In June 2014, the Prime Minister emphasised the important role that British values can play in education. Further, how well a school promotes such values is an aspect of Ofsted’s inspection process.
Although in 2014-15 this is something which is developing in its significance for schools, it is not something new at The Oaks Primary School. British values are promoted in much of what we do, during school assemblies, Religious Education, Philosophy and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) sessions. The values are also integral to our vision and values at The Oaks.
As well as actively promoting British values, the opposite also applies: we would actively challenge pupils, staff or parents expressing opinions contrary to fundamental British values, including ‘extremist’ views.
The British values we espouse are not unique to Britain. We acknowledge that they differ in no way from the values of the many countries and the cultural backgrounds represented by families at The Oaks.
Below are just a few examples of how we promote British values. The first section is a general overview; the others are specific expectations set out by Ofsted.
As a school, we value and celebrate the diverse heritages of everybody at The Oaks. Alongside this, we value and celebrate being part of Britain. In general terms, this means that we celebrate traditions and customs in the course of the year; for example, Harvest Festival during the autumn term and trips to the pantomime in the New Year. We also value and celebrate national events, a recent example being the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.
Further, children learn about being part of Britain from different perspectives. Two specific examples of when we teach about being part of Britain are:
Geographically: Our rivers, coasts and seaside holiday topics ensure that children have a better understanding of what Britain is, learning more about:
•its coasts, rivers and mountains
•where Britain is in relation to the rest of Europe and other countries in the world
Historically: Key moments in British history are studied in the topics ‘London’s Burning’ and ‘Britain under attack’ and significant historical figures in the ‘VIP’ topic.
Children, parents and staff have many opportunities for their voices to be heard at The Oaks Primary School. Democracy is central to how we operate.
An obvious example is our School Council. The election of the School Council members reflects our British electoral system and demonstrates democracy in action: candidates make speeches, pupils consider characteristics important for an elected representative, pupils vote in secret using ballot boxes etc. Made up of two representatives from each class, the School Council meets regularly to discuss issues raised by the different classes. The council has its own budget and is able to effect change within the school; in the past, the School Council has hosted visits from the Member of Parliament, the Mayor and other honoured guests. The Council are actively involved in recruitment and in providing teachers with feedback, such as providing a review of themed weeks.
Another example of ‘pupil voice’ is:
•children are asked to respond and reflect on the teaching and learning they receive as well as make suggestions for the School Council to consider.
Pupils are always listened to by adults and are taught to listen carefully and with concern to each other, respecting the right of every individual to have their opinions and voices heard. We encourage pupils to take ownership of not only their school but also of their own learning and progress. This encourages a heightened sense of both personal and social responsibility and is demonstrated on a daily basis by our pupils.
Parents’ opinions are welcomed at The Oaks and termly ‘Parent Forum’ meetings give opportunities for opinions to be shared in an informal setting.
The importance of rules and laws, whether they be those that govern our school or our country, are referred to and reinforced often, such as in assemblies and when reflecting on behaviour choices. At the start of the school year, each class discusses the school rules and class routines, principles that are clearly understood by all and seen to be necessary to ensure that every class member is able to learn in a safe and ordered environment.
Pupils are taught the value and reasons behind laws, that they govern and protect us, the responsibilities that this involves, and the consequences when laws are broken. These values are reinforced in different ways:
•visits from authorities such as the police and fire service
•during Religious Education, when rules for particular faiths are thought about
•during other school subjects, where there is respect and appreciation for different rules – in a sports lessons and philosophy, for example
Alongside rules and laws, we promote freedom of choice and the right to respectfully express views and beliefs. Through the provision of a safe, supportive environment, we provide boundaries for our pupils to make choices safely; for example:
•choices about what learning challenge or activity
•choices about how they record their learning
•choices around the participation in extra-curricular activities
Our pupils are encouraged to know, understand and exercise their rights and personal freedoms and are taught how to exercise these safely, such as in our PSHE and philosophy lessons.
The Oaks Primary School serves an area which is culturally diverse and we are proud to promote and celebrate our different backgrounds and beliefs. Tolerance, politeness and mutual respect are at the heart of our aims and ethos. ‘We have consistently high expectations of, and care for, each other. We are polite, tolerant and respectful at all times’ is one of our six vision statements.
Our pupils know and understand that it is expected that respect is shown to everyone and to everything, whatever differences we may have. Children learn that their behaviour choices have an effect on their own rights and those of others. All members of the school community are encouraged to treat each other with respect.
Specific examples of how we at The Oaks Primary School enhance pupils’ understanding and respect for different faiths and beliefs are:
•through Religious Education, PSHE and philosophy and other lessons where we develop awareness and appreciation of other cultures – in English through fiction and in art and music by considering cultures from other parts of the world.
•celebrating cultural differences through assemblies, themed weeks, noticeboards and displays, and the raising of flags on days of national celebration.
Whilst instances contrary to our values are relatively rare, no school can guarantee that there will never be instances which are contrary to our values. Each is treated seriously in line with our policies and expectations.