For the first time schools have been given guidance that sets out exactly what they will be expected to do to fulfill their new duty to promote community cohesion. The guidelines include examples of steps schools can take, ranging from extending their services to citizenship classes.
From September schools in England will be required to show evidence of what they are doing to promote community cohesion. Schools Minister Jim Knight said every school in England, whatever its intake and location, was responsible for children and young people learning about the diverse make up of British society, in terms of socio-economic backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, religions and beliefs.
He said the impact of the new duty would make schools real dynamos of change within the communities they served. “We need to build firmer foundations for community cohesion and the best approach is to start early, from primary schools onwards,” he said and added, “Educating our young people about the world we live in is key to ensuring they develop into tolerant and informed adults, suitably equipped to live and work in our increasingly diverse society.”
The guidance points out that schools can promote community cohesion in a number of ways but its examples include pupils learning through citizenship education about the diverse groups and communities in the UK, the connections between them and between Britain and the wider world; engaging parents through parent and pupil classes, curriculum evenings and family liaison work; extending services such as adult learning, ICT and English language classes for the wider community and forging links with other schools and organisations, including at international level.
It also cites examples of work already being done by a number of schools such as joint working by two primary schools in Huddersfield, one with a 98 per cent minority ethnic roll and one that is made up only of white pupils. In Cumbria a rural school has developed joint drama, dance and music workshops with other primary schools in the area, inviting a range of different artists to perform and work with pupils.