There are four essential British values that childminders and other early years providers are required to promote as part of their practice and care:
- Rule of law
- Individual liberty, and;
- Mutual respect and tolerance.
These values supplement the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) guidelines that all registered childminders (and early years practitioners) in the UK must follow.
In this article, we’re going to share what each value means and how to apply them through different activities in your unique childminder setting. We’ll also explore what is not acceptable, and how to navigate difficult situations that may arise.
Table of contents
- What are fundamental British values in the early years?
- Democracy: Making decisions
- Rule of law: Understanding why they matter
- Individual liberty: Freedom for all
- Mutual respect and tolerance: Treat others as you want to be treated
- What is not acceptable (according to Foundation Years)
- How to bring British Values into your setting
- Wrapping up
What are fundamental British values in the early years?
The EYFS framework was created under the Child Care Act of 2006 and sets the standards for the education, welfare, and social and emotional development of British children from birth to five years of age. It contains all of the legal responsibilities that a childminder must meet regarding a child’s health, learning, safety, and development.
In essence, the EYFS framework outlines codes of behaviour and values to give young children a strong and secure foundation; one with equal opportunity and anti-discrimination at its core.
The British Values Prevent duty, on the other hand, which stipulates the four tenets of the British values mentioned above, has only been a law since 2014 (implemented since 2015).
So, what is the difference between the EYFS Framework and the British Values we’ll be explaining in this article?
The EYFS framework broadly stipulates standards and values for how to provide high-quality, supportive education in the critical early years. It notes that high-quality early years education has significant benefits for children that last into adulthood. These include increased literacy and numeracy skills, emotional regulation, socio-emotional improvements, and higher overall wellbeing.
The British Values Prevent duty law was specifically created as an act of counter-terrorism. We know that sounds intense, especially for early years education, so bear with us.
The law is meant to complement the EYFS guidance and add further insight into how to protect children (in addition to safeguarding rules) who may be vulnerable to radicalisation and other extremist views.
It focuses on creating an environment that encourages critical thinking, sharing, equality, self-awareness, and cultural diversity.
Let’s explore each tenet (democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance) in more detail.
1. Democracy: Making decisions
The fundamental British values of democracy are about equal rights for all, and understanding that everybody’s voice and opinions matter.
For childminders, this means providing opportunities for children to develop their self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness. It also means letting children know their views count, and encouraging them to value and talk about each other's feelings.
Activities that promote democracy include turn-taking, collaborating, sharing, and making decisions together. Creating an atmosphere where inquisitive behaviour is encouraged is essential to enable children in this area.
In a childminder setting, this could look like letting your children discuss and decide what activity comes next.
You could set up a choice board that allows the children to choose their daily activities. Then, have them talk about how they feel when their activity isn’t chosen (which helps to build a language of feelings), and encourage them to respect each other’s choices and form compromises.
Incorporating the value of democracy into a childminder setting isn’t as hard as it first seems. Letting kids choose activities together and then discuss their feelings provides a platform for them to learn that their views, and the views of others, are equally important.
Of course, it’s also important to explain that democracy doesn’t apply to every situation. Sometimes, rules trump votes and that’s simply the way it is. This can be difficult for children to understand, as you are giving them power in certain situations, and taking it away in others.
But it’s absolutely necessary to explain that running activities by a group vote every single time wouldn’t be fair. Otherwise, the majority would always win, and the minority would never get to eat their favourite snack or play their favourite game.
There is a time and place for both. Let’s dive into the importance of understanding rules and how to support children through this tricky context switch.
- Allow children to take part in decisions
- Ensure your setting encourages inquiry among the children
- Encourage sharing and collaboration
2. Rule of Law: Understanding why rules matter
Promoting the rule of law helps children to learn and understand three things:
- What is morally right and wrong;
- Why they and others act the way they do, and;
- That their behaviour has consequences.
One way to promote the rule of law is by encouraging children to agree to particular rules (like cleaning up or not interrupting others) and making certain they understand that the rules apply to everybody.
This is a great opportunity to explain that, if democracy ruled every decision, nobody would vote to clean up and the room would remain consistently messy. Rules matter in this sense because they help us do the right thing even when we don’t want to.
Teaching the rule of law in the early years can be difficult since many games and activities in this respect are too advanced. That said, there are ways that you can get creative.
For example, when it comes time to tidy up, get your children involved in the process of creating rules for the activity. For instance, if you have a rule that everybody must clean up their own area before moving onto the common areas, perhaps the children get to pick the clean up music. And, whoever cleans up their area the fastest gets to pick the music.
Getting children involved in this sense helps them to understand the rule-making process and why rules exist in the first place. Teaching children to work together to tidy up reinforces the fact that rules apply to everyone, and promotes the benefits of cooperation (e.g. if everybody works together, the room gets cleaned faster, meaning it will take less time to start the next activity).
It’s also important to demonstrate that if they break or don’t follow the rules, their actions have consequences. For example, if a child refuses to clean up their area, they may be put into a time out, or forbidden to join the next activity until they finish their task.
This ties nicely into another aspect of the rule of law which is encouraging children to make the right choice. The right choice in this example is to choose to follow the rules and clean up. It’s not something that they can be forced to do, but something might be taken away from them if they choose not to follow through.
Once they do make the right decision, it’s critical to reinforce this good behaviour. Positive reinforcement assures the children that they’ve made a good choice, which helps them to feel good about themselves and repeat these behaviours until they become second nature.
- Have consistent, clear rules
- Partake in cause and effect activities to teach children the consequences of their actions
- Discuss the children’s emotions to show how their actions affect others
3. Individual Liberty: Freedom for all
Promoting individual liberty helps children to develop self-confidence and self-awareness, as well as learn to respect and understand others. This involves creating opportunities for children to gain confidence in their own abilities through taking risks or talking about themselves in a positive way.
A foundation of individual liberty is that it’s okay for everyone to be different. Individual liberty can be taught by exposing your children to varied experiences so they understand that people are free to have different opinions, diverse attitudes, and divergent cultures.
One of the best ways to promote individual liberty and help children grow self-confidence is by encouraging discussions about their feelings in regard to unfamiliar experiences.
For example, if one child speaks in their native language and another child says it sounds weird, that could potentially hurt that child’s feelings.
In this case, you should explain to your entire group that people come from all over the world and that every language and culture is beautiful. Allowing your children to express themselves freely in a safe space helps them to feel confident in who they are.
Importantly, it also helps them understand that other children’s experiences of the world may differ from their own, and that’s exactly as it should be. Talk openly about our differences and encourage their curiosity. And, supplement the discussion with resources like books that depict different cultures or toys that have varying characteristics.
Ideally, they’ll learn that the world is a better place when people embrace, rather than judge each other’s differences.
- Encourage child-led play and allow them to make independent decisions
- Help the children to explore and explain their thoughts, curiosities, and feelings
- Supplement diversity and inclusion with resources that depict diversity
4. Mutual Respect and Tolerance: Treat others as you want to be treated
Respect and tolerance are intrinsically tied to the first three values. Encouraging children to treat others how they want to be treated is essential to being part of a community, managing our emotions, and having great relationships.
Providing an environment of inclusivity and tolerance is vital. Our early years settings should value all cultures, races, faiths, and abilities, and encourage children to be respectful of and involved with their wider communities.
Creating an open and inviting space that allows children to learn about similarities and differences in each other's experiences and traditions is the first step. The next step is to allow children to actively practice tolerance and respect through discussions, stories, and shared experiences that challenge stereotypes.
A great way to learn about and share experiences is to take part in other cultural celebrations, and it's great to involve parents and grandparents in this activity. Every time there’s a festival, especially one celebrated by children who are present, the practitioner should ensure that they take part in it.
Promoting behaviour like sharing and respecting each other’s opinions is essential. To encourage this, you could have the children take turns talking about a particular topic while everybody listens respectfully.
This could be about something really simple, like whether the children like or dislike different kinds of fruit. You can then reinforce that it’s okay to have different opinions.
Further, role-model that just because you don’t like a fruit that a child loves, you respect their decision and won’t make them feel bad about it. Ask each child how they would feel if they were told their choice of fruit was ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’.
You can take it a step further and role-play giving compliments (e.g. that sounds like a good choice) or insults (e.g. your fruit sounds bad). Of course, to taper negativity getting out of hand, pre-choose one or two insults they can say to each other and do not let them stray from the script.
This works to demonstrate that if they want to avoid feeling bad, they should also avoid making others feel that way. In other words, explain that if you treat others as you want to be treated, everybody will feel happier and more secure in their choices, feelings, and actions.
- Explore and discuss similarities and differences between people and cultures
- Celebrate multicultural traditions and festivals
- Role-model the key tenet of ‘treat others how you want to be treated’
What is not acceptable (according to Foundation Years)
There are four primary things that are unacceptable in an early years (or any) learning environment. Childminders should keep these in mind at all times and make every effort to avoid them. These are:
- Promoting intolerance of different faiths, cultures, and races
- Not challenging gender stereotypes
- Isolating children from the wider community
- Not challenging behaviours which go against the four British values listed above
There are a few things that early years providers can do to avoid this.
Firstly, childminders should be proactive about these issues. Simply having books or other resources present isn’t enough. It is vital to actively discuss the issues and provide opportunities for your children to learn for themselves.
Secondly, you must be constantly vigilant. At the first sign of any inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour, intervene and coach the children through the issue. Explain why it is wrong, how it makes them and others feel, and how the children can deal with that situation in a better way in the future.
How to bring British values into your setting
You should try to incorporate British values into everything you do during the day. Showing evidence that you are promoting these values is a legal requirement, so planning effectively is highly important.
To really get to the heart of the issue, take some time to analyse your setting and see if you are falling short anywhere. Assess your day-to-day and see if you are just “box-ticking” and not actively promoting any of the four values.
If you are, introduce some new activities or initiatives that will fill these gaps. Make sure that these initiatives show you are actively promoting British values to key stakeholders including inspectors and parents.
In fact, it’s a good idea to discuss with the parents that you will be teaching British values according to the curriculum, and explain specifics about what this might involve. Getting the parents on board is a great way to reinforce what the children learn in their home setting.
You should be able to explain easily how each daily activity promotes the values to the children in your care. If not, you may need to take some more time to reevaluate your setting and make changes as needed.
So, what are some effective ways to bring these values into your setting as a childminder?
One great method is to use teaching aids like flashcards. You can easily create flashcards that cover the four British values in short, easy-to-understand sentences and include printouts or cutouts of descriptive images.
Other aids, including posters, calendars, and targeted activities can be a great way to encourage British values. For example, you could have a calendar that displays all of the major cultural celebrations.
Keep in mind that aids like this, while they are great, are not enough on their own to constitute active promotion of the values.
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Promote values through understanding the world
Use real-world examples and activities to teach British values.
For example, you could talk about cuisine with your children by asking them to discuss their favourite meals, especially if they relate to their culture. This is a great way for the children to learn about different cultures and traditions and broaden their views. You could even prepare traditional British food (or food from any cuisine) as a group activity.
As we mentioned above, a great way to teach tolerance and respect is to take part in cultural celebrations, especially those that are celebrated by children in your setting. This will open the children’s minds to other experiences and traditions and solidify their individual self-expression as well.
You can also have professionals from different jobs visit the kids and talk about what they do every day. Part of the EYFS is to encourage children to respect those that help them, so having important figures come and speak about their work for the community (e.g. a firefighter or doctor) will help to solidify this value with the children.
Promote values through physical development
Dance and music are excellent ways to encourage British values in your setting.
You can put together a playlist of songs from several cultures, including Britain, and have the kids dance and sing along. Discuss the instruments and different kinds of sounds, which songs were their favourites, and why.
Sports are also a great way to encourage risk-taking and develop self-confidence and motor skills in children. Play some simple sports and encourage sportsmanship and turn-taking. They are also an excellent topic for discussion as they are enjoyed internationally.
For instance, you could cover where different sports originated, and how they have now spread across the entire world. You could also talk about how particular countries and cultures are enamoured with different sports, and how sports can bring people together.
There are endless opportunities to introduce and promote British values in your setting, it simply takes a bit of creativity and planning.
To achieve an outstanding judgement from an Ofsted inspector or childminder agency (CMA) inspection, the promotion of British values needs to be “at the heart of the setting’s work”.
This means that it has to be a part of everything that you do. Although this sounds difficult at the outset, it really isn’t that complicated.
Keep in mind the key points we discussed here to ensure that you’re actively promoting each of the four British values.
Now that you’ve learned all about the fundamental British values in the early years, are you ready to become a childminder or expand your childminding business? Learn more about joining tiney.