Christian commandments should be included in new 'British values' agenda, says Church

Irena Barker

The Christian commandment "love your neighbour" should be included in the "British values" taught to schoolchildren, the Church of England has suggested.

The Church also said it should not be left to the education secretary to decide what counts as a British value, and warned against a "negative and divisive" approach to deciding if somebody is "safe" or "loyal" to the state.

Ministers announced in June that they would consult on plans to tighten the wording on current standards in order to require all schools to "actively promote" fundamental British values, including democracy, tolerance, mutual respect, individual liberty and the rule of law.

The move came in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal - an alleged plot by hardline Islamists to take over schools in Birmingham and promote their own ideology.

In its response to the consultation, the Church of England said that the list of values given in the document is too narrow and "do not include several important aspects of British life".

The missing aspects include: "'Loving your neighbour' and 'being prepared to receive from the outsider' as demonstrated by the Good Samaritan", the Church said. It also calls for British values to reflect a "commitment to the common good" and the importance of dissent - such as the campaign to abolish slavery.

The Anglican church goes on to say that "British values" should come from a broad public conversation, not from education secretary Nicky Morgan.

"By assuming the power to decide what reasonable or unreasonable behaviour is in our education system, the Secretary of State would be taking very wide powers for herself and her successors and closing down the broader public debate across communities and schools themselves," the Church says.

"There is a danger that the 'British values' test could be regarded as an assessment of whether somebody in a community is 'safe' or 'loyal'.

This would be a negative and divisive approach, and should not be how we define our national identity."

In a separate blog, the Church's chief education officer, the Rev Nigel Genders, argued that Ofsted cannot be used to police whether schools are teaching pupils the right ideals, and that youngsters need to learn about religion to prepare them for the realities of the modern world.

In his blog post, Mr Genders said that there has been rapid change in the way that society sees matters such as equality and diversity, and that these have been "unsettling" for many.

His comments are likely to be seen as referring to issues such as gay marriage.

"The ways we, as communities and a nation, develop the language and practices of equality, diversity, community and the individual have changed rapidly in recent years and we need to build confidence and coherence in the wake of changes that have been unsettling for many and remain in many ways unresolved," Mr Genders said.

"But we won't create that confidence by simply policing it through an ever increasing inspection regime, we'll do it by ensuring that our whole vision for education is one focused on the formation of character for the transformation of the world."

He added: "Much more importantly, if we reject all forms of religion from our schools, we are failing to prepare young people for the realities of life in a modern and globalised world."

Related Stories

'We must urgently act to restore rigour to the teaching of RE': 19 September 2014

Trojan Horse: Gove's 'British values' in schools is a 'knee-jerk' response, critics warn: 20 June 2014

Trojan Horse: No evidence of 'anti-British agenda' in schools: 18 July 2014


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Irena Barker

Irena Barker is a freelance journalist.

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