Teachers urged to 'disengage' from promotion of British values

Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ conference told that government guidance after Trojan horse affair in Birmingham was ‘political posturing’

Teachers are being urged to ignore the government’s drive on promoting fundamental British values in schools, amid claims that it is “ill-considered, ill-defined and counterproductive”. The policy, introduced after the so-called Trojan horse plot in which hardline Islamists were accused of trying to take over a small number of Birmingham schools, was “totally out of proportion” and vulnerable to misinterpretation, a conference was told.

Robin Bevan, headteacher at Southend high school, told delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ conference in Liverpool on Monday that the government’s response to a small number of isolated incidents was a “headline-grabbing act of political posturing”.

He said no one would argue against schools and colleges promoting personal morality and a sense of civic duty among pupils, but the move to require schools to promote British values was ill-considered. “There is the well-publicised issue of the radicalisation of a very small number of students. But the solution being proposed is totally out of proportion. It’s the wrong approach, at the wrong scale, with the wrong model of learning and the wrong method of assessing its effectiveness.”

He told colleagues: “When it comes to the new requirement of promoting fundamental British values, including the role of law, here is one law that I would actively encourage you to disengage from.”

A motion passed by the conference said the government’s drive on British values was a “knee-jerk national policy ‘solution’ to localised governance issues” which risked “becoming the source of wider conflict rather than a means of resolving it”.

ATL delegates voted in favour of monitoring the policing of the government’s British values requirement and called for “a more sensible, reasoned approach to values” in schools and colleges.

Bevan, who proposed the motion, warned that what constitutes a core British value can change over time, and raised concerns at how these ideas may be interpreted by a “future right-wing government, or a partner in that government”.

“If these fundamental British values change with time, then they are hardly fundamental. And let’s face it, they have changed with time. We now allow women to vote. We no longer chemically castrate homosexuals. And if you think that’s way in the past, it wasn’t until the 1990s that marital rape was made a criminal offence.”


Sally Weale Education correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Teachers demand funding for 5% pay rise in budget
Unions say public sector pay cap is contributing to growing recruitment and retention crisis in schools

Sally Weale Education correspondent

07, Nov, 2017 @7:01 AM

Article image
UK school reforms to come under scrutiny as world rankings released
Pisa tests, measuring standards in key subjects, likely to be ‘spun’ in election campaign

Richard Adams, Education editor

02, Dec, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Ofsted chief says struggling schools ‘no better off’ under academy control
Sir Michael Wilshaw says trusts and local authorities can neglect schools as inspectors highlight issue of poor behaviour

Richard Adams and Sally Weale

10, Dec, 2014 @9:39 PM

Article image
One in five teachers using own money for school supplies – report
Staff also buying breakfasts, winter coats and soap for poor pupils, says teaching union

Richard Adams Education editor

18, Apr, 2019 @11:01 PM

Article image
‘There are just not enough teachers’: sciences struggle to recruit
The government says sciences are a high priority in schools. But the lack of applicants for teaching jobs in these subjects is alarming headteachers

Anna Bawden

15, Sep, 2015 @6:15 AM

Article image
Teachers in England condemn speculation over school reopenings
Unattributed comments from government spread fear and confusion, headteachers say

Richard Adams Education editor

19, Apr, 2020 @2:27 PM

Article image
Jewish school in UK criticised for redacting 'bare wrists' from books
Ofsted rates Yesodey Hatorah inadequate for censoring texts including Sherlock Holmes

Richard Adams Education editor

26, Jun, 2018 @5:39 PM

Article image
Teachers need protection from parents' brainwashing claims, union says
National Association of Head Teachers wants personal, social, health and economic education enshrined in curriculum

Sally Weale Education correspondent

21, Apr, 2016 @5:21 PM

Article image
Secondary schools struggling to get enough teachers, says watchdog
National Audit Office says headteachers are finding it hard to fill posts vacated by staff leaving before retirement age

Rajeev Syal

11, Sep, 2017 @11:01 PM

Article image
Teachers' unions unite to highlight 'national crisis' in profession
Six unions call for pay increases above proposed 1% annual level, and warn more pupils are being taught by unqualified staff

Richard Adams, Education editor

11, Jan, 2016 @12:01 AM