‘The perfect racism’: Young citizens’ perspectives on the promotion of ‘fundamental British values’


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The notion of ‘fundamental British values’ first appeared in the Conservative and Liberal
Democrat Coalition government’s revised Prevent strategy in 2011. It stated that
‘fundamental British values’ are ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual
respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’. The following year, in 2012, the
Teachers’ Standards included these values and required all teachers ‘not to undermine
fundamental British values’. In November 2014, the Coalition government produced
guidelines on promoting ‘fundamental British values’. In September 2015, the newly
elected Conservative government transformed this guidance to a full duty, as defined in
Section 26 of the new Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015. This legislative journey
has taken place in the context of broader social, political and economic developments in
Britain and the wider world.
This qualitative research, explored young people’s understandings of ‘fundamental British
values’ within and outside of their educational settings. The empirical data was collected
through five unstructured focus groups interviews with forty-six A level students aged
between seventeen and nineteen. This critical realist study investigated the conditions
under which ‘fundamental British values’ have become part of young people’s
educational experiences and evidenced how ‘fundamental British values’ form an
important element of structural racism within British society. The research attempted to
capture what the participants’ subjective understandings could contribute to an analysis
of the social structures within which the promotion of ‘fundamental British values’
Findings from the empirical data suggest that the promotion of ‘fundamental British
values’ is underpinned by:
• the imperialist ideology of ‘the war on terror’;
• the colonialist conception of the ‘superiority’ of the ‘dominant culture’;
• structural racism in the education system and wider society.
This research provides new insights into the compulsory promotion of ‘fundamental
British values’ in schools and colleges from young citizens’ perspectives.
Date of Award9 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorVICKY DUCKWORTH (Director of Studies) & FRANCIS FARRELL (Supervisor)


  • Fundamental british values
  • Education
  • Prevent
  • Racism
  • Critical realism

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