Singing from the same songsheet

27th July 2007 at 01:00
Schools get guidelines on harmonising and dealing with diverse cultures in 'melting pot' Britain

are to have a legal duty to promote harmony between pupils of diverse backgrounds. From September, all schools in England will be expected to promote community cohesion and have been issued with a list of Government guidelines to adhere to. Jim Knight, the schools minister, said: "Every school, whatever its intake and location, is responsible for ensuring that our children and young people are educated about the diverse make up of British society and in particular its diversity in terms of socio-economic backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, religions and beliefs. "Most schools are already involved in their community, working with families and local representatives and building up links with different schools and groups. Where this might mean a new focus for a school, the guidance is clear that there are many ways a school can get involved." One way that the Government thinks schools can promote community cohesion is through citizenship lessons where pupils are encouraged to learn about different cultures and religions. Other examples include engaging parents through parent and pupil classes and providing extended services such as classes for the adult community. It also recommends linking with other schools and organisations. The Government website includes a selection of projects where schools are running projects promoting social cohesion. Angie Kotler, head of the Bradford Schools Linking Project, said: "The new guidelines are great as they work towards achieving something we find works very well." But John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "I was opposed to the inclusion of this legislation. It's unnecessary. The vast majority of schools are already providing an immense amount of community cohesion so it's just another piece of pointless legislation and one more thing for us to do on top of everything else. "Schools are already ahead of the game in trying to bring communities together, so requiring this is a waste of time." Milburn school in Cumbria has been cited as an example of good practice. The all-white primary established video conferencing facilities linking it to other schools in the area, allowing them to interact with other pupils and to gain a better understanding of different cultures. Brian Convey, the head, said: "It's been really useful and a vital tool for the children's understanding of the wider community. We've had to make a conscious effort to integrate them and teach them about the world outside the school gates." Mr Knight said: "Educating our young people about the world we live in is key to ensuring they develop into tolerant and informed adults, suitably equipped to live and work in our increasingly diverse society." l Getting it right

Set up citizenship lessons to teach children about ethnic minorities and cultural diversity.

Link up with other schools and groups to allow pupils to mix with other comminities and backgrounds.

Engage parents to enable them to educate their children at home through curriculum evenings and other family liason work.

Extend services such as English language classes, adult learning and ITC to involve the wider community.

Introduce a cultural aspect to various after-school activities, such as African dance workshops.

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