Big Debate: Should we teach British values in our schools?

A street party to commemorate The Queen's Diamond Jubilee at Ashby De La Zouch, Leicestershire.

A street party to commemorate The Queen's Diamond Jubilee at Ashby De La Zouch, Leicestershire. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

This week we ask whether British values should be taught in schools.

Tamsin Omond

Tamsin Omond - Credit: Archant

Do we risk breeding an “atmosphere of mistrust” by promoting these values and enforcing snap inspections in schools, as Dr Shuja Shafi of the Muslim Council of Britain has claimed?

Are British values unteachable? Or, by even trying to teach them are we giving in to paranoia brought on by Islamist terror attacks?

Below, Tamsin Omond, Green Party parliamentary candidate for East Ham and Abdul Khan, of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, debate the issue.

To share your views simply vote in our poll, leave your comments below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or contact Sebastian Murphy-Bates at sebastian.murphy-bates@archant.co.uk and 020 8477 5802.

Tamsin Omond, Green Party parliamentary candidate for East Ham

Abdul Khan

Abdul Khan - Credit: Archant

Last week Prince Charles, one of the most privileged men in Britain, said that Muslims living in Britain must respect British values.


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He didn’t explain what those values are but instead said they were “the values we hold dear”.

His statement comes at a time when Michael Gove’s education reforms are coming into play.

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Among those reforms is the introduction of “promoting fundamental British values” with the curriculum.

But what are these British values that we are supposed to hold dear?

And, once someone has decided what they are and written them into the curriculum, will that lead to an abundance of tolerance, no more bullying, no more social division and no more of the alienation it produces?

It sounds like nonsense to me.

I cannot imagine that the British values Prince Charles or Michael Gove hold dear match those that make me proud to live in this country.

I know that the British values identified by Ukip feel like ignorance, racism and fear and are therefore worlds apart from the British values that I hold dear: our understated humour, our kindness, our fairness and our acceptance – primarily of other people – but also of our British weather.

And so, instead of teaching “British” values, why not just teach “values”?

Instead of deciding what people should care about, why not ask what they do care about and listen for the similarities that connect us all.

Who can freeze what it means to be “British” onto the page of a school textbook without creating a British identity that excludes people who do not read their values on that page?

Whoever believes that it is their right to define what is fundamentally good about Britain or to decide what “we” hold dear is not demonstrating the British values of humility and tolerance that I hold dear.

Abdul Khan, Ahmadiyya Muslim Association

I am taking part in this debate because I find it interesting and very important to clearly set our plan of action about what we should teach our children in order for them to be able to live peacefully in a harmonious society.

Being an Asian Muslim, I migrated to the UK at the age of about 23.

I have not found core British values to be any different from Islamic values, my values or Asian values.

Therefore, I do not find any reason at all to oppose the idea that British values should be taught in schools.

I feel that opposing this idea is positively creating a hindrance in forming a peaceful and harmonious society.

I believe that, if we want our future generation to live together peacefully in a harmonious manner, we must teach our children common values.

On the basis of these values they can interact with one other. I invite elders of every cultural background to think carefully about their values.

They should look at what they believe to be their values and then compare them with British values.

They will be amazed to find that their values are not different from British values and vice versa.

It is a universal truth that, as human beings, we have more things in common than things that divide us.

Our values cannot be that different from one another’s.

Even if we believe that our values are different, and that some are better than others, we have to find some things in common to move forward.

The British population is in the majority in this country.

Therefore, we have to find and share common trends in our lives.

If we fail to do this, then we will be failing to help ourselves and our children live as one in a co-operative society.

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