of residency.
    I believe that education should be forward looking. We are where we are and we should not dwell on the past, unless the past can help to show that we should do things better now and in the future. Binge drinking and teenage pregnancy do not typify what being British should be. They are issues that have been recognised and are being addressed. Corruption within other governments also exists, so do they really define Britishness? The British media has routed these out via investigate journalism and the culprits tried via the judicial system and their penalties awarded, does this happen in other countries? Do we not try to treat boys and girls equally in this country? This cannot be said of some countries. I would be proud to be British in these current times. I would not be proud to be a member of a country or religion which does not promote equality between boys and girls.

  13. Ignore the term “british values” the right to persoanl freedom from prosecution of any kind is a world wide strive, yes some countries are bring up the rear but they only help yo remind the rest of us of how much we all still need to try. And perhaps its time to really put our values where are mouths are. Some one said earlier that the communitiss where these schools are are islamic, there was revolt when this was discribed as a christian country, clearly the religion of britajn is whatever you want so to promote a TRUE fairness and tolerance in schools there shluld be NO base religion, NO religious holidays (or all), religions should be left to the lessons on religious eduaction or to parents and left out of the school the same as any other prejudice.

  14. Just last year, The Archbishop of Canterbury warned of the dangers of abandoning more than 1,000 years of Christianity as he made his first sermon as head of the Church of England. I am tempted to think that extremism is one of those the dangers the Archbishop warned of. Can what happened in Birmingham happen in Australia? the answer is no. Let’s find out why as the answer could help us to define a core ‘British Value’. If it is true that nature abhors a vacuum, then extremism is simply taking the place of Christianity. This is my understanding of the Archbishop’s statement and I stand to be corrected if I am wrong.

  15. I take exception to Mr Gove’s announcement which is akin tothe reinvention of the wheel! I have been active in education for over half a century and as a pupil before that. At every stage and in every school policies and practices supported the values now being trumpeted abroad. We had school councils, form representatives, mock elections, discusions about values and ethics under a variety of guises. We raised money for charities, were concerned for the sick, the poor, the dipossessed and we grew into teachers, doctors, reseachers working all over the world for the benefit of others as well as ourselves. Do I perceive here a selfish politician who fails to see the good practice already embedded in our systems? Do I see a man who needs a book at bedtime, perhaps “To Kill a Mockingbird”?
    Please, Mr. G. talk about revisiting good practice and ensuring that it is retained in all schools but don’t speak as if it is an innovation. Bad practice is the exception not the rule.

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