Walsall to pilot integration project ensuring children from different backgrounds mix
Walsall has been chosen as a pilot area for a new Government strategy aimed at improving integration between communities and ethnic groups.
Schools whose pupils come from a single ethnic or religious community could be required to ensure they mix with children from other backgrounds, under Government proposals to encourage social integration.
The proposed Integrated Communities Strategy also calls on schools to teach "British values" and sets out plans to boost English language skills and encourage women from minority communities to find jobs.
A consultation paper on the plans - launched by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid with the backing of £50 million of Government money - follows the 2016 Casey Review, which warned that social cohesion cannot be taken for granted in the multicultural UK.
Walsall is one of the five pilot areas, the others being Blackburn, Bradford, Peterborough and the London borough of Waltham Forest, which will develop local integration plans allowing new strategies to be tested as the programme develops.
The news comes as the English Defence League revealed plans to hold a protest in Walsall next month.
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.
"We will put an end to this through our new strategy which will create a country that works for everyone, whatever their background and wherever they come from."
Mr Javid's Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is seeking responses to proposed initiatives set out in a new green paper.
Among the proposals are:
- 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. Together with Ofsted and communities across the country, we will build on the work already under way to achieve this."
Think tank British Future released polling data suggesting 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%).
Some 63 per cent 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 June 9 and 14 2017 for British Future.
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