Help us battle segregation

9th June 2006 at 01:00
I was interested and heartened to read your article "Schools urged to save society" (TES, May 26) about schools having a "life or death" role in preventing violence between racial groups.

I am proud to be a Birmingham teacher and am equally proud of Birmingham as a harmonious and diverse community. Birmingham schools have played a vital role in this over many years, and in my experience the more diverse a school's intake the better equipped it is to embrace and celebrate the experiences pupils bring to school.

In recent years, there has been a growing climate of inter-racial fear and this can often spill into schools from a variety of sources. If left unchallenged, segregation and disharmony can soon set in and their effects will grow exponentially.

For this reason, schools whose intake is skewed towards one particular racial group have an even greater challenge.

I agree with Trevor Phillips that schools have a vital role to play in these turbulent times, but they need to be equipped to do it. What has happened to forward thinking professional development for teachers on these issues? We have the Every Child Matters agenda, but changes to the inspection system mean less time to talk to pupils, and none to focus on "difficult issues" that are hard to quantify.

Effective schools are playing a vital role in developing communities, often in challenging circumstances where pupils have little grounding in community spirit. Such schools are effective change agents and inspire young hearts and minds against the obstacles of real hardship and deprivation.

Thank you to Trevor Phillips for highlighting the walk that we may be taking into racial segregation.

Whatever the political agenda on faith schools, we must prepare children to learn about and celebrate each others differences. Racism may no longer be a problem among teachers, but how to deal with it in the classroom still is.

Mandy Perrins

Dame Elizabeth Cadbury technology college

Birmingham

332, Alcester Rd, Burcot

Bromsgrove

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