Fleur Sexton’s blog: Unity, diversity and integration – key themes in improving cultural integration

Like most of us I was dismayed to read the recent report from the Community Security Trust that anti-Semitic incidents reached a record level in the UK last year. Coming just weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, it has strengthened my resolve to bring back our PET-Xi ‘Combating Radicalisation’ courses.

Unity, diversity and integration are all key themes of what we do at PET-Xi – and now again a massive issue following the Paris attacks.

I know that the best way to counter radicalisation and extremism is inclusion and integration from an early age. This is far more effective than trying to find and stop the activities of people who have already become radicalised and dangerous.

Diversity is the foundation of interesting and vibrant communities and it’s so important to get things right from the start. Immigrants and existing ethnic minority groups have so much to offer us and we must make them comfortable and break boundaries in order for them to integrate and progress.

Integration is key to a rich, diverse life in which people can fulfil their potential.  Successful integration relies on individual cultures being welcomed and accepted for what they are and on different beliefs and values being respected.

Many UK schools are made up of pupils from many different countries – it’s not uncommon for 10s of different languages to be spoken in one school – so anything we can do to help them respect each other’s cultures and customs has got to be a good thing.

Children are bound to pick up concerns voiced in their communities and in the social media and bring these views and language into school with them. Difference is not a scary thing in itself, but people can become frightened of it when it is driven by anxieties around their standard of living or the changes occurring in the community around them.  We have to equip our young people with the skills to understand the spectrum of viewpoints that they will encounter throughout their lives.

Speed is crucial – it’s vital to ensure that children gain linguistic skills and learn what is expected of them in the UK culture as quickly as possible.  It’s hard to do this in a huge class, so our EAL and High 5 courses take pupils out of the classroom and into small groups to address this issue at the source.

It is absolutely critical that we support teachers in helping their pupils to navigate these difficult issues in order that our schools produce responsible 21st century citizens.

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