The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Lisa Griffin

Ofsted and British values

With increased importance of British values in the new framework, we look at what these really mean for schools and how to evidence for Ofsted.

As of November 2014, schools have had to promote British values (BV), so no doubt we’re all very familiar with them. The advice from the DfE is to do this through SMSC, although Ofsted will assess it through the curriculum too.

Under the Common Inspection framework now in place, SMSC and the promotion of BV are of raised importance and inspectors will consider how well leaders actively promote BV.

In our webinar, Preparing for the new Ofsted Common Inspection Framework 2015, former headteacher and Ofsted inspector John Viner broke down the detail of the new framework measurements and provided expert advice on pressing questions from schools. 

Ofsted want to see a school ethos and climate that promotes BV at every level. Inspectors will assess BV through SMSC, the curriculum and school leadership.

On top of this, Ofsted now pay a lot of attention to SMSC when deciding whether your school is 'outstanding', 'inadequate' or somewhere in between. So where should schools start?

What are British values and what must be taught?

What do you think of when you hear the term ‘British values’? You’d be forgiven if the first things that came to mind were the quintessential stiff upper lip and a nice cup of tea to solve your problems.

According to Ofsted, 'fundamental British values' are:

  • democracy
  • the rule of law
  • individual liberty and mutual respect
  • tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

Some questions may start to form here: is this a complete list? Why is there no mention of respect and tolerance for differences in gender or race, for example? And just what makes these values ‘British’?

Although we may not all agree with the list, Ofsted agree on what must be taught and the advice here is basically the same for maintained schools and independent schools:

  • enable pupils to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence
  • enable pupils to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law of England
  • encourage pupils to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative, and to understand how they can contribute positively to society
  • enable pupils to acquire a broad general knowledge of and respect for public institutions and services in England
  • further tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions by enabling pupils to acquire an appreciation for and respect for their own and other cultures
  • encourage respect for other people, democracy and support for participation in the democratic processes, including respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in England.

How will it be assessed?

Ofsted make it clear that schools will struggle to get a decent rating if they fail to deliver good SMSC. There is little advice from the DfE as to how to show this, but luckily we’ve put together a Template grid for evidencing SMSC.

Available in word and excel format, these documents provide a clear way to demonstrate a whole-school approach to SMSC.

We also spoke to numerous schools to discover the approach they’ve taken to BV and SMSC. Headteacher of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, David Anderson, told us: ‘We just do what we know is in the best interests of our pupils.’

And who wouldn’t agree with that? Who knows a school better than those in it?

However ingrained SMSC might be in some schools, there is still the need to demonstrate this to Ofsted. Queen Elizabeth’s created a SMSC booklet to evidence the variety of what they do. ‘It included photo diaries, charts and graphs. Whenever we found that we were doing something that might be classed as SMSC we’d put it in,’ says David.

Find out more about the strategies Queen Elizabeth’s uses and how to implement them in your school in our Case study: developing excellence in SMSC.

A headteacher I spoke to recently held very strong views that: ‘No decent school leader would not want their school to promote and develop personal morality, decency, tolerance and respect both within and outside the school gates.’

This is a view widely agreed upon in schools who have, for a long time, been responsible for delivering a curriculum which is broad, balanced and based on a developmental framework of spiritual, moral and cultural understanding. This is evidenced in a whole-school approach; assemblies, charity fundraising, links with other schools and the local community.

So while schools need to be aware of what Ofsted are looking for, as always, for many it will largely be a case of ‘keep doing well what you’re already doing well.’

You and your staff will know your school and pupils better than anyone else so use our guidance and examples and find what works best in your school.

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