This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Value added values

There has been much talk of 'British Values' in recent hours since publication of the Ofsted inspection reports into the Birmingham schools at the centre of 'Trojan Horse' controversy. Tempting though it is, I am not going to wade into the debate about any 'Islamification' of schools, what Islamophobia is (or isn't) or even whether Ofsted ever really know what is really happening in the schools they visit. I will leave all that to the legions of trolls, experts, hacks and others currently marching across the social media plains.

Instead, I would like to focus on the plans for schools to promote British values which are likely to have the "overwhelming support" of people in the UK the prime minister has said. (See the BBC article here.) The piece goes onto to report:
Speaking in Sweden after a mini-summit with other EU leaders, Mr Cameron said: "I would say freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions - those are the sorts of things that I would hope would be inculcated into the curriculum in any school in Britain whether it was a private school, state school, faith-based school, free school, academy or anything else."
I had tried Googling 'British Values' this morning and searching on Gov.UK site but found very little. Here is what the government site came up with on page one:

Perhaps they will soon have a page linking to Mr Cameron's statement in the near future. But we have a starter for ten on what constitutes "British Values" from the PM. Here is my commentary:
  • Freedom: So a core value of this country is freedom. Well yes... but freedom to do what? Surely it should be freedom within the law (which I guess is covered by a later part of the PM's statement). But as police officers well know, sometimes one person's freedom is another person's problem. Noise is a simple example of that. So freedom is a good start but by heck it needs some more unpacking.
  • Tolerance: I agree. I think the English language itself shows just how tolerant we are. English grows and diversifies because we include and incorporate words (and concepts) from across the world. London thrives because it is one of the most diverse and tolerant cities of the world, if not the most diverse and tolerant. But I do worry that tolerance means very different things to different people. Unpacking also required.
  • Respect for the rule of law: Again I can buy into that so long as we know that we mean all laws, even the ones we don't like very much. And remember laws can change, and fall short of what we think is 'right'. But of course in principle, respect for the law is the basis of a civil society. Absolutely.
  • Belief in personal and social responsibility: We live in a connected world where the actions of one group or person can, even with no intention, hurt or damage another. We all share a responsibility to people around us, as well as ourselves and our families. So if this means teaching children all about how sharing, selflessness, courtesy, cooperation and generosity make the world a better place, I am 100% behind this aspect of British Values. 
  • Respect for British institutions: I presume this means all institutions? I would love to know what list Mr Cameron would come up and what he would think of first? For me, I would list the NHS, local government, the police services, third sector bodies (large and small), schools and all the 'institutions' that make Britain British such as Wimbledon, Sunday evening whodunnits, Rik Mayall (so sad) and all other great comedians, cricket, the Wales/England rugby match, malt whisky, warm beer etc etc... What would be on your list? 
So it is a start Mr Cameron, but the list is not yet complete. I would also add the following "British Values":
  • Democracy (beginning with parish/town councils and outward from there)
  • Transparency & accountability (including registers of interests of school governors for example)
  • Respect for different cultures, social classes, others... (more than merely 'tolerance')
  • Progressive cynicism (As Brits, we can all complain, a lot, but then we get on with making things better through engineering, social action or even just conversations!)
  • Confident ambition (it is my sincere hope that a big result of this focus on values in education will be school students who feel better about themselves and who are even more prepared to take on the world!)
  • Creativity (if nothing else, the British are brilliant at coming up with ideas)

I am sure there is more. Let's have a national debate about what British Values really are! All contributions welcome...


  1. davidbfpo10/6/14 13:56


    You asked whether Tolerance needed unpacking. Yes it does. It is not so much how tolerant are we, but how intolerant we should be. Yes the Rule of Law helps. What was acceptable just a few years ago is now deemed, sometimes reflected in laws, unacceptable.

    For example for a long time public concern over immigration was not reflected in public discourse, let alone action - as distinct from official statements. Those who openly asked questions would be labelled 'racist' and dismissed by many.

    Good luck in raising these issues. Somehow I doubt a document agreed upon in Whitehall-Westminster will be accepted beyond - unless there is a public debate, in which our politicians and others participate, listen and adjust.

  2. "What was acceptable just a few years ago is now deemed, sometimes reflected in laws, unacceptable" and vice versa. Once upon a time, for example, domestic violence was seen as nothing to do with the state as it happened behind closed doors...

    Thanks for your contribution

  3. davidbfpo10/6/14 16:21


    There is a sort of public debate on the Daily Telegraph today, with an article calling for readers contributions. Sadly what I have read does not help: