Featured Resource: iRespect
23 April is St George's Day, the day dedicated to the patron saint of England. Traditionally, it has been a time to think about what it means to be English, and to celebrate English culture. In the twenty-first century, the country is more diverse than ever, and questions about British citizenship and citizenship oaths in schools are very much in the air (see news articles, below). This April is therefore a good opportunity to reflect, not just on the vibrant mix of cultures in Britain today, but also on its long history of cultural diversity.
The figure of St George is a good place to start. George himself was not English, but from Myra in modern-day Turkey, and worked as a soldier in the Roman army. In addition, he is not just the patron saint of England, but also of China, Ethiopia, Greece, Montenegro, Palestine, Portugal, Russia, and Serbia, amongst many other places. Far from being an appropriate figurehead for exclusion and intolerance, St George instead embodies the diversity and plurality of England today.
Our Featured Resource for April is iRespect. The site was launched in 2003 as an outcome of the Gloucester Positive Tolerance Programme – part of a multi-agency approach to promoting community cohesion and the active involvement of minority ethnic communities in Gloucester. Initially, the focus was on the diversity of the city of Gloucester and the site comprised life stories and histories of Minority Ethnic people in Gloucestershire, lesson plans for cross curricular use on themes that explore diversity and racism. For example, the Untold Stories are a collection of personal histories from the African-Caribbean, Asian and Chinese communities of Gloucestershire, focusing on how individuals first arrived and settled in the area. The True Stories are accounts written by children and young people who have themselves been refugees and asylum seekers, discussing their experiences of arrival in Britain. A regularly-updated calendar of events informs and engages schools in activities that reflected the cultural and faith backgrounds of their pupils.
Managed by the Gloucestershire Race Equality and Diversity Service, led by GilesDiggle, iRespect has expanded to include resources for Ethnic Minority Achievement, including Black Achievement (the 'Fishpool' project), and Travellers. According to iRespect, 'the rationale for this is to make explicit the links between the teaching of EAL and Traveller pupils, and promoting race equality and community cohesion. iRespect encourages schools to see the relevance and necessity of recognising pupils' cultural, linguistic and faith backgrounds, and facilitates sharing good practice in celebrating cultural diversity'.
Although the website is primarily designed for teachers of children at Key Stages 2 and 3, many of its resources may also be useful for educators more generally, including parents and youth workers. Lesson plans are available online, dealing with a range of topical issues including not only St George himself and the new British citizenship tests, but also poetry in the Holocaust, racism in football, disability, and many others. Other materials for diversity and citizenship teaching are also provided, which can either be used alongside the online lesson plans or independently. There is also an archive of past articles which may remain a useful source of information. The latest addition to the EMA section on iRespect provides information and resources for schools and families on the education of Polish children. This includes bilingual pages for families, and celebrations of Polish pupils' work.
iRespect say that the site 'provides an effective way of disseminating information, and sharing good practice across a large county with linguistically and culturally diverse isolated learners. It is used by schools throughout the County – and much further afield!'
Recent news items on citizenship oaths in schools:
Other citizenship education resources on the Real Histories Directory:
21st Century Citizen
Citizenship and Democracy in Schools: diversity, identity, equality
Citizenship Education: The Global Dimension
Citizenship for the Future: A practical classroom guide
Citizenship in History: A Guide for Teachers
Diversity and Citizenship: Curriculum Review
Immigrants and Aliens (2nd ed.)
Issues: The Cross-Curricular Course for PSE
Runnymede Collection – Teaching Resource
Teaching Controversial Issues
Trial and Error