RE, British values and SMSC

Schools should actively promote the British values of:

  • democracy 
  • the rule of law 
  • individual liberty 
  • mutual respect 
  • tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

Actively promoting the values means challenging opinions or behaviours in school that are contrary to British values.  RE lessons should offer a structured and safe space during curriculum time for reflection, discussion, dialogue and debate. Excellent teaching of RE will enable pupils to learn to think for themselves about British values.  In RE pupils learn the skills and develop attitudes that help protect themselves and others from harm throughout their lives.

The RE classroom must be a democratic classroom where all pupils have an equal right to be heard and democracy is modelled by the teacher and expected of every pupil.  In RE pupils examine different codes for living and consider the value of the rule of law where all people are equal before the law.  They consider questions about identity and belonging. Religion is a good case study of the balance between individual liberty and the greater good.  RE can challenge pupils to be increasingly respectful and to celebrate diversity of different cultures, faiths and beliefs.

Through their provision of Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) aspects, schools should:

  • enable students to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence
  • enable students to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law of England
  • encourage students to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative, and to understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality of the school and to society more widely
  • enable students to acquire a broad general knowledge of and respect for public institutions and services in England
  • further tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions by enabling students to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures
  • encourage respect for other people 
  • 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 

SMSC is a whole-school responsibility to which RE plays a significant part.  The aspects of development highlighted below are those for which RE has a particular contribution to make.

The spiritual development of pupils is shown by their

  • ability to be reflective about their own beliefs, religious or otherwise, that inform their perspective on life and their interest in and respect for different people’s faiths, feelings and values
  • sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning about themselves, others and the world around them
  • use of imagination and creativity in their learning
  • willingness to reflect on their experiences

The moral development of pupils is shown by their:

  • ability to recognise the difference between right and wrong and to readily apply this understanding in their own lives, recognise legal boundaries and, in so doing, respect the civil and criminal law of England 
  • understanding of the consequences of their behaviour and actions
  • interest in investigating and offering reasoned views about moral and ethical issues and ability to understand and appreciate the viewpoints of others on these issues

The social development of pupils is shown by their:

  • use of a range of social skills in different contexts, for example working and socialising with other pupils, including those from different religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds
  • willingness to participate in a variety of communities and social settings, including by volunteering, cooperating well with others and being able to resolve conflicts effectively
  • 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

The cultural development of pupils is shown by their:

  • understanding and appreciation of the wide range of cultural influences that have shaped their own heritage and those of others
  • understanding and appreciation of the range of different cultures within school and further afield as an essential element of their preparation for life in modern Britain
  • knowledge of Britain’s democratic parliamentary system and its central role in shaping our history and values, and in continuing to develop Britain
  • willingness to participate in and respond positively to artistic, musical, sporting and cultural opportunities
  • interest in exploring, improving understanding of and showing respect for different faiths and cultural diversity and the extent to which they understand, accept, respect and celebrate diversity, as shown by their tolerance and attitudes towards different religious, ethnic and socio-economic groups in the local, national and global communities.

Citizenship Foundation - SMSC (external website)

Doing SMSC - Social Moral Spiritual & Cultural Education (external website)

Doing SMSC - Social Moral Spiritual & Cultural Education - British Values (external website)

NATRE (National Association for Teachers of RE) - Spirited Arts (external website)

GOV.UK - Prevent Strategy 2011 (external website)

Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools - Departmental advice for maintained schools (DfE 2014)

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