Kash Singh was speaking ahead of the OBON Day celebrations today (Jun 25), which will see children in some schools singing an anthem written by St John’s CE Primary School, in Bradford.
The song – which begins “we are Britain and we have one dream, to unite all people in one great team” – attracted some criticism and ridicule after the Department for Education supported schools marking OBON Day.
Some on social media likened the song to something children might experience in North Korea and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she first assumed the UK Government’s backing for the idea was a “spoof”.
Mr Singh said: “OBON Day is day of pride and unity where school children have the opportunity to champion British values.
“It’ll be the day to demonstrate what they’ve learned, what they’ve picked up, what it means to them and they can celebrate that. Values like unity, pride, respect, love, mutual respect, kindness and understanding.”
Asked if was surprised about the backlash, Mr Singh said: “Yes, because some of the comments on Twitter do not justify the work that we do. But people are entitled to their opinions. They are meaningless to us.
“Our cause is incredible, very powerful, and something that is desperately needed to create that unity and pride, and give everybody a strong shared sense of belonging and create that phenomenal spirit.”
Mr Singh has said the concept was “born from my dream as a police officer” after coming to the UK as a six-year-old boy who “couldn’t speak a word of English”.
He said he set up the campaign in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in 2013 after retiring from the police force as an inspector in 2012.
The Department for Education (DfE) said it is encouraging schools across the UK to celebrate OBON Day on Friday, so “children can learn about our shared values of kindness, pride and respect”.
But No 10 said the DfE had not asked anyone to sing songs.
The OBON website describes its vision as to “create a strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British Nation, celebrating patriotism and respect for all our people”.
Ms Sturgeon said on Wednesday: “I’m trying to imagine the outrage there would be if the Scottish Government was insisting or even encouraging Scottish school kids to sing some song about how great Scotland is.
“People would be – and rightly so – up in arms about it.
“It’s ludicrous and it perhaps says everything about the disinterest the UK Government has in Scotland that they’re asking this to happen on the day Scottish schools go off on their holiday.”
Mr Singh launched OBON Day 2021 earlier this week at St John’s CE Primary School with married Tory MPs Philip Davies and Esther McVey.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary, National Education Union, said: “Government should focus on their core business of helping pupils and school staff to recover from the disruption of Covid. Anything else is a distraction that exhausted staff do not need.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is a matter for schools to decide whether or not to participate in One Britain One Nation Day, but they do not need a specific occasion to champion the values of tolerance, kindness and respect for one another that underpin life in all our schools on a daily basis.
“These values are a core part of our schools’ ethos, policies and practice, and they work hard to serve as champions of diversity.”