Schools may have to ensure pupils mix with children from different backgrounds
14 March 2018, 08:55
Schools with pupils from a single ethnic or religious community could be required to ensure they mix with children of other backgrounds under Government plans to boost social integration.
The Integrated Communities Strategy calls for schools to teach "British values", with plans to improve English language skills and to encourage women from minority communities to find jobs.
A consultation paper on the plans has been launched by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid with £50m of Government money.
It follows the 2016 Casey Review which warned that social cohesion cannot be taken for granted in a multicultural UK.
Mr Javid said: "Britain can rightly claim to be one of the most successful diverse societies in the world.
"But we cannot ignore the fact that in too many parts of our country, communities are divided, preventing people from taking full advantage of the opportunities that living in modern Britain offers.
"Successive governments have refused to deal with the integration challenges we face head on, preferring to let people muddle along and live isolated and separated lives."
The initiative is to be piloted in five areas - Blackburn, Bradford, Peterborough, Walsall and the London borough of Waltham Forest - and will develop local integration plans allowing new strategies to be tested as the programme develops.
The proposals include:
:: A new community-based English language programme, with a network of conversation clubs and support for councils to improve provision of tuition.
:: Personalised skills training to help women from "isolated" communities into work.
:: Measures to ensure young people have the opportunity to mix and form lasting relationships with those from different backgrounds.
:: Promotion of British values across the school curriculum.
:: Increased take-up of the National Citizen Service.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: "We want to make sure that all children learn the values that underpin our society - including fairness, tolerance and respect.
"These are values that help knit our communities together, which is why education is at the heart of this strategy.
"It's also important that children are taught in a safe environment and that we can act quickly if children are at risk or being encouraged to undermine these values."
Polling data released by think-tank British Future suggested a majority of voters would back schools teaching pluralistic British values (76%), more support to learn English (67%) and a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime and prejudice (79%).
Around 63% said the Government should use national events like St George's Day, St David's Day and St Andrew's Day to bring people together.
British Future director Sunder Katwala said: "Integration isn't just about British Muslims - it's an issue for all of us.
"So it's welcome that this green paper moves on from the Casey Review and broadens the integration debate. It could be an important step towards the national integration strategy that we've been missing - provided it's followed up by action."
:: ICM questioned 3,657 GB adults online between 9 and 14 June 2017 for British Future.