An independent commission set up by the Government to examine extremism has been told to “look afresh” at the teaching of Fundamental British Values in schools.
The advice came in an 18-page briefing document from Assistant Professor Alison Struthers from the University of Warwick’s School of Law, and Dr Diane Webber, Visiting Fellow at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
Their paper, one of eight published this week, was commissioned by the Government’s independent Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE).
Webber and Struthers told the CCE that there were “controversial aspects” to the Fundamental British Values (FBV) agenda and that “other values frameworks [would be] more suited to the role of combatting extremism within schooling”.
The roots of the current formulation of FBVs, including democracy, rule of law, tolerance, respect for the UK and its shared heritage, and equal treatment for all, were first mentioned by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006.
They were further embedded as part of the new Prevent Strategy pushed in 2011 by then Home Secretary Theresa May, who said the Government would neither work with nor fund organisations that did not accept these values.
In 2014, after the so-called Trojan Horse affair, which was prompted by allegations of an “Islamist plot” to take over schools in the West Midlands, schools were required to “actively promote” the five FBVs.
Jewish concerns heightened in 2017 when the independent Vishnitz Girls School in Stamford Hill became the first of several Orthodox schools to be judged ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors who said pupils were not given “a full understanding of fundamental British values”.
Their report said pupils should be taught all protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010, including sexuality and gender, but Jewish leaders said their religious ethos views homosexuality as a sin, meaning it is not “equal”.
This week Webber and Struthers noted criticism of the Government’s FBV policy “from so many interested parties” as well as an “absence of any significant developments to allay the concerns of the various groups since the FBV agenda was introduced”.
They concluded that “it would serve the Government well to look afresh at the [FBV] issue of how best to equip learners in England with the necessary resilience to counter the pull of extremism”.
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