Schools must teach British values to beat 'Big Brother'-style bigotry, says minister

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The Independent Online

All teenagers should be taught core "British values" to combat the "ignorance and bigotry" shown on Celebrity Big Brother last week, the Secretary of State for Education, Alan Johnson, said last night.

Mr Johnson said the furore over the treatment of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on the Channel 4 show underlined the need for schools to foster good community relations. And a government report commissioned by Mr Johnson and the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, will this week recommend that compulsory citizenship lessons should be revised to examine the idea of "Britishness".

Mr Johnson said: "The current debate over Big Brother has highlighted the need to make sure our 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."

Last year, ministers commissioned Sir Keith Ajegbo, ex-head of Deptford Green School in Lewisham, south London, to review the teaching of citizenship to teenagers. His report, to be published on Thursday, concludes that the citizenship curriculum does not place enough emphasis on British identity. Lessons for 11- to 14-year-olds should be refocused to look at what constitutes "Britishness" and what brings British people together as a nation.

Mr Johnson said: "We must teach children about our shared British heritage while fostering an understanding of our cultural diversity and the uniqueness of our individual identity."