Ofsted chief: Promoting British values in schools can help fight extremism

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Schools can play a "crucial" role in combating extremism in the wake of recent terrorist attacks by promoting tolerance and British values, the head of Ofsted has said.

Giving young people "knowledge and resilience" is as important as physical safety, the body's chief inspector Amanda Spielman told an education conference.

In a speech to the Festival of Education at Wellington College in Berkshire on Friday, Ms Spielman said there was "room to improve" the "active promotion of fundamental British values in our schools".

Her speech came in the wake of terrorist attacks in Westminster, London Bridge, Manchester Arena and more recently close to a mosque in Finsbury Park in the north of the capital.

She said: "In the coming months, I am sure we will see heated debates about how to improve our security without impinging on the liberties that are central to our British way of life.

"But just as important as our physical safety is making sure that young people have the knowledge and resilience they need to resist extremism of the sort peddled by those who, as our former prime minister David Cameron said, seek 'to put hatred in their hearts and poison in their minds'.

"Teaching the young about British values is critical to developing that resilience.

"And by that, I do not mean superficial displays or tick-box exercises.

"We've all seen it: the Union Jack in the corridor, the pictures of the Queen.

"But, instead, 'the active promotion of British values' means giving young people a real civic education.

"The sort of education that teaches young people not just what British values are, but how they were formed, how they have been passed down from generation to generation and how they make us a beacon of liberalism, tolerance and fairness to the rest of the world."

Ms Spielman replaced Sir Michael Wilshaw in the post in January, having previously been the chairwoman of qualifications regulator Ofqual.

In her speech she said "when it comes to tackling extremism through inspection, I have exactly the same zeal and passion as my predecessor".

In July last year Sir Michael singled out Birmingham, Luton and Bradford as areas of "concern" as he warned that missing pupils could be at risk of exposure to extremism.

He said headteachers felt "unsupported" by local authorities in those areas and gave an example in Birmingham, where he said more than 250 children had been removed from a council register without being located.

His comments came after he wrote to then education secretary Nicky Morgan to raise the issue, two years after the Trojan Horse scandal in the West Midlands city.

In Friday's speech, Ms Spielman said: "Ofsted will carry on looking for illegal, unregistered schools where young people are being put at risk, and where we find them, we will do everything we can to make sure they are closed."