Whatever happened to Community Cohesion?

It was replaced by "radicalisation". The concern shifted from maintaining good relations with are neighbours to stopping some of them becoming terrorists. But this does not mean the responsibility shifted from local councils to MI5."Radicalisation" we are told starts in school, so it's an issue for local authorities even though they no longer run schools that power having been given to governors, Free schools and Academies.

If we are to believe some of the accounts of what's going on in a small number of Birmingham schools then an orthodox or ultra conservative Muslim view of the world is being promoted by some school governors. They are using their power over appointments and the way the school is run to promote their faith. The concern is that this might open children up to "radicalisation", the perception of non Muslims as the enemy and the legitimacy of violence against them. The local authority has been accused of failing to protect children from these influences, failing to support head teachers who raised concerns and failing to protect teachers who claimed they were bullied or forced out to be replaced by staff more in tune with the schools governors. The reasons for this failure to act were a combination of feeling powerless and a misplaced belief that good community relations would not be served by challenging and criticising governors and parents. In other words community cohesion was interpreted as not upsetting or getting into conflict with a section of the Muslim community. But of course this is not what is meant by promoting community cohesion and inaction has had the opposite effect because some schools have been labelled as hot beds of radicalisation feeding into prejudices and  stereotypes about Muslim communities.

My concern is that people in authority with responsibility for protecting children misunderstood community cohesion as tolerating behaviour which would not otherwise be tolerated. Either that or they chose to opt for an easy life rather than challenge what they knew to be wrong.

Blair McPherson author of An Elephant in the Room about equality and diversity in the public sector published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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