Making British Values meaningful and developing critical thinking

British Values should not be seen as abstract but as a set of behaviours to adopt in the classroom and the college community. Sarah Pagram discusses embedding them naturally, not as an extra or add-on.

Last academic year some colleagues and I participated in the Education and Training Foundation’s (ETF) Professional Exchange Group, which was hosted in London by the Association of Colleges. We were interested in exploring how we could develop learners’ understanding of British Values and their critical thinking skills. From the outset, the group agreed that the strategies we were going to trial would allow British Values and critical thinking to feature ‘naturally’ as part of teaching and learning, rather than being treated as ‘extras’ or ‘add-ons’. We hoped to create an authentic and meaningful experience for learners where British Values could feature in subject-specific contexts. To achieve this, we agreed as a group to explore the use of similar pedagogical approaches, namely discussion-based activities. We participated in Philosophy for

Children (P4C) training, led by SAPERE, which trains teachers in schools and colleges how to facilitate discussion to build higher order thinking, listening and speaking skills among learners. We then engaged in communities of enquiry among colleagues, and structured discussion-based activities that connected our learners with ‘big ideas’, including the four British Values: democracy: the rule of law; individual liberty; mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. One example I used in my classroom


• For information and support on the Prevent duty and British Values visit the Education and Training Foundation website or, if reading your digital inTuition, click on

related to the creative process for a piece of theatre for the Barbican Box project (a collaboration with the Barbican Centre). I used the P4C approach to allow my learners to discuss potential creative starting points for the piece they were creating. The P4C approach of structured discussions in class allowed all learners to feel that they had a valid contribution to the process. Once all ideas had been shared, the group were then asked to vote on the best one, and this idea was carried forward to use as a springboard for the piece. This linked with British Values such as democracy and mutual respect.

IMPACT I wanted to build a community with my Levels 1, 2 and 3 Performing Arts learners. When I attended the P4C training I could see that the activities we participated in mirrored those we would use in a Performing Arts context. Four types of thinking occur naturally in

a performing arts context: collaborative, creative, caring and critical. And the P4C approach linked well with these four subject-specific aspects. So, by using the P4C approach we supported core aspects of course learning while embedding British Values in a subtle way. The activities that I led with all groups allowed them to feel relaxed and, in some cases with the more reserved learners, gave them an opportunity to speak without feeling judged or fear of getting things ‘wrong’.

I feel that this is an important stage of leading a community of enquiry and can see that if these activities were offered at the start of an academic year, you could build a group dynamic of openness, trust and mutual respect from the outset.


The practicalities of embedding British Values in education and training are not without issues, and the concept remains controversial for some educators. But this project helped us understand that British Values can be much more than something that we pay lip service to in our schemes of work. They can be understood as a set of feelings and values that we enact and embody in our classrooms, and the wider college community. As a group we are all keen to continue building on the approach we adopted.

One thing we encourage everyone

to experiment with at the start of the new academic year is to invest time in community building activities early on, to embed British Values from the outset and enhance peer-to-peer interactions.

Sarah Pagram is course leader (dance) and lecturer in Performing Arts at Barking & Dagenham College.


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