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How to embed British Values into the curriculum

The go-to guide for embedding British Values in your settings

Part of our British Values Series

What are British Values?

British values are a set of values that underpin British society and culture. These values include: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect, and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. For more information on the British Values and what they mean, view our Complete Guide to British Values.

Embedding British Values into the Curriculum

As a teacher, there are many ways that you can embed British Values into the curriculum, by incorporating them into your teaching and learning activities

Chances are, you're already doing a pretty good job of embedding British Values into the curriculum in your school, Firstly, schools naturally embed one British value (the rule of law) into their curriculums by upholding behaviour policies and following through on the consequences of the agreed class rules being broken. You're also probably holding regular assemblies, bring pupils together and showcasing British Values in action through celebrations of different faiths and awareness days,

These are great starting points, but they don't necessarily completely prepare young people for life in modern Britain. Here's 4 ways you can incorporate British Values into your curriculum and school ethos:

1. Have conversations

In today's world, young people are constantly exposed to matters of the law through all forms of media, and all teachers will have experienced young people asking about a recent news story that they've seen on TV or heard about in the playground. These opportunities are perfect for embedding British values into the curriculum; allowing these conversations to open in the classroom and to discuss different news stories allows pupils to see these values play out in real time.

The most easy way to begin embedding the values into your curriculum is to incorporate discussions about British values into your lessons. For example, you can discuss the importance of democracy and the rule of law in ensuring that everyone in society is treated fairly and has the opportunity to have their voices heard. You can also encourage your class to think critically about the role of these values in society and how they can help to promote fairness and justice.

Of course, sensitivity is needed when talking to young people about current affairs. This post on how to talk about controversial issues in the classroom provides some great advice on how to feel more comfortable talking to young children about difficult topics.

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2. Start a School Council

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Another popular way to embed democracy into your curriculum is through annual school council elections. By allowing young people to take on the role of a politician, to consider how they would like to support or change their school community, and to host a democratic election for this place, pupils from a young age can get a sense of democracy in action.

Additionally, school councils can promote individual liberty by giving students the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning and to make decisions that affect their own education. For example, school councils can allow students to choose which extracurricular activities they would like to participate in, or to have a say in the design of the school's curriculum.

However, school councils don't automatically equal democracy being embedded into the curriculum. A well-run school council can make this happen, but as many experienced teachers know, school councils can be out of reach for KS1 pupils, and often fall by the wayside under the many other pressures of the curriculum.

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3. Make the news a regular thing

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A more long term solution is to make regular use of news resources such as BBC's Newsround or VotesforSchools allow young people to be exposed to the democratic world and to encourage questions and deeper understanding. This will not only give them an ongoing understanding of democracy, but also of the changing landscape in the UK, allowing them to form their own opinions of British politics, and to understand the role of the media in providing information and holding those in power accountable.

It's not only political stories that you'll want to cover: teaching a range of different stories provides young people with information that can help them to make informed decisions about their own lives. For example, by teaching them about issues such as the environment and personal health, you can help them to develop the knowledge and skills they need to make choices that are good for themselves and for society.

Using programmes such as VotesforSchools takes this conversation even further. The lessons are designed to spark conversation & debate, encouraging children to express their own opinions and perspectives on a range of topics, and to listen and respond respectfully to the views of others. Then, the opinions of 'voters' are shared with key decision makers, such as the Government or other bodies, who feedback to the children to let them know that their voices have been heard.

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4. Utilise Celebrations & Awareness Days

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With regards to different faiths and beliefs, much work around these curriculum aim is met in a school's Religious Education (RE) policy, where all pupils will learn about a range of different beliefs and religions as part of their programme of study. However, it must be noted that all parents have the right to withdraw their child from RE lessons, maning that this cannot be relied upon for all pupils to meet the British values curriculum aims.

Additionally, aiming to meet these curriculum aims through RE lessons alone does not equal to embedding British Values into the curriculum, so schools must make sure they have a range of strategies in place to make sure that they are embodying British values at all times. Recognising a range of different celebrations from different religions, across the curriculum and through assemblies can help with this, as well as allowing pupils to share their own experiences. This will provide young people with a wealth of knowledge on different beliefs and squash any discrimination that could arise. You should also continue these conversations back in the classroom: a simple way to promote tolerance of different faiths and beliefs by continuining conversastions that explore the diversity of religious and cultural traditions in the UK. By having your class learn about the history and beliefs of different faith communities you will encourage them to respect and appreciate the unique contributions of each.

Awareness Days Calendar

School Awareness Days Calendar

The bottom line

In short, there are many ways that teachers can incorporate British Values into the curriculum and school ethos. By having discussions about current events and the role of British Values in society, starting a school council, making regular use of news resources, and holding regular assemblies, teachers can help students to understand the importance of these values and how they can be applied in real life situations. These strategies can help to promote fairness, justice, and democracy in the classroom and can prepare young people for life in modern Britain.