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Sharing cultures is key to our children's future.


As more people from all over the world have made their home in the UK, schools have moved forward to embrace the social change.

Children brought up in Birmingham are tremendously fortunate in being in schools alongside other children from different cultural and religious backgrounds. Teachers have reconsidered the material they use, widened the scope of whole school occasions such as assemblies, drilled into ethical frameworks to find commonality, and taken on prejudice. The impact of this, like so much else in education, will be felt, not in one or two years, but over lifetimes. Whether we are able to move to a society where differences can be celebrated, and cultures shared, harmonious relationships existing between those from different faiths, alternative life views respected or shared and conflicts resolved through discussion, does not, however, depend just on schools.

Yes, the opportunities schools have, particularly those that can embrace many different faiths and backgrounds, are exciting and tremendous, but it can never be enough. Families have a big opportunity too.

I suspect that in the majority of families in the West Midlands, parents were not educated alongside those from lots of different cultures. It is children who now afford parents the chance to understand the change that has taken place and to share in the richness of our new society.

Young children as everyone observes are colour blind. In playgrounds and classrooms they play with whoever sits next to them and run round with them regardless of all the differences of which adults are so acutely aware. Adults often find that outside the workplace, and friendships formed through their own education, the next main source of friends is the parents of their young children's friends. A shared experience of bringing up children, a practical reality of tak-k ing children round to play or collecting them from school introduces parents to a whole new group of adults.

I think adults could exploit this far more and thereby help to embed much more deeply the work being done by schools. I wish parents would invite the parents of their children's friends who come from different religious and cultural back-k grounds, to the events that define their own culture.

The responsibility for the future is a shared one and the possibility for new, joyful experiences now is too.

Sarah Evans is Principal of King Edward VI High School for Girls
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 22, 2010
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