Nursery providers have asked for more clarity on what Ofsted inspectors define as British values, with the National Day Nurseries Association chief calling the whole concept ‘ambiguous’.
The comments were made at the Association’s conference, with Sarah Steel, managing director of the Old Station Nursery chain, saying: “We have worked hard to make sure our nurseries are inclusive and multicultural and I would like to know how we should embed British values.”
The remarks were directed at Nick Hudson, Ofsted's national director for Early Education, who was speaking at the conference. He responded, saying: “What we inspect is the definition of British values which is defined in Department for Education documentation, one of these being tolerance.
“I genuinely think that best practice in the early years is what inspectors will be looking at.
“We will be looking at whether children are sharing values, rather than whether you have the right posters on the walls. It is not about having posters on the walls saying we encourage British values. I don’t think it is a huge challenge for most settings as it is what you do every single day.”
More clarity needed
However Purnima Tanuku, chief exective of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), called for more clarity, saying: “The whole thing about British values is so ambiguous. We want to make sure what inspectors will be looking for when they go into a setting.”
Some local authorities have been putting on training days on the guidance from the Department for Education, to give nurseries more of an idea of what Ofsted inspectors will expect to see in terms of British values.
The requirement by the Department for Education (DfE) gives local authorities the power to withdraw early education funding, for three to four-year-olds and disadvantaged two-year-olds, from childcare providers which are found not to be promoting British values or are advocating creationism as a valid scientific theory.
Early years settings are already being inspected on whether they are promoting British Values and it is part of the Common Inspection Framework being published this month, which is the new framework Ofsted inspectors will be using to inspect early years settings, schools and colleges from September.
British values are described in the DfE’s Early Education and childcare: Statutory guidance for local authorities - 'Fundamental British values, first set out in the Government’s Prevent strategy, are democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs'.
The promotion of fundamental British values will be reflected in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and exemplified in an age-appropriate way through practice guidance, according to the DfE.
'Misinterpretation and confusion'
The charity 4Children has been holding Learn Explore Debate events and has found many early years providers ‘would welcome further clarity and guidance on what British Values means in the early years to reduce misinterpretation and confusion’.
It has come up with some guidelines on its Foundation Years website as to what is not acceptable. This includes actively promoting intolerance of other faiths, cultures and races, failure to challenge gender stereotypes, routinely segregate girls and boys and isolating children from their wider community.
A motion passed at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ Conference held in March, criticised the Government’s drive on British values as a “knee-jerk national policy ‘solution’ to localised governance issues” which risked “becoming the source of wider conflict rather than a means of resolving it”.
ATL delegates voted in favour of monitoring the policing of the Government’s British values requirement and called for “a more sensible, reasoned approach to values”.
Separately, the Counter Terrorism and Security Act also places a duty on early years providers “to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” (the Prevent duty). The duty comes into effect from July 2015.
Statutory guidance on the duty is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prevent-duty-guidance. DfE will in due course amend the EYFS to reference providers’ responsibilities in the light of the Prevent duty.