London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Improving opportunity, strengthening society: government policy, children’s voices

Author(s) Peter Cunningham  
Publisher CiCe Publications  
Year 2005  
Editor A. Ross, Teaching Citizenship  
Language English  
Age group -  
In January 2005 the British government published Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society, a strategy to increase racial equality and community cohesion (hereafter referred to as the ‘Strategy’). Community is a fundamental unit at the heart of the Strategy but is loosely defined, variously equated with culture, race, colour, ethnicity, religion, and place. It sets out the state’s role in creating conditions, including equality of opportunity, that might engender a shared sense of national belonging and the participation of all citizens in undertaking civic responsibilities and work towards social cohesion. …a cohesive society relies on more than equal opportunities for individuals. It also relies on a number of social conditions that help people from all backgrounds to come together and develop a sense of inclusion and shared British identity defined by common opportunities and mutual expectations on all citizens to contribute to society (Home Office, 2005: 1.9). The Strategy recognises complexity in its aims: communities are not homogeneous and there is no single sense of Britishness and it thus acknowledges that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is inappropriate. Its design is not as a top-down policy but rather as a framework to give leadership and support to enable community organisations, business and public services (including education) to meet the needs of their specific communities. In short action is envisaged as being context bound. This paper explores aspects of the Strategy within the context of a multicultural, inner- London primary school. The school has adopted a range of policies introduced to monitor equality of opportunity; it has used many strategies to encourage parental participation and to develop an ethos that positively reflects its multicultural population and employs teachers and other staff from different cultural backgrounds. Inspection evidence shows the school has very good links with the community and that it promotes the pupils’ cultural development well (Ofsted: 2002).

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