British Values in the Early Years:
What You Need to Know
Ideas to promote the British Values in your setting.

Fundamental British Values might have been around since 2014. They’ve even been in the EYFS since 2015. But many nurseries still don’t really understand what they’re all about.

While the world is full of bewildering advice that can make you feel like you’ve got quite the mountain to climb, there really is no need to panic.

If you do feel a little confused, then our simple guide is for you. We’ve gone beyond the jargon to explain exactly what the British Values are, what you need to do about them, and ideas to promote them in your setting.

British Values and the EYFS

The concept of ‘Fundamental British Values’ has been implicitly within the EYFS since 2014. Now, it is a part of the statutory prevent guidance that all childcare providers need to follow.

All in, there are four British Values which providers need to promote. In turn, these four values all fit somewhere within the categories of Personal, Social, and Physical Development (PSED) and Understanding the World (UW).

So when thinking about how we promote British Values in line with the EYFS, these are the parts of child development that we need to keep going back to. As we go through each value, we’ll look more specifically at how to target each area of learning too.

Like everything else in childcare, promoting the British Values will require taking different approaches for different ages. In this case:

  • Younger Children – Focus on promoting the more general concepts with the EYFS knowing that their development within these areas is key to promoting the values in the long term.
  • Older Children – You can look more explicitly at the values and come up with ideas more closely tied into the values themselves.
And what do Ofsted think?

In the Ofsted inspection framework, it now states that inspectors will make a judgement on how settings are ‘actively promoting British Values’. At the same time the Ofsted Inspection Handbook now explicitly mentions British values in both the Outstanding and Inadequate judgements.

For Outstanding? The promotion of British Values should be ‘at the heart of the setting’s work’. It’s got to play a part in everything you do at the setting.

For Inadequate? That’s if you are making no effort to promote British Values whatsoever.

The difficulty comes down to what ‘actively promote’ means, but it needn’t be that complex. Avoid simply ticking these ideas off the list with the odd poster here, or the occasional mention of a certain culture’s tradition there. To find out how to put British Values at the very heart of what you do, read on…

And what does this have to do with Prevent?

Quite simply, the Prevent Duty statutory guidance is focused on preventing all children from being drawn into terrorism. Within the strategy released by the government, they define terrorism as the active opposition to exactly the British Values detailed here. As a result, promoting and actively encouraging these values plays a crucial role in the Prevent strategy.

I think I might be falling short…

Not sure that you’re properly promoting the British Values? A good place to start is thinking about Assess, Action and Show.

  • Assess – Think about your setting and the activities and provisions you have for your children. Are you falling short in any of the four areas? Are you doing more than just box-ticking?
  • Action – Take action to improve if you are falling short. Educate staff on the importance of British Values. Actively add initiatives that focus on the values, or on ways to promote them. Explain to parents why they matter.
  • Show – Make sure you can explain or show to parents, inspectors or new teachers how you promote British Values. This matters for Ofsted. But more importantly if you can’t easily explain what you’ve done, you probably haven’t gone far enough.
The Values

Time to talk about the individual values and ideas for incorporating them where you are.

1. Democracy

Democracy is where we make decisions together. It’s also about making sure that everyone has equal rights and is treated equally. Each child’s views matter, and it’s important they are given the opportunity to share and collaborate to make decisions together.

Where does it fit in the EYFS?

PSED – Self-Confidence and Self-Awareness

How about some examples?

  • Enabling children to feel comfortable with questions is an important part of improving their confidence. Making sure you have an environment that allows enquiring minds to ask questions is key to this.
  • Sharing and collaborating is one of the most important skills children learn in the early years. Develop provisions that make children share, while encouraging collaborating and working together towards a common goal wherever possible.
  • You can actively encourage democracy by getting the kids involved in decisions, such as asking for hands up to decide about new things you’re bringing in. Letting them be a part of making displays and other things around the setting is also allowing them to actively participate in a democracy.

What does Ofsted expect?

To show that you’re really embracing the concept of democracy in your setting, allowing the children to take part in more and more decisions shows that you’re taking real steps to actively promote democracy in your setting.

2. Rule of Law

The Rule of Law is about understanding that rules matter in our society. And that’s about understanding that there are some rules that we need to follow. At an earlier level, it’s more about understanding cause and effect and that our actions have consequences. This also ties into distinguishing between right and wrong.

Where does it fit in the EYFS?

PSED – Managing Feelings and Behaviour

How about some examples?

  • The most obvious way to introduce the rule of law into your setting is by having a short set of simple, consistent house rules. Making sure you model behaviour by following these rules is important too.
  • Understanding the nature of cause and effect is a massive part of the rule of law. At a younger age, children will love discovering how their actions can other things physically, and you should explore this in your provisions.
  • Actions have consequences. Showing this to children shouldn’t be about shame. Instead it’s about explaining to children how something they have done might have made another child feel, instead of just asking them to say a meaningless ‘sorry’.

What does Ofsted expect?

Evidence of clarity and consistency across these rules will show that they’re a real part of day to day life at the setting. Make sure your practitioners understand why cause and effect links into rules in the way we’ve talked about.

3. Individual Liberty

Individual Liberty focuses on freedom for everyone. The main point developmentally is to give children a positive sense of themselves. Promoting their self-confidence and self-awareness is really important, as well as giving them the language and context to understand their own emotions.

Where does it fit in the EYFS?

PSED – Self-Confidence and Self-Awareness
UTW – People and Communities

How about some examples?

  • Child-led play is a simple way to develop a child’s liberty. Allowing them to explore their own interests rather than moving them towards your pre-made plan is a great way to raise their self-confidence. Schemas are really important in this, and you can read more about them in our next steps guide.
  • Allow children to have favourite things, and explore these. Let them mix their own colours and explore the results. Read them their favourite book. Let them gather up leaves and sticks in the forest that interest them.
  • The language of feelings is crucial to a child’s self-confidence and awareness and you can model these feelings yourself, or explain them through play. “How’s Teddy feeling today Alicia?” is a great question to encourage children to think about the thoughts and feelings of others.
  • Health and safety shouldn’t get in the way of risky play. It’s absolutely crucial to develop a child’s sense of confidence and awareness of what they’re doing.

What does Ofsted expect?

Practitioners should know why child-led play comes back round to promoting individual liberty. The link between a child’s self-awareness and developing individual liberty is the key.

4. Mutual Respect and Tolerance

This one comes down to the oldest saying in the book. Treat others as you’d like to be treated too. There should be an environment that encourages tolerance of all faiths, cultures, races and views, along with an understanding of our differences and similarities.

Where does it fit in the EYFS?

PSED – Managing Feelings and Behaviour
PSED – Making Relationships
UTW – People and Communities

How about some examples?

  • Take time to help children understand our similarities and differences. Encourage them to be aware of others and how they might be the same or differ. This is key to respecting other cultures that might seem entirely different from their own background.
  • Create a calendar of cultural events, and find ways to bring them into your activities and provisions. This way children are able to understand and play a part in cultures that they wouldn’t necessarily see in their lives outside of the nursery.
  • Find stories about children who have a range of experiences. They’ll be fascinating to little brains and allow them to understand and be tolerant of other faiths.
  • An understanding of the wider community in which they live is also a way of showing the diverse world that we live in. Taking the children out on day trips is just one way to do this

What does Ofsted expect?

Make sure you’re doing more than just a passing nod to other cultures. Instead of the odd poster here or there, they’re looking for a real integration of resources and understanding of other cultures, races, and faiths.

Anything else?

There’s a few other things that you have to watch out for. It’s unlikely any of this will be going on at your setting, but it’s still worth knowing. Your setting cannot:

  • Actively promote intolerance of other faiths, cultures and races.
  • Fail to challenge stereotypes
  • Routinely separate boys and girls
  • Isolate children from the wider community
  • Fail to challenge behaviours that are not in line with the British Values we’ve been talking about.

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