Lost in Translation: How do state funded secondary school in England perceive and implement the Department for Educations 'Fundamental British Values'

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Sch of Education and Lifelong Learning


Towards the end of 2014, the Department for Education released a document titled 'Promoting fundamental British values (FBV) as part of SMSC in schools' offering non-statutory advice to all maintained schools in England. This document states that schools must demonstrate they are actively promoting FBV by challenging opinions or behaviours contrary to these values of democracy, rule of law, mutual tolerance of those with different faith and beliefs, and individual liberty. Furthermore, the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015 makes the promotion of FBV mandatory in compliance with the Prevent Strategy which is now zealously inspected by Ofsted, as shown by their most recent Inspection Handbook, marking a shift of responsibility from the Home Office to Education.

The requirement for schools to actively promote 'fundamental British values' has raised concerns regarding what constitutes these values, seeing that the term 'values' is subjective, and how some groups within schools may feel marginalised or 'othered' since their introduction. The enshrinement of these values in law, which are policed by Ofsted and now part of the teaching standards, has left teachers and schools sceptical about what the intentions of these values are with the concern that schools and teachers becoming instrument of surveillance and security.

There are several considerations that may present a challenge to the interpretation and implementation of FBV policy in schools and the ability of teachers to interpret and act upon policy. This includes micro-politics and managerial styles, teachers' personal opinions directly influencing transformation of policy or guidance into practice teachers' abilities to interpret a new curriculum policy influenced by their own epistemologies and the prior beliefs and practices of teachers' which may present challenges to the implementation of new policies such as the requirement to promote FBV.

This study explores how secondary schools in England interpret and implement the requirement to actively promote the four FBV, and concentrates on the perspectives of secondary school approaches to actively promote FBV by recruiting a 'key informant' from each of the four schools who has a role in implementing FBV in the wider school setting.

The contemporary discourse in the schools requirement to promote FBV highlights a large research gap in facilitating schools, teachers, policy makers and government's role in actively promoting FBV. Therefore this study looks at;

i) How to schools interpret FBV in England?
ii) How do schools implement FBV in England?
iii) What are the comparative differences and similarities in different schools interpretation and implementation of FBV in England?

A qualitative approach is proposed; however, a flexible approach will be taken, with possible adoption of quantitative methods during the development of an evolving bricolage methodology, so not to be limited by a single ontological view to what can be seen as a complex, multifaceted study. A variety of methodologies will be adapted to best address the research problem in any situation and context, rather than trying to manipulate the problem to fit a pre-determined epistemology. Thus this research recognises the subjectivity that each participant brings and the uniqueness and diversity of the school setting. The study will incorporate Goodald's curriculum framework consisting of five levels of 'curriculum inquiry' to provide levels of consistency via application of a diverse set of methods.

It is anticipated that the impact of this research will:

i. Contribute towards a better understanding of how schools interpret and implement
ii. Highlight the differences and similarities of each schools' approach,
iii. Inform practice and policy within the discourse of FBV and initial teacher training and teacher education.
iv. Partake in the discourse of methodology by approaching this research in innovative ways.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1928259 Studentship ES/P000630/1 08/01/2018 21/03/2022 Warren Speed