Preparing students for life in modern Britain
Police are reporting a substantial increase in hate crime following the recent referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Education providers are not immune - unions and staff in colleges are also reporting a spike in the number of racist and xenophobic incidents. And they recognise that these incidents are likely to represent the tip of an iceberg, with many being unreported. How are you using the agenda to promote fundamental British values to empower staff and students to stand against injustice and inequality and challenge hate crime? Under the 2015 inspection framework, Ofsted will evaluate how well colleges actively promote fundamental British values and prepare students for life in modern Britain. Outstanding colleges are expected to place the promotion of fundamental British values ‘at the heart’ of all that they do. Are you confident that your work will be judged outstanding? And in particular, how are teaching staff in different curriculum teams in your college contributing to the Prevent Duty by promoting fundamental British values? Do they have the knowledge and confidence to discuss sensitive or controversial topics? Do they take advantage of what is going on in the world? Are they preparing learners thoroughly for life in Britain's complex, diverse and multicultural society? In my experience, there are staff in every college who are confident and skilled at facilitating controversial discussions. But there are also staff who are nervous of such discussions, reluctant to initiate conversations and fearful of the consequences if things go ‘pear-shaped’. This raises a number of challenges for colleges, including: how do we identify and implement robust strategies to share skills and expertise to help staff overcome the fear factor? how do we provide practical and effective staff training that provides clarity on what it means to promote fundamental British values for different job roles and responsibilities, and how do we evaluate this training to measure its impact and ensure it leads to a genuine change in staff practice? how do we ensure that all staff recognise and accept their role and responsibility to promote fundamental British values? Ofsted expect outstanding colleges to actively look for opportunities to have discussions around topical, and at times sensitive and controversial issues – in group tutorials, workplace learning and classroom practice, for example. Why? Because handled well, promoting fundamental British values provides an opportunity to increase the resilience of students to challenge extremist ideology, including far-right extremism. It can help challenge unbalanced media reporting to which students may have been exposed. It can help break down the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentalities that so often fuel fear, mistrust, prejudice and ultimately ‘obias’ and ‘isms’; Islamophobia, faith-based extremism, far right extremism, racism and xenophobia, for example. Actively promoting British values can help support good relationships across a college environment that are free from hate crime and intolerance and promote mutual respect. It can help empower staff and students to stand against injustice and inequality and be confident to challenge racism, xenophobia, Islamaphobia and other forms of hate crime. It can also help genuinely prepare students to live and work in Britain and the world as responsible citizens in society. It can even, ultimately, help change our society for the better. Christine Rose is a highly respected equality, diversity and inclusion consultant. She will be speaking on this topic at AoC’s Prevent Duty conference on 19 October. You can view the programme and book your place on the conference website. Christine is also facilitating, on behalf of AoC, a one-day event ‘Understanding Ofsted: Equality, Diversity, Fundamental British values and the 2015 Inspection Framework’. This takes place on 29 November 2016. You can find out more information or register for the event via AoC Create.