Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In Tune with British Values

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In Tune with British Values

Article excerpt

In 2013, several schools in Birmingham hit the headlines over what became known as the "Trojan Horse plot", in which some Muslim groups in the city were alleged to have installed governors in order to gain control of a number of schools.

Since then, questions of identity, integration and "Britishness" have rarely been far from the headlines and the government has escalated its drive to promote cross-community relations in schools.

Our approach to this issue may, in the current educational climate, be viewed as outside the mainstream - we decided to focus our curriculum on music and art.

For those of us teaching at Feversham Primary Academy in Bradford, part of the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), the news reports in 2013 were of particular interest as our city faces similar social challenges to those in Birmingham: 85 per cent of our pupils speak English as a second language; our community has suffered from high levels of crime, social deprivation and religious divisions.

In a situation like this, schools should adopt a holistic approach to education - with lessons in social mixing and citizenship. Ofsted recognised this in 2014 by urging schools to promote British values such as democracy, the rule of law and respect for people of all faiths.

However, many teachers find these statements all too easy to make but not so easy to transform into anything tangible. Across many parts of modern Britain, this is the biggest challenge facing teachers. How can we take lofty ideas such as respect for democracy, the rule of law and individual liberty and instil them in primary school children?

We tried a number of methods - teaching history and literature, citizenship lessons, inviting speakers from religious and community groups. It quickly became clear that these conventional methods were neither age-appropriate nor right for the social context we were working in. We had to come up with an alternative.

It came with a focus on music and the arts. I have always had a passion for both, as they can help bring together people of different backgrounds while also serving as a symbol of cultural distinctiveness, exposing children to a rich patchwork of tradition and perspectives. I wanted to harness these advantages as a tool to bring the various communities at Feversham together and integrate them into wider British society.

Renewed focus on the arts

At first sight, a plan for a renewed focus on the arts, and music in particular, might seem relatively uncontroversial. However, those in the UK's Muslim community hold widely divergent views. …

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