Monday, 11 August 2014

Teaching children British values

In her first major announcement since taking office, Nicky Morgan (the new Education Secretary) has said that early years providers must teach ‘fundamental British values in an age appropriate way’ to children from the age of 2 - Guardian article.

David Cameron has backed her up, saying that we need to teach ‘freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions’. The announcements follow concerns about extremist views being taught to children in some Birmingham schools and the intention is to protect children from extremist radical views.

There is a consultation which most of us will probably ignore. It is open until 17th October 2014 – so nothing is going to change quickly…

Childminders are asking - what are the ‘fundamental British values’ that we need to teach children? Well, first of all they need to be meaningful … and understandable. We are talking about teaching something many adults (in my experience) struggle to fully understand to toddlers in nappies and children who might not have a very good grasp of English.

Ms Morgan says we are to teach children about –

• Right from wrong
• Taking turns and sharing
• Challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes
• Mutual respect and tolerance of different religions and beliefs

I have been thinking about some of the ways we might support children’s learning about 'fundamental British values' and my list of planning ideas includes –
• Teach children to share and take turns – in conversation, at the shops, when reading books etc
• Celebrate British special days eg St George’s Day
• Help children to understand about friendship and support them to make friends
• Focus on listening skills so children wait before shouting out and understand not to spoil a song or book by talking through the words
• Promote manners – please, thank you, sorry, age appropriate behaviour at the table etc
• Take children on outings into the local community
• Teach them about British flowers, trees, birds and animals
• Cover a variety of themes about people who live in the world around us
• Watch British television programmes
• Teach them about the British weather
• Teach empathy and understanding
• Give children age appropriate words to describe disability
• Help children to set appropriate behaviour boundaries
• When doing arts and crafts, use British artists and sculptors for inspiration
• Cook British food with the children
• Learn about British villages, towns and cities
• Use the learning characteristic ‘critical thinking’ to support children to ask questions and become independent and creative learners.

So… what we are doing already then?!?

I believe if we focus on this sort of teaching as we already do and not on marginalising or intolerance of minority then we will be ok. The problems will start if we teach children that only one way is right and that, because we are British, we are somehow morally superior to other nations and cultures - because that will teach intolerance, stereotyping, racism and extremism in itself.

While I remember, Ms Morgan has said that we cannot teach –
• ‘Creationism as scientific fact’
• ‘Climate change denial’
• ‘Views and theories which are contrary to established scientific or historical evidence and explanations.’
I can honestly say I have never tackled those subjects with my under 5s … or my over 5s for that matter … so that’s not a worry!

Ofsted will be inspecting us on how well we teach ‘fundamental British values’, so we will need to keep an eye on the consultation which will hopefully tell us more about what Ofsted will expect to see when they visit us.

Meanwhile, this is a very interesting and informative blog .

And for another bit of fun… can you pass the UK citizenship test?

I got 10/10 but I am not allowed to boast about it… well that wouldn’t be British now would it??

Chat soon, Sarah x