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Education: British Values

Volume 754: debated on Thursday 26 June 2014

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to promote British values in all educational establishments in the United Kingdom in the next year.

My Lords, I remind those speaking in the next debate that it is time limited. When the clock reaches three minutes, noble Lords should finish their speech as they have spoken for their allotted time. If a noble Lord is happy to take an intervention, I am afraid that the time taken up has to come out of their allocation.

My Lords, first I thank all noble Lords who are taking part in this debate. Following the so-called Trojan horse scandal in Birmingham and the subsequent Ofsted inspection and reports, our Education Secretary of State commanded that every primary and secondary school should promote British values. The Prime Minister went on to say that we should be “more muscular” and less “bashful” about asserting our national identity. The Prime Minister said that every child in Britain should be taught about Magna Carta, the foundation of all our laws and liberties. I hope the teaching of Magna Carta will be better than that which the Prime Minister himself received. Noble Lords will recall that he had a bit of difficulty recalling Magna Carta on American television. I am sure an understanding of baronial rights and regulation of fish weirs and moneylenders can be made as relevant today as it was then.

As a direct result of the Ofsted reports into Birmingham, new clauses have been added to the model funding agreement for academies. It now stipulates that governors should demonstrate “fundamental British values” and gives the Secretary of State powers to close schools if they do not comply. These British values include respect for the law, for democracy and for equality, and tolerance of different beliefs. Of course, we have to be a little bit careful and not think we are the best in the world in our values. We have only to look through our own history to see recently how discrimination ripped through our country, how it affected gay people, how there was slavery and even the burning of people for their religious belief. Values are not set in concrete or stone; they change.

Both the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 prohibit discrimination on the grounds of disability, sex, race and religion, and today in Great Britain these liberal principles have never been in doubt. British individuals may identify themselves in different ways, but the notion of British identity is multifaceted and inclusive. British values reflect the pride we feel as a nation when we see a multicultural and ethnically diverse population working together to protect our democratic ideals and ensure that every child has access to the best possible education, regardless of their background. We cannot deny that the elements of Britishness stated by the Secretary of State are complex and open to interpretation. However, these intentions should not be written off as a pipe dream. We must not assume that such values lie out of our reach.

My previous experience as a teacher in a large inner-city primary school has highlighted to me the importance of citizenship education and its role in helping to shape future generations of young people and young adults. Citizenship education and improved political and social awareness are crucial to help youngsters understand one another. Education should be about not prescribing values or abiding by arbitrary morals and customs but being part of a respectful community of discourse on topics that affect us all. It is my firm belief that citizenship education is no different.

The Prime Minister expressed his desire for the Government to start inculcating British values in the curriculum. Having considered that, I find myself slightly bemused to see that academies and free schools—roughly half our secondary schools—can choose not to teach the subject at all and that routine Ofsted inspections do not review it. As a consequence, its omission goes overlooked in a majority of our schools. That needs to be reconsidered urgently. Our schools need clarity that citizenship must be delivered effectively under the national curriculum and will be inspected routinely—perhaps even with no notice, if that proves an effective tool to ensuring accountability—as part of the broad and balanced curriculum that every child deserves.

What happened among a few Birmingham schools does indeed raise a number of educational issues, which we have debated on many occasions in your Lordships’ House. Does it really make sense for some schools to be given the power to choose what they teach? Is not the curriculum too important to be solely in the hands of individual schools? Our inspection regimes must be universal and up to the mark. The Office for Standards in Education has to be the guarantor of quality; Ofsted’s reports must be the key to understanding how schools have performed. The suggestion that grade 1 schools might be exempt from inspection is dangerous. No school, however good, comes with a guarantee of permanent success. Standards can and do slip. Some 31% of schools graded “outstanding” in an inspection do not maintain that standard in the next inspection. Indeed, as we know, one of the Birmingham schools received an “outstanding” Ofsted inspection.

I was interested to read in an article written by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, in the Guardian:

“In truth, both the old model of local authority control and the new model of autonomy are flawed – and events in Birmingham should make us face up to it. Three organisations had the responsibility to spot and prevent failure in the Trojan horse schools – the Department for Education, the local authority and Ofsted. They all failed”.

I do not feel that being British or respecting British values is something that can be prescribed. The best way to unite Britons is to gain a mutual understanding and respect for each other.

On that point of the people of Britain’s mutual understanding and respect, can the noble Lord explain why the wording of the Motion calls on Her Majesty’s Government to promote British values in all education institutions—presumably including colleges and universities—throughout the country, when Her Majesty’s Government have no control over education in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, as a result of devolution?

I am glad the noble Lord raised that point, because it is something I have said on a number of occasions. In actuality, when we debate education issues in this House, we talk only of the education service in England; we do not talk about Wales or Scotland. It would be nice to have a debate where we learn from some of the examples of the Scottish and Welsh education systems. For example, Wales, which is often derided in this House for some of its failings in education, is up to the mark on careers education and counselling. I am sure there are such issues in Scotland. I very much support and agree with what the noble Lord has said.

As I was saying, children should at a young age achieve an understanding of each other through citizenship lessons. The idea of citizenship is based on mutual respect, which the Government have vehemently championed in recent weeks. These sentiments are based on tolerant, helpful and liberal values. In your Lordships’ House we engage in respectful and meaningful discussions. That is why we must encourage our young scholars, whether in England, Scotland or Wales, to do exactly the same.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Storey on obtaining this debate and thank him for what he has said. Last week I suggested to my noble friend the Minister that it would be a good idea, in the year of Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary, to have a charter of British values to which all schools should be invited to subscribe. What are those values? They are of course based on the rule of law, of which Magna Carta is itself the foundation: freedom of thought; freedom of belief; freedom of speech; mutual respect and tolerance. One could add to that. Above all, they should teach all young people that everyone has responsibilities as well as rights.

I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Storey talked about citizenship education. As my noble friend the Minister knows only too well, I have spoken about this for quite a long time and I have seen him about it on a number of occasions. I would like all our young people to go through a citizenship ceremony when they leave school, having performed some community service in their area, whether it be dealing with the old or the young, or working for the National Trust—the list is endless. I would like all our young people to leave school with a sense of being part of a community and having a sense of community obligation and belonging. I would like that to be signified in a ceremony they all go through. If the Minister says, as he has hinted to me in the past, that it is difficult to do that right across the country, at the very least we should encourage it and consider having pilot projects. I believe the inculcation of a sense of real belonging is something so many of our young people lack.

It has often been said that the real poor of the present century are those without hope. What we must seek to do is give them hope, and one of the best ways of giving hope is by providing a sense of having roots, of knowing where they belong and what they can do.

In the final seconds I have left in which to speak, let me also suggest something I raised last week but which my noble friend slightly dismissed. While one could not make it obligatory, I would encourage all schools to fly the flag. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland they should fly two flags, and in some of our counties—my own county of Lincolnshire has a flag—they should also fly that flag. The flag or flags should be outside the school as a symbol of pride and belonging, of being part of a thing greater than oneself; that is, part of the community of which one is a part.

My Lords,

“There is something rather unBritish about seeking to define Britishness”.

Not my words, but those of the Secretary of State for Education when he was merely Michael Gove MP in 2007. But that was then. Now academies have to demonstrate fundamental values which the Department for Education has helpfully defined for them. I welcome that change of heart.

I was part of the previous Government, who sought to encourage a vibrant sense of national identity through promoting British values in exactly the sort of way that I was delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, just espouse. The profound changes we are living through—great global migrations of people and capital; social, cultural and economic flux—inevitably create pressures on identity, our sense of ourselves and our sense of belonging. We thought it was important to encourage a dialogue about our national identity primarily because it is so important to many people. If there was no national process to discuss it in ways that included everyone on these islands, it would leave a vacuum, and into that vacuum could well flood sectarian and even poisonous views. We believed it was important to do everything we could to encourage cohesion and assert what binds us together rather than what divides us, and we believed that a cohesive and inclusive national identity is rooted in the values we hold dear.

But values on their own are abstract. Every modern democracy will espouse the values articulated by the Department for Education’s recent ruling: democracy, respect for the rule of law, equality and tolerance. What roots our identity in these values is the way they are mediated through our institutions and history, and their expression in this way can be contested. Different people will interpret that history and what it says about our values differently. Our institutions evolve and how they evolve reflects the way those values inform a changing society. So we believed that the articulation of British values had to be driven by the British people themselves. We started a deliberative process involving representative groups of people across Britain to discuss the issues of values, identity and belonging. This process was paused in 2010 and I regret that it has not been recommenced by the coalition Government.

They have now discovered the merits of fostering British values, but they have adopted what I think is a mistaken way of doing so. Instead of an evolving, inclusive discussion that is driven by the British people, the Government have suddenly produced the sort of top-down formulation that the Prime Minister used to oppose when he was in opposition. In 2009 he said:

“Britishness ... grows and evolves from the bottom up. It can never be defined by one motto or one politician”.

I agreed then and I agree now, but instead of such a bottom-up formulation of Britishness, there has been a panicky fiat from the top which has been rushed out apparently to deflect attention from an emotionally incontinent spat between the Department for Education and the Home Office.

What consultation has there been about these values? Are these fundamental British values as set out in the model funding agreement meant to be exclusive of others or can others such as justice, fair play and freedom of expression be added in? The Whip is looking anxious, so I will come to an end very shortly. What is going to be the test for whether the stipulated British values are being promoted effectively? What are the Government going to do to ensure that this initiative is an inclusive one and does not alienate and exclude sections of our society? I hope that the Minister can reassure your Lordships’ House that his department can answer these basic questions.

This has been a sadly inadequate way to approach an issue of such importance in our national life. I hope that this debate, on which the noble Lord, Lord Storey, is to be congratulated, might prompt the Government to do better in the months ahead to promote a constructive and inclusive debate about the values that bind our country together.

My Lords, unlike the previous speaker, I am deeply sceptical about teaching “British values”. Some that have been suggested are the rule of law, human rights and parliamentary government. But these are no longer special British values. We largely drafted the European Convention on Human Rights, but the Conservatives are now trying to get rid of it. We championed parliamentary democracy, but now it is the referendum which is trumpeted as the ultimate expression of democracy. That, of course, is the doctrine of Rousseau, the hero of dictators and autocrats. I prefer the British tradition of Locke and Burke.

We were once praised for our courtesy and readiness to listen to others, but in many respects Rule Britannia has been replaced by Rude Britannia, such as at Prime Minister’s Question Time, for example. The organised shouting and jeering makes Millwall fans look by comparison like a convention of bishops in Lambeth Palace. Nothing could do more to destroy respect for Parliament.

The invocation of national values is part of our current obsession with national identity. That is a very elusive concept. Tony Judt, the last of the social democratic philosophers, asked what it meant to be a Jew if you were not religious and detested the policies of the Israeli Government. He decided that he was a non-Jewish Jew. Jonathan Miller famously observed that he was not a Jew; he was just Jew-ish. As for being English, and the same could be said for being British, this was summed up long ago by Daniel Defoe as quoted in that splendid book by Robert Winder entitled Bloody Foreigners:

“Thus from a mixture of all kinds began

That heterogeneous thing, an Englishman …

A true-born Englishman’s a contradiction

In speech an irony, in fact a fiction”.

A nation at ease with itself does not have to search for an identity or assert it. Let us teach “civilised values” instead.

My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Storey for securing this timely debate. Education is extremely important to me. My personal coat of arms reflects this. It contains the motto “iqra”, which means “read”. It also shows a peacock holding two quill pens with a row of books. I should add that I have a business as well as an academic background, and for many years I was a visiting lecturer. I chair the Conservative Muslim Forum and we look at issues that relate to Muslim communities in this country. I have held meetings with Muslim leaders and associations on the subject of education and I have spoken at events. I have also written on this subject.

We are taking positive steps to deal with the education of Muslim children. The Muslim faith and British values are not two separate things; in fact, for most British Muslims, they are the same. I believe it is vital that these values are at the heart of our education system and indeed of the way of life of all those living in this country. The importance of education for the betterment of society is something that is also highlighted by both the Holy Koran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who asserted that for Muslims to fulfil their role of serving humanity, they must acquire knowledge for the common good.

Education is a tool that should be used to assist with integration and social cohesion. Going to school gives children the opportunity to create and develop bonds of friendship across different racial and religious groups that will help them to flourish in the future and thus become valuable members of British society. We should be grateful for the religious freedom that we all have as British citizens. The Muslim community cannot operate in a bubble, away from the rest of society. That spreads ill feeling and stops Muslims from flourishing here. This great country is a land of opportunity and one that I am proud to be a part of, but it is only through integration that we can make the most of the opportunities of this land.

As well as high grades and good qualifications, our children should come out of school as good citizens and well-rounded human beings who are a benefit to society as a whole. We must prepare teachers, imams and parents so that there is a clear understanding of how to promote both Muslim and British values. With this in mind I am totally supporting the establishment of courses at the University of East London for the training of Muslim teachers and imams. Our educational practices should follow moderate lines. We must not allow extremists to hijack our beliefs and pass them off as something that they are not. We must prepare our children for successful careers that will benefit them, their communities and the country at large.

My Lords, in peacemaking projects, interfaith dialogues and multinational businesses with which I have been involved, when people adopt universal values rather than exclusive ones, and respect others, better outcomes are achieved for all.

For me, mindfulness practice is helpful in working across varying and sometimes conflicting cultures with different values. This practice connects me with something greater than my habitual self, puts me into a place where compassion and empathy come to the fore, values come before self, and I am better able to see and understand other peoples’ points of view. I am not saying that I am always successful in this. Mindfulness is complex to define. It is essentially an experience. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts simply puts it that:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”.

The successful Mindfulness in Schools Project is a collaboration between psychologists at Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter and Bangor universities. They have developed a curriculum and a classroom-based introduction to mindfulness for teenagers that adapts mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive therapy into PHSE lessons. This is called dot-be, which stands for “stop, breathe and be”. It is an eight-week course written by teachers for teachers. This curriculum has been translated into eight languages and is now being taught in 38 countries—and not only in traditional school settings, but also in pupil-referral units, young offenders’ institutions and even to gang members. Nearly 1,000 teachers internationally have been trained, 800 of them in this country. Evidence shows that even short periods of mindfulness practice reshape the neural pathways and increase the areas associated with kindness, compassion and rationality, and decrease those involved with anxiety, worry and impulsiveness.

Similarly, the Inspire-Aspire values programme has worked with 75,000 10 to 15-year olds around the London Olympics to enable them to reflect on and apply the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect, and the Paralympic values of courage, determination, equality and inspiration. They believe that whatever we define as British values, these values should be more universal and shared among different cultures. Inspire-Aspire is now working with global citizenship, focusing on the Commonwealth Games, and has engaged 52,000 young people this year in over 30 Commonwealth countries.

Both these programmes are greatly loved by pupils, teachers and parents. A systematic review found that when these types of programme are completed with sufficient intensity, using properly evaluated material and to a high enough standard, they increase children’s emotional well-being, behaviour and academic achievement, all by more than 10%. The programmes also have a huge database on youth and values with thousands of young people across the UK. Can the Minister ensure that Her Majesty’s Government support these important independent education programmes that champion universal values?

Noble Lords may also wish to know that we now have an active and vibrant All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness. Every Tuesday on the Estate, Chris Cullen, the cofounder of the Mindfulness in Schools project, runs mindfulness classes. Peers, MPs and Staff—96 of them already—have taken part, and enjoyed and benefited from them. There are a few places left for our course that is starting in October.

My Lords, time is short and I will run through the thoughts that I have.

From the beginning to the middle of the 1980s, an inquiry into the education of children from ethnic minorities was set up. It was called the Swann Committee. Its report had some quite startling conclusions, although I am sorry to say that it has not been much used. First, there was the question of faith schools. At the time we had only Catholic, Anglican and Jewish schools. The Swann Committee suggested that even these should be phased out. The reason for Anglican schools was that they were the only ones that provided education for poor children. The reason for Jewish and Catholic schools was that many schools did not take Jews or Catholics. All that had changed and there was no longer a particular need for faith schools, so they should be phased out.

Learning from the example of Northern Ireland, everybody felt that it was not a good idea to separate children. But what are we doing now? We are separating them ad infinitum: between this faith and that faith. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, says that children should be taught faith values. They can be taught faith values, but at home. They should be taught faith values in their churches, temples and synagogues. This is not the schools’ job to teach faith. It is the schools’ job to teach non-faith values: values that are universal. That has been mentioned and it is the way forward.

For me, some of the things that the faiths have done are completely unacceptable. People might say that this is not written in the Koran or that something else is not written in the Bible, but you are doing it, either because you do not know it or because you do not care about it. Discrimination against women is rife in Muslim culture. This is not written in the Koran, but everyone is doing it. If that is going to happen in a faith school, girls and boys are going to be taught separately, which is already a negation of British values.

As for gays, are we going to “string them up”? That is also a total negation of British values. Many Muslim countries have brought in the death penalty against gays. We have to be extremely careful about faith-based teaching, and whether it is or can be acceptable. I am sorry to say that for me it is not.

Catholics do not believe in contraception. What kind of world are we living in? This is the 21st century, and girls cannot have contraception? In Africa, the Bishop of Kampala has told everybody that there cannot be contraception, that it is a sin and if you use it you will go to hell. All right, they are going to hell—but what about those children who are being born and have nothing to eat?

I am sorry. My time is up. I have a lot more to tell your Lordships, but I cannot.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the think tank, British Future.

I could not agree more with the commitment by the Secretary of State for Education,

“to ensure that all schools—faith and non-faith—make sure that children are integrated into modern Britain”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/6/2014; col. 269.]

I am grateful that my noble friend Lord Storey’s debate explicitly states that this should be for all educational establishments, universities as well as schools, private as well as state-funded. But I regret that this discussion is against the backdrop of the issues in Birmingham and so soon after the often acrimonious debate around whether Britain is a Christian country.

British values have been left for too long in the “too difficult” box and we stir only when there are headlines about gender segregation in universities and have a feeling that that is not quite right. The increase over the past 15 years in the messages and ideas from all over the world that we can receive via our smartphones means that this debate is long overdue. Of course, it is difficult to pin down British values, but failing to agree on everything does not mean that we will not agree on some things. Whether others share our values does not dilute their Britishness.

I have two quick examples. Women are equal citizens in our country, exhibited by equal pay; voting rights; being on the board of a FTSE company—for the first time in our history there are no all-male FTSE company boards; staying at home with your children, or working, or doing both; and having equal access to our courts. Some girls grow up within rural or religious communities where women’s roles are assumed. The role of British values in education, practically, is to show girls that there are other options for them—then, they choose. I am not naive about the community or cultural barriers that there are to exercising such a choice, but unless these girls are shown those other roles, we know that the choice that they make to stay in assumed roles is no choice at all.

Secondly, there is the issue of choice in religious identity. As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom I have accidentally picked up evidence that the freedom to change your religious beliefs is not as widely embedded in our society as I had assumed. A report from a lady within a black Pentecostal Church community, who wants to become a humanist but is not at liberty to convert, broke all my stereotypical thinking on that issue. The United Kingdom promotes freedom to convert in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and broadcasts such values via the BBC World Service. So why do we not do the same in our education system? We must stop assuming that values are somehow picked up by osmosis. They need to be taught, promoted and defended. Two world wars won us the freedom to have this very debate on British values and it is time that we used it.

My Lords, I fear that the attempts to define and perhaps codify British values will be as difficult, and ultimately as successful, as trying to nail jelly to a wall. If we are looking for a definition of values, it is important that it is inclusive and cohesive. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Storey, did not seem to quite get the point that I was making earlier about the very title of this debate, which suggests that due consideration has not been given to the various constituent parts of what is currently the United Kingdom, and which I fervently hope will remain the United Kingdom on 19 September this year. I refer to the casual approach, which almost says that England is Britain and Britain is England, that antagonises a lot of people in other parts of the UK.

I will give an example that will perhaps seem rather trite to noble Lords: the World Cup. I am a Scot domiciled in England, married to an Englishwoman, with a son who is therefore half-English. I bear the English football team absolutely no ill will and indeed I hoped that they would do well in the World Cup. But then I sit down and watch the game. Just before the game, the players line up and what happens? I hear “God Save the Queen”. I am sorry, but “God Save the Queen” is not the national anthem of England. It is the national anthem of the UK—play it at a ceremony at the Olympic Games. But at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next month, English athletes, who will probably win more medals than anybody else, will have their medals put round their necks after “Land of Hope and Glory” has been played, not “God Save the Queen”. There is an English national anthem. Whatever the English people want as a national anthem is up to them but I am sorry, it is not “God Save the Queen”, and that shows that greater thought has to be given, in this example and indeed others, to the inclusivity of the United Kingdom if we are really going to put together British values.

I am very interested in the national anthem. I am not sure that it relates exactly to the values in schools. If Scotland wants its own national anthem to be played on Scottish occasions, it is for Scotland to work for that, but it is not about values. Values in schools concern all of us, not just this country or that country.

I always listen to the noble Baroness very carefully and I enjoyed her recent contribution but I am not talking particularly about schools. We are talking about British values; it does not relate just to what is or is not said in schools. The point I am making is that, if we are going to have British values, it has to be much wider than that.

In closing, I will comment about Magna Carta apparently being mentioned as the centrepiece of any attempt to put together British values. I think that is strange, not least because, to come back to my original point, Magna Carta was a very English—not British—document. I will simply quote from the commentator Owen Jones, who wrote very recently about Magna Carta, highlighting the fact that the values of many people in Britain are diverse, quite apart from whichever part of the country they originate from. Mr Jones said:

“Here was a charter imposed by powerful barons—hardly nascent democrats—on the weak King John to prevent him trampling on their rights: it didn't satisfy them, and they rose in revolt anyway. It meant diddly squat to average English subjects, most of whom were serfs”.

Yet this is on what we are proposing to base a discussion around fundamental British values. I end where I began: I think it will prove to be a fool’s errand.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for putting this debate on the agenda and for his excellent introduction.

As a lifelong educator, I am at a loss to know what British values are. I would very much like to teach them but I have not found them yet and I have lived in this country for 40 years. No doubt I will come across them at some point. It seems to me that the values that have emerged from today’s discussions are actually very much to do with toleration. Perhaps we should move on from toleration. It is the fact that we are being tolerated that undermines many of us who are otherised by this label of toleration.

I was educated in Iran by Catholic nuns at a Catholic school—although, like my noble friend, I do not approve of religious schools. What actually happened was that in our school we had Jews, Christians, Muslims and Baha’is—girls of all religions and none—and none of our religions ever defined who we were. We were all Iranians together. To this day, in spite of the Islamic Government, Iranians celebrate the new year, which is pre-Islamic, going back to the Zoroastrian days. Our calendar is not Islamic because it is solar and not lunar. In my childhood we also celebrated Christmas. We celebrated every religious occasion we could find. Christmas was held at my uncle’s house, with my German aunt and her Russian mother presiding over the events.

It seems to me that the way forward is not by insisting on defining what British values are or are not. However Britishness is defined, it may well otherise people, and that includes those young men who were very good, who got all the A-levels, who were doing good studies, but who felt excluded. I suggest that this House should vote for us to celebrate differences. There are so many wonderful ways of doing things and we could all be part of it. So let us please abandon Britishness and accept that differences are wonderful and it is nice to have curries as well as roast beef.

My Lords, I support the view that modern British values should be promoted in educational institutions. In our times, one traditional British value—namely, tolerance—has perhaps been given particular prominence, tending to cast others into the shadow. As a result, different lifestyles, beliefs and cultures have developed and expanded in our country to an extent that would have astonished previous generations.

Enriching though diversity can be, it has flourished at the expense of social unity and cohesion. This is especially risky at a time of historically unprecedented levels of immigration. It is late in the day to seek to redress the balance but not, I hope, too late. The rebuilding of social unity and cohesion—what old-fashioned Tories like me call one nation—can proceed satisfactorily only if a firmer understanding of the other British values that complement tolerance is resolutely fostered. That requires action in our schools along the lines that the Government are wisely, if belatedly, proposing.

I declare an interest as president of the Independent Schools Association, which represents some 320 smaller, less well known but extremely successful schools. Like the 900 or so other schools that belong to associations that form the Independent Schools Council, of which I am a former general secretary, they are now subject to regulations which require them to encourage pupils to respect the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law and individual liberty, and show mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

The government requirements place tolerance exactly where it should be: within a set of values that are demonstrably British and give due emphasis to other vital aspects of our historic traditions. They are useful to ISC associations, whose member schools in England account for a higher proportion of minority ethnic pupils than state schools: 28.7% compared with 26.6%—a telling statistic and an indication of the significant contribution that those schools are making to social mobility. The enforcement of the regulations in question at ISC schools is the responsibility of the Independent Schools Inspectorate, which is wholly independent of the schools it inspects and has hitherto enjoyed the full support of Ofsted, by which it is monitored. Again, I declare an interest, having helped establish the inspectorate under the previous Government. I am informed by the inspectorate that every school that has been inspected since the new regulations came into force in January last year has been found to be in compliance with them. The inspectorate is in possession of useful evidence as a result of its pioneering work in this area, which could prove helpful to the maintained sector.

I hope that the spirit of partnership will prevail. As a result of his chairmanship of the Independent/State School Partnership Forum, my noble friend the Minister knows all too well how seriously so many ISC schools take it. I hope, too, that the Independent Schools Inspectorate will be able to continue its work in a spirit of partnership and not have change forced upon it, which some say is now the Government’s intention. The inspectorate as presently constituted can be relied upon to play a major part in helping to encourage and promote British values.

It gives me great pleasure to rise to the Dispatch Box for the first time to discuss an issue as important as this. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Storey, on securing this debate, and I completely concur with his views on citizenship education.

Everyone in this House agrees that British values around the rule of law, individual liberty and tolerance have helped create one of the oldest and most successful democracies in the world. I think what we are a bit less agreed on is the tacit implication that if we had a better understanding of British history and, say, Magna Carta, we would sort out poor school governance in Birmingham. That is a little bit of a caricature, but not much, because shared British values should be instilled by example, not diktat. In sending out that diktat, it seems distinctly un-British, even Orwellian, to tar an entire community—in this case, the Muslim community—with language taken from counterterrorism strategies. This is what happened recently.

Underlying this debate is an extraordinary turn of events. I find it truly extraordinary that a self-confessed neoconservative like our Education Secretary, Mr Gove—who rails against the tyranny of centrally planned economies—is the man who has devised the most centralised schools bureaucracy this country has ever seen. The absolute nonsense of the Secretary of State thinking he can run thousands and thousands of British schools from his desk in Whitehall has been a shambolic failure. The people it has failed most have been children, parents and also the teachers in this small minority of schools which have none the less displayed appalling governance, overt gender discrimination and financial irregularities, and were unduly influenced by a conservative religious minority.

What is the answer? It is a combination of the following four areas. The first is to end centralisation and introduce local oversight. Does the Minister agree with Labour’s proposals for the introduction of school standards commissioners? I am going to scrub that question—obviously the Minister is not going to say that he agrees. However, does he agree that the Conservative proposal to bring in eight regional commissioners will not actually provide that local oversight and therefore does not remedy the problem?

Secondly, where discrimination is found towards girls, gay people or religious groups, let us turn to that trusty British value: the rule of law. Don’t start talking about terrorism prevention, just enforce the Equality Act 2010.

Thirdly, we need schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum. Does the Minister support Ofsted’s proposal on this? Fourthly, should we not reflect on the wisdom of removing the responsibility for schools to promote community cohesion?

So, yes, let us learn from our past, but the relevant history is not Magna Carta. It is fantastic that our baronial forefathers slapped King John about a bit and put him in his place, which became less divine and more democratic. Well done, House of Lords. But today the relevant history is not from 1215; it is from 2001 and the publication of the Cantle report.

What happened recently in Birmingham was that state schools became de facto faith schools; and faith schools, while often delivering excellent academic results, have sometimes unintentionally become places that increase de facto religious and racial segregation. This is all far too sensitive, and well above my pay grade, especially given that it is the first time I am rising to the Dispatch Box—but we need to deal with this problem. I hope the Government will do their homework, get it right, become less ideologically driven, reintroduce local oversight and put the needs of children first.

My Lords, I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Storey for securing this important debate. I would also like to thank other noble Lords for their valuable contributions.

On 15 June, to mark the anniversary of Magna Carta, the Prime Minister wrote about these values. He described their roots in our most vital institutions: our parliamentary democracy, our free press, our justice system and our many church and faith groups. The Prime Minister highlighted the important role these institutions play in helping to enforce British values.

Another great British institution is our school system. We have a long and proud commitment to provide access to schooling, regardless of one’s background. Our schools have always recognised that promoting and embedding good values is essential to delivering high-quality education. We should celebrate the excellent work done by many of our schools. We must also recognise and respond to the public’s demand for greater assurance and higher standards in every school, whether independent or academy, free school or maintained. The Government are determined to put the promotion of British values at the core of what every school has to deliver for its pupils. I welcome the opportunity to close this debate and to set out how we intend to achieve this.

I will also describe the requirements and accountability measures already in place. It is important to recognise that these are not measures invented anew but are relevant to the work started in 2011, when the Prevent programme introduced our description of British values. Independent schools and academies and free schools must adhere to the independent school standards. Critically, the standards refer to the expected values and ethos of the school as assessed according to its offer of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

On Monday, 23 June, we launched a consultation on the wording of the independent school standards that will actively require schools to promote principles that encourage fundamental British values. I hope that all noble Lords who are interested, including the noble Lord, Lord Wills, will respond to this consultation. We are also proposing a new requirement that teaching and curriculum practice must not undermine these values, and we will be consulting on this.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, but I think the question of consultation is fundamental, and I wonder whether he could tell your Lordships’ House what consideration the Government have given to deliberative processes involving the British people themselves in this consultation rather than waiting for the usual sources to send in the usual things to a government consultation.

The whole principle of consultation is that it is deliberative and that people will respond. I hope they do. As I said, it is not being rushed out, as the noble Lord implied. British values have been part of the policy framework since 2011, when they were introduced as part of the Prevent strategy. Since 2013 standards have required schools to encourage pupils to respect the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. The words are “mutual respect and tolerance”, not just “tolerance”. The noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, made this point and I will certainly take it back. It is important that our advice to schools is clear. To promote ideas or systems of thought at odds with these values would be failing to meet the standard.

These requirements provide a sufficient lever for action in cases where an attempt is made to undermine British values. The new title wording suggested in the consultation will do more to challenge rigorously those schools paying lip service to these duties. We will expect these changes to come into effect from September this year. They will apply to all independent schools, academies and free schools. We must secure the same standards in maintained schools. As with the independent sector, we are building on responsibilities schools already have to fulfil. Maintained schools must promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of their pupils so that they are able to participate positively in society. They cannot promote partisan political activities and must present balanced views to pupils. Importantly, they must promote community cohesion.

Under the citizenship curriculum, maintained schools are also required to teach pupils about a range of subjects, including democracy, human rights, diversity, and the need for mutual respect and understanding. I heard what my noble friend Lord Storey said about the vital importance of citizenship. As important, if not more important, for getting a real grasp of British values is to study history, in order to understand what Daniel Defoe was on about in the quote that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, and to understand, for instance, that we are an island made up of a number of countries with a long history stretching back over several millennia of immigration.

While academies and free schools are not, as my noble friend Lord Storey said, subject to the same curriculum requirements as maintained schools, the trust running the school must deliver a broad and balanced curriculum and will be bound by the legal requirement to actively promote fundamental British values. As I trust noble Lords will acknowledge from the published coverage of the Birmingham academies placed into special measures, the Secretary of State will not hesitate to use his powers to consider terminating a funding agreement with an academy trust that cannot secure the required improvements.

Inspection is the primary means by which individual schools are held to account. Noble Lords will note that academies and free schools are inspected under the same section 5 framework as maintained schools. I know that noble Lords will be pleased to hear that 24% of free schools inspected have been adjudged to be outstanding—which, contrary to what reports suggested, represents a remarkable success, particularly as those schools were inspected after only four or five terms.

Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is already part of section 5, but it allows inspectors to challenge only the most serious failures. Inspectors are already advised to look for evidence of pupils having the skills to participate in modern Britain, to understand and appreciate a range of different cultures, and to respect diversity. We will look to improve the consistency with which this is applied.

Now is the time to raise the bar so that all maintained schools, academies and free schools share the same goal of promoting British values. That is why, as the Secretary of State confirmed on 9 June, the department will review its own guidance to schools so that they are clear about our expectations. We are already talking to Ofsted to ensure that those same expectations are reflected in section 5 arrangements.

On what my noble friend Lord Storey said about grade 1 schools being exempt from inspection, they are not exempt and will be inspected if there are areas of concern; for example, if their results suffer or if there are particular complaints.

My noble friend Lord Cormack talked about a citizenship ceremony. I am sure that the events of Birmingham will enable us all to reflect on what more we can do to produce a more coherent and integrated society. On flying flags on schools, I am always pleased to see the flag so prominent when I visit America. It is sad that, if I were to put a union jack outside my own house, people would think that I was a member of the British National Party, and that the only time one sees flags is when a football match is on. It is also sad that very few students in our primary schools could describe the make-up of the union jack beyond the cross of St George.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Sheikh that education should be a tool of integration. We will not be able to call ourselves a truly successful society until we have a much more integrated society—and, sadly, we are some way short of that.

The noble Lord, Lord Stone, talked about mindfulness. I thank him for his insightful and interesting comments, and for his commercial for the mindfulness classes. The values that we are asking all schools to actively promote are not exclusive. As I understand it, mindfulness chimes a very loud chord with me. I believe that children and young people should be taught about concepts such as mindfulness. Such concepts can be very powerful, particularly for children from scattered home lives. We use a similar approach with a number of our more challenged pupils at my own secondary academy.

The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, made some powerful points. Of course, it is for all schools to ensure that the sort of beliefs to which she referred have no place in our society.

My noble friend Lord Lexden made some supportive comments, for which I am grateful. He knows how highly I value co-operation between the independent and state sectors.

I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady King, to the Dispatch Box for the first time. I agree with her on the importance of sharing by example, but she should not underestimate the seriousness of the events in Birmingham, about which I obviously know a great deal more than other noble Lords, and their wider implications. She should also be aware that both the free schools programme and the academies programme are proving great successes. Academies are performing much more strongly than other maintained schools.

The noble Baroness referred to Labour’s proposals for 50 regional bureaucracies. We believe that breaking the country into eight regional schools commissioner areas is appropriate. I note that there seems now to be a consensus that we should not go back to local authority control—even Ed Miliband said that in the other place only a few days ago—but creating 50 bureaucracies, each with its own staff, would effectively take us back to a local authority-controlled system.

Will the Minister care to confirm that there has no been local education authority control of schools since the 1980s? They have had responsibilities and all sorts of things to do, but the use of the term “local authority control” negates the work done by predecessors of the Minister such as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and Lord Joseph. Local authority control is non-existent and has been for decades.

The noble Baroness is quite right. I shall seek to ameliorate my language in future on that point.

The noble Baroness, Lady King, also made a point about the rule of law. The rule of law is already among the British values that all schools have to enforce, and all schools must teach a broad and balanced curriculum. None of the 21 schools inspected in Birmingham was a faith school.

I hope that all noble Lords will see the sense of what we are proposing. The changes that I have described will for the first time create a consistent expectation that all schools will promote British values. It will no longer be possible to avoid challenge if a school is only paying lip service to the requirements. The planned inspection arrangements will ensure that those who fail to meet their responsibilities will be held to account and, as we have shown in Birmingham, we will take swift and decisive action where necessary.

I hope that noble Lords will agree that our proposed measures are vital. As my noble friend Lady Berridge said—I am grateful for her support—just because we may not agree on everything does not mean that we cannot agree about a basic set of British values for which all schools should be held to account. Without an understanding and respect for our shared values, we cannot expect any young person to play a full part in British society.