Lancaster University

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Report calls for rethink on single ethnicity schools

02/29/2008 16:52:00

Mono-cultural White and Asian schools in North West towns are potentially damaging to community relations and should be avoided wherever possible, according to a new report by Lancaster University.

The two-year research project, funded by the Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government, found that mono-cultural schools perpetuated extremist attitudes among a significant number of young White people and did not prepare young Muslim Asians for the prejudice they may encounter later in life.

The Burnley Project ‘ Interfaith Interventions and Cohesive Communities’ was launched in the wake of the 2001 disturbances, which took place in a number of Northern towns – particularly Burnley, Oldham and Bradford - to look at the contribution that interfaith understanding could make to community cohesion.

In the report, authors of the study, Canon Dr Alan Billings and Dr Andrew Holden of Lancaster University’s Religious Studies Department, state:

“The mixed school should be seen as a form of interfaith activity in itself and probably the most effective in ameliorating illiberal attitudes among some young White people and helping young Asian/ Muslims to encounter and learn how to deal with racism and prejudice in their early lives – in the classroom and the playground – while they have helpful adults around them.

“The mono-cultural school in towns like Burnley should be avoided wherever possible and where this is not possible, attempts should be made to bring young people together from the different communities as part of their normal school experience.”

The report also contends that interfaith activities play an important part in bringing people of different faiths, cultures and ethnicities together and should be supported but that in themselves they are not enough. Only a few Christians and Muslims are involved and some are hostile to the idea. Interfaith groups must be encouraged to develop partnerships that involve secular groups too.

As part of the study, more than 400 fifteen year olds were questioned about their attitudes towards race, religion and cultural integration in the summer term of 2006.

They came from three non-religious schools, all in deprived areas - one in Burnley attended mostly by White pupils and two schools in Blackburn, where one had mostly Indian or Pakistani pupils and the other was ethnically mixed.

One of the report’s most unanticipated and troubling findings was that a significant proportion of pupils from the predominantly White school exhibited illiberal and anti-integrationists attitudes while those from the predominantly Asian school were liberal and tolerant.

Almost one third of the white pupils believed that one race was superior to another compared with one tenth in the Asian school and under one fifth in the mixed school.