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Muslim Schools, Multiculturalism and Community Cohesion in the UK PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Muslim Schools, Multiculturalism and Community Cohesion in the UK. Learning Lessons from Roman Catholic State Schools in Scotland John Flint Introduction. Links between ethnicity and religion and national identity and citizenship Community cohesion in England

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Muslim Schools, Multiculturalism and Community Cohesion in the UK

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Muslim schools multiculturalism and community cohesion in the uk l.jpg

Muslim Schools, Multiculturalism and Community Cohesion in the UK

Learning Lessons from Roman Catholic State Schools in Scotland

John Flint

Introduction l.jpg


  • Links between ethnicity and religion and national identity and citizenship

  • Community cohesion in England

  • Action Plan on sectarianism in Scotland

  • Government support for faith schools

  • Links between education, social interaction and residential segregation

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Purpose and Structure

  • To explore the politics of state support for faith-based schools

  • To identify historical precedents and contemporary parallels

  • Problems with the comparison

  • Key parallels and precedents

  • Muslim schools and community cohesion in England

  • Establishing a RC state school sector in Scotland

  • Anticipating the Future for Muslim schools in England?

  • Conclusions

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Limitations of the Comparison 1

  • The scale of religious and cultural differentiation between Islam and Catholicism

  • Differences in teaching methods/values

  • Differences in migration (Ireland to Scotland: South East Asia to England)

  • Continuation of Muslims as a visible minority

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Limitations of the Comparison 2

  • Proportional size: Scottish Catholics 16%, English Muslims 3%

  • Political influence: Hierarchical Catholic Church and Scottish Labour Party

  • Religious residential clustering: not in Scotland (max 45 % Catholic in Glasgow ward: compared to 80% Asian-Muslim in areas of Bradford)

  • Why different nations and time periods?

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Key Precedents and Parallels 1

  • Concerns about faith schools linked to debates about ethnicity and national identity arising from immigration

  • Catholicism conflated with Irishness; Islam conflated with Asians

  • A threat to national identity and social solidarity that is not replicated in debates about Jewish or RC schools in England :

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Key Precedents and Parallels 2

"[Irish Catholics and their descendents] cannot be assimilated and absorbed into the Scottish race; they remain a people by themselves, segregated by reason of their race, their customs, their traditions and above all their loyalty to their Church and are gradually and inevitably dividing Scotland racially, socially and ecclesiastically"

Church of Scotland Church and Nation Committee (1923)The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality

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Key Precedents and Parallels 3

“Muslim spaces, anchored around mosques, and ‘other’ Islamic institutions are read by some as symbols of insularity and possible sites of insurrection, prompting questions about minority ethnic citizenship, national identity and belonging”

Phillips, D. (2006) ‘Parallel lives? Challenging discourses of British Muslim self-segregation’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 24, 25-40

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Key Precedents and Parallels 4

  • Incorporation into state system of existing (often under-resourced) schools

  • Educational outcomes lower for immigrant groups

  • These schools embedded in the protection and preservation of cultural identities

  • Spatial concentration discourse: West of Scotland/ northern English cities and towns

  • (Mainly) working class opposition to schools

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Muslim State Schools in England...

  • Historically, schooling was religiously-based

  • Legislation at beginning of 20th Century and then 1944 Education Act established state-funded faith schools

  • A third of all state schools in England are faith-based voluntary-maintained

  • 120 independent Muslims schools (six-fold increase since 1990)

  • Educating one percent of Muslim children

  • Only 5 voluntary-maintained Muslim state schools

  • Government and Prime Minister explicitly support incorporation of independent Muslim schools into state sector

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...and Community Cohesion? 1

"...fear of confronting all white and/or all Muslim schools about their contribution, or rather lack of contribution to social and racial integration."

(Ouseley Report on Bradford, 2001)

"Many young people are being educated in faith-based schools, with little appreciation of their wider responsibilities and obligations to British society...we must not allow our recognition of diversity to become apathy in the face of any challenge to our coherence as a nation" (Chief Inspector of Schools in England, 2005).

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...and Community Cohesion? 2

"Separate educational arrangements, community and voluntary bodies, employment, places of worship, language, social and cultural networks mean that many communities operate on the basis of a series of parallel lives. These lives often do not seem to touch at any point, let alone overlap and promote any meaningful exchanges"

(Community Cohesion Independent Review Team, 2001: para 2.2, emphasis added).

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Establishment of a RC state school sector in Scotland

  • 1872 Education Act incorporated Protestant but not RC schools into a (non-denominational) state sector

  • 1918 Education Act incorporated RC schools with safeguards on curriculum, ethos and staffing

  • Not transferred until 1928 after loan period

  • Support from elites and national/local government

  • Opposition to 'Rome on the Rates'

  • Alexander Ratcliffe of the Scottish Protestant League elected to Edinburgh Education Authority 1925

  • But little political opposition after 1945

  • Parallels with the BNP?

  • Contemporary opposition to RC schools on liberal/ secular, rather than Scottish/Protestant/Unionist basis

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How will a Muslim state school sector grow?

  • Equivalence between schools and population

  • Diverse views amongst Catholics and Muslims but considerable support and usage

  • Scale of integration: population proportions and local versus national settlements

  • Triangulation of different faith and non-denominational schools will remove one key political objection

  • Complexity of local incorporation processes

  • Muslims currently in state schools: different to historical Scottish context

  • Advances in multicultural practices in 'non-denominational' schools

  • Likely to remain an emotive and divisive issue

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Impacts: faith school teaching practices

  • Evidence very weak

  • Not clear how 'un-secular' faith schools are

  • Ethos and practice promote tolerance and understanding

  • A curriculum synonymous with the requirements of multi-cultural citizenship

  • But teachings on homosexuality etc.?

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Impacts: faith school geographies

  • Reducing sites of interaction and social networks at neighbourhood and city levels

  • Interaction across socio-economic and geographic areas (RC High Schools)

  • Different dynamics of residential segregation for Muslims in some areas

  • Little evidence about neighbourhood- based social ties in childhood or influence of separate schooling on social networks into adulthood

  • Little residential and declining marital segregation in Scotland

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Impacts: Reducing Educational Disparities

  • Historic disadvantage of Irish-Catholics ameliorated

  • State support for RC schools played a major role in this process (improving teacher: pupil rations and resources)

  • But also shift in curriculum towards employment-driven focus in RC schools

  • Introduction of comprehensive system most important factor, therefore:

  • Raising educational standards in deprived communities more important than an expansion in Muslim faith schools

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Arguments for Muslim and Roman Catholic State Schools

  • Equity in a non-secular school system (England)

  • Segregation occurs in non-denominational schools

  • Fee-paying independent schools and housing markets and catchment areas

  • Schools are sites where existing divisions are played out

  • Cohesion remains tantalisingly out of reach in wider society (Bauman)

  • Similarity in core values and limits to religious elements of teaching

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More fundamentally...

  • Power in constructing national identity and 'legitimate' citizenship is not equal: assimilation

  • Faith schools are an important element of the institutional architecture that enables cultural identities to flourish and be protected

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What is to be Done?

  • Diversity in pupil intake

  • Inter-school twinning programmes

  • Inclusive assemblies

  • Recognition of religious observance requirements

  • Flexibility in religious and sex education

  • Wider celebration of ethnic and religious occasions

  • Better teacher training on diversity issues

  • Aided by supranational legislation (guarantees right to faith education but stops discriminatory pupil or teacher selection)

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Governing Institutionalised Diversity is Inherently Challenging

  • Dalkeith Community School and North Lanarkshire

  • Icknield High School in Luton

  • Scottish Devolution

  • State-funding requires accommodation on the part of faith schools and faith communities

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  • Community cohesion seeks to replace 'past' attachments to tradition, culture and faith with 'future-orientated allegiances' based on civic engagement, active citizenship and loyalty to a British Polity (McGhee, 2005)

  • Moving beyond complacent orthodoxies of uniformity

  • Pathways to civic participation which include religion and ethnicity, framed within a secular legal citizenship and responsive to local contexts

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A Final National Comparison: France

  • The concept of Laicitie (secularism)

  • "In a secular society, every person must be able to take some distance with regard to tradition" (Commission on Laicitie)

  • Banning of religious symbols in French schools

  • Does it work?...

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Paris, November 2005

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