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FRONT LINE FIRST-EDUCATION

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Sir Herman Ouseley's report on community relations in Bradford leaves no doubts that education has a key role to p...
Sir Herman Ouseley's report on community relations in Bradford leaves no doubts that education has a key role to play.

The report, Community pride not prejudice, points to the role of education in countering ignorance and bigotry, and calls for a vigorous programme of citizenship education designed to equip young people for adult life in a multicultural society.

Of course, schools in the district do value and celebrate diversity. Bradford was one of the first education departments in the country to introduce a multi-faith curriculum for religious education and the Interfaith Centre is nationally recognised for its work in raising awareness and understanding between faiths and cultures. But much more needs to be done.

A recent review carried out by our own inspection, support & advisory service identified that pupils in many schools are able to talk confidently about inclusion, racial equality and zero tolerance. However, disparities remain between staff and pupil perceptions of racial equality. Pupils in secondary schools are particularly conscious of racial tensions and the review concludes schools regularly need to challenge the assumption that policies are being translated into effective practice.

More balanced school populations would help and what the Ouseley report describes as a 'worrying drift towards self-segregation' has made it harder to develop better understanding between different cultures and communities. We have to find new ways of bringing young people together.

Twinning between schools with predominantly white or predominantly Asian students is one obvious way to do this. Early in the new school year we will be talking to head teachers and governors about the scope for initiatives involving sports and cultural activities that will bring people from different communities and cultures closer together.

But we need to take a long hard look at the curriculum and, in particular, how we educate young people for citizenship. This is at the heart of Sir Herman's vision for the district. Citizenship education - encouraging a sense of social and moral responsibility, respect for other people and cultures, community involvement and political literacy - is how we begin to teach young people to respect and value diversity. It is already optional for primary schools and becomes compulsory in secondary schools in September 2002, but, according to Sir Herman, the cultural diversity component is inadequate.

He calls for citizenship education to be strengthened with a vigorous programme of teaching and learning across all age groups. He adds that young people are desperate for this knowledge.

'Given the polarisation, self-segregation and 'white flight' associated with the district's schools, it is crucial that the key issue of teaching and learning about the district's culturally diverse population be addressed in all schools. The continued ignorance about cultural diversity amongst school students across all communities must be ended.'

Only by nurturing in young people the skills of enquiry and critical thinking, discussion and debate, negotiation and accommodation, will pride begin to take the place of prejudice in our community.

Phil Green

Acting director of education, Bradford MBC

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