British Values?
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Dr Neil Hawkes
Founder of the International Values-based Education Trust (IVET)
Written on 20/06/14

British Values?
The current media debate about British Values, as exampled in The Times June 19th and The Guardian June 20th, display a lack of knowledge and understanding about the growing numbers of schools that underpin their curriculum with a set of universal positive human values. Examples include schools such as Tower Hill Primary, in The Prime Minister's constituency of Witney, where he praised the school's effective system of teaching about values; Chantry Academy and The Meads Primary in Luton; Eversley Primary in Enfield; Sandylands Primary in Morecambe; Ratton Secondary in Eastbourne and Aylestone College in Hereford, which are ensuring that their pupils live in a school community that bases its life and work on values such as respect, tolerance, trust, resilience, compassion and responsibility. Values such as these are supported by all the major faith communities as well as people who do not adhere to any religion.

Our future depends on people
From my experience, working to develop Values-based Education (VbE) in countries throughout the world, there is a growing recognition that our future depends on all people living their lives based on positive, rather than limiting values. Research undertaken by the Barrett Values Centre (January 2013) showed that British people thought that Britain was increasingly experiencing a set of limiting values, based on: consumerism, money, greed and a celebrity culture. Limiting values such as bureaucracy, violence and fear were identified as worrying examples of current British values. Yet, people said that their personal values were generally more positive.

So when politicians of all political parties talk of British Values, I sense that they are failing to understand the transformational impact of adopting,and living by, a set of community agreed positive human values. I estimate that currently over 10% of UK schools would describe themselves as being explicitly values-based.

A very democratic model
The process of being a values-based school is democratic, in that the school holds a forum, inviting all stakeholders from the community and wider community to reach consensus about a set of universal human values which they can espouse. The school then agrees that adults will model these values to the pupils. The pupils in turn develop a deep understanding of words, such as respect, by having opportunities to practice them at school and at home. From the values words the pupils learn a common language, an ethical vocabulary that promotes the development of what I have termed ethical intelligence - the ability to live, with a heightened awareness of the value of self, others and the environment. Parents from all cultures actively support the work. Research shows the positive impact, both academically and socially, of enabling young people to take personal responsibility for their behaviour. It helps them to develop what I would argue to be the most important outcome of schooling: holistic competence - the ability to live and work with increasing complexity. Value-based Education isn't a soft option, as it demands rigorous self-appraisal from both adults and children. A great example of the power of this process can be seen at Ledbury in Herefordshire where the Town Council has decided to build on the values work of the local Primary School by becoming the first Values-based town in the UK.

Britain is a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith society. Religions can often divide people but values unite them because we can all find respect and harmony by adopting a common set of values. It is my experience that at the heart of humanity we all share the same set of values, but fear and prejudice take us away from them.

What I have briefly described has the potential power to unite people living in Britain, through a new, relevant understanding of values, which should underpin our society. Please see www.valuesbasededucation.com for more information. I hope you will feel inspired to support our movement for positive change.