Project Details


Since 7/7 bombings in London by so-called ‘home-grown’ terrorists and the Trojan Horse enquiry, counterterrorism legislation has been implemented in schools and colleges. The Government’s overall counter-terrorism strategy Prevent (2015) imposes a duty on schools, colleges and universities to safeguard young people who may be at risk of radicalisation. The OfSTED Framework for Inspection (2015) requires scrutiny of how schools actively promote fundamental British values (FBV) defined as democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs. The Teachers’ Standards (DfE, 2013) mandate teachers to ‘not undermine fundamental British values’, a phrase which originates from the Prevent Strategy (2011). The coalition and conservative governments’ introduction of fundamental British values into education policy has enshrined Britishness as a regulatory ‘norm’ for teachers and students.

The promotion of civic nationalism through policy has been compounded by advocates of a Brexit discourse of ‘reclaiming our country’ and the rise in racist incidents following the EU referendum (Weaver, 2016). The debates in the media prior to the EU Referendum played on populist notions of vulnerability and the need for protection from immigrants and refugees. However, political and educational debates on FBV, extremism and what it means to be British has omitted the perspectives of children and young people. Little is known about the impact of these policies on them. The four papers (outcomes to be presented at BERA Sept 2020) highlight young people’s notions of British identity against a backdrop of social change characterised by Parekh as a shift from a pluralistic ‘community of communities’ (Parekh, 2000) to a Britain shaped by civic nationalism and post- colonial melancholia (Gilroy, 2005). The findings from our research shows that for many young people Britishness is synonymous with whiteness, the Britishness discourse is perceived by BME subjects as divisive and producing a ‘constitutive outsider’.
Paper 1
“The perfect racism” – Young citizens’ perspectives on the notion of ‘fundamental British values’.
This paper explores young people’s understandings of ‘FBVs’ within and outside of their educational settings. Data was collected through five unstructured focus group interviews with forty-six A level students. Using Gramsci’s (1986) concept of ‘hegemony’ and Said’s (2003) concept of ‘othering’, I investigate the conditions under which ‘FBVs’ have become part of young people’s educational experiences. Data evidences how ‘FBVs’ form an important element of structural racism within British society. Using critical realist methodology (Bhaskar, 1975) this paper shows how the participants’ understandings reveal the racist structures within which the promotion of ‘FBVs’ emerged.
Paper 2
The Right to Belong in Contemporary Britain
The paper examines constructions of multi‐layered citizenship in relation to the politics of belonging in Britain at a time which marks the ‘death of multiculturalism’. This expression, introduced by Trevor Phillips, is used to contest the ways in which constructions of British diversity are driven by a focus on multi‐faith rather than multi‐cultural terms. I begin by exploring notions of citizenship, belonging and intersectionality. I focus on the politics of belonging and how it relates to the participatory politics of citizenship as well as to that of ‘entitlement’ and ‘status’. I then discuss the ‘death of multiculturalism’ and conclude by illustrating how the use of British values, as signifiers of ‘belonging’, are ‘exclusionary’ in today’s discourse.
Paper 3
‘A mechanism for division’ young Muslims’ critical perspectives on fundamental British values
Drawing from Deleuzoguattarian theory (2013), this paper presents the views of young Muslims aged between14-21 on education and FBV. Qualitative group interview data were collected in 2018 in three settings, two Islamic faith schools and an ecumenical interfaith youth group. The young people’s narratives refer to everyday racisms and the structural racism that shapes their lives, but also indicate points of resistance as they problematise civic nationalism in education and ‘imposed’ British identity. They call for anti- racist education, greater inter faith collaboration and experiential education as an alternative to government education agendas.
Paper 4
“Go back to your f…… country”: racism, rage and the right to belong – Using critical race theory (Delgado and Stefancic 2017), this paper examines the experiences of racism after the EU Referendum by BAME youngsters who have been born and brought up in England. The paper analyses the how the righteous indignation of BAME participants, who assert their birth right to British citizenship, is simultaneously and conversely usurped by the dominant notion of whiteness and white privilege (Leonardo 2009), namely if you are White your claim to be British is silently asserted as more legitimate than that of citizens of colour.

Key findings

The findings from our research shows that for many young people Britishness is synonymous with whiteness, the Britishness discourse is perceived by BME subjects as divisive and producing a ‘constitutive outsider’.
Effective start/end date1/09/1731/01/20

Collaborative partners


  • Britishness
  • Identity
  • Belonging
  • Race
  • Religion
  • gender inequalities
  • Britain
  • Brexit


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Fundamental British values and teacher subjectivities

    FARRELL, F. & LANDER, A., 21 Feb 2019, Research methods for social justice and equity in education. Atkins, L. & Duckworth, V. (eds.). London: Bloomsbury, p. 74-78 5 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review