Following the Trojan Horse Affair in Birmingham and the collapse of the Department of Education’s attempt to ban teachers under claims that they had an Islamist agenda, the 2015 version of Prevent, the UK government’s counter extremism strategy, included a statutory duty on schools to promote ‘British values’.
This became part of the national curriculum on the back of the Birmingham Trojan Horse Affair, a deeply problematic precursor to any notion of ‘British values’.
During this event it was claimed that teachers at Park View School were guilty of ‘Islamicising’ the school.
In fact, no charges of extremism were brought against teachers, and the cases against the senior leadership team collapsed due to an ‘abuse of process’ by lawyers acting for the Department of Education, including non-disclosure of relevant evidence.
The Trojan Horse Affair demonised an outstanding Muslim-majority school and made it the means to justify the teaching of the government’s definition of ‘British values’ by law, under Prevent, in all publicly-funded schools in England, including academies and free schools.
Today, the duty has become, in effect, a new national curriculum. This has been defined by purported “requirements of national security”, an astounding approach to both values, and children and young people.
Additionally, the way ‘British values’ are being shaped, is seen to contribute to the idea of British Muslims as a ‘suspect’ community that ‘do not share our values’.
The government has also sought to incorporate the anti-colonial, anti-racist discourse, as well as discourse on the far-left and environmental activism under its strictures about extremism – that is, as “threats” to ‘British values’.
If they aren’t Muslim values, or values shared by those with a passionate concern for combating racism and neo-colonialism, for those who advocate for environmentalism in policy, and for those calling for social justice, then whose values are these ‘British values’?