Fundamental British Values in the Early Years
At the recent Learn Explore Debate events (March 2015) we heard a lot of queries about
how providers should be interpreting Fundamental British Values in the early years and how that will be reflected by Ofsted in inspection. Our feedback noted that many of you would welcome further clarity and guidance on what British Values means in the early years to reduce misinterpretation and confusion.
Having checked with the Department for Education (DfE) the statutory requirements for
early years providers are now clear. The fundamental British values of democracy, rule of
law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and
beliefs are already implicitly embedded in the 2014 Early Years Foundation Stage.
Separately, the Counter Terrorism and Security Act also places a duty on early years providers “to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” (the Prevent duty). The duty is likely to come into effect from July 2015. Statutory guidance on the duty is available at
DfE will in due course amend the EYFS to reference providers’ responsibilities in the light of the Prevent duty.
To help demonstrate what this means in practice, we have worked up the following
examples based on what is in the statutory guidance. They are just that – examples – and
not exhaustive, but hopefully useful to you. We have shared these with DfE who agree they are helpful examples.
Democracy: making decisions together
As part of the focus on self-confidence and self-awareness as cited in Personal, Social and Emotional Development:
- Managers and staff can encourage children to see their role in the bigger picture,
encouraging children to know their views count, value each other’s views and values and talk about their feelings, for example when they do or do not need help. When appropriate demonstrate democracy in action, for example, children sharing views on what the theme of their role play area could be with a show of hands.
- Staff can support the decisions that children make and provide activities that involve
turn-taking, sharing and collaboration. Children should be given opportunities to
develop enquiring minds in an atmosphere where questions are valued.
Rule of law: understanding rules matter as cited in Personal Social and Emotional development
As part of the focus on managing feelings and behaviour:
- Staff can ensure that children understand their own and others’ behaviour and its consequences, and learn to distinguish right from wrong.
- Staff can collaborate with children to create the rules and the codes of behaviour, for
example, to agree the rules about tidying up and ensure that all children understand
rules apply to everyone.
Individual liberty: freedom for all
As part of the focus on self-confidence & self-awareness and people & communities as cited in Personal Social and Emotional development and Understanding the World:
- Children should develop a positive sense of themselves. Staff can provide
opportunities for children to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and increase
their confidence in their own abilities, for example through allowing children to take
risks on an obstacle course, mixing colours, talking about their experiences and
- Staff should encourage a range of experiences that allow children to explore the
language of feelings and responsibility, reflect on their differences and understand
we are free to have different opinions, for example in a small group discuss what
they feel about transferring into Reception Class.
Mutual respect and tolerance: treat others as you want to be treated
As part of the focus on people & communities, managing feelings & behaviour and making
relationships as cited in Personal Social and Emotional development and Understanding the
- Managers and leaders should create an ethos of inclusivity and tolerance where
views, faiths, cultures and races are valued and children are engaged with the wider
- Children should acquire a tolerance and appreciation of and respect for their own
and other cultures; know about similarities and differences between themselves and
others and among families, faiths, communities, cultures and traditions and share
and discuss practices, celebrations and experiences.
- Staff should encourage and explain the importance of tolerant behaviours such as
sharing and respecting other’s opinions.
- Staffs should promote diverse attitudes and challenge stereotypes, for example,
sharing stories that reflect and value the diversity of children’s experiences and
providing resources and activities that challenge gender, cultural and racial
A minimum approach, for example having notices on the walls or multi-faith books on the shelves will fall short of ‘actively promoting’.
What is not acceptable is:
- actively promoting intolerance of other faiths, cultures and races
- failure to challenge gender stereotypes and routinely segregate girls and boys
- isolating children from their wider community
- failure to challenge behaviours (whether of staff, children or parents) that are not in
line with the fundamental British values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty,
mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs