Monday, 15 June 2009

Community Cohesion and Schools

I've just spent another hour in a school governors' committee meeting talking about 'Community Cohesion'. This is how the Department for Childrens, Schools and Families defines Community Cohesion:

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; a society in which strong and positive relationships exist and continue to be developed in the workplace, in school and in the wider community.’

I am a little cynical about this as it seems to me that schools are being used by the government to promote a particular social policy, albeit one with laudable aims. Schools are having to come up with more and more policies, take part in increasing assessment, demonstrate widening circles of consultation with stakeholders - and, if they have time, teach our children.

Having said that, I am in favour of the aims of community cohesion because they run parallel with those of the kingdom of God, as demonstrated in the life and teaching of Jesus. He valued people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures; he modelled something good about strong and positive relationships; and he invited everyone to be part of his kingdom, though some refused and made excuses. At the same time, though, he made it clear that membership of that kingdom brings very clear challenges to lifestyle and belief.

I will be helping to draw together our church school's policies on equality - gender equality, disability, racism and community cohesion - into one Equality Policy, not because I think the government is right to require schools to do so, but because as a church school we want to reflect values that are in line with the kingdom of God. This may raise some uncomfortable questions about what we are doing in the church to promote the values of the kingdom of God, but I hope that discomfort may prove to be creative.

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