“We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.” – Jo Cox
By way of marking the anniversary of the murder of Jo Cox, her husband, Brendan Cox, has organised The Great Get Together, for the 17-18th June. People are being asked to come together for bake-offs, street parties, barbecues and picnics, to send out the clear message that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. The core message is cohesion and everyone, regardless of political affiliation, is being urged to take part in this huge national occasion.
Sounds good? Anything that encourages communities to feel a sense of unity has to be applauded. Unity helps to obliterate fear. It flies in the face of bullying and prejudice, and just might help to protect us against the hugely destabilising influence of “news” designed to drive wedges between groups in our societies.
Cohesion, then, should rest at the heart of a school’s work, woven throughout the curriculum and all the other activities of the school day. Togetherness, a common experience, compassion and understanding must accompany the other work of a school, and does so in organisations where human potential is deemed to be more than test outcomes.
So if you’re keen to boost the sense of cohesion in your school’s community, and allow positive values to prevail with strength, these ideas may help for starters:
Work with a partner
The development of positive values such as mutual respect for those of different faiths and democratic understanding, as well as community cohesion, are best achieved in collaboration with local partners such as charities, community groups, other schools, religious organisations and so on. “Community” works on many levels, therefore “cohesion” must too.
Link in with training and development
By ensuring that all training and development at your school contributes to cohesion and positive values irrespective of its main focus, you more easily embed what you want to promote.
Seek opportunities for participation
Genuine participation can greatly help children and young people to feel a sense of ownership in their communities. What’s going on locally that your school can get involved in? How can as many people in your school’s community be as involved as possible?
Aim for clarity
Any policies that include reference to community cohesion and British values need to be crystal clear. Keep your school’s aims simple and achievable, and convey those aims as widely as possible.
Have an overview of the curriculum
Where are the key opportunities for developing cohesion and British values? How are they mapped out so that opportunities aren’t missed?
Equip young people
Children need to develop the skills they need to become protectors and promoters of cohesion. Self-knowledge and awareness, respect, self-confidence and tolerance will all go towards ensuring that your moves towards cohesion are more than lip service.
The Great Get Together is a chance for schools to raise awareness of the many layers of cohesion in their localities. Get involved, and actively seek out the similarities rather than differences, the commonalities rather than divisions.