Modern British Values

What do we mean by British Values?

The following information is drawn together from extracts of an article by Andrea Turner and explains our British Values really clearly, particularly in relation to the way we teach in Early Years.  The fundamental British values are:
• Democracy
• Rule of law
• Individual liberty
• Mutual respect
• Tolerance for those with different faiths.


Think of democracy as a situation where everyone is treated equally and has equal rights.

Within our setting we 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 made accessible to them. 

For instance taking turns, sharing, collaborating and making decisions together. For example if there is just one cardboard box and two children want it to make their rocket they will need to negotiate. Who goes first? What will we each do while we’re in the box and out of the box?  Setting rules for how long we can each spend in the box before we have to let somebody else have a turn.  Skills that are essential if we are to get on in the adult world. 

Rule of Law

This is about understanding that rules matter and is the basis of ensuring that we have a safe and productive time in our school.

It 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 when rules are broken.

Individual Liberty

The remaining values are 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 materials, mix their own colours for painting or construct a ‘castle’ out of boxes, 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 the water play or build a small world 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

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 others’ 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.  If what we bring into school is diverse, then so will be the children’s experiences of the world and the people around them.