British values could land international school heads in prison, government warned

Headteachers in British international schools overseas have warned that they could face imprisonment if they are forced to promote British values, including gay rights, as part of their lessons.

Ministers are consulting on plans to hold schools accountable using the same measures as the government’s Independent School Standards, which require all institutions to “actively promote” British values.

This includes encouraging respect for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, even though the practice of homosexuality is illegal in certain countries, particularly in the Middle East and parts of Central Africa. But all schools will need to adhere to the standards in order to receive the coveted “British School Overseas” (BSO) kitemark.

Schools minister Nick Gibb presented the new standards at the annual BSO conference in London last month.

However, some headteachers have urged the government to reconsider their stance on the matter. Steffen Sommer, principal of Doha College in Qatar, which is a member of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference group of top private schools, said he agreed with the values but warned that the move would have a “dramatic” effect.

“It is simple – if that is what I am teaching in my school, I would be arrested immediately,” he told TES.

“It is a very pleasant place to live, but we are talking about absolute monarchies here. It is run by Sharia law, so the law is very different than in the UK.”

Mr Gibb said that while he understood the concerns that schools might have, the government could not be seen to have two sets of rules.

“We cannot issue a standard that doesn’t reflect the values of this country,” the minister said.

This is an edited version of an article from the 18 December edition of TES. To read the full article click here (free to subscribers). Also, this week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here.

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