Conference Papers

Are we teaching British values the way the government intended?

What does being British mean as part of education today?

In 2014 the coalition government laid down a set of values that schools were to ‘promote’ as British Values: “democracy, personal liberty, rule of law, and tolerance and mutual respect of those with other beliefs” (Home Office, 2015: 2). However, these ‘values’ were not implemented without discussion. In the summer of 2014 there were two debates in parliament on the topic of education and British values. In the commons, on the 25th June, there was a debate entitled “British Values: Teaching”, the day after the Lords held a similar debate entitled “Education: British Values”. Each was an opportunity for parliamentarians to discuss, debate and disagree on the government’s proposals. My study explored these two debates through a critical discourse analysis which aimed to identify the ‘hidden assumptions’ (Creswell and Miller, 2000: 126), ideas and motivations of the speakers with regards to British values. By employing metaphor analysis, developed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), my findings revealed how some of the speakers viewed not only British values, but also how they viewed schools and educators themselves. It became clear that teachers were seen as little more than government voice pieces, expected to instil a message in to future citizens, and schools were viewed as sites of mass production. This role within the “political economy” (Ball, 2013: 108) was repeated and largely uncriticised throughout the debates. In this presentation, I begin with providing a context and background to the debates and the topics raised. I will then outline the ways in which the discourse employed by politicians, to discuss education and new education policy initiatives, marginalises educationalists and presents schools as places of business.
In the closing thoughts, I shall ponder how viewing education as a business effects its role in promoting British values? And question the place of educationalists in challenging or accepting these views of the school and the profession.

Ball, S.J. (2013) Foucault, power, and education: New York : Routledge, 2013.
Creswell, J. and Miller, D. (2000) Determining validity in qualitative inquiry. Theory into practice, 39(3), 124-130.
Home Office (2015) Revised prevent duty guidance: For england and wales. Government, H. London: HMSO.
Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors we live by. Chicago and London: University of Chicago.

Bettinson, M. (2017) 'Are we teaching British values the way the government intended?', paper presented to The 13th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 29–30 June, viewed 09 August 2020, <>