Believe it or not, this new EYFS requirement is nowhere near as exasperating as you might think - and it's certainly nothing entirely new either. Fundamental British values have already been implicitly embedded in the Early Years Foundation Stage since 2014. But that's the problem - they've been in there, they just haven't been clearly or directly expressed. This is why so many of us need further clarity and guidance on what British values means to us in the early years. Hopefully I can give some reassurance and alleviate the confusion.
Let me break it down for you...
Now don't panic, nobody expects us to have graduated with a law degree, a politics degree, a history degree or even a theology degree. And we already have the knowledge and resources we need to be able to successfully demonstrate to Ofsted that we've got these Fundamental British Values covered. That said, you will probably find PACEY's new publication Common Inspection Framework, British Values and You and further resources at the bottom of this page useful.
This is probably a very fair description of your own setting. Well, within your setting I'm guessing you support children's personal, social and emotional development (PSED) by giving them opportunities to develop their self-confidence and self-awareness, to make choices and decisions about what they want to explore and how they're going to use the resources you've made accessible to them.
Now we're negotiating: setting rules for how long we can each spend in the box before we have to let somebody else have a turn. Negotiating who will pass over the construction pieces and what's to be done with them exactly? Now we're trusting that our friend, our collaborator, will be fair and will stick to our plan.
This is about learning to manage our own feelings and behaviour: about learning right from wrong: about behaving within agreed and clearly defined boundaries: about dealing with the consequences.
You've probably got 'house rules' a bit like this right? (we like to keep ours simple, less for young children to remember). It really doesn't get any harder than this guys.
The remaining two values are both embedded within PSED and Understanding the World. For individual liberty we focus on children's self-confidence and self-awareness and people and communities.
We help children to develop a positive sense of themselves. Every time we provide opportunities for children to gather wild flowers, mix their own colours for leaf painting or take part in a sack race we are helping them to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and increase their confidence in their own abilities.
Every time we share a favourite book with a child, splash in rock pools or build a compound for our dinosaurs together we are giving children the time and space to explore the language of feelings and responsibility; reflect on their differences and understand that we are all free to have different opinions.
Mutual respect and tolerance
Finally, mutual respect and tolerance: where we learn to treat others as we want to be treated. How to be part of a community, manage our feelings and behaviour; and form relationships with others.
Naturally we should have an ethos of inclusivity and tolerance in our settings, where views, faiths, cultures and races are valued and where we encourage children to engage with their wider community.
It is our job to help children to appreciate and respect their own culture and the culture of others.
We can help them explore similarities and differences between themselves and others; among families, faiths, communities, cultures and traditions; and to share and discuss practices, celebrations and experiences.
Wherever possible, it's good to share special moments with our children's families whether that involves welcoming them into our own settings or accepting invitations to their own celebrations.
Every time we see children becoming close friends and we encourage their parents to arrange play dates beyond the setting, we are giving parents and children opportunities to learn the importance of tolerant behaviours such as sharing and respecting other’s opinions.
After all, if children see and hear the adults they love respecting other cultures, religions and values then this will have a significant, positive impact upon their own behaviour and overall development. But being good role models isn't quite enough. Remember the old Confucian proverb: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
This means that for children to truly learn the importance of tolerance, they need to be given lots of opportunities to practice tolerance and to challenge stereotypes. For example, through sharing stories that reflect and value the diversity of children’s experiences and providing resources and activities that challenge gender, cultural and racial stereotyping.
I'm not talking about putting out the odd multicultural jigsaw or doll here - I'm talking about having an accessible and continuous provision of a diverse range of musical instruments - everything from djembes to kotos to manjeeras.
Or junk modelling materials to make anything from Native American dreamcatchers to Anansi spiders to Gwiazdy stars. Or lengths of fabric that can be saris just as easily as they can be superhero capes or Roman togas. If what we bring to the setting is diverse, then so will the children's experiences of the world and the people around them.
Will we get away with sticking up a few posters and dotting a few multicultural books about?
No we won't I'm afraid, but then again that's never been enough to show that we actively promote respect for and tolerance of other faiths, cultures and races; challenge gender stereotypes; involve children in their wider community; challenge behaviours (whether of staff, children or parents) when they are not in line with our Fundamental British Values. It's more about what we do and what we say every single day - and that's completely free.
So what's the bottom line?
Well, it's all good news really. Providing you recognise how British Values links to the EYFS and can confidently demonstrate this, there's no need for extra planning. No need for extra paperwork. No need for extra toys or equipment; and most importantly no need for worrying. What's not to love?
Common Inspection Framework, British Values and You
EYFS and British Values digital download
Webinar: Judgements to British Values, an essential guide to the Common Inspection Framework Available to members and non-members
British Values and the Prevent Duty guide Available to members and non-members
Preparing for your Ofsted inspection practice guide for childminders - now updated to cover CIF changes
Preparing for your Ofsted visit factsheet - now updated to cover CIF changes
Safeguarding factsheet - now updated to cover CIF changes
About the author
Andrea is a Registered Childminder who leads a small outstanding team of skilled and experienced practitioners. Andrea has been a member of PACEY since 2004 and, through her commitment to CPD, has achieved Fellow-Ambassador membership status. She has been a PACEY Associate for over 2 years and has her own early years training and consultancy business. She enjoys working with children, parents and carers and the wider children’s workforce. Her enthusiasm for raising the quality of childcare and education is matched only by her passion for improving outcomes for children, especially the most deprived and vulnerable.