To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to promote community cohesion in (a) local authority schools, (b) free schools and (c) academies; and if he will make a statement.
Schools are at the heart of our communities and they have a crucial role to play in promoting integration and bringing families from all walks of life together. All schools must promote community cohesion; and are required to actively promote our shared values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs. These values are an important part in ensuring our children and young people understand how, as citizens, they can play a positive role in shaping cohesive and integrated communities; and providing them with the skills, and knowledge that will prepare them for life in a modern, diverse Britain.
Promotion of these values is part of Ofsted’s inspection framework, and the Department has published guidance to schools on promoting these important values as part of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. In 2016, the Department also launched the Educate Against Hate website, through which we continue to provide free resources for teachers and school leaders to support their promotion of these values. This includes the Department’s Respectful School Communities toolkit; a self-review and signposting tool to support schools to develop a whole- school approach which promotes respect and discipline, helping to combat bullying, harassment and prejudice of any kind.
The Department is also introducing compulsory relationships education for all primary aged pupils, relationships and sex education for all secondary aged pupils, and health education for all pupils in state funded schools from September 2020. These subjects are designed to give pupils the knowledge they need to lead happy, safe and healthy lives and to foster respect for other people and for difference.
As part of our commitments in the Government’s Integrated Communities Action Plan, the Department has also funded an expanded national school linking programme, which seeks to encourage meaningful social mixing between different types of schools, and foster understanding of those with different backgrounds, faiths and beliefs. In the last year, The Linking Network has worked with over 540 schools, leading to over 22,500 pupils taking part in activities to support integration and community cohesion.
As part of this same package, the Department has also strengthened expectations for all new free schools on the promotion of community cohesion and integration, to make sure they are doing all that they can to ensure children and young people are able to participate fully in life in modern Britain. To support this, the Department has introduced updated application criteria, and as part of our assessment process are considering the potential impact on integration and community cohesion, including the intake of neighbouring schools, before approving a new school.