When the Government announced 'promoting' British values was to be added to the Early Years curriculum confusion and, in some settings, panic ensued.
Even today, three years later, many practitioners remain unsure exactly what is expected.
I find this strange considering the fundamental British values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs have always been there - and implicitly embedded in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) since 2008.
I think at least some of the confusion arises because the term British values conjures up images of the Queen, black cabs and afternoon tea.
But it's not about teaching children 'Britishness' - yes, it is a real word.
It's about practitioners teaching children respect, sharing, tolerance and caring for each other emotionally as well as physically.
In practice, they will be actively promoting these values through the EYFS personal, social and emotional development and understanding the world areas of learning.
So nurseries and childcare settings are already promoting British values and don't need to worry or come up with specific lessons to cover the topic.
It is the case though that childcare providers must demonstrate how they’re ‘actively promoting’ these British values during their Ofsted inspection.
This requirement goes hand in hand with legislation which places additional responsibility on Early Years providers to prevent children from becoming radicalised - the Prevent Duty, which became law in 2015.
Settings must be able to demonstrate how British values are at the heart of what they do, how they are embedded in every day teaching and shared with staff, parents and visitors.
So, what can you do within your setting to promote British Values?
- Let children know their views count, and that it's important to value other people's opinions and values and to talk about their feelings
- Support children's decision-making by staging activities that involve turn-taking, sharing and collaboration
- Create an atmosphere where all questions - and answers - are valued
Rule of law
- Help children understand their own, and the importance of other's, behaviour and its consequences and thereby learning to distinguish right from wrong
- Work with children to create rules and codes of behaviour and understanding that these apply to everyone
- Provide opportunities for children to develop self-knowledge, self-esteem and increased confidence in their own abilities
- Facilitate experiences allowing children to explore feelings and responsibility, reflect on their differences and understand they are free to have different opinions
Mutual respect and tolerance
- Create an ethos of inclusivity and tolerance where views, faiths, cultures and races are valued and children engage in the wider community
- Actively promote diverse attitudes and provide resources and activities that challenge gender, cultural and racial stereotyping
- Share and discuss practices, celebrations and experiences
There's nothing complex about any of these guidelines.
But teaching British values from a young age is key to building a strong foundation from which children can grow into well-rounded, even-handed and tolerant young people and adults.