Schoolchildren should be taught British values of tolerance, democracy and respect, to help bind communities together amid growing ethnic segregation, according to a major government-commissioned review published today.
Dame Louise Casey – brought in by former prime minister David Cameron to report on social integration amid concerns that hundreds of radicalised young Britons were joining Islamic State – said that the country was becoming more divided as it grew more diverse.
Following a year-long study, she said there were some areas that were struggling to cope with the pace and scale of change they faced as a result of immigration, while there were still large social and economic gaps between different ethnic groups.
Her report urges the promotion of British laws, history and values within the core school curriculum to build "integration, tolerance, citizenship and resilience" in children.
"Social integration is about closing the gaps that exist between people and communities," Dame Louise said.
"We need more effort to be put into integration policies to help communities cope with the pace and scale of immigration and population change in recent years.
"But we also need more of a spirit of unity, compassion and kindness that brings people together under our common British values of tolerance, democracy, equality and respect."
The report also calls for all children outside mainstream education to register with their local authorities.
Fears for children outside mainstream education
It states: “It is extremely concerning that children can be excluded from mainstream education without sufficient checks on their wellbeing and integration…All children outside mainstream education should be required to register with local authorities, and local authorities’ duties to know where children are being educated should be increased.
“[The government] should also consider the standards against which home education is judged, to be clear that divisive practices are not acceptable in any setting.”
The review was originally commissioned by Mr Cameron in 2015, when he was prime minister, as part of a wider strategy to tackle the "poison" of Islamic extremism.
It found that, while Britain has benefited hugely from immigration and the increased ethnic and religious diversity this has brought, there had not been sufficient emphasis on integration.
It also called on the government to back a new programme to strengthen cohesion through promotion of the English language, raising employment levels among the most marginalised groups and "emancipating" women trapped in social isolation.
In particular, Dame Louise highlighted the plight of women who found themselves marginalised through poor English language skills, and were subjected to "coercive control, violence and criminal acts of abuse, often enacted in the name of cultural or religious values".
Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook