New research has found that many pupils remain baffled by the concept of British values. It also reveals that few have heard of the government’s Prevent strategy, which is intended to stop pupils from being drawn into terrorism.
The survey of 250 ethnic-minority pupils, aged between 14 and 18, was conducted by Alison Davies, of the Open University’s faculty of health and social care. She will present her findings today at the annual British Educational Research Association conference, held at the University of Leeds.
Dr Davies found that only 13 per cent had heard of the Prevent strategy. One teenage boy said: “The government is putting money into something the youth doesn’t know about. It’s useless.”
Most teenagers told her that the Prevent strategy would be counterproductive, alienating Muslim pupils from their teachers.
Fish and chips
Dr Davies also found that most of the pupils had no idea what was meant by the term “British values”. Summing up the teenagers’ responses, she said: “Over half were silent, or stated ‘don’t know what you mean’.”
The remainder of the pupils mentioned such British essentials as tea drinking, fish and chips and celebrating the Queen’s birthday (which several schools had just done at the time of the survey).
Government guidance says that all schools in England should “promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.
However, the pupils said that they saw democracy as a system of government, rather than a value. Several Muslim pupils pointed out that the rule of law was also a principle of Islam.
'Taking our jobs'
Several pupils responded ironically to the question. Asked to name British values, they mentioned picking on someone different, and “We need to get rid of these immigrants – they’re taking our jobs”.
They also had little time for tolerance, saying that they did not want merely to be tolerated and to tolerate others, but to have relationships based on respect and understanding.
Nearly one in three of those pupils surveyed had experienced racial abuse. Among Muslim pupils – who made up a third of those questioned – this figure rose to 40 per cent. Most wanted more to be done to counter negative stereotypes in Britain, particularly of Muslim people.
“They called for better-informed teaching about Islam in schools and in the media, to counter the assumed link between Islam and terrorism,” Dr Davies said.