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Why Fundamental British Values are so important in Early Years Education.

Updated: May 15, 2021

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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

Nelson Mandela

Since the recent death of George Floyd in the U.S and the rise of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign, the topics of equality, inclusion and diversity have been thrust into the forefront of everyone’s awareness and the early years sector is no exception.

In early years we understand that children learn by observing the people around them and develop their attitudes from their social environment. In early years we understand that a child's early experiences form the foundation upon which their future attitudes are formed and that early years education is absolutely crucial in the fight for a more equal society in modern Britain.

Our Fundamental British Values play an important role here too. These important, universal, core values are not only vital for preparing our children for life in modern Britain but are also integral to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Over the years, I've had many learners and practitioners ask me how they should be promoting the Fundamental British Values as there seems to be some confusion around the subject. In my experience, some settings go out of their way to show they are aware of the Fundamental British Values, usually through displays, posters and various incarnations of the Union Jack Flag but does this show that we are actively promoting them?

Let’s take a look at them in more detail:

The Fundamental British Values are:

  1. Democracy

  2. Rule of Law

  3. Individual Liberty

  4. Mutual Respect and Tolerance

The primary intention of embedding these Fundamental British Values within the EYFS is to support the statutory ‘Prevent’ guidance that, as the name suggests, prevents children, including the very young from being radicalised at an early age.

More widely – these values inform early years policy and practice within the broader context of equality and diversity, children’s rights, anti-discrimination, SEND, safeguarding, education and more.

The good news is that if you are actively promoting all aspects of the EYFS and drawing guidance from it as per its intended use – you will already be promoting Fundamental British Values and in turn, equality, diversity and inclusion – it just helps to be fully aware of this when Ofsted ask.

Download our free resource below to help you identify exactly how to promote the Fundamental British values and in turn equality, diversity and inclusion through 'a unique child', 'positive relationships' and 'enabling environments' of the EYFS.

fundamental british values in the EYFS
Download D • 35KB

What does the Early years Inspection Handbook for Ofsted Registered Provision (2019) say about ‘Fundamental British Values’?

The Early years Inspection Handbook for Ofsted Registered Provision 2019 states:

Regardless of which judgement area they fall under, I do know that we have extensive experience of Ofsted inspections here at Maybird Training, and Fundamental British Values is one of those topics that inspectors like to question both staff and leaders about so its well worth familiarising yourself with them and being confident that you ARE actively promoting them.

1. Democracy

Democracy is where we make decisions together. Like many of the other Fundamental British Values, it’s also about making sure that everyone has equal rights and is treated fairly. All children’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. Click on the pdf below to see exactly where the current EYFS already embodies all 4 of the Fundamental British Values: (We've highlighted the exact areas to make your life that little bit easier – you’re welcome)

Download • 754KB

How can you show Ofsted you are actively promoting Democracy?

  • Allow the children to take part in more and more decisions about how the setting is run and challenge any comments from children that do not encourage this. (e.g “You can’t join in!” or “You’re not allowed”) These common remarks are part of the 'normal', 'everyday' squabbles of young children and are usually due to young children's egocentric natures – but they must be addressed from the very beginning of a child’s life if they are to truly embrace the underlying principles of democracy.

  • Circle time – encourage a show of hands to express preferences, discuss concepts of fairness and encourage children to have a voice in everything they do.

  • Encourage co-operative play and tasks that involve working together such as large loose parts, construction toys, building and making obstacle courses and dens together.

2. Rule of Law

The Rule of Law is about understanding that rules matter in our society.

For children, the rule of law is about understanding that there are some rules that we need to follow. At an earlier age, it’s more about understanding that our actions have consequences. This also relates to distinguishing right from wrong.

Where does it fit in the EYFS?

PSED – Managing Feelings and Behaviour

How can you show Ofsted you are actively promoting Rule of Law?

  • Have short, simple, consistent rules and age appropriate non-shaming consequences when these rules are not followed. It is hard to enforce consequences in early years without it seeming like ‘punishment’. Ways to do this can be through appropriate reward systems/ helper systems/ praise/ certificates/ play with special toys/ one-one attention - the consequence of not following the rules is not receiving the ‘reward’ although we need to be wary of these types of transactional relationships and try to get children to do the 'right' thing because its the 'right' thing and not because they get something out of it.

  • Conflict - encourage children to see that their actions have consequences and can affect how other children feel. Help them consider how their actions caused another child to feel sad/angry etc rather than asking them to say a ‘meaningless sorry’.

  • Explain to children why some things are either ‘right’ or ‘wrong'.

  • For babies, encourage cause and effect activities (banging instruments/ knocking down building blocks) and age appropriate boundaries.

3. Individual Liberty

Individual Liberty focuses on freedom for everyone. In early years it is about giving children a positive sense of themselves. Promoting children’s self-confidence, self-awareness and autonomy is vital, as well as giving them the language and opportunity to understand their own emotions.

Where does it fit in the EYFS?

PSED – Self-Confidence and Self-Awareness UW – People and Communities .

How can you show Ofsted you are actively promoting Individual Liberty?

  • Empower children to follow their interests and uphold their own ideas and preferences through free play and self-choice.

  • Encourage emotional literacy and discussions about feelings – acknowledge and affirm children’s emotions and encourage them to recognise the feelings of others. There are several emotion books, resources and games that promote emotional literacy.

  • Risky play can be very liberating for children, their confidence and sense of achievement can be encouraged through challenging (yet achievable) physical play.

4. Mutual Respect and Tolerance

It goes without saying that a child’s environment should encourage 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 UW – People and Communities

How can you show Ofsted you are actively promoting Individual Liberty?

  • Circle time – help young children compare similarities and differences between themselves in a positive and encouraging way. This can be their appearance (hair colour/eye colour), their houses (bungalows/town house/apartment), how they travel to the setting (bus/car/walk/bike). This is key to respecting differences.

  • Create a calendar of cultural events, and find ways to bring them into your activities and provisions in a real and meaningful way (which means more than a poster on the wall or a sari in the dress-up box). Invite parents into the setting to share their different cultural practices/ food/celebrations/clothes as well as members of the community, staff and extended families. 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 setting.

  • Sharing stories about children from different backgrounds is one of the best ways to encourage children to explore different cultures/faiths/backgrounds/races etc. The National book Trust have published a fantastic ‘Black Lives Matter’ book list for children aged 0-16 years.

  • An understanding of the wider community in which they live is also a way of showing the diverse world that we live in. Taking children on day trips and noticing different mosques, synagogues, temples and monuments is just one way you can do this.

It goes without saying that 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

  • incite violence

  • Fail to challenge behaviours that are not in line with the Fundamental British Values.

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