Johnson: Children must be taught tolerance

The education secretary is the latest MP to speak out over the Big Brother controversy
The education secretary is the latest MP to speak out over the Big Brother controversy

Education secretary Alan Johnson has called for teenagers to be taught core "British values" after the Celebrity Big Brother race row.

Mr Johnson said the "ignorance and bigotry" shown towards Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on the Channel 4 reality programme shows the need for schools to promote good community relations.

A government report, commissioned by Mr Johnson and chancellor Gordon Brown, will recommend compulsory citizenship lessons be changed to examine the idea of "Britishness".

Mr Johnson said teenagers do not learn enough about what it means to "British".


"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," Mr Johnson said.

"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."

Mr Johnson added that while children must be taught about British history they should also learn about other cultures.

But the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has hit back, insisting schools already do enough to make youngsters tolerant towards other cultures.

John Dunford, ASCL general secretary, said: "Schools can hardly be blamed for one person's bigotry when the 82 per cent who voted to eject Jade Goody are testament to the work already being done by schools to develop respect, understanding and tolerance."

On Thursday, a government-commissioned report into citizenship classes is expected to recommend the teaching of Britishness.

Other lessons for 11 to 14-year-olds will include focusing on what brings British people together as a nation and how immigrants from India, Pakistan and the West Indies helped build the NHS.

The citizenship report was authored by Sir Keith Ajegbo, former head of Deptford Green School in Lewisham, south London.

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