The Department for Education today launched a consultation on strengthening powers to intervene in schools which are failing to actively promote British values.
Independent schools, including academies and free schools, are already required to encourage pupils to respect British values through the Independent School Standards. These proposals will strengthen this standard further, and provide a stronger basis for swift intervention in schools which are not actively promoting British values.
Currently there is no similar standard applied to local-authority-maintained schools. Ofsted will introduce an equivalent expectation on maintained schools through changes to the Ofsted framework later this year.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Keeping our children safe and ensuring schools prepare them for life in modern Britain could not be more important. This change is an important step towards ensuring we have a strong legal basis for intervening in those schools where this is an issue.
The vast majority of schools already promote British values. This is about making sure we have the tools we need to intervene if children are being let down.
The government set out its definition of British values in the 2011 Prevent Strategy - values of:
- the rule of law
- individual liberty
- mutual respect
- tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs
and this definition has been used in the Independent School Standards since January 2013. This definition remains the same in the new standards.
It is expected these strengthened regulations will take effect in September 2014, and will sit alongside the requirements of the Equalities Act, which also apply to all types of school.
Schools will be expected to focus on, and be able to show how their work with pupils is effective in, embedding fundamental British values. Actively promoting also means challenging pupils, staff or parents expressing opinions contrary to fundamental British values.
Action will also be taken against schools where, for example, girls are disadvantaged on the grounds of their gender - or where prejudice against those of other faiths is encouraged or not adequately challenged.
The consultation will state that:
- extremism should not form part of the curriculum or teaching and that students are encouraged to respect other people and no student is discriminated against contrary to the Equality Act 2010
- the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) standard will be strengthened so that proprietors must actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs, and encourage students to respect other people, with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010
- the welfare, health and safety standard will be strengthened by requiring schools to not only draw up relevant policies but to also implement them effectively, and to have effective risk assessments in place to safeguard and promote students’ welfare
It will also introduce a new requirement for schools to publish their inspection reports on their websites.
The Department for Education’s governors’ handbook will reflect the new advice and highlight governors’ role in setting and securing an appropriate ethos, and monitoring practice in the school.
Comments on Part 2 (spiritual, moral, social and cultural development) and Part 4 (suitability of staff, supply staff and proprietors) should be submitted by 10am on Monday 4 August 2014.
For the remaining standards, comments should be submitted by 10am on Monday 18 August 2014.
Notes to editors
View the live consultation.
View the 2013 independent school standards.