Schools Linking features in a new book!

01 July, 2024

A blog by Ruth Sinhal, Leicester/Leicestershire Schools Linking 

We are excited to share that a chapter about Schools Linking has recently been published in the book ‘Ethnicity, Religion, and Muslim Education in a Changing World: Navigating Contemporary Perspectives on Multicultural Schooling in the UK’. Edited by Karamat Iqbal and Tahir Abbas, the book  foregrounds topics such as race, religion, identity and specifically the challenges facing Muslim school children today.  Chapters, written by an impressive selection of contributors, explore multiethnic education, teacher diversity, and culturally responsive pedagogy, providing insights into necessary changes and ways to enhance schools. 

The final chapter, ‘Schools Linking: How do we all live well together?’, contributed for The Linking Network by Ruth Sinhal – Local Schools Linking Facilitator for Leicester/Leicestershire – explores the potential that our programme has for transforming both the school experiences of all our young people and the way all individuals interact within our society going forwards.

Included in the chapter is a summary of the reasons that led to the establishment of the Schools Linking programme in 2001 and the political and policy responses which occurred around the same time – and how these shaped the debate around social and community cohesion for many decades afterwards.

It discusses research into Intergroup Contact Theory as the foundation of the Schools Linking programme and how this has the potential to reduce prejudice and challenge stereotypes and how a range of types of contact enhance young people’s “confidence in contact”.

The chapter also details the structural and organisational features of The Linking Network, a national organisation with multiple regional branches, each rooted within local communities. This hub-and-spokes model ensures locally owned and run projects are relevant to their local area yet also ensures a consistency in practice and intention.

The chapter explores the aims and ethos of Schools Linking and how the programme is structured around four key questions which enable young people to explore the concepts of identity, diversity, community and justice. Through these straightforward questions – Who am I? Who are we? Where do we live? How do we live together? – the programme enables teachers to address much of their SMSC requirements as well as enhancing their pupils’ racial, faith and cultural literacy.

It discusses the different ways the project is used to link young people in different schools and  bring together children within the same school and how the programme adapted during Covid restrictions.

It references the work of others who have written on issues such as racial identity and community cohesion and places the Schools Linking work within these analyses. 

Throughout the chapter there are references to both Leicester and Birmingham; the first and second Super-Diverse Cities in the UK, the impact the programmes have on our young people, schools and communities and the transformative potential the project has for wider society, now and in the future.

It is made clear that this is a programme that validates individual identities and values our differences as much as it recognises and highlights our similarities, the strength of diversity is emphasised throughout. The super-diversity of some communities is shown to be a potential superpower; but it’s emphasised strongly how this will not be widely recognised unless it is directly highlighted. The ease with which terms like ‘diversity’ or ‘multiculturalism’ are pathologised by the media and those with divisive intentions, reveals the danger of inaction.

The conclusion of the chapter explains therefore, that without careful policy decisions and proactive choices by teachers and others in civil society and local / national government, the situation will persist where some people feel marginalised or excluded. The challenge for us all, is to understand how we move from a situation where some members of our society never feel truly welcomed, to one where everyone feels equally anchored to our society and holds a sense of a shared local or national identity.

Details of the book and all the contributing authors can be found here.

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