There's no place like home, David

28th January 2005 at 00:00
It is a little ironic, and not much noticed, that it has taken a Glaswegian to ignite a debate about the role of "Britishness" and cultural diversity in education. In his headline-making speech last week, David Bell, the head of the Office for Standards in Education in England, worried that the development of faith schools could lead to many young people being educated "with little appreciation of their wider responsibilities and obligations to British society" and this puts "our coherence as a nation at risk".

It will not just be nationalists who might be prompted to ask: which nation? There are many nations as well as faiths in the British Isles, and not just Muslims, whom he singled out - perhaps injudiciously, with hindsight. To be fair, he was talking about the role of citizenship education, which he judged to be in a poor state, in England at any rate.

The important thing, Mr Bell suggested, was that pupils should be "intolerant of intolerance . . . and values that demean the place of certain sections of our community, be they women or people living in non-traditional relationships". Pupils in all schools should also be given an understanding of other faiths, he added.

Mr Bell was in fact describing citizenship education, and indeed religious and moral education, in Scotland - or at least the teaching to which they aspire. Of course, it is almost unnecessary to point out that Scotland and England are very different in this respect, with the issue of faith schools almost dormant north of the border. Perhaps to get a fuller perspective on "Britishness", Mr Bell should come home to Glasgow more often.

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