|Editor||P. Cunningham (ed.) Identities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, crisis and challenges|
Until 2010 all schools in England were encouraged to create ‘international links’ and to teach the ‘Global Dimension’. One outcome was the formation of Global Education Partnerships (GEPs) whereby schools in different countries worked together to foster mutual understanding. During the same period England experienced a number of difficult events such as the Oldham Race Riots of 2001. As a result, two key government reports (Cantle, 2006 and Ajegbo, 2007) saw a vital role for schools in nurturing cohesion (tolerance, respect, integration) in the community. All schools subsequently had a duty to promote what was termed Community Cohesion (CC). This research explores the possible relationship between GEPs and CC given they have areas of commonality in cultural dialogue and understanding. Can activities in one inform and benefit the other? What does this actually look like in schools? The research focuses on two parallel case-study schools in England. It explores the perspectives of staff and pupils through interviews, and from both this and school documentation ascertains what understanding and value is placed on GEPs and CC in school, what activities take place and whether these inform one another. Initial findings have emerged from one case study. There would appear to be two ‘meta-narratives’: on the one hand, while there is an acknowledgement of the importance of CC, government school inspections (Ofsted) drive understanding, values and delivery, with the dangers of a tokenistic ‘tick-box’ culture. On the other hand, for some pupils and staff, there is an element of ‘othering’ taking place, whereby the focus is on people from ‘other’ countries and culture. Questions are raised about the extent to which external factors (e.g. inspections) and inherent values influence the potential for CC and GEPs to work effectively together to bring about greater equality and understanding. A second case study of a school with a different approach to CC and GEP will shed further light on this important issue. Keywords: Community Cohesion, global educational partnerships, international links, othering.