Instead, I would like to focus on the plans for schools to promote British values which are likely to have the "overwhelming support" of people in the UK the prime minister has said. (See the BBC article here.) The piece goes onto to report:
Speaking in Sweden after a mini-summit with other EU leaders, Mr Cameron said: "I would say freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions - those are the sorts of things that I would hope would be inculcated into the curriculum in any school in Britain whether it was a private school, state school, faith-based school, free school, academy or anything else."I had tried Googling 'British Values' this morning and searching on Gov.UK site but found very little. Here is what the government site came up with on page one:
Perhaps they will soon have a page linking to Mr Cameron's statement in the near future. But we have a starter for ten on what constitutes "British Values" from the PM. Here is my commentary:
- Freedom: So a core value of this country is freedom. Well yes... but freedom to do what? Surely it should be freedom within the law (which I guess is covered by a later part of the PM's statement). But as police officers well know, sometimes one person's freedom is another person's problem. Noise is a simple example of that. So freedom is a good start but by heck it needs some more unpacking.
- Tolerance: I agree. I think the English language itself shows just how tolerant we are. English grows and diversifies because we include and incorporate words (and concepts) from across the world. London thrives because it is one of the most diverse and tolerant cities of the world, if not the most diverse and tolerant. But I do worry that tolerance means very different things to different people. Unpacking also required.
- Respect for the rule of law: Again I can buy into that so long as we know that we mean all laws, even the ones we don't like very much. And remember laws can change, and fall short of what we think is 'right'. But of course in principle, respect for the law is the basis of a civil society. Absolutely.
- Belief in personal and social responsibility: We live in a connected world where the actions of one group or person can, even with no intention, hurt or damage another. We all share a responsibility to people around us, as well as ourselves and our families. So if this means teaching children all about how sharing, selflessness, courtesy, cooperation and generosity make the world a better place, I am 100% behind this aspect of British Values.
- Respect for British institutions: I presume this means all institutions? I would love to know what list Mr Cameron would come up and what he would think of first? For me, I would list the NHS, local government, the police services, third sector bodies (large and small), schools and all the 'institutions' that make Britain British such as Wimbledon, Sunday evening whodunnits, Rik Mayall (so sad) and all other great comedians, cricket, the Wales/England rugby match, malt whisky, warm beer etc etc... What would be on your list?
- Democracy (beginning with parish/town councils and outward from there)
- Transparency & accountability (including registers of interests of school governors for example)
- Respect for different cultures, social classes, others... (more than merely 'tolerance')
- Progressive cynicism (As Brits, we can all complain, a lot, but then we get on with making things better through engineering, social action or even just conversations!)
- Confident ambition (it is my sincere hope that a big result of this focus on values in education will be school students who feel better about themselves and who are even more prepared to take on the world!)
- Creativity (if nothing else, the British are brilliant at coming up with ideas)
I am sure there is more. Let's have a national debate about what British Values really are! All contributions welcome...