Schools should not be afraid to promote British Values, says Ofsted Head

3rd October 2017

The Head of Ofsted has said that schools should not be afraid to promote British Values, regardless of the fact that some children are being brought up in environments that are ‘actively hostile’ to them.

According to Amanda Spielman, the education system is paramount in promoting and upholding the principles that make Britain a “beacon of liberalism, tolerance and fairness to the rest of the world.

In a speech to the Birmingham Education Partnership Conference, Ms Speilman said: “We know that even in the UK some children are being brought up in an environment that is actively hostile to some of these values so the education system has a vital role in inculcating and upholding them.

“Most children spend less than a fifth of their childhood hours in schools and most of the rest with their family. And so if children aren’t being taught these values at home, or worse, are being encouraged to resist them, then schools are our main opportunity to fill that gap.

“I’m not talking about ‘superficial displays’ of British values, but giving young people a real civic education, including a rich and deep curriculum in subjects such as history, English and geography.”

The head of Ofsted went on to speak of the schools caught up in the Trojan horse scandal, and the failure to promote British Values in that situation.

Ms Spielman said: “Not only were there issues with promoting British values in many of those schools, but in some cases, members of the community were attempting to bring extreme views into school life.

“The very places that should have been broadening horizons and outlooks were instead reinforcing a backward view of society.”

In her address to the Birmingham Education Partnership Conference, Amanda Spielman also highlighted the ‘very real problem’ of unregistered schools:

“Most of these are not places that anyone would be happy to call schools. They are places that hide from the rule of law, from regulation by government and from inspection by Ofsted.

“They often teach a narrow curriculum of just a few subjects, perhaps with a particular single-faith focus, and are often housed in buildings that wouldn’t pass the most basic of health and safety checks.

“Some of the images taken by inspectors that I have seen show places that are filthy and downright dangerous. In short, they put children at risk.”

According to Ofsted, 10 unregistered schools have been found in Birmingham since 2015, with ‘eight now closed or registered’ and the other two ‘now operating legally’.

Ms Spielman said: “We recognise that there are normal and inevitable differences in values, there are parents who, uncomfortable with the full and varied education on offer in local mainstream schools, are seeking out alternatives.

“Usually alternatives that they perceive as fitting better with very conservative cultural or religious values, such that young people in these alternatives are not being prepared for success in modern Britain.

“It is vital that we expose the risks of these so-called schools and help parents understand the dangers.”