We welcome the duty on all schools to promote "fundamental British values". As secularists we strongly endorse these values, defined as "democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs".
The existence of this duty on schools provides a mechanism for us to challenge practices including gender discrimination, the promotion of bigotry and hatred against different groups, and the doctrinaire teaching of regressive social attitudes.
Good citizenship education can help promote social cohesion and equip young people with important knowledge and skills related to equality and human rights. Citizenship education provides an opportunity for pupils to address contemporary and moral issues without shoehorning them into religious education.
Citizenship education enables pupils to consider the influence of ideas such as democracy, theocracy and privilege on equal/unequal citizenship.
What’s the problem?
Many faith schools, and particularly independent schools from isolated minority religious communities, fail to promote these values.
While we broadly welcome the duty to promote these values in schools and the challenge this mechanism offers to religious isolationism and extremism, there is a problem with the way this agenda has been implemented: the guidance issues by the Department for Education defends the status quo on collective worship in schools.
What are we doing?
- We have promoted citizenship studies' key role in promoting human rights education, across a range of consultations. In 2017, we called on Britain to celebrate equality and respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights in a submission to a House of Lords select committee on citizenship and civic engagement.
- In 2018 we responded to the government's consultation on its Integrated Communities Strategy green paper. In our response, we welcomed some of the proposals, including the emphasis on British values, but expressed concern over others (including the reliance on faith leaders) and disappointment over the the failure to acknowledge the division caused by faith schools.
- In September 2017 we submitted evidence to the Select Committee On Citizenship and Civic Engagement. We called for investment in citizenship education as a key element in preparing young people to exercise their rights as active, autonomous and equal citizens. The concept of equal citizenship regardless of one's religious or philosophical beliefs is central to secularism and something schools rightly have a duty to promote.
- In November 2014 we submitted evidence to a DfE consultation on reforming the GCSE and A level subject content for citizenship studies, calling for pupils to be educated about the relationship between equality, human rights and equal citizenship.
What you can do:
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