Hampshire: Twinning schools engenders acceptance
Following the terrorist attacks in London on 7 July 2005, British children's tolerance of peers beyond their own ethnic and social background was fracturing. The School Cohesion Project was initiated as a pilot project in the southern English county of Hampshire in order to break down prejudice and to improve understanding. Schools were twinned and children from the different schools interviewed each other about their everyday lives and culture.
School Cohesion Project, foto venligst udlånt af Hampshire Archives.
The object of the School Cohesion Project is to reduce cultural, religious and socio-economic intolerance between children and to help them understand the difference was something to appreciate rather than something to fear. The schools involved were allotted a twin to work with. The children are aged 7-14 and come from different cultural, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
The children work together to explore such issues as: Which differences do we celebrate? Which differences can we tolerate? Which differences do we have difficulty dealing with? They discuss their ideas about the twin school and the children they will meet. Introducing the students to young people of their own age with whom they seldom have contact gives them a chance to challenge their own perceptions.
When the school classes meet, each child has a partner to work with. The students interview each other about their everyday lives and the culture they come from (conceptual enquiry method). This enables them to formulate their own thoughts and experiences regarding differences and similarities and to take control of the process. Finally, the students hold a conference event at which they present their experiences and recommendations as to how problems and tensions can be overcome.
Feedback from the students received after the conclusion of the pilot project shows that they have changed their attitudes and challenge their own prejudices relating to other population groups. For example, the students concluded that it would help their sense of being a part of their school if they had a more pronounced national sentiment. They wanted the opportunity to spend days together with children from or at other schools so that they could work together instead of completing against each other. Children also recommended that classes should be better prepared when receiving new students, learning about their culture before they joined the class.
The School Cohesion Project enables students to explore issues in a constructive way, and this can result in concrete implementation of recommendations. The method employed by the project can also be used as a national and local level in relation to many other different areas - for example of race, faith, the relationships between young and old and between rich and poor.
"I think it's worthwhile because we get to see new people and play with new people. I learnt how people's lives are different."(student)
"As valid as their own reality may be, there are different realities nearby which can challenge their idea of what 'normal' is - so the outcome is that they have to handle difference and challenge their own perceptions' (project leader)
Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014