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EDITIONS
Friday, 13 July, 2001, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Bradford: School that teaches tolerance
Rhodesway School:
Rhodesway School: Possible role model
Following criticism of Bradford's "ethnically segregated" schools, BBC News Online's community affairs reporter, Cindi John, visited one at the forefront of multi-cultural learning.

Rhodesway School in Bradford could be a prototype for the sort of more multi-cultural school that has been called for as part of the solution to the racial divisions in many northern English towns.


Children who go to all-white schools are very ignorant when they leave and I think that breeds racism

English teacher Shasta Hussein
Rhodesway, in the Allerton district of west Bradford, draws its 1,900 pupils almost equally from the white and Asian communities, with some African Caribbean pupils too.

John Fowler
John Fowler: "You cannot force people to go to other schools"
Its head teacher, John Fowler, agreed that many schools were in effect segregated, but said that was often more to do with the fact that so many were neighbourhood schools.

Mr Fowler said: "The difficulty Bradford has got is that pupils go to their local schools and you cannot force in any way pupils to go to other schools in order simply to mix the cultural backgrounds within a school.

"What we've got to do is to make a much higher profile for understanding other cultures, and if that starts in the junior schools then we can build in the secondary schools and try to gradually change the perceptions that people have."

classroom
Secondary schools have to deal with what children have learnt in primary schools
Mr Fowler said Rhodesway actively encouraged pupils to learn about each other's cultures and allowed Pakistani children time off within the school year to celebrate Muslim festivals.

"We certainly have sat down and talked this year about what we could do in a much more active way to celebrate all of the religious holidays for our pupils because clearly we don't just have Christian or Muslim.

"We also have some Sikhs and Hindus in the school. So we do have different faith assemblies each week," he said.

Most children at the school were from the local neighbourhood but a significant amount came from the predominantly Asian districts of Girlington and Manningham.

Mixed environment

One such pupil is 14-year-old Sobia, who started at Rhodesway a year ago.

sobia
Sobia has a wider circle of friends
She said her previously school in the Manningham area had mostly Asian pupils, but Rhodesway offered the possibility of a wider circle of friends.

"You can be friends with Christians, Hindus, Sikhs. It's all mixed so you get to know each other's religions as well. That's what I like about this school."

She said her parents had chosen Rhodesway specifically because they wanted her to be in a more mixed environment.

Rhodesway's head boy, Thomas, also said his previous school had not had been racially mixed.

"I went to Allerton Middle School and there were only a few Asian pupils there, it was quite dominantly white.

head boy
Head boy Thomas is sceptical about citizenship lessons
"Coming here was no big deal. I never really noticed anything different and you just get used to it.

"I've got Asian friends and there doesn't really seem to be a divide here because they're both in together. You just get on," he said.

But the 17 year old was not in favour of one of the race review's recommendation - citizenship lessons focusing on different cultures.

Thomas said he would find such classes "a little bit boring and tedious".

"It should be up to the individual whether they want to learn about cultures or things like that.

"In religious education lessons you already learn about other cultures and that's fine. It's just whether you need an entire lesson based on it," he said.

'Invaluable experience'

As well as a racially-mixed pupil intake, Rhodesway also has a number of teachers from minority ethnic communities.

Shasta Hussein
Shasta Hussein: "Invaluable experience" for the children
One is English teacher Shasta Hussein, who grew up in the Bradford area.

"I'm very surprised when I hear things about areas being segregated because I went to a multi-cultural school and I've always been involved in multi-cultural activities," said Ms Hussein.

But she welcomed the emphasis on multi-culturalism at Rhodesway, which includes Urdu lessons and Asian dance classes in the school timetable.

Ms Hussein said she had previously taught at a predominantly white school near Wetherby.

"The kids there didn't know what Eid, Diwali or Ramadan were. They'd never heard an Asian name - whereas the children here have invaluable experience of different cultures and religious festivals.

Work prospects

"When they go out to work in society, especially in Bradford, they'll have that knowledge to be able to function with people from different cultures.

Jonathan Breen
Jonathan Breen: Keen to teach Urdu
"Children who go to all-white schools are very ignorant when they leave and I think that breeds racism as well," Ms Hussein said.

The school's acting head of languages, Jonathan Breen - who was also brought up in Bradford - said he had also been to an ethnically-mixed school.

Mr Breen said he was keen to encourage multi-cultural learning and wanted to increase the school's provision of Urdu language teaching.

"The intake for Year 7 is going to be about 70% of pupils of Pakistani heritage and I think we should be bringing Urdu into the school lower down.

"At the moment we teach it in Year 10 and 11, which are the two GCSE groups, and I think pupils should have an option to learn it earlier on in the school," Mr Breen said.

Find out more about the violence in northern England during the summer of 2001


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