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Creating a deep sense of intercultural community: a school-based project

In this blog, as part of our In The Spotlight week, Dr Jonathan Barnes describes the project he leads with his charity, Education 4 Diversity. A project that brings school children and refugees together to offer support and mutual learning that also informs the curriculum and creates a deep sense of community.

As the threat of Covid slightly diminishes, Education4 Diversity (E4D) is beginning negotiations to restart its Integration of Young Refugees within UK Communities Project funded by The Naznin Coker Foundation, in The Langton Boys Grammar School, Canterbury, Kent and the Canterbury Academy.

The project ran a very successful pilot project in Gravesend Grammar school, which after a year was taken over by the sixth form of the school and ran until March 2020 – soon, we hope, to be restarted.

The project is simple and remarkably effective. On a weekly basis, school students host a group of 8 -12 local unaccompanied minors (refugee young people under 18, living under UK protection but without family or other legal guardian) for afternoon arts and sports activities. E4D provides curriculum and diversity training for all school staff, background instruction and mentoring for school students and provides continued mentoring and support to both citizen and unaccompanied young people throughout the project.

The curriculum in the pilot school was strongly influenced by these weekly contacts. English, maths, science, history, geography, PSHE, religion, philosophy and PE now regularly use examples that illustrate and celebrate global inter-connections, and the home cultures of the young displaced people newly arrived in their communities. E4D has helped students and teachers recognise and highlight the global interconnectedness that was so obvious during the Covid crisis and underlies current moves toward addressing climate, ecological and environmental threats.

We see our role as helping schools at every level develop an inclusive, values-based, welcoming, active, student-led culture. Such a culture would bring significantly increased security to newly arrived migrants and other excluded individuals and is, we believe, essential to building a humane, respectful and fair society. Regular feedback from participating schools will help us develop an integration programme that can be rolled out nationally. We would love to hear from schools wanting to know more about building a curriculum and culture that is so inclusive that any newcomer would feel both welcomed, included, known and cared for.

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