British school teachers have been slammed for vowing not to teach British values in their classrooms. The teachers say doing so promotes “cultural supremacism” and shows insensitivity towards immigrant pupils from former British colonies. But their critics have hit back, accused them of using children as pawns in an ideological war.
Two years ago, in the wake of the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in Birmingham which saw British pupils subject to Islamic rules and regulations such as segregated classrooms and Arabic tuition, the government introduced a duty on all schools to promote British values.
The new rule led to some controversy as Ofsted moved to redefine British values along liberal lines, leading to the closure of at least one Christian school for not doing enough to promote gay marriage and awareness of Islam.
But now teachers say they want to scrap the requirement altogether. Meeting at their annual conference in Brighton, delegates of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) have voted in favour of a motion to ditch British Values and replace them with “international rights,” the Daily Mail has reported.
Christopher Denson, an NUT representative from Coventry, told his fellow teachers: “We need to fight to reject this notion of British values, to fight for notions of human values and human rights. We have to stand together across communities to bring down barriers, bring down borders, to say no to Islamophobia, no to anti-Semitism, no to fascism and any form of racism.”
He said he was uncomfortable using the term “fundamental British values” in the classroom when many of his pupils were from families who had emigrated from countries within the former British Empire.
“The inherent cultural supremacism in that term is both unnecessary and unacceptable,” he insisted, “and seen with the Prevent agenda [the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy], it belies the most thinly veiled racism and a conscious effort to divide communities.”
He added: “It’s our duty to push real anti-racist work in all schools. And that doesn’t mean talk of tolerating other’s views, but genuine, inclusive anti-racist work.”
And delegates want to go further – beyond merely teaching inclusivity to promoting inward migration to Britain.
At his own school Mr Denson had encouraged the leadership to introduce a week of themed activities each year. This year, the focus was on the migrant crisis in Calais and the Mediterranean.
“Apart from the quality of the work, the other thing that really made me proud was that every single tutor group had as a policy, ‘refugees welcome, open the borders,” he said, adding: “We need to be pushing at every level for anti-racism to be in the core curriculum for every child.”
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT was in agreement saying: “Schools and teachers play a key role in welcoming migrant and refugee children and young people to this country, and supporting their progress within schools.
“The NUT condemns the Government’s inadequate response to the current migrant situation, which has exacerbated the suffering for so many, including school-age children and young people.
“The NUT has produced a guide to Welcoming Refugee Children to your School and has a dedicated section on its website for teaching resources which have been provided by teachers for teachers, on the issue.”
Making it clear that the NUT was acting politically and reaching beyond the boundaries of education, she added: “The NUT will continue to work with Show Racism the Red Card, Hope Not Hate and others, to campaign for Government policies that welcome migrants and refugees to this country. The NUT will also continue to press for anti-racism work to be enshrined within the curriculum of all schools.”
But critics have hit back at the motion, accusing teachers of using the children in their care as political pawns, ripe for indoctrination.
Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “Teachers should not be playing the role of fifth columnists in the ideological war currently being fought over our national identity and our national sovereignty.
“Teaching children that British values are part of ‘cultural supremacism’ will, at best, make them feel guilty about being British and, at worst, radicalise them in order to ‘make up’ for the sins of their fathers.
“If one wishes to destroy a nation and build a ‘brave new world’ you begin by indoctrinating and brainwashing the children.
Mr McGovern, who has 35 years of experience in the classroom at both primary and secondary level, said the motion was part of an ongoing agenda to ‘re-educate’ children. “We are, now, seeing its consequences in the suppression of free speech on our university campuses,” he said.
And he slammed the teaching of “’value relativism’ – that all views are equally valid,” which he said has reached “saturation point” in British schools.
“In many classrooms this has led to the views of terrorists being given equal weight to those of the victim of terrorism. Against this background the latest motions from the NUT come as no surprise, at all.”
Paul Nuttall MEP, UKIP’s Deputy Leader, a former teacher himself, agreed: “Last time I checked this is still Britain and what else should be promoted but British values? They inherently include tolerance of other faiths and lifestyles, that is a fundamental value of our traditional society.
“To say the term is ‘demeaning’ as the NUT do, demonstrates the left wing bias of that union and their selfish drive to use pupils as political pawns.
“These are young impressionable minds they are playing with who should be taught what being British means above ideological views about international human rights.”
He said Britain had a “fine record” on welcoming refugees facing persecution and death elsewhere in the world.
“But the situation is now out of control,” he said, “and we cannot and must not allow uncontrolled immigration and nor should our youngsters be taught that putting the people living in this country first makes us racist. It does not.
“Campaigning to welcome even more migrants into this country when our schools, hospitals, housing and general infrastructure is already failing to cope is irresponsible,and risks creating a divided society with future generations the losers.”