This forum ran from 18 April 2007 to 25 June 2007 and is now closed.
The Commission on Integration and Cohesion would like to thank you for your participation in this discussion forum; we found your views both interesting and informative. The Commission on Integration and Cohesion's final report, Our Shared Future was published on 14th June and puts forward a wide-ranging set of recommendations for practical action to address cohesion and integration issues at a local level, along with suggestions for a national framework to support these.
The report acknowledged the level of interest on the discussion forum in faith schools and included an Annex of recommendations to the DfES on the duty to promote cohesion. We have noted that there is a wide range of perspectives on the role of faith schools in building community cohesion. Many people have told us that they are a barrier to integration and cohesion but at the other end of the spectrum, other people, particularly those from faith communities have told us faith schools are vital to helping their young people develop as strong and confident British citizens.
The Commission’s view is that the picture is much more complex than seeing all faith schools as divisive and all non-faith schools are inclusive. We know that there are many faith schools that have pupils from many different ethnic backgrounds and faiths and that there are largely single background schools that are not faith schools. We therefore think the issue is a cross-cutting one and not wholly dependent on the type of school and we have therefore suggested a range of opportunities which are available to students in mainly monocultural or monofaith schools, regardless of their type, which can help pupils of different ethnic and religious backgrounds learn to respect and interact well with people of other backgrounds.
The report highlights four key principles that underpin a new understanding of integration and cohesion:
• The sense of shared futures - key recommendations include:
- A national shared futures programme from 2008-2012 – leading from the European Year of Intercultural Education to the Olympics – this would be a positive campaign about what is means to belong productively to local areas, and how difference has inspired creativity and innovation.
- Every local area should mainstream integration and cohesion into their Sustainable Community Strategies, LSP management and wider service delivery.
• An emphasis on a new model of rights and responsibilities - key recommendations include:
- A new programme of voluntary service for young people expressly linked to local citizenship;
- Consideration of an expansion of citizenship ceremonies to include all young people – perhaps linked to the completion of the Citizenship GCSE
- a new independent national body to manage the integration of new migrants
- New innovative ways to deliver ESOL provision – including asking large employers of new migrants to contribute to the cost of ESOL provision.
• A new emphasis on building mutual respect and civility – key recommendations include:
- Faith Communities to work with central Government and the LGA to develop a programme to help increase religious literacy on the part of public agencies
- That the current Review of Policing in England and Wales by Sir Ronnie Flanagan underlines the importance of Neighbourhood Policing on integration and cohesion
• Making social justice visible – key recommendations include:
- Local Authorities should develop myth busting strategies aimed specifically at established communities and that they should work with the media to actively rebut myths and misinformation, in between and during election periods
- A nationally sponsored ‘Community week’ with a focus on celebrating all communities and inter-community engagement.
- A national school linking programme – nationally co-ordinated through a new website
- Large employers to consider allowing employees 3 days paid leave a year for participation in voluntary and community activities.
Alongside the four principles; the report also includes:
• The adoption of a new definition of integration and cohesion
• A new analysis of what influences integration and cohesion
• A new typology of local areas – where targeted action on integration and cohesion might be needed
• A recommendation that the Government develops guidance to assist local authorities and other on making decisions about:
- The appropriateness of translating written material into other community languages
- The appropriateness of single community funding
The Government has welcomed the direction of the report and over the next few months will engage widely with stakeholders before responding fully in the autumn.
You can download copies of the report and supporting documents at www.integrationandcohesion.org.uk
Chair, Commission on Integration and Cohesion