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CofE education chief calls for debate on British values

15 August 2014


Values: The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan

Values: The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan

THE Church of England's incoming chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, this week argued for a widespread public discussion to define British values. "What we understand by British values should emanate from a broad public conversation, and not from limited consultations on academy- or nursery-funding agreements," he said.

His comments followed the announcement by the new Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, that the Government is planning to extend the teaching of British values "at an age-appropriate level", to under-fives in nurseries and other childcare centres.

Mrs Morgan's announcement was part of her official response to a recently completed consultation on early-years education, which said that councils would be given the powers to withdraw funding from providers, who might be suspected of promoting views at odds with British values, including the rule of law, individual liberty, democracy, and religious tolerance. Withdrawal of funds would also be extended to nurseries that taught creationism as if it were science.

"The Government is clear that it is not appropriate for public money for early-years education to go to providers which do not promote fundamental British values or which teach creationism as science," she said.

But Mr Genders said that much of the current debate on British values was driven by fear. "Nursery schools should be places where children learn and develop in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. In nursery schools across the country, Bible stories are used as an effective way of enabling children to understand bigger concepts about meaning and life, and the D of E has made it clear that they are absolutely not saying you can't teach Bible stories."

The consultation drew more than 400 responses. About half of those came from members of the British Humanist Association, and were limited to questions of creationism, it is understood.

Scores of nurseries are in churches and mosques, and for them the interpretation of what is acceptable will be crucial, a spokesperson for the National Day Nurseries Association said.

The Christian Institute, a conservative Evangelical organisation based in Tyneside, said that the planned regulations, which are subject to further consultation, could adversely affect child-care providers that had a religious ethos and traditional beliefs. The director of the Institute, Colin Hart, said that it was considering a legal challenge to the way in which the consultation was carried out.

Headteacher associations have also criticised the rules on values for primary and secondary academies and free schools, which come into force in September. A spokesman for the Association of School and College Leaders warned, on Tues-day, that the rules could have unintended consequences.


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