Academies and independent schools must promote “British values”

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Following the ‘Trojan Horse’ episode in Birmingham earlier this year the Government made new regulations in September to enshrine “British Values” in the independent school sector.  From 29 September 2014 all independent schools (including academies) will only meet the relevant standard set in the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010 (Independent School Standards) if the proprietor:

(a)       actively promotes the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs;

(b)        ensures that principles are actively promoted which—

(i)         enable pupils to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence;

(ii)         enable pupils to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law of England;

(iii)        encourage pupils to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality in which the school is situated and to society more widely;

(iv)        enable pupils to acquire a broad general knowledge of and respect for public institutions and services in England;

(v)        further tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions by enabling pupils to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures;

(vi)        encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010; and

(vii)       encourage respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic process, including respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in England.

The changes are, to a large degree, a re-ordering of the previous standard so as to refocus on the “British values” aspect.  The key change, however, is the addition in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the word “actively”, which imposes a stronger obligation than previously.

We will have to wait and see what Ofsted and other inspectorates will take account of when deciding whether the standard has been met and what action DfE may take when the standard is not met.

The National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools has recently written to the Secretary of State and Ofsted to protest that Jewish schools are being disproportionately targeted by Ofsted for inspections, and that “Jewish values and ethos are being questioned by inspectors in a climate of hostility”.

The requirements of the new regulations are mirrored in DfE’s new model funding agreements.  In addition, the funding agreement now includes provisions whereby DfE may determine that a person is “unsuitable” to take part in the management of an academy and may require the academy trust to remove him or her.

Whereas DfE have various intervention powers in relation to an academy trust, how would it choose to intervene if a privately funded independent school failed to meet the promote British values under the new Independent School Standards?

For more information please contact Chris Hook or 0191 211 7929.