“Fundamental British Values”: The Teaching of Nation, Identity, and Belonging in the United Kingdom

  • Sadia HabibEmail author
Living reference work entry


The chapter seeks to problematize the policy requirement to promote “Fundamental British Values” in English schools. Historically, research shows Britishness to be fluid, evolving, and often difficult to define for White British and ethnic minority young people, as well as for pre-service student teachers, classroom teachers, and teacher educators. Recent research conducted with pre-service student teachers is outlined in this chapter to evidence intersections between nation, identity, and belonging that schools could explore. I analyze the teaching and learning of Britishness and “Fundamental British Values” as complex processes. I recommend for students and teachers to engage in reflective and collaborative classroom activities about identities and belongings. Critical pedagogy and arts-based pedagogies are recommended as possible useful teaching and learning approaches for young people and teachers who explore identity issues in the classroom.


Britishness British values Citizenship Nation Belonging Teaching Learning Multiculturalism Identity 


The active promotion of “Fundamental British Values” (FBVs) is a policy requirement placed on educational institutions in England. The FBVs directive has been labelled as a “duty” in government documents, obliging educational institutions – including schools which are the focus in this chapter – to comply (Habib 2017; Revell and Bryan 2018) (The 2014 press release – “Guidance on promoting British values in schools published” – stipulates “All have a duty to ‘actively promote’ the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. These values were first set out by the government in the ‘Prevent’ strategy in 2011.” See Research, however, indicates that the concept of Britishness is fluid, evolving, and often difficult to define for White British and British ethnic minority young people, as well as for educators. National identity – contrary to political rhetoric that attempts to fix, essentialize, and reify it through educational policies – is a concept that is contested and difficult to define (Jacobson 1997; Scourfield et al. 2006; Maylor 2010; Anderson 2006, 2012; Burkett 2013).

As teachers – some who may not identify as British themselves – may be wary of presenting to their students uncritical content regarding nationalism and patriotism (Osler and Starkey 2005), important questions emerge about how educators might respond to policy calls to teach Britishness and FBVs, particularly given that national identity is an ambivalent term. Evidence suggests that, in the past, English schools have encountered difficulties in exploring and teaching about a shared British identity (Ajegbo et al. 2007; Maylor et al. 2007). Maylor (2010), for example, highlights the multiple ways students define Britishness: being born in Britain, holding a passport, citizenship, Whiteness, British parentage or family, and historical heritage dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, while Hussain and Bagguley (2005) found Bradford’s ethnic minority youth keen on asserting their Britishness by referring to their rights to belong as citizens. Most recently, the head of OfSTED (the schools’ inspectorate in England) has complained that the teaching of British values in schools remains “piecemeal” (TES 2018).

This chapter draws on existing literature and the author’s own empirical research to problematize the duty placed on schools to actively promote FBVs (Habib 2017). Throughout this chapter, I draw on distinct critiques of the requirement for schools to promote FBVs. It is worth remembering that these critiques will have different points of origin, and the critics will have various motivations, intentions, and reasons for highlighting the issues of concern with FBVs. Problematizing the teaching of FBVs is particularly important in light of concerns that the ways teachers are appraised by school leaders and OfSTED inspectors in relation to the FBVs duty are complicated by the relationship between FBVs and Counter Terrorism and Security (Revell and Bryan 2016). Perceived by politicians as a remedy to cure “vulnerable” youth “disloyal” to nation, the agendas of Britishness and FBVs that have come to pervade British society place an unnecessary pressure on schools to mold homogenous and loyal British citizens. Furthermore, it has been documented that from early years to higher education, it is Muslim young people (Kyriacou et al. 2017) who are the most impacted by the way that the FBVs and Prevent policies have become both inseparable and an imposition.

Political discourses about the “radicalization” of young Muslim males (Bryant 2009; Zuberi 2010; Jerome and Clemitshaw 2012), the failure of young people to adopt “British” values (Brown 2010; Berkeley 2011; Sales 2012), as well as the education of White working-class males (Jerome and Clemitshaw 2012; Stahl 2015) have resulted in Britishness being elevated as a category of inclusion and as a cure to what is perceived as fragmented British society. The political desire to teach about Britishness in contemporary England therefore was presented to school teachers as a means to end young people’s political disenfranchisement. In the backdrop of the promotion of Britishness and FBVs lies the Prevent duty.

In 2003, the Prevent policy (explained in more detail below) was introduced to counter terrorism initially by challenging “violent extremism” and then later in 2009 to tackle “non-violent extremism” too: “The revised definition of Prevent views non-violent forms of extremism through the prism of British Values” (Miah 2017, p. 4). By providing an overview of current literature on teaching Britishness and FBVs, this chapter examines reasons why the promotion of FBVs within schools in the United Kingdom is problematic for teachers and students who are negotiating numerous political agendas. In order to resolve some of the problems associated with teaching FBVs, the final section of the chapter suggests arts-based critical pedagogy as one possibility for ensuring reflective and collaborative work takes place when exploring (national) identities.

English Education Policy: From Teaching Britishness to Fundamental British Values

Britishness: Multicultural Belongings

Contemporary debates about national identity in the United Kingdom are frequently shaped by political and media discourses that condemn ethnic minority communities for not sufficiently “integrating” into British society. In these discourses, minority communities are often criticized for not sharing a sense of collective belonging with wider society, and ethnic minority young people are often blamed for social disharmony (Vasta 2013). Such discourses of blame, which bring into question the extent to which all citizens have a sense of belonging, also recreate old tensions and new ambiguities regarding multicultural Britain. On the one hand, some politicians applaud diversity and integration, while simultaneously political policies are critiqued for recycling assimilationist rhetoric (Back et al. 2002).

Recognizing that national identity and nationhood are difficult concepts to define and analyze for both White Britons and minority ethnic communities (Vadher and Barrett 2009), over the last two decades, formulations of British national identity have become intimately connected with a range of concerns. Perhaps the most significant of these concerns is the inclusion/exclusion of ethnic minorities. For example, the “new McCarthyism” that other British Muslims have created a moral panic about Muslims disloyal to British values (Fekete 2009), consequently resulting in the rise of anti-Muslim racism and Islamophobia (Scourfield et al. 2005; Osler 2015). British Muslims, portrayed as the “enemy within” (Abbas 2004, p. 30), are alienated by news headlines like “Be more British Cameron tells UK Muslims” (Walters 2014). Such media representation constructs British Muslims as not British enough and as less than citizens (Gilmartin 2008). Therefore, bearing this in mind, complexities surrounding the teaching of Britishness and FBVs raise theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical concerns about how students and teachers might best respond to political initiatives reminiscent of assimilatory and racist rhetoric of the past.

Furthermore the complexities and uncertainties surrounding notions of immigration, identity, multiculturalism, and the United Kingdom’s future were also seen as potentially resolvable by promoting Britishness in schools and in society (Andrews and Mycock 2008). The terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001 (9/11) and in London in July 2005 (7/7) amplified debates about Britishness (Kiwan 2012), and as a consequence, the UK government “began to stress the importance of education in uniting the nation” (Osler 2008, p. 11). Following the election of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010, debates about immigration, place, and national identities continued to intensify and influence the ways in which schools, teachers, and students were expected to understand Britishness and British values. The then Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, advocated an end to “state-sponsored multiculturalism,” instead seeking to popularize “British values” through the promotion of Christianity and the English language as core to British identity (Walford 2012; Communities and Local Government 2012; Grayson 2012).

FBVs: Expectations on Schools and Teachers

In 2011 a revised set of “Teachers’ Standards” (to be met by all qualified teachers) were introduced. These standards explicitly required teachers not to undermine fundamental British values, both in their professional lives and personal lives (DfE 2011). It is important to note that in referencing FBVs, the Teachers’ Standards explicitly referenced a key strand of the government’s CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy – Prevent. The connection between the Teachers’ Standards and the Prevent policy is significant given suggestions that the latter serves to construct Muslim communities as “undermining the secular-neoliberal consensus” and that, thus, Muslims become perceived as “an ontological threat to the West” (Miah 2017, p. 75).

In 2014, the coalition government announced that schools in England were expected to actively promote Fundamental British Values (FBVs), defined as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs” (DfE 2014). In addition, the Counter Terrorism and Security Act of 2015 and the 2016 White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere both place emphasis on teachers’ duties in preventing radicalization (Revell and Bryan 2016). The White Paper (DfE 2016, p. 94) declares “a 21st century education should prepare children for adult life by instilling the character traits and fundamental British values that will help them succeed.”

The school inspectorate (the Office for Standards in Education (OfSTED)), “Common Inspection Framework,” also stipulates the promotion of FBVs as a key feature of their inspection of schools: “inspectors will make a judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management by evaluating the extent to which leaders, managers and governors… actively promote British values” (2015, pp. 12–13). Once again, British values are directly associated with preventing radicalization and counter-terrorism, as the OfSTED document on inspections for schools states “for a definition of these values, see the Prevent Strategy” (2015, p. 13). Thus, the FBVs guidance (HM Government 2015) controversially originates from Home Office documents on “extremism” and counter-terrorism. In Prevent, extremism is defined by the government as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values…” (HM Government 2015, p. 2). Richardson (2015, p. 1) highlights how the principal problems with “FBVs” are that they originate from counter-terrorism strategies “of dubious validity both conceptually and operationally” and the “trigger” for calling on schools to teach FBVs was “the so-called Trojan Horse letter in Birmingham… a malicious forgery” (Richardson 2015, p. 1).

FBVs: The Political Policy Context

While it is accepted that discourses on Britishness in the last two decades have had various drivers, by 2011, though, “unintegrated” ethnic minorities – particularly Muslims – were the core target of the FBVs directives (Maylor 2016). In this policy context, rather than preparing teachers to work with ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse student demographics, teachers and teacher educators find themselves negotiating a securitization- and surveillance-driven agenda attached to “upholding” Fundamental British Values (Lander 2016). Arguably, today in the United Kingdom, the Teachers’ Standards now act as a political tool to promote government approved ideology of Britishness (Maylor 2016). Furthermore, the UK government has placed schools and teachers at the forefront of the championing of British values. According to then Prime Minister, David Cameron (2014), “We are saying it isn’t enough simply to respect these values in schools – we’re saying that teachers should actively promote them. They’re not optional; they’re the core of what it is to live in Britain.” After Cameron’s speech, the media reported that schools would be made to confront young people, parents, and teaching staff who were deemed to be expressing extremist or intolerant views, that schools would need to refer students deemed vulnerable to being radicalized to the counter-terrorist program, Channel, and that schools might be penalized for not promoting FBVs (The Yorkshire Post 2014).

Some politicians have, however, begun to openly criticize the consequences of the Prevent strategy. Conservative MP Lucy Allan (2017), for example, commented how schools and teachers were fearing the consequences of not making enough referrals under Prevent and pointed to the detrimental relationships of mistrust and suspicion forming between teachers and young people. A 2018 report from a House of Commons Select Committee recommended that the government should stop using the term Fundamental British Values, should instead use the term Shared Values of British Citizenship, and should very clearly separate the promotion of shared British values from counter extremism policy (House Of Lords 2018). At the time of writing, the government’s response has been to state its continued commitment to the term Fundamental British Values and to suggest that promoting shared values and tackling counter extremism can usefully draw on the same resources (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 2018). Questions, therefore, continue to be raised by teachers, by researchers, and of course by Britons, about who defines “British values” and whether religiously and culturally diverse Britons are permitted to contribute to the conversation on Britishness (Bragg 2006; Berkeley 2011; Miah 2015), particularly if Prevent is operating to undermine the safe spaces that teachers and young people require to explore multicultural Britishness and belonging.

In summary, within wider discourses and critiques of recent commitments to the promotion of Britishness and British values, educationalists have argued that the explicit teaching of British (or now Fundamental British Values) needs to be problematized, debated, and discussed. In a growing body of research literature, FBVs policy has come to be seen by scholars of education as contradictory, burdensome, counterproductive, divisive, and undermining the professional and personal identities of teachers (Tomlinson 2015; Habib 2017; Elton-Chalcraft et al. 2017). There has been even less discussion on the pedagogic approaches to how it is taught. Furthermore, it has also been suggested that in the school context often FBVs policy “is unchallenged and its insidious racialising implications are unrecognised by most teachers” (Elton-Chalcraft et al. 2017, p. 29). In order to explore the complexities of teaching and learning about Britishness and FBVs, the chapter now examines existing literature which presents educator and student teacher perspectives on British values.

Teaching Fundamental British Values

Given the complex and contested policy environment, the teaching of British identity, British values, and FBVs raises significant challenges for educators. In this section, empirical research undertaken in this area over the last few years is summarized to identify some of these challenges. In addition, I draw on my own research on the use of critical pedagogy and arts-based pedagogies to suggest that these pedagogical approaches offer positive possibilities for educators to explore identity issues in classrooms with their students. For example, in my research, one pre-service Art teacher concluded that exploring British identities through Art could be “most exciting” if students were given structured and creative opportunities to “unravel, criticise, re-imagine” Britishness and FBVs (Habib 2017, p. 68).

Arts-Based Education and Critical Pedagogy

It is important to note that the pedagogies offered here as ways to explore identities in the classroom are not a response to all the aforementioned criticisms of FBVs. Instead I intend to propose arts-based education and critical pedagogy as one way of tackling some of the problems with the assimilatory and neoliberal nature of the promotion of FBVs. Arts-based practice and critical pedagogy can be combined to challenge neoliberal ways of doing education. The combination between arts-based practice and critical pedagogy “holds the potential for not only creating critically engaged students, intellectuals, and artists but can strengthen and expand the capacity of the imagination to think otherwise in order to act otherwise, hold power accountable, and imagine the unimaginable” (Giroux 2018, n.p.).

In response to the inclusion of FBVs within the Teachers’ Standards, a number of researchers have asserted that pre-service student teachers may be disconcerted about having to negotiate politicized FBVs, particularly since pre-service teachers are often thrust in compromising and uncomfortable positions in the classroom (Habib 2017; Revell and Bryan 2016) and given the politicization of the teaching profession, with teachers expected to monitor and report students (Elton-Chalcraft et al. 2017). My own research shows Art pre-service teachers are wary about promoting patriotic agendas about Britishness and FBVs; they challenge conceptions of FBVs by arguing that some of the values defined as British are universal fundamental values (Habib 2017). Values such as tolerance and the rule of law were viewed as far-reaching and global values.

The literature presents pre-service teachers as critical of governmental initiatives to teach Britishness, contending that student teachers are willing “to teach about complex issues, while generally refusing to promote simple or simplistic messages on behalf of politicians” (Jerome and Clemitshaw 2012, p. 39). Throughout this chapter, the underlying theme is that to empower students to provide their counter-stories on FBVs and what it means to be British, teachers can use key Freirean principles. By employing a language of hope and possibility, critical pedagogy supports students to actively participate in critical reflection, to ask questions and find solutions, and to explore how they can act for social justice and change (Freire 2000; Brett 2007).

FBVs, Racism, and Islamophobia

The pre-service student teachers in my own research similarly saw themselves as facilitators of debate and discussion about identity in an open, safe, and respectful classroom environment, rather than teachers of FBVs. They understood the importance of teaching about identities in schools and about exploring a cohesive collective identity, but struggled with using terms like “Britishness” or “FBVs.” They were demonstrating awareness about the complexities of notions of national identity that they felt connote privilege and cause exclusion (Habib 2017). Nevertheless, there remain concerns for teacher educators. Even if pre-service student teachers know that “being a professional means not emulating the seemingly relentless, sometimes crude and polarising, racist nativist discourse offered by both the media and politicians,” often it is the case that they are not “educated to resist it” (Smith 2016, p. 311).

Research also suggests that teacher educators in England have strong reservations and frustrations about the promotion of FBVs to pre-service student teachers from diverse cultural backgrounds (Maylor 2016; Elton-Chalcraft et al. 2017). It is also important to note that, at the same time, teacher educators are having to grapple with their own personal perspectives and experiences of British values. For Muslim educationalists, there is a danger that FBVs are what Miah (2017, p. 5) describes as “structured in opposition to Muslims.” FBVs place Muslims as “racial outsiders” which is evident to them through “the meta-discourse of Prevent” which emphasizes British values as British because they are not Islamic (Miah 2017, p. 5). In part for this reason, some have questioned whether the duty regarding FBVs in the Teacher’s Standards can be implemented in a way that gives pre-service student teachers the confidence to challenge stereotypes, racism, and narrow conceptions of Britishness and the courage to promote a critical consciousness (see, e.g., Maylor 2016). Others still have highlighted the racist and Islamophobic nature of the relationship between FBVs and Prevent.

Learning and Teaching about Identities

Given these concerns regarding the framing and teaching of FBVs in recent education policy, it is important to highlight possible approaches to exploring Britishness and FBVs through which an inclusive sense of multicultural Britishness might be promoted. In my own research, I have examined the potential of arts-based critical pedagogy as a meaningful approach in this regard. There is much scope for teaching and learning about identities and belongings to nation by encouraging teachers and students to experiment with arts-based critical pedagogies (Habib 2017). Celebrating the creative and experimental potential of using Art to explore cultures and belongings through innovative and imaginative ways is often a core principle for Art teachers’ professional identities (Habib 2017). By examining the pedagogies employed by two Art classes in a southeast London school, my own research with Art teachers and their students, in 2008, aimed to address the implications of Britishness exploration on young people’s relationships with and within multicultural Britain (Habib 2016). My ethnographic arts-based educational research study examined (i) the complexities of teaching and learning Britishness and (ii) young people’s discourses of Britishness and belonging. The research investigated the reflections of teachers and students regarding the pedagogical processes involved in the exploration of Britishness in the classroom, as well as how British identities might be explored with ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse students in multicultural Britain.

My analysis draws on the data of emotive artwork created by students, interviews with teachers and paired students, and extensive questionnaires, and moving and personal insights into the significances of everyday racialized and classed belongings were investigated. The key findings showed young people’s experiences of local and global identities informed their notions of national identity. Students’ senses of Britishness were deeply connected to intersectional and multiple experiences of social class, race, and local attachments. Local identities and transnational postcolonial identities seemed more prominent than a sense of national identity in the young peoples’ descriptions of belonging to Britain.

My findings support the idea that Britishness remains an ever-contested concept (Saeed et al. 1999; Croft 2012; Thurston and Alderman 2014; Mason 2016). However, amidst this contestation about Britishness, I found also that Britishness continues to be depicted as synonymous with Whiteness (Swann 1985; Maylor et al. 2007), with some White Britons advocating racialized Britishness over civic Britishness (Garner 2012). Thus, Britishness discourses sometimes seek to normalize and privilege Whiteness, pitting White Britons against others (Wemyss 2009), while simultaneously there is “over-racialization of visible minorities at the expense of a deracialization of ethnic majorities” resulting in White identity crises (Nayak 2003, p. 139).

Classed and Racialized Belongings

Furthermore, following Freirean philosophies, my research demonstrates the value of critical pedagogies in order to guide students to “question answers rather than merely answer questions” (Brett 2007, p. 4). The students and teachers involved were able to expose and disrupt “monovocals, master narratives, standard stories, or majoritarian stories” (that privilege the White male political elite) by contributing counter-narratives (Solórzano and Yosso 2002, p. 28) about Britishness and belonging. My research with young Art students in a London school revealed young people engaging with critical pedagogies to assert their personal experiences about Britishness and belonging while simultaneously engaging with differences and diversities regarding Britishness. One of the Art teachers, Mr. Martin, explained students wanted him to tell them, for instance, to “draw a portrait of themselves with a Union Jack in the background… a nice cup of tea… and a nice red phone box.” He had to adapt the lesson to challenge students, reminding them, sometimes to their frustration, this was not about his knowledge but about their knowledge of belonging to Britain. Critical pedagogy (Freire 2000, 2001; Giroux 2013) approaches encourage students to become responsible and active participants or citizens, unafraid to seek social transformation and social justice. Exploring British identities critically through artwork permitted my research participants to produce new knowledge relevant to their readings of nation and ways of doing pedagogies. One student, Ellie, commented upon classmates moving away from superficial and stereotypical notions of Britishness: “I think British colours are just colours on a flag. And that’s not what anyone really did their work about. Everyone did it about something that was kinda personal to them.”

The apprehension both of the teachers felt prior to teaching soon dissipated as most students energetically embraced critical pedagogical approaches to Britishness exploration. Instead of passively accepting a hegemonic narrative of Britishness, students utilized the space to debate the current discourses on British identities and revealed personal definitions and experiences from diverse racial, ethnic, and class positionings. If a democratic goal of education is to inspire morally and socially responsible citizenry, critical pedagogy helps students to become “critical, self-reflective and knowledgeable” active members of society (Giroux 2013, p. 3). Careful deliberation on identity resulted in, for example, student Ellie creating a stunning portrait about the vicious social stereotypes encountered by White working-class youth. Ellie, a White female student, depicted struggles encountered by the stigmatized working classes because of the imposition of the undesirable and demeaning label chav. Around a decade or so ago, the term chav – synonymous with the “White trash” of the United States (Tyler 2008) – became a familiar media “buzz word” to describe the White working classes (Nayak 2009). Ellie’s sense of Britishness was tied up with stereotypes and judgments (as she powerfully named her artwork) about social class, belonging, and Bermondsey. Ellie explained that she struggled to escape the class imprisonment of “stereotypes and judgments,” frequently feeling as though society reminded her of her status and her place as a White working-class female. Ellie’s poignant artwork reflected deep displeasure and frustrated resentment at being labelled unfairly and prematurely. In the artwork, a bar restrained her eyes, restricting her to a specific identity, enclosing her, confining her, and repressing her self-identity, like prison bars:

Ellie: “… so it’s like you’re caged in and you can’t express yourself how you want to be perceived because other people do it for you.”

Ellie saw society denigrating her through the chav label, for example, because she wears a Tiffany chain (a brand label associated with the caricature of the chav in the popular consciousness). Ellie’s vivid description of the positioning of the Tiffany chain in her artwork evoked Freirean perspectives, for it reflected her oppressed and marginalized experiences and her sense of lacking a voice to defend herself: “…it’s like tight around my neck and my mouth… so I can’t talk to myself … I can’t breathe… I’m like tied up.” Ellie’s artwork on Britishness and belonging, with its Tiffany chains and Burberry branded bullets, as well as the terrifyingly opened jaws of the Lacoste crocodile, pointed toward confinement in an unfairly imposed sense of identity, as she battled social class prejudices.

Ellie’s peer, Chris, a mixed heritage young male, described his identity as “half Jamaican half English,” “because that’s who I am and how I feel… but I feel I belong more to the Jamaican culture because I only know my Jamaican side of the family and I grew up with only them”. Chris’ artwork, entitled Jamaican London, exemplified his view that British identity is composed of cultural diversity. Emphasizing his mixed heritage and dual identity through drawing two parts to his face, Chris juxtaposed London landmarks with Jamaican national colors of green, black, and gold. Chris, like his peers, expressed ambivalent feelings about Britishness: while he was “proud” of belonging to Britain, he also reflected, “I don’t feel part of it.” Chris argued media rhetoric, particularly negative representation of Black youth, influences his peers into making racial judgments. The “media obsession” with London Black youth and gangs (Shildrick et al. 2010) impacted upon Chris’ sense of belonging to Britain. Chris referred to his observations of Black youth as demonized through negative media representation, portrayed as likely to “rob” or “stab” other Londoners.

Instead of reproducing tired tropes and simplistic stereotypes about belonging to Britain, the arts-based critical pedagogies encouraged some young people to probe and interrogate contemporary multicultural Britishness. As a result, the majority of the Art students became confident in deconstructing their everyday experiences of Britishness as racialized and classed. The emphasis on student voice, respectful and caring dialogue, and collaborative communication led to meaningful and engaged individual and collective critical reflections on students’ own stories of Britishness.

Conclusion: Counter-Stories of Britishness

When it comes to exploring FBVs in the classroom, teachers and pre-service teachers find themselves in difficult circumstances where their personal and professional roles and identities are compromised by the demands of school managers, OfSTED, and government policies. This is as a result of schools in England becoming “an ideological battleground for competing versions of ‘Britishness’” causing teaching staff to feel as though they have been “positioned on the frontline of the ‘war on terror’ at home, with an emphasis on the surveillance and control of BME students rather than their education” (Alexander et al. 2015, p. 4).

While policy makers may desire to reproduce “a systematic process of assimilation… preparing each successive generation of children for the nation’s version of adult citizenship” through educational systems and political policies to fulfil these aims (Rosaldo 1996, p. 239), the political construction and hegemonic perpetuation of everyday nationalism in multicultural societies is fragmented and needs critical interrogation, particularly if inclusiveness and diversity are a priority for the nation’s citizens (Mavroudi 2010). In terms of citizenship, patriotic discourses have historically been problematically gendered, classed, and racialized. If promoting overly narrow forms of patriotism is “morally dangerous” and harmful to “the goal of national unity in devotion to worthy moral ideals of justice and equality” (Nussbaum 1996, p. 4), cosmopolitanism becomes a more preferable goal for the people of a multicultural nation.

Research has shown that pre-service student teachers who actively choose to reject what they see as indoctrinating or undemocratic pedagogies prefer instead that students become independent learners (Jerome and Clemitshaw 2012). Young people as independent learners providing their counter-stories on Britishness is preferable to an imposition of FBVs. One way of encouraging students to confidently adopt strategies of autonomy and collaboration in their learning is through introducing them to the principles of critical pedagogy (Habib 2017).

If neoliberal ideas about multicultural citizenship and national identity marginalize experiences of oppressed groups (Sleeter 2014) by “stifling critical thought, reducing citizenship to the act of consuming, defining certain marginal populations as contaminated and disposable, and removing the discourse of democracy from any vestige of pedagogy” (Giroux 2013, p. 8), then it is crucial that teachers and young people engage in reflection and dialogue to rethink what it means to belong to nation and to reassert their right to belong. Further research on the relationship between Britishness, nation, citizenship, youth, and belonging is required. Currently research seems to focus on the “elite master-narratives of nationhood that have fascinated historians, political scientists and quantitative sociologists” (Garner 2012, p. 455), but we need to describe the ways in which young people are actively constructing their own counter-stories of Britishness.

When exploring the pedagogy concerning Britishness and FBVs, the pre-service student teachers, teachers, and students in my research were sensitive to identities as unfixed and as difficult to capture concretely or definitively. If educators believe that “identities are never completed, never finished; that they are always as subjectivity itself is, in process” (Hall 1997, p. 47), this has profound implications for how teacher educators and pre-service student teachers might teach FBVs or explore British identities with young people. Teacher educators might find pre-service student teachers would benefit from engaging in deeply reflexive opportunities to better know their personal positionality on Britishness and FBVs. More work urgently needs to be done in England to educate pre-service student teachers regarding appropriate strategies to actively resist exclusionary and racist discourses.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ScholarManchesterUK

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