Is 'Britishness' flagging?

29th June 2007 at 01:00
(Photograph) - Some of England's brightest pupils have criticised a government drive to give "core British values" a central place on the curriculum, writes Warwick Mansell.

Hundreds of members of the National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth have rejected the approach put forward earlier this year by Alan Johnson, the then Education Secretary.

Reacting to a review of citizenship commissioned after the 2005 London bombings, Mr Johnson said the curriculum should be strengthened so that all pupils were taught the "British" values of tolerance and respect.

Yet online interviews with 43 gifted and talented pupils, backed by questionnaires completed by 453 children aged 11 to 17, found widespread resistance to the term "core British values".

A report on the research said: "Pupils felt very strongly about having ownership of their own values and not having others dictate what values they should hold."

The pupils - 80 per cent were white - also questioned whether qualities such as tolerance and respect for others' point of view were necessarily British rather than universal, it said.

One pupil said: "I don't see the point in all this Britishness.

"Isn't it just alienating us from other countries, cultures and peoples? We're being told we live in a multicultural society yet now they want to enforce something completely different." Michaela Goff, 17, of Headington school, Oxford, said: "In a world which is becoming ever more globalised it seems ludicrous that the British Government is seriously considering teaching how to be British."

Another said: "This sounds like yet another government miracle solution to youth misbehaviour, which will again go down like a lead balloon. Most people see citizenship classes as a free period."

The new secondary citizenship curriculum, published by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, says pupils should be taught about diversity, toleration, respect and freedom.

Despite Mr Johnson's rhetoric, the new curriculum does not identify these values as particularly British.

At a conference this week organised by the AQA exam board, Sir Keith Ajegbo, who led a government review of citizenship teaching, said he thought there should be a national strategy for the teaching of the subject.

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