Community Cohesion Materials
About this project Commissioned by the DCSF, the CfSA has been working with eleven subject associations, drawing together their subject expertise, to identify a range of resources for teachers to use in the classroom, which increase their confidence, knowledge and understanding within the context of promoting community cohesion and the prevention of violent extremism. This is in support of the DCSF's advice to schools on extremism – Learning Together to be Safe http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/violentextremism/toolkitforschools/.
Eight resources, for each of the following subjects, have been identified to support both primary and secondary teachers:
While each of these subject associations has different specialist interests, by definition, they also share a number of deep commitments and concerns, particularly in relation to teaching, learning and the curriculum. Subject associations have therefore identified resources which focus on contentious issues, with the purpose of guiding teachers through of a range of themes that are of importance across the curriculum to pupils and students, but often avoided in a classroom or school setting. This range of themes that fit into the context of community cohesion and the prevention of violent extremism include:
So how can teaching help to promote community cohesion and prevent violent extremism?
Community cohesion and the prevention of violent extremism are relevant for schools because we want to make a difference to learners. In and out of school life, children and young people live, interact and work in communities that are diverse in terms of cultures, religions or beliefs, ethnicities and social backgrounds. We use the school community as a platform to provide meaningful interactions between pupils, staff, families and the local community and create opportunities to mix with, and learn with and from people from this wide range of backgrounds.
The school community creates an open and safe climate for different learning experiences, and facilitates equal educational opportunities for children and young people regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances. We know young people are keen to have the opportunity to discuss and debate issues that affect the world around them, including extremism and 94% of young people in a 2008 survey by the UK Youth Parliament thought that schools were the best environment in which to discuss these issues.
By providing equal learning opportunities, stimulating and encouraging learners to explore their own identity, discuss ideas, form educated views and address sensitive and controversial issues, they will become active participants in building and promoting their own spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development. This positive teaching and learning environment also helps pupils learn to understand and value diversity, challenge assumptions and promotes independent thought and critical enquiry skills, building resilience to the messages of violent extremists.
Teachers can help to break down barriers, reduce ignorance and prejudice and empower learners to engage with and be committed to their community – be it their school, local, national or international community. By creating a positive school ethos, accentuating inclusion and interaction, children and young people will not only influence and participate in decision making but will understand the impact of their decision making on others and take responsibility for their actions. In effect, children and young people will develop the skills and knowledge to become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens, achieve their aims in a positive and conducive way and ultimately achieve their full potential in later life.
As teachers are aware, every school has a duty to promote community cohesion and through teaching, learning and curriculum, each teacher's contribution, across each and every subject, will be of great significance. The curriculum offers many opportunities to challenge misinformed views and perceptions amongst pupils, challenge commonly held 'myths' and build understanding and appreciation about others. The Ajegbo report 'Identity and Diversity: A Curriculum Review' (DCSF 2007) highlighted that 'engaging pupils in sometimes controversial but deeply relevant issues will excite them, involve them, develop their thinking skills and both raise standards and make our country an even better place'.
While the range of resources identified for this project is not definitive, teachers should find them useful in engaging in discussions and raising awareness within the classroom as well as across the whole school community. In particular, the benefit of these identified resources and of the ongoing work that subject associations are involved in, builds on what positive practice is happening already in schools. Furthermore, there is a good degree of overlap in the resources identified; therefore several resources are suitable for use across a number of subjects within the curriculum and a number are also adaptable across different Key Stages.
Where to go for additional support
For further subject specific information, resources and guidance on community cohesion and the prevention of violent extremism, you can visit the individual subject associations' websites.
Numerous partner organisations are also involved in work around community cohesion and have / are in the process of developing resources, guidance and information for schools, teachers, local authorities and other education professionals. These include:
Other potentially useful sites include:
US Agency for International Development: Education
25 Things Successful Educators Do Differently
The Global Teacher Status Index
How Teachers Are Rated in 25 Countries Around the World