'Scottishness' comes as pupils mature

16th August 1996 at 01:00
Over half of 11-year-old Scots say it is important to them to be British, whereas almost three-quarters of nine-year-olds hold that opinion.

The findings are drawn from interviews with 76 children aged 9-11 in four classes an Edinburgh primary school, of whom only one was from an ethnic minority. Most younger pupils said yes to questions asking if they described themselves as "British". Older pupils were more inclined to see themselves as of dual nationality.

Some challenged the assumption that Englishness and Britishness were the same or that English values should prevail. One 11-year-old asked why being Scottish was more important to him than being British said: "Because of my heritage and the history of Scotland."

The research by Bruce Carrington of Newcastle University and Geoffrey Short of Hertfordshire University was part of a wider study of children's understanding of national identity and looked for evidence of racist or xenophobic attitudes.

Scottish pupils mostly described "Britishness" in terms of cultural identity, which would exclude those not sharing that identity. Immigrants from Africa could not become British because they have different customs, a nine-year-old girl said.

Scots pupils were less complacent about their national identity, and the researchers say this reflects their understanding of both Scottishness and Britishness. But they argue that teachers should do more to counter the "new racism" of cultural homogeneity.

There should be more teaching about the "multifarious ways in which different migrant groups have helped to shape 'Scottish culture' over the centuries".

"Who counts; who cares? Scottish children's notions of national identity" appears in the latest issue of the journal Educational Studies.

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