CPD Week offers ideas for making sure that community cohesion is understood and prioritised equally by all your members of school staffpdf-2683467

CPD Week Info Sheet – Community Cohesion.pdf

If only for a half hour a day, a child should do something serviceable to the community.
George Bernard Shaw

The duty to promote community cohesion has been with us for a couple of years now. It’s a critical part of school life, but how much does it feature in your school’s plans for professional learning? .

Professional learning for community cohesion
The requirement for schools to promote community cohesion is enshrined in the Education and Inspections Act 2006 and schools have had a duty to promote it since September 2007. Ofsted has been inspecting the performance of schools in this area as part of normal school inspections since September 2008. The idea of community cohesion runs right through the heart of the Every Child Matters agenda and is consequently at the core of all that a school sets out to achieve. So what should come first in our attempts to promote professional learning about this important feature of school life? These ideas will help:

  • While simply holding an annual harvest festival just won’t cut it when it comes to promoting community cohesion, many schools struggle with determining what will. Make sure that your school has a shared definition of the terms ‘community’ and ‘cohesion’. Definitions should be context-specific to give community cohesion the best chance of success in your community.
  • Like any aspect of school life, community cohesion is all about creating positive relationships and meaningful interaction about real-life issues. It isn’t about ethnicity; it’s about peaceful and constructive relating to create a community in which people feel a sense of safety and belonging, and in which they have opportunities to be valued and to contribute.
  • Community cohesion goes far beyond ‘tolerance’; it’s about an acknowledgement of and a respect for diversity in society, across gender, ethnic and socio-economic lines.
  • Providing the opportunity to listen to and learn from others is a great way of promoting community cohesion. Fortunately these are also routes to effective learning – and the development of mutual respect, too.
  • Explore your school’s engagement with the extended schools agenda, learning with and in the local and global communities (achieved through, for example, twinning with other schools). How secure is the commitment to these features of school life? How confident do staff feel about such collaborations? Aim for professional learning to draw out the ways in which the common good might be promoted at school. This is about making explicit what may well be implicit in what you do.
  • Explore learning which enables staff to raise the issue of friendship bonds among pupils in their lessons. Clearly this needs a light touch, but it is one area in which community cohesion can be greatly encouraged when handled sensitively.
  • Remember that schools’ performance in this area is measured in Ofsted inspections. Make sure that records of professional learning about community cohesion reflect your school’s commitment to it. Also encourage staff to record any professional learning on this in any portfolios that they are maintaining, so that inspectors may see evidence of progress over time.

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This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2009

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.