Education Feb 5 2011

Cameron’s schools policy will damage, not encourage, integration

So David Cameron is taking a firm stand on multi-culturalism and doesn’t want “different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream”. Yet when it comes to schools his ministers are encouraging quite the opposite. The requirement on schools to promote community cohesion is going and the free schools/academies policy will almost certainly lead to an increase in the number of single faith schools, often promoted by parents from the sort of minority ethnic communities that Mr Cameron wants to integrate into the British way of life.

Of the first eight free schools now certain to go ahead, one is a Jewish school, one a Hindu school and one a Church of England School. There are several more Jewish and Anglican projects in the pipeline, and  Islamic and Sikh groups have also expressed an interest in free schools, including one in Oldham where a school reorganisation has just taken place to try and encourage integration. Maybe it is not surprising that the Creationists are now getting in on the act. Then there are the free school and academy promoters who appear to want to manipulate their admissions to keep children from certain ethnic groups out, an issue that has been well aired on this site.

Meanwhile Lady Neville Jones, the Prime Minister’s security adviser was on the radio this morning explaining that this new policy of integration would be backed by policies to ensure all young Britons learn  about their ‘national identity’. How will this be done? Through new ways of teaching history in a National Curriculum that will be compulsory for everyone but not , you’ve guessed it , free schools  and academies!

If we want to achieve a more socially cohesive, integrated society, where different communities live peacefully side by side, we should start with our schools, where powerful early social bonds are created. We could be encouraging pupils from all races, classes, and faiths to work and play together, not to giving them permission to congregate in their own little silos. Not for the first time, the contradictions between what the government says, and what it does, are plain to see.

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