EDUCATION – TEACHING BRITISH VALUES IN SCHOOLS – 25 June 2014
Dr Julian Lewis: I have massive sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman’s central point that promoting positive values in schools will be difficult because they are always changing and evolving, but does he, in return, have some sympathy with what I think prompted the Government to approach the matter in the first place? Does he recognise that there are certain extreme and intolerant views that must actively be kept from being promoted in schools?
[Mr John Denham: If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, in a few moments I will directly address what I think the Government should be doing to enable themselves to address situations such as those in Birmingham.
... First, I would like to see the Government fill the gap left by their opposition to multiculturalism by endorsing the idea of nation building. It should be public policy to create a strong, cohesive society with a strong national story and shared values.
Secondly, I would like to see the Government shift the emphasis of their approach from constructing legal powers to intervene, based on legal notions of British values, to providing teachers and schools with the powers and resources they need to do that job well.
Thirdly, the Government should set out a simple test for all publicly funded schools – faith, community, academy or free – that they should be required to maintain an environment that is genuinely open and welcoming to all students of all backgrounds. That, rather than the tortuous test of promoting British values, should be the basis for inspection and intervention.
Fourthly, citizenship and the promotion of strong national values should be restored to their proper place in the curriculum and made part, once again, of Ofsted’s normal inspection regime. As part of that, the Government should take a fresh look at how we ensure that students in mono-cultural or mono-faith schools enjoy wider opportunities to meet, work, study and socialise with those from other schools and other backgrounds.
Finally, the Government should recognise the importance, not just of teaching national values, but of involving young people in debating, exploring and shaping them. Just as British values commonly understood are different today from when I was born, so they will be different in 60 years. It is today’s young people who will, together, decide whether our country works or not.]
[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]