Plan to teach pupils 'British values'

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Ministers will unveil plans today to teach teenagers core "British values" amid fears that schools are failing to convey a sense of national identity.

Schools dominated by white pupils should do more to foster good community relations and improve children's understanding of diversity, Education Secretary Alan Johnson will say.

But Mr Johnson will also stress that problems stretch beyond ethnic minority pupils as many working class white children also have negative views about their British identity.

The proposals will follow a major report from former headteacher Sir Keith Ajegbo, who was asked by ministers to review compulsory citizenship lessons in schools.

Ofsted inspectors have warned that citizenship, which has been a compulsory part of the national curriculum since 2002, is often poorly taught.

Sir Keith's report today will say citizenship lessons do not place enough emphasis on British identity, and need to focus on helping white pupils as well as those from ethnic minorities.

"It makes no sense in our report to focus on minority ethnic pupils without trying to address and understand the issues for white pupils," claims to the report.

"It is these white pupils whose attitudes are overwhelmingly important in creating community cohesion.

"Nor is there any advantage in creating confidence in minority ethnic pupils if it leaves white pupils feeling disenfranchised and resentful.

"Many indigenous white pupils have negative perceptions of their own identity."

"White children in areas where the ethnic composition is mixed can often suffer labelling and discrimination.

"They can feel beleaguered and marginalised, finding their own identities under threat as much as minority ethnic children might not have theirs recognised."

Sir Keith quotes the example of one white pupil in her early teens who after hearing in a lesson that other members of her class originally came from the Congo, Portugal, Trinidad and Poland said she "came from nowhere".

Mr Johnson will say that schools should play a leading role in fostering community relations and combating ignorance of other countries, cultures and religions.

The Ajegbo report follows last week's row over alleged racist abuse on Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother.

Mr Johnson said last weekend that Big Brother had highlighted the need to make sure schools "focus on the core British values of justice and tolerance".

"We want the world to be talking about the respect and understanding we give all cultures, not the ignorance and bigotry shown on our TV screens," he said.