British Values – they seek them here, they seek them there

This small-scale qualitative research interviewed 15 teachers from primary schools in both London and the East Midlands to explore their perspectives on the duty to promote British Values within schools.  A range of themes emerged from these interviews including the suggestion that some teachers agree with Elton-Chalcraft et al. (2017) and Lander’s (2016) argument that education is being used as a political instrument to try and prevent extremism.  Teacher 6 was concerned that ‘the Prevent Strategy is a method of passing responsibility for preventing terrorism onto teachers’. Teacher 12 further suggests that the linking of British Values to the Prevent Strategy could ‘possibly serve to further alienate those at greatest risk’. Teacher 11 claimed that ‘using the term ‘British’ could cause confusion as to what is ‘British’ and spur on certain groups that are not very accepting’.
Teacher 8 regards the arbitrary and inadequate list of values chosen by government as promoting a singular binary and divisive concept of Britishness in terms of ‘essentialising and othering people’. Struthers suggests that ‘couching British values in the broader framework of human rights would … be likely to contribute to societal cohesion and harmony to a far greater extent than the vague and potentially discriminatory FBV guidance’ (2017, p. 89). Many respondents in this research saw the so-called fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs to be ‘core values, but not necessarily British’ (Teacher 9) and ‘more human values’ (Teacher 14).  Overall, this research concludes that to more effectively promote British Values in schools Britishness should be ‘seen as a pluralistic diverse concept made up of many identities and values’ (Teacher 8).