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Smart School Councils, Ofsted, Prevent, SMSC and British Values

We need Smart School Councils to give our young people an understanding and experience of democracy that goes beyond voting and tokenistic consultation. That’s why they have value: the learning that comes out of them; but we all know that schools are about more than learning. They are also about ticking boxes inculcating ‘British Values’, preventing extremism and keeping young people safe. If your Senior Leadership Team or other colleagues need some help seeing the value of real whole-school involvement in the school council, the below may help.

Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development

All schools must promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils and, within this, ‘fundamental British values’. Schools should:

“Encourage respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic processes, including respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in England.”

Department for Education guidance on British Values suggests that a school council that listens to “all pupils within the school” is a good way to do this.

“ensure that all pupils within the school have a voice that is listened to, and demonstrate how democracy works by actively promoting democratic processes such as a school council whose members are voted for by the pupils.” [Our emphasis]
Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools, DfE, November 2014

‘Fundamental British Values’

Ofsted will inspect these ‘fundamental British values‘, in part through seeing students’:

“acceptance and engagement with the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs; they develop and demonstrate skills and attitudes that will allow them to participate fully in and contribute positively to life in modern Britain.”

Grade descriptors for the effectiveness of leadership and management (Outstanding)

“Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and, within this, the promotion of fundamental British values, are at the heart of the school’s work.”
School Inspection Handbook, Ofsted, September 2015

Prevent Duty

The Government’s Prevent Duty guidance recommends building pupils’ resilience to radicalisation by:

  • providing a safe environment for debating controversial issues
  • helping them to understand how they can influence and participate in decision-making. [Our emphasis]

The Prevent Duty, DfE, June 2015

Why a Smart School Council?

Think about your school council. If you’re going to present it as an example to Ofsted of how you use it to promote SMSC or ‘fundamental British values’ but it only actively involves 12 or 25 students how convincing an argument can you make? If your school council effectively disempowers 99% of your students how does that help students to understand how they can influence and participate in decision-making?

If you could pull up spreadsheets at the drop of a hat to show that all students from all backgrounds are running their class meetings, offering suggestions, setting up and managing action teams, what difference would that make?

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