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22 January, 2007

Citizenship Foundation calls for schools to promote community cohesion

The Citizenship Foundation has highlighted the role of schools in promoting community cohesion in its response to the consultation by the Commission on Integration and Cohesion. In addition, the Foundation has emphasised the importance of promoting good practice youth interfaith and intercultural relations through network building, information sharing, action research and training.

The Foundation recommends that the duty on schools should be extended from ‘promoting good race relations’, as it currently stands, to ‘promoting community cohesion’. This duty would recognise the important role of the school in fostering strong community relations and would widen the race relations duty to include religious, cultural and other identities. It would compel schools to take positive steps to promote strong relationships between people from different faiths and backgrounds, both within school and in the wider community.

The Foundation’s submission notes that while there are now many excellent projects taking place with young people at a local level or within individual schools, too little is currently being done at a national level to promote and replicate good practice. It argues that more attention needs to be given to the role of the curriculum in developing a sense of shared citizenship within a democratic and pluralist framework based on equality, justice and human rights.

Tony Breslin, Chief Executive at the Citizenship Foundation said “We believe that developing young people’s understanding of the potential causes of tensions between different communities is key to successful community cohesion. Schools can be slow or reluctant to deal with controversial issues and teachers are often nervous of addressing these complex and sensitive topics because they fear stirring up conflict. But research shows that young people often feel anxious and powerless about events happening in the news and want a safe space to discuss them.

He added “Effective training and good quality resources are needed to make sure that teachers are equipped with conflict resolution skills and the wider skills and confidence to lead lessons and discussions effectively. Our experience is that teachers need help and training supported by new curriculum development work in this area.”

Diversity and Dialogue, the joint agency project now based at the Citizenship Foundation, which aims to create better understanding between young people from different faiths and backgrounds has been working in this area for the last two years. Its work has included creating an online directory of over 100 youth interfaith and intercultural projects, has published a report sharing good practice and ideas and ran a youth social cohesion conference in July 2006.


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