Multi-cultural schools: the answer in troubling times?
Do multi-cultural schools offer one of the best chances to stop ignorance from breeding hate? Mr Warren Honey, Headmaster at Hydesville Tower School in the UK, makes the case.
Sometimes, a series of stories in different parts of the world can converge with worrying portents for the future. At the heart of many of them is an ill-informed or misguided fear, or a hatred in others, with people of different ethnicity or belief as the target.
The first suggestion of a move in the attitudes of the masses of the UK was UK Independence Party’s showing in the 2014 European Parliament elections. The number of MEPs they secured at this time was largely considered to be due to their stance on Europe and immigration, rather than a reflection of their leader’s appeal to the voters. Some saw it as a protest vote, a waving of the fist at the coalition government to make sure that come the general election, manifestos would represent the views of the electorate.
Forward three years, and what have we seen since? A Brexit vote that few predicted on the basis of opinion polls in the run-up to the referendum. A US President elected in part through his promise to build metaphorical and literal walls around the country, and so protect American interests and jobs. A French election, with Mari
ne Le Pen of Front National reaching the final voting stage for President. And now, in recent weeks, Germany has seen its first sign of a far-right revival since the end of World War II.
Multi-cultural schools offer one of the best chances to stop the ignorance from breeding hate. On one of my visits to Hydesville Tower School in the run-up to joining as Headmaster, I sat down with some Year 5 pupils who proudly told me that they were great friends and then unprompted, reeled off their faiths. For them, it was as simple as saying their names: indeed, they took pride in the fact that four faiths were represented amongst them.
Great schools recognise that as well as educating the pupils (and preparing them for the inevitable exams), it is also key to help them develop as people who will play a positive, significant role in society.
At Hydesville Tower School, we actively encourage and develop our pupils’ appreciation of religious awareness and tolerance. Our RE curriculum across the school provides children with the opportunity to explore and develop their knowledge of other religions as well as those who choose not to follow specific faiths; and in our Senior School we investigate a range of ethical issues and we draw on current affairs to demonstrate the real-world application of these topics.
The diversity of a school’s community can be its greatest strength, both within classrooms and beyond the school gates. We need to keep the message reverberating clearly for the future generations. Neither race nor faith should be a means of dividing us.