Blackburn Central High School hosted Embracing Diversity; A national conference that shared best practice in breaking down barriers to integration within school communities.
The conference made delegates aware of the components of integrated communities, and equipped them with the tools and information to help identify the steps needed to promote diversity and an integrated community.
Both BCHS with Crosshill and Blackburn with Darwen have been recognised for their efforts identifying and working to overcome the barriers against successful integration.
Blackburn with Darwen is one of five Integration Areas in England, working in partnership with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), to take new approaches in encouraging social integration.
Attendees heard from Penny Hobman, the Deputy Director of MHCLG, on the government’s approach to its national integration strategy.
They also heard from Harry Catherall, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council Chief Executive, who explained how the borough is approaching its integration challenges through the Integrated Communities programme.
Teachers and school support staff had the opportunity to take part in a variety of workshops during the day:
- Steven Nesbit, MHCLG Integration Area Lead, shared an insight into the work that has taken place in Blackburn with Darwen since the area based integration programme began.
- Linda Cowie & Azam Ali, from The Linking Network, covered expectations on British Values and SMSC in the classroom.
- Steve Irwin, Education Officer for Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, presented a joint-school project, entitled “We also Served”, which revealed a long forgotten story.
- Blackburn Rovers Community Trust looked at the successful use of sport to aid integration.
- Marie Gibbons, independent Nurse Consultant and Trainer, uncovered the myths surrounding cultural diversity.
- Lidia Cattrell, Head of Crosshill Provision, ran a workshop to aid classroom staff in helping young people to manage their emotions and behaviour.
- Rachel Kenworthy, Assistant Headteacher and SENDCO at BCHS, covered inclusive education in a mainstream setting.
During lunch attendees had the chance to watch Bollywood Dance duo Sonash, with some delegates more than willing to join them on stage.
The conference was organised by Shanaz Hussain, Associate Headteacher of BCHS, who commented:
“The aim of the conference was to help us all to work together with a common purpose. We know that research from the Social Integration Commission suggests that when people from different social and cultural backgrounds meet and mix under the right circumstances, trust grows and prejudice declines. We also know that this is more likely to happen in settings such as workplaces and schools.
“Our conference gave us a unique opportunity to direct our energies into developing further ways to make a difference and to counteract some of the perceptions of our community – we may be complex, but we are far from divided.”
Councillor Mohammed Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and Chair of the Local Integration Partnership, added:
“BCHS is a wonderful example of an integrated community, the school itself having brought together two separate schools from different parts of our borough. The work BCHS does in encouraging social integration is very valuable within Blackburn with Darwen, and it’s great to see them leading schools and colleges from other parts of the country too.”
The Embracing Diversity conference was followed by a round-table discussion on integration with officials from the Department for Education. This first session provided an outline of what the officials hope to achieve from the discussions, and provided an opportunity for stakeholders to have their input.
Future round-tables will provide opportunities to look at what works, and will also provide opportunities to raise challenges experienced in Blackburn.