Schools have decided not to sing the anthem for One Britain One Nation Day, despite the government encouraging them to celebrate the event.
Headteachers told The Independent their pupils did not sing the song - which ends with chants of “strong Britain, great nation” - on Friday, due to Covid guidelines, logistical issues and because it “feels like propaganda”.
The Department for Education encouraged schools to celebrate One Britain One Nation Day on 25 June, during which they said children could “learn about our shared values of tolerance, kindness, pride and respect”.
But the government was criticised after the event’s patriotic anthem was shared widely on social media. Lyrics include “we are Britain and we have one dream, to unite all people in one great team” and references to Britain having “widened our island’s shores”.
Headteachers told The Independent their schools skipped the song on Friday.
One school leader in Liverpool said their school did not participate as they were not officially told about the event and they did not get enough warning to learn and sing the song in time.
The headteacher, who wished to stay anonymous, also said schools were being advised not to sing unless it is distanced and outside. “And, frankly, it was awful,” they added.
Matt Davies, a headteacher in North Yorkshire, said his school also did not sing the song on Friday, when One Britain One Nation Day took place.
“Firstly, our current risk assessment dictates that whole school or whole class signing is not permitted due to the increased risk of potential transmission,” he told The Independent.
“Secondly, I couldn’t agree that the wording of the song was impartial. It certainly comes across as potentially divisive which is not consistent with our school values and ethos.”
Hildi Mitchell, the head of Downs Infant School in Brighton, told The Independent they did not participate in the song due to logistics, saying they had other things going on like school trips, and any performance would take several weeks for her pupils to master.
Speaking about another reason why they chose not to sing the song, she said: “I don’t think the government have demonstrated any of these values through their actions so this feels like propaganda, my parents have emailed me to say they agree and don’t want their children singing it.”
Ollie Williams, a deputy headteacher in southeast England, said their primary school also did not participate, telling The Independent: “It wasn’t mandatory and we have a full rich curriculum that the children are accessing until the end of term.”
Amid backlash over the song, the founder of One Britain One Nation, former policeman Kash Singh, told GB News it was seven- to 10-year-old children who wrote the song.
“They wrote that song because they wanted to bring unity, they want to celebrate pride, they want every child to feel part of this country,” he said. “And I don’t know how - and I still havent comprehended it - how it has had a negative reaction.”
He added: “This is the children of our country, writing those words, wanting to celebrate our country, and bringing each other together. And they want to do that because they want to elimate hate. “
One Britain One Nation is a group that says it wants “to create, a strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British Nation, celebrating patriotism and respect for all our people”.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our schools should promote fundamental British values including tolerance and respect. As such, we support One Britain One Nation’s broad aims to help children learn about equality, kindness and pride, and it is for schools to decide how they teach these important values.
They added: “The department has not asked people to sing songs or endorsed any specific materials for One Britain One Nation day.”
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