The extent to which the cultures of different ethnicities are taught in schools in England and Wales will usually depend on where they are situated and the interest and role of individuals and especially head teachers. There is also the question of how ‘different’ cultures are defined, e.g. many Black or Asian children and their parents have been born in the UK, so may identify less with the countries of their ancestors. Newer migrant communities on the other hand may be finding it more difficult to assimilate. Children from ethnic minorities are unevenly distributed. Inner London has the largest percentage of children classified as ‘minority’ in England, though the largest growth has been in the outer parts of the capital and the smallest in North East England. (Primary Schools Responding to Diversity: Barriers and Possibilities)
Some schools will celebrate the cultures of their pupils with reference to cultural festivals, different food or ‘culture days’ in which children share their backgrounds and traditions or those of their parents. Education is largely a devolved responsibility to local authorities and so approaches will vary. Central government could do more to encourage schools to respond to diverse cultures, but diversity in education has been primarily considered in terms of attainment. Government policy and research has focussed more on why some ethnic groups perform better than others and how interventions can raise the educational achievements of less well performing pupils. Moreover, once children move from primary or secondary level education, many schools will focus on preparation for examinations.
The British Council produced Guidelines for Inclusion and Diversity in Schools in 2010 to provide policymakers and head teachers with a practical framework and illustrations of best practice in responding to the challenges of cultural diversity in education. The guidelines were the outcome of the Inclusion and Diversity in Education (INDIE) project, led by the Council in 2007-2010 and including England, Wales, Scotland and eight other Western European countries. One legacy was a European Youth Charter on Inclusion and Diversity in Education that, among other things, recommended schools should provide the possibility of having specialist practitioners in intercultural learning share their experience and passion with students, and should provide possibilities to access a wider range of cultures and religions.
The Migration Museum Project examines the role that migration has played in shaping who the British are through exhibitions, events and workshops, and includes a nationwide education programme.
Arguably, while it is generally acknowledged that the integration of children from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in the education systems in England and Wales is essential, perhaps there is still insufficient attention given to ensure all students value diversity. Twenty years on from the major report All Our Futures: creativity, culture and education, produced by the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education for the Department for Education and Employment and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, there may still be work to do to further one of the report’s recommendations that education should embrace and understand cultural diversity by bringing pupils into contact with the attitudes, values and traditions of other cultures.