Promoting British Values in Schools is a complex challenge. This article looks at Toop Studio’s wall graphic solution for Denbigh High School.
As of 2014, Ofsted has made it a requirement that every school must show evidence that it is promoting British Values through their curriculum and SMSC (spiritual, moral, social and cultural development). So what are these values? According to Ofsted, ‘fundamental British values’ comprise of:
- ‘The rule of law’
- ‘Individual liberty’
- ‘Mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith’
Working closely with the Headteacher of Denbigh High School, we aimed to highlight how these values were not just British, but human and could be shared by all nationalities. Tasked with creating a ‘British Values’ wall graphic for the main corridor of the school, we decided to examine each value individually, focusing on their cultural and historical aspects, and what that translated to practically in today’s modern Britain. The primary goal of Toop Studio’s work is to inspire and educate, so we set about illustrating the nuts and bolts of these concepts, in a way that was accessible to Key Stage 3 and 4 students.
Initially, we found that there was a lot of confusion surrounding what it means to be ‘British’ geographically. In fact, many names are used interchangeably (and often incorrectly) when referring to the territories of the ‘United Kingdom’. So, we started by clarifying the difference between the ‘British Isles’, the ‘United Kingdom’ and ‘Great Britain’. We then added illustrated maps of Europe and the world, giving Britain a global context. This is a particularly poignant topic for young students, given that the recent referendum result sees our European relationship, and our trading position worldwide, possibly changing forever.
Having dealt with the definition of ‘Britain’ geographically, we went on to explore the inner workings of the nation’s values and the governing bodies that represent them.
Promoting British Values: Democracy
The ‘Democracy’ section was aimed at being as informative as possible for the students. We wanted to highlight the constituent parts of Britain’s own ‘parliamentary democracy’. Our graphic began by breaking the system down into the three bodies that sit under the ‘Crown’: the ‘Legislature’, the ‘Executive’ and the ‘Judiciary’. Under each of these bodies, we explored the internal structures that they consisted of. Under ‘Legislature’, we depicted the House of Lords and House of Commons, whilst also explaining constituencies and MPs. Under ‘Executive’, we showed the structure of the government and its cabinet, and made clear the difference between ministerial and non-ministerial departments.
Promoting British Values: Rule of Law
The ‘rule of law’ is the principle that all people and institutions are subject and accountable to a law that is fairly applied and enforced. As a part of the ‘Judiciary’ graphic, we highlighted the hierarchy of the British court system and its independence from the government. This was presented as a network of court buildings that highlighted how our system deals with civil and criminal cases separately, and the inner workings of the appeal process.
Promoting British Values: Individual Liberty
Individual Liberty is about balance; we are ‘all free to live our lives as we wish, as long as we respect other people’s freedoms, and obey the law.’ However, in the context of our wall design, we did not want just a collection of slogans, as it is a philosophical debate that has been discussed for hundreds of years. Our design sought to give a modern day definition to ‘Individual Liberty’, whilst highlighting some of its key figureheads.
We produced illustrations of (and quotes by) notable figures, such as John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher who wrote the influential book ‘On Liberty’, Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Suffragette movement, and Malala Yousafzai, an education activist and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. Surrounding these figures are two trees of words; the first represents the relationship between education and liberty; the second examines liberty in relation to ‘Rights and Responsibilities’.
Promoting British Values: Mutual Respect and Tolerance
Finally, in order to explore ‘mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith’, we took the key tenants, ‘mutual respect’ and ‘tolerance’, and applied them to a wider code of cultural moral standards. Our ‘Tolerance’ and ‘Mutual Respect’ graphics are a mixture of religious and secular buildings in a stylised townscape, that are emblematic of the faiths they represent, and the cultures that congregate within them.
Although the government’s definition focused on the subject of religion, Denbigh High School and Toop Studio wanted to place equal importance on secular sites of cultural gathering, as they represent safe intellectual spaces for topics such as race, ethnicity, sexuality and gender. We felt this concept showed how tolerance and mutual respect are not just discussions concerning religious groups but concern all avenues of modern society. The ‘Golden Rule’ applies here, ‘treat others how you would want to be treated’.
This was one of the most heavily researched and highly detailed school wall projects undertaken at Toop Studio to date. In short, promoting British Values is a very complex task; the values themselves involve complex ideas. We felt the need to delve into the detail; generalities and slogans, simply, just aren’t enough in an academic setting. We believe that all children should know how our country works because at the age of 18 this generation will have the responsibility to decide its future.
The British Values wall featured in this article was designed by Toop Studio for Denbigh High School, Luton.