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

Fiona Millar's picture
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 give 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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Nigel Ford's picture
Sun, 06/02/2011 - 11:37

I think David Cameron was playing to the populist audience in a bid to boost his support in the opinion polls although he wouldn't be the first politician to play this cynical game.

The supposed choice that free (faith) schools give will create is divisions between cultures and races which are already accentuated in several towns and cities of the country with certain ethnic groups clustering in particular areas of a conurbation.

Another perverse outcome of this policy is that some private schools will be able to boast of a more cosmopolitan representation of society as better off citizens from this country and abroad use these institutions.

As Melissa said in the Guardian yesterday, what is needed is choice within, rather than between, schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/02/2011 - 12:28

So, Mr Cameron advocates integration but allows schools to open which will segregate children. Mr Gove preaches freedom, but only awards it to Academies and free schools. He wants to give power to parents, but can command schools to become Academies. He wants schools to have more autonomy, but this is limited to administration (unless it’s an Academy of free school). He claims his approach is evidence-based, but ignores evidence. He pours unctuous praise on the Director of the OECD but overlooks his warning not to use the 2000 UK OECD figures for comparison.

The Government is guilty of doublethink: a simultaneous belief in two contradictory ideas.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 06/02/2011 - 12:53

Another worrying story in connection with this issue is here. Even the Sunday Times, normally a defender of the free schools policy, has raised concerns about Bradford City Council's concern over religious and racial segregation caused by the Free School Policy.

ronan connolly's picture
Wed, 06/03/2013 - 23:17

Well, up here in Suffolk, our Free School proposal was turned down, and there are no further Free School proposals to come. The County Council now plan to sell the site off to the Plymouth Brethren who plan to open a separatist Creationist Private School opening this September.Given some of the tweets I've seen, it would appear that the anti Free school leaders in Suffolk have no issue with this or concerns. I find this turn of events depressing.

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