“British values”… nobody really knows what that means and nobody will ever agree what it should mean – and I personally don’t believe it should be the Government’s job to decide it, but there is a general consensus on what it doesn’t damn well mean and that’s fundamentalist religious values (from extreme Islamism to creationism).
This is why Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has said that councils are to be given powers to stop funding early-years providers with links to extremism. The Guardian has mocked the idea by opening their article on the subject by saying “children still in nappies will be taught fundamental British values.” And, yes, it does seem pretty ridiculous on the face of it.
However, early years provision is rather chaotic and, aside from sporadic Ofsted inspections, there is currently no good mechanism from deterring “extremist” early years providers from receiving state funding for childcare places. The policy seems to be preventing childcare providers who have views incompatible to what the vague concept of “British values” from receiving council funding to provide places.
So while this announcement really didn’t need to be wrapped up in the ultimately irresolvable British values debate, there is a rational behind it… those education providers with values considered too extreme for British society to stomach will not be able to influence children.
The announcement is full of holes: what is defined as extremist is a massive one (anywhere that advocates an ism perhaps?); while introducing another regulation on childcare providers goes against the general trend of Government policy to deregulate the sector to provide more places; and the idea that all toddlers should be taught to be British is absurd given adults barely understand what that means.
But Nicky Morgan seems to be looking to be protecting her back against the eruption of a “Trojan Horse” type crisis that singed the fag end of Michael Gove ‘s tenure as Education Secretary by ensuring the early years sector is not next to be “infiltrated”.