Schools to challenge ‘social segregation’ via sport

Commonwealth Games England teams up with charity to help children mix with different communities

Catherine Lough

children playing sport

A children’s sports charity has launched a partnership with the Commonwealth Games England team to promote social integration in Birmingham.

Youth Sport Trust has launched the scheme – Birmingham Connect – alongside Team England, bringing 20 schools together from diverse and segregated communities in Birmingham.

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In advance of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Birmingham, young people aged 11-13 will be paired with students from other schools across the city to foster social integration between different communities. The schools have been selected based on characteristics such as the pupils’ ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as the proportion of pupils with a disability.

Speaking with Tes, programme lead Louise Gruchy-Craven said: “Birmingham is above the national average for social segregation in a school setting. Young people go to schools with people from the same ethnic background as themselves. We wanted to place significance on social mobility, and the vehicle we’re using is sport.”

She said the scheme had chosen participating schools based on objective data, and looked to foster relationships between pupils from different cultural backgrounds. For example, Muslim faith school Eden Boys’ School, which has an above-average proportion of socially disadvantaged pupils, has been paired with Wilson Stuart School, a SEND specialist academy.

Ms Gruchy-Craven said that Birmingham was chosen for the scheme because while it had become more ethnically diverse since the 2011 census, different communities did not mix together.

“I visited a school where 52 languages are spoken – you have that richness of diversity in one school, while in other schools they would say they are all white British or Muslim and speak the same language,” she said.

“We’re using the inspiring nature of sport to encourage children to mix as they may not at school or at home...It will be interesting to see how British values of tolerance and friendship work to create a better, more socially integrated community.”

A launch event at the Birmingham NEC today will train pupils, teachers and leaders from the 20 schools. Five pupils from each school, known as “connectors”, will help lead the project, taking more responsibility for which sports are delivered as the scheme evolves.

The connectors will eventually recruit more participants, and Ms Gruchy-Craven hopes that up to 3,000 children will take part during the year-long scheme.

Sports from the Commonwealth Games will be highlighted at the launch, alongside traditional sports from Commonwealth countries, including Nigerian okwe, a sport similar to jacks, and Bangladeshi dariabanda, which can be played by pupils in wheelchairs.

“We’ve made sure the content is accessible and inclusive to all,” Ms Gruchy-Craven said.

Commonwealth Games England chief executive, Paul Blanchard, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Youth Sport Trust to deliver the Birmingham Connect project, which we hope will leave a lasting legacy beyond the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to promote social integration among young people across the city and enable them to become better connected. We’re looking forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on the schools, children and communities involved.”

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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