In June 2014, David Cameron 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.
A recognition and understanding of British Values is an important aspect of life at Marchbank Free School. British values are promoted in so much of what we do, not least during our school assemblies, Religious Education and daily ring times. The values are integral to our school vision and values which complements British values.
As well as actively promoting British values, the opposite also applies: we would actively challenge pupils, staff or parents/carers expressing opinions contrary to fundamental British values, including ‘extremist’ views.
The term ‘British values’ might be slightly misleading in that these values are integral to so many countries throughout the world – they differ in no way from the values of most western European countries, for example.
Being part of Britain
As a school, we value and celebrate the diverse heritages of everybody at Marchbank Free School and the communities we belong to. Alongside this, we value and celebrate being part of Britain. In general terms, this means that we celebrate traditions, such as customs in the course of the year; for example, Harvest festival during the Autumn term, and what could be more British than a trip to a pantomime around Christmas time?
Further, children learn about being part of Britain from different specific perspectives.
Children, parents and staff have many opportunities for their voices to be heard at Marchbank Free 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 one representative from each class, the School Council meets regularly to discuss issues raised by classes or individuals. The council has its own budget and is able to genuinely effect change within the school; they recently used a suggestions box to ensure children throughout the school had the opportunity to be involved in the purchase of playtime resources. The Council are actively involved in recruitment and in providing teachers with feedback such as how they think they learn best.
Other examples of ‘pupil voice’ are:
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.
Rules and laws
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. The school has a set of rules which were decided upon by the first pupil cohort working alongside the staff. They are a set of principles that are clearly understood by all and seen to be necessary to ensure that every child 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:
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 and empowering education, we provide boundaries for our young pupils to make choices safely; for example:
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 e-safety and PSHE lessons.
Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs
The staff and student cohort at Marchbank Free School does not demonstrate cultural diversity and has only a small number of members who belong to minority groups. It is therefore crucial that they are exposed to and learn about the different cultural members of the wider community of their local area and of Great Britain. This is one of the primary reasons we have chosen to use the International Primary Curriculum to provide the framework of the foundation curriculum. Mutual respect is at the heart of our vision and aims– To develop understanding of and respect for a wide range of religious values, languages and cultural traditions and different ways of life – and our school rules demonstrate a level of respect to everyone in our community.
Our pupils know and understand that it is expected and imperative that respect is shown to everyone, whatever differences we may have, and to everything, whether it is a school resource, a religious belief or whatever. Children learn that their behaviour choices have an effect on their own rights and those of others. All members of the school community should treat each other with respect.
Specific examples of how we at Marchbank Free School enhance pupils understanding and respect for different faiths and beliefs are:
At Marchbank Free School the local governing body and the senior management team uphold the principles of British Society and lead by example.