Gove and the British Values curriculum


June 13, 2014 by Sian Rowland

More tea, vicar?

More tea, vicar?

Dear Mr Gove. Just when you think his ideas about education can’t get pottier he pulls a new rabbit out of the hat. This week’s new idea involves teaching British values in school. I’m all for encouraging pupils to explore and debate moral and value standpoints, for pupils to have the opportunity to learn about culture and law and to consider where their own views come from. Heck, even to learn about how to contribute to society as a responsible citizen. If only we had subjects like that in school. Sigh.

Hang on though, we do. We have Citizenship and PSHE (Personal Social and Health Education). PSHE is my subject and you’ll probably know that I believe it should be a statutory subject not- as we have at the moment- a subject that the government think is Quite A Good Thing But We Don’t Value It Enough To Say You Must Do It Cos It’s Not Really That Important.

So in honour of Mr G here are my suggestions on how to incorporate into the curriculum the values that we Brits hold so dear.

English: let’s start with some traditional debate. Following the Debating Society rules we’ll split classes into for and against. Today’s debate will be ‘This house believes that the milk should go in first when pouring tea and anyone who disagrees is a bounder and a cad.’ This will be followed by written work where pupils will translate pleasant, nondescript notes into the passive-aggressive tense. Thus, ‘please would all office workers place dirty crockery in the dishwasher’ becomes ‘you may live like a complete slob in your own house but we all have to work here so please put your dirty crockery in the dishwasher if it’s not too much to ask. The kitchen fairy is hereby on strike.’

Maths: In Maths this week we’ll be delving into how we can mix imperial and metric weights and measures into such a mess that they are impenetrable to all outsiders. Thus, you can buy either a pint or a litre of milk, a kilo or pound of apples and exclaim over the ton of homework you have and the acres of ironing.

Modern Foreign Languages: Today we’ll be learning how to order a drink in a British-style pub while abroad. Following on from last week’s module of asking directions (‘OU EST LE PUB? LE PUB? FOR CHRISSAKES’) we’ll be ordering drinks (UNO BEERIO, GARCON) and food (DO YOU SERVIO A FULL ENGLISHO? AVEZ-VOUS LE HP SAUCE?). We will then use role play to explore how to dress while abroad. This includes how to wear tight fitting and inappropriate clothing that only sees the light of day once a year; how to go without sunscreen because you want a tan but end up spending the rest of the holiday in blistered agony and how to drink alcohol for seven days straight (please provide own wine).

PE: In PE pupils will practise their queuing until they are up to the standard required for A* GCSE Queuing. Warming up includes joining a queue in a shop while maintaining appropriate personal space from the next person and sighing heavily if someone has more than three items or god forbid, vouchers.  The main part of the lesson will focus on queuing for public transport including waiting until people have got off the tube before getting on and tutting quietly when foreigners don’t observe this rule. Extension activities for the more able will include queuing for the bus without forming an actual queue but knowing, as you surge forward, that you must observe the proper order and not imagine for one second that it’s a chaotic bundle. After school PE club will allow pupils to queue around the block for several hours in preparation for later life when they will be expected to queue for sporting events, music events, toilets at festivals and theme parks. For added authenticity, pupils will be issued with whiney small children and/ or watered down beer in a plastic glass and pelted with hailstones.

History: our special school project is the history of British traditions including those that are so confusing there are only a handful of people who know what the hell they’re all about. These include Black Rod, the opening of Parliament, Masonry, swan-upping, cheese-rolling, poking fun at politicians, Morris dancing, conkers and the royal family.  Homework question: Whither TOWIE?

Added extras to the curriculum include a module in irony and sarcasm; Anglo-Saxon swear words and their etymology; how we produce the best music and Ealing comedies.

What British values would you add the curriculum?


6 thoughts on “Gove and the British Values curriculum

  1. Roger Thistle says:

    Enjoyed it, but I think second sons and daughters should all be taught Morris dancing, in that way there would be a plentiful supply of those essential British cultural icons, Morris Minors.

  2. BRILLIANT and HILARIOUS!! I would add Etiquette: Each student will be capable of being bumped into by random strangers, and apologising profusely immediately upon contact. Anyone able to write a conclusive essay on how a nation with a seemingly relentless thirst for imperial expansion of the traumatically inhumane kind for hundreds of years managed to produce a people so horrified at the possibility of inconveniencing others on a day-to-day basis gets an A*. A level work requires students to demonstrate an understanding of the appropriate amount of dishwashing necessary to show gratitude for a dinner invitation at a British person’s home.

    • Sian Rowland says:

      Thank you! Yes, great ideas. Etiquette includes apologising to inanimate objects too like saying sorry to lamposts for bumping into them. Anyone who can explain the dichotomy of empire expansion while sipping tea and being awfully polite to one’s servants deserves a Nobel prize.

  3. There’s nowt as queer as folk!

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