The TES has opened the debate again about teaching British values. It ran an article 09/07/18 quoting the Ofsted Chief, Amanda Spielman’s, attack on ‘piecemeal teaching of British values’. She suggests that while we see a lot of wall displays and motivational assemblies, there isn’t “much coherent thinking about how a real depth of understanding can be built through the academic curriculum…”
British values – described as democracy, tolerance, respect and the rule of law – are now enshrined in the National Curriculum. But Amanda Spielman is right – it isn’t just about paying these values lip-service within a lesson plan or a broader Scheme of Work. Instead children should be able to learn values from the fabric of the ethos of the school. These values should be lived and modelled by the adults who can inspire children to really feel the Value as a way of being. Democracy is enshrined in giving people a voice and a vote, tolerance comes from kindness and understanding, respect is easier to give if it is also received, and rule of law requires a belief that those laws are just and meaningful.
We have been struck so often at Jamie’s Farm by how quickly children buy in to a different way of life and seem to be hungry for the sense of belonging to a community who live their values. Typically, after a couple of days of living and working together, children can speak up about loving being on the farms as places they feel calm and cared for. They are offered kindness and learn to reveal their kind selves, which are sometimes hidden behind prickly and defensive outer shells. As a result, they feel proud that their tolerance has grown. We are democratic, spend time together after every meal and listen to each other, in a way that everyone has a voice. We listen to children’s individual thoughts and feelings, we work alongside them and share the toil, we apologise if we get things wrong. This breeds Respect, it is shared and even. We have clear boundaries, rules of accepted behaviour, standards we try to uphold ourselves to; a belief in order rather than chaos, of limits and restrictions. These come from all the values of making a community where everyone lives and works with a sense of positivity, responsibility and achievement and where they are safe, cared for and can thrive and build trust in themselves and others.
Jamie’s Farm is a value-led organisation. That matters to our staff, but more importantly, that matters to our visiting children. They want to feel part of something ‘good’ and our values allow the children to feel this way. As one of the boys said reflecting on his stay “I thought it would all be just tractors and mud and stuff like that but it’s not, it’s friends, and family and togetherness. That is basically the farm in a nutshell”. How we are in our relationships – the way we treat each other and the children in our care – seems to be the beginning. Maybe our young people need encouragement to live their values and learn them experientially as well as having them built through the academic curriculum.
Written by Tish Feilden, Lead Therapist and Co-Founder