By community cohesion, we mean working towards a society in which there is a common vision and sense of belonging by all communities; a society in which the diversity of people’s backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated and valued; a society in which similar life opportunities are available to all; and a society in which strong and positive relationships exist and continue to be developed in the workplace, in schools and in the wider community.
The recently published report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion takes this agenda forward in the context of rapid change in some local communities. It suggests the importance of “shared futures”, and breaks the original definition of cohesion down into more detail– outlining a cohesive community as one where: “There is a clearly defined and widely shared sense of the contribution of different individuals and different communities to a future vision for a neighbourhood, city, region or country.” This recognises the contribution made by individuals within any community and the fact that people will naturally hold different ambitions, aspirations, beliefs and life experiences. But importantly, it places a strong emphasis on how they will also share important characteristics and experiences with those from their own and different communities.
Sense of belonging
In addition, the Commission provides a helpful definition of ‘sense of belonging’ as:
There is a strong sense of an individual’s rights and responsibilities when living in a particular place – people know what everyone expects of them, and what they can expect in turn.
There is a strong sense of trust in institutions locally to act fairly in arbitrating between different interests and for their role and justifications to be subject to public scrutiny.
At Ravenshall School we aim to promote community cohesion and can benefit from meaningful interaction by ensuring opportunities to mix and learn with and from different backgrounds through links with other schools and community organisations for example.
Through their ethos and curriculum we aim to promote discussion of a common sense of identity and support diversity, showing our pupils how different communities can be united by shared values and common experiences. One of the aims of the new secondary curriculum is for all young people to become responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society and citizenship education offers opportunities for schools to promote community cohesion. The Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum Review published in February 2007 states that:
…we passionately believe that it is the duty of all schools to address issues of ‘how we live together’ and ‘dealing with difference’ however controversial and difficult they might sometimes seem.
Here are some of the things we have been involved in.