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Can Schools Make Society More Cohesive?

Guest blogger Loic Menzies is Director of LKMco, the education and youth 'think and action-tank', and a Tutor for Canterbury Christ Church University’s Faculty of Education.

Influencing decisions that affect them gives pupils a greater sense of agency and there is evidence to show that this shores up cohesion. This has important implications for schools keen to bring together pupils from different backgrounds or wanting to minimise tensions and build positive relations. So argues our new report 'Can Schools Make Society More Cohesive?'

In the midst of a fractious fortnight, the publication could not be timelier. It summarises academic research on the factors affecting cohesion and how schools can draw communities together, as well as providing new insights and case studies from experts.

As the report points out, pupil voice activities (like school councils) should be used to ensure students can have a say on decisions that affect them. In addition, Citizenship education should build pupils’ knowledge of the institutions and processes they can harness to shape the future. As Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT points out “question-asking, decision-making and critical thinking are crucial but could merely be transactional unless allied to ‘engaged citizenship’ involving empathy, understanding, and a willingness to debate without criminalising the other”.

The report goes on to recommend several other steps schools can take, without the need for major curriculum change. Schools and policy makers should read it carefully given that increasing tensions and divides currently risk tearing communities apart with damaging knock-on effects for schools caught in the crossfire.

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