What are British values? This has been a controversial question ever since allegations of extremism in schools earlier this year. In the aftermath of the Trojan Horse scandal, the Department for Education updated schools guidance to put "British values" at the centre, and assessed the way that Religious Education is taught in schools. But according to the British Humanist Association, new schools standards appear to have edited out non-belief.

Among the changes flagged up by the BHA is a section of the new guidance which says that “pupils must be encouraged to regard people of all faiths, races, and cultures with respect and tolerance” but does not mention tolerance for those with no religious beliefs. Atheism and humanism are no longer included on the syllabus for Religious Studies GCSEs and A-levels.

Guidance published in 2013 said that in order to promote “the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule or law, individual liberty and mutual respect”, schools should “use teaching resources from a wide variety of sources to help pupils understand a range of faiths, and beliefs such as atheism and humanism”. Updated advice on the same standard has removed the last part of this guidance, and there is now no reference to atheism or humanism.

Why does this matter? As the BHA’s president Andrew Copson explained in a statement, British values (the cornerstone of the new schools guidance) should logically include non-religious worldviews:

“It is vital that every young child learns about a wide range of religions and non-religious beliefs. All the usual contemporary justifications for the study of religions in schools – its contributions to community cohesion, building mutual understanding between those of different backgrounds, the historical, literary and cultural knowledge it presents, and its role in helping young people answer life’s big questions – all logically also apply to the study of non-religious worldviews as well. With an ever growing proportion of young people having no religion, this inclusion is becoming ever more important, but instead non-religious worldviews are increasingly being shut out by Government. The promotion of British values needs to reflect the reality of British life and if it does not, it will fail as an educational initiative.”