The riots in Oldham broke out after the disturbances in northern towns (Bradford, Burnley, and Leeds) and lasted for three days. In June 2001 the British National Party had the biggest success in the UK general election; it also received 16 per cent of votes in Oldham West and 11 per cent in Oldham East. These voting results only confirmed racist attitudes in the society and reinforced the necessity to discuss the causes of the riots.
The event attracted the attention of statutory agencies and called for their response. On 14th June, a delegation from the town met with the Home Secretary to discuss the issue and as a result, an independent review was set up to deal with the course of the riots and to suggest a way forward. David Ritchie, active in the Department of the Environment and responsible for a variety of economic, environmental and social programmes in the West Midlands, was appointed the Chairman of the Oldham Independent Review (Ritchie 72).
Oldham Independent Review
The analysis of the Oldham Independent Review is the main aim of the next part of the thesis and therefore it is necessary to describe the report and the circumstances under which it was established.
The Report was commissioned by the Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, the Greater Manchester Police and the Greater Manchester Police Authority supporting the review. The Report was funded by the Home Office and supported by the Government Office for the North West. It was the result of four months of discussions and interviews. It is a panel report meaning that all individuals and organisations in Oldham could express their views on the problems Oldham was facing. During the four months the team interviewed 915 people, having 200 meetings. The aim was not to compare Oldham with other cities where race riots occurred but to analyse the events of the riots as well as its causes and aftermath of it (Ritchie 3). However, the government also set up a Cantle working group to deal with the same issue and as Ritchie comments on that, “whilst we have not worked closely with the Cantle Group, we have met with them and made them aware of some of our initial things” (Ritchie 3).
The main goal of the report was to understand the past and present situation. The understanding would be followed up with a course of action as it is important to identify and recommend further steps to prevent the future from repeating the past events.
As for the methodology of the report, it was to be open and transparent. Any citizen living in the town had the opportunity to express their opinions to the panel. The review reported to Oldham MBC and Greater Manchester Police whose task was to discuss the issue with the Government. And as Ritchie states, “It should place an emphasis on proposals to take the Borough forward and there should be an emphasis on speed of response with initial views and findings available as soon as possible” (Ritchie 73).
Review of Community Cohesion in Oldham
Challenging Local Communities to Change Oldham is a final report conducted by the Institute of Community Cohesion in Oldham, also known as the Cantle Report after the Chairman of the Community Cohesion Review Team, Ted Cantle. The Institute of Community Cohesion was set up in 2005 to approach the issue of race in a new way and to concentrate on community relations. It was created as a partnership of statutory, non-governmental and academic bodies, as well as both private and voluntary sectors. The Cantle Report was commissioned by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, “it is an independent external assessment of progress made in building community cohesion in Oldham since 2001 and, hopefully, makes constructive proposals on the way forward” (Cantle 1). The goals were to discuss how the community cohesion had changed in Oldham since 2001, to point out the potential problems and possibilities for a change. Its task is to review the operations of the bodies and to stress the strengths and weaknesses of the project. They should also draw up Cohesion Strategy and Action Plan for the next three or five years.
As for the methodology of this report, a desktop review was drawn up dealing with community cohesion, partnership arrangements, civic and community leadership, economic development, housing, education and learning, policing and community attitudes. In addition, a number of interviews with policy makers and officers were conducted and many focus groups created (Cantle 2).
IV. 1. Education
The children in Oldham are the future of the town. That is why they should be provided with enough educational and employment opportunities. Education among the ethnic minorities in Oldham is one of the major issues and many actions need to be taken to achieve multicultural education.
IV. 1. 1. Pre-16 education
Findings and Achievements
Resulting from geographical concentration and segregation of the communities, mainly primary schools are attended by children from one ethnic group. This is what the Ritchie Report is concerned about, because children in primary schools have little opportunity to mingle with pupils from other ethnic groups. It is especially because their parents tend to choose the local schools in their communities so they separate the students from other nationalities. According to the 2001 Annual School Census, “In 17 Oldham primary schools minority ethnic children make up 80 per cent of pupils and in 13 of these it is at least 90 per cent (Ritchie 23).
The issue of monocultural schools is often debated. A BBC article from 2001 comments on this topic. A spokesman for the Bradford Council said for the BBC that the balance among the school population would encourage interaction among the students from different ethnic minorities. He warned, “But, while schools had a role to play in developing understanding between cultures, it was unrealistic to expect them to solve racial tension. Despite the focus on segregation in schools, schools can’t be expected to resolve the much wider problems of community relations in our society” (“Call for minority quotas”). According to him, it is the parents’ choice to which school they send their children and it is understandable that very often they decide for the local schools. From the article follows that the government agreed with setting up of more faith schools. The Home Secretary at that time, David Blunkett, states that the schools were popular, “There is a tremendous commitment from families to a variety of faith-based schools who do extremely well” (“Call for minority quotas”). Also Prime Minister Tony Blair encouraged the setting up of faith schools, his official spokesman answered to the question whether more schools should be opened, “Yes, because they cannot only meet particular needs, they can actually result in further engagement with non-faith schools and they have a duty to be inclusive” (“Call for minority quotas”). However, a Labour MP of that time challenged their attitudes and called for more caution in the matter of schools versus religion.
Great emphasis is put on schools and pupils’ performance. Between 1996 and 2000 the proportion of Pakistani students who attained 5 or more A to C grades at GSCE increased from 21 to 23 per cent and Bangladeshi students from 20 to 27 per cent (Ritchie 24). It is necessary to say that achieving these grades is very important for the future opportunities of young people.
Another issue in Oldham was the problem of absence rates. Absence rates, both authorised and unauthorised, in Oldham schools were higher than national average in 1999–2000. The families very often requested extended holidays for their children to take them out to their mother country. Consequently, the absence had a great impact on the results in GSCEs (Ritchie 24).
The recommendation was that Oldham Local Educational Authorities (LEA) should support especially the primary sector to improve attendance. There was a campaign to reduce extended absences, because these have negative impact on children’s performance. Another recommendation is that the parents should be aware of the official regulations and legislation concerning attendance and regulations about extended holidays (Ritchie 25).
A programme to improve communication of children and parents from different ethnic backgrounds is called the Sure Start programme. Sure Start is the key programme in the Government action to deal with the child poverty. It was launched in 1998; it is an integral part of the Children, Young People and Families Directorate in the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). It is based on the US programme Head Start, which was launched in 1965 to help disadvantaged pre-school children. In Great Britain, it is applied in the most deprived areas and it cooperates with the local authorities, it is managed by statutory agencies, childcare professionals, and community and voluntary groups who offer service for the families. Its main goal is to improve the standard of education, children’s health, and childcare and to support parents. New facilities such as drop-in centres, childcare, and mobile health clinics are provided (“Sure Start. Background and example of practise”).
On the national level, a survey of parents was conducted in 2001 to find out the impact of Sure Start. Nine out of ten parents stated that services for children had improved significantly during the last year which was attributable to Sure Start. They especially appreciated the experience the children were gaining and support and advice for parents. “Parents also felt that Sure Start had led to a new ‘community spirit’, with parents working together to improve the local community, and they identified community involvement as a key component of the programme’s success” (“Research on Sure Start”). The problems it encountered were the access and distrust on the side of some cultures. The solutions suggested were to improve the bus service and the possibility for especially Asian women to invite their husbands into the centres to get familiar with the programme and gain their support.
In 2001 Oldham had one Sure Start in Hollinwood Ward and one in Westwood. The recommendation was to implement the programme in other areas (Ritchie 25).
In contradiction to the optimistic views after the launching of the project, according to “Sure Start and Black and Minority Ethnic Populations”, the latest National Evaluation Report of the Sure Start (2007), the ethnicity has strong associations with poverty, deprivation and poor housing conditions (“Sure Start and Black and Minority Ethnic Populations”). Lucy Ward, TheGuardian social affairs correspondent, analyses this report stating that “The government’s Sure Start programme has proved a ‘very serious policy failure’ and a ‘substantial wasted opportunity’ for deprived black and ethnic minority families, according to a report out today” (Ward). According to the evaluation led by Gary Craig, Professor of Social Justice at the University of Hull, Sure Start programmes failed to work with ethnic minorities and some groups did not even try to create the link with the minorities as this is a very long-term matter requesting a great effort. Ward quotes in her article Professor Craig’s comments, “The good work of a relatively few local programmes should not obscure the fact that the dimension of ethnicity has largely been missing from national government guidance, from the work of national and local evaluations and the work of most local programmes” (Ward). The children’s minister, Beverley Hughes, sees the benefits of the programme for both the children and their parents thanks to different agencies and possibilities for children to socialise. Nevertheless, she admits that there is still a lot to do to deal with the most disadvantaged children (Ward).
Usually the local schools are attended by the students living in the surroundings. There has been segregation in housing, which was also extended to schools. In the view of many Oldhamers, “segregation is a matter of deep concern, since it lays the foundation for lack of contact with and understanding of people from different ethnic groups” (Ritchie 26). That is why more attention should be paid to schools to encourage and enhance integration of all the groups, especially in the areas where there are boundaries between white and Asian population. Parents should be encouraged to visit schools in their surroundings, ‘open door’ policy is necessary.
One of the major recommendations is to develop a programme which would help young people to realize that they are a part of a multicultural town and which would help them to understand their rights and responsibilities and “the core values related to being British and being an Oldhamer and what are the different cultural backgrounds within that context which thrive in Oldham” (Ritchie 27). One such programme is Oldham Schools Linking Project that tries to break down some of the barriers and tries to integrate pupils from different ethnic backgrounds. It is aimed mostly at primary schools pupils; they work together and get more understanding of their identities and cultures. “Summary Report on Community Cohesion Initiatives in Oldham Primary Schools” from 2003 concentrates on the findings of an Audit Commission and one of the improvements it requires is that “The council should evaluate the impact of all the different initiatives which tackle issues caused by the racial segregation of schools and use this to draw up a structured programme to roll out successful actions to support and link schools” (Haddock 2). The Oldham Schools Linking Project is one of the main initiatives, “The initiative seeks to provide a partial solution to the geographical and cultural divide of many of our primary schools. It involves schools joining together to share, explore and learn about, with and from one another” (Haddock 3). Some of the activities taking place under the Project are class based work, trips, theatre groups, joint outdoor days, working with artists in Residence, shared assemblies, joint musical workshops, sharing special days (e.g. schools join together on Health and Fitness days), some story sessions, cultural visits (e.g. mosques and churches) (Haddock 4).Some of the schools are involved in the joint schools council and staff training. They also take part in children swap, which is financially demanding and they could not afford it without financial support especially for the transport.
It is necessary to assess the impact of the project. “The Summary Report” states that there are both short and long-term impacts; however, these are difficult to distinguish as this is very individual and one experience might have short-term impact on some children and long-term impact on the others. The initial impact is that the children meet for the first time with someone from a different culture, which widens the children’s experiences and views. In general, “this project has enabled children to cross the geographical, emotional and cultural divide, if only for a short while. Head teachers interviewed (14) unanimously say that the project has had a very beneficial and immediate effect on the children who are participating, although the longer term impact is less certain” (Haddock 5). As for the parents’ attitude, at first it was very hard to develop the parents’ trust towards the linking project as both Asian and white parents did not want their children to swap. During the first three years some schools have managed to build up the parents’ trust. Especially Asian parents voiced their wish to send their children to schools with more mixed communities. However, they were not well-informed about the possibilities, so they requested the council for more information on that issue. They also asked for more white schools on the peripheries of Asian communities (Haddock 6).
To increase the impact, LEA have to support more schools to involve in the project. The reasons why the schools do not want to join the project are the lack of knowledge about the project and fear of parents’ resistance to it. They also do not know where to start with the project or they do not accept the idea of community cohesion and its key role in the education. The Schools Linking Project has not been extended to secondary schools, according to the Report, this is a challenge because it enables children from different ethnic backgrounds to develop friendships between each other (Haddock 6).
Language is another major issue in Oldham, especially the relation of English to the mother tongues of other ethnicities. However, there is a general feeling by whites that English language and culture are threatened, “The translation of documents and public notices into other languages, the widespread availability of interpreters at public expense, and the teaching of English as an additional language at school, or other support to young children in their mother tongues, were resented” (Ritchie 28). Both sides wish to maintain their culture and identity including knowledge of the mother tongue. Many Asian parents want their children to learn their mother tongue at school and it is important that the schools offer these opportunities. On the other hand, based on an interview for the Ritchie Report, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities recognize English as the official language and know that their children need to acquire English before going to school; otherwise problems arise when they come to school with little command of English. It is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that their children speak enough English. As theRitchie Report suggests, this might be a problem because many parents themselves do not have good command of English, especially young parents who arrived in Britain with no knowledge of the language. Additional Language Programmes are support in this case. Another suggestion made in theRitchie Report is an intensive programme of English teaching, linked to many schools in the neighbourhood. Sure Start would be included in that; the programme would last for five years having an impact on the fluency of English of ethnic minorities.
An important fact presented in the report is the role of parents and their influence on their children. They should make the children aware that they are living in multicultural society and they should encourage them to socialise. They should not pass on entrenched attitudes towards the other ethnic communities and the stereotyping, otherwise the intolerance will be perpetuated and the children will not integrate.
IV. 1. 2. Post-16 education and training
According to the research, young students in Oldham are less likely to continue in Further Education, it is 66 per cent in comparison to 70 per cent at the national average. There are differences between ethnic groups, “Chinese and white people are more likely to achieve higher qualifications than African-Caribbeans, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis” (Ritchie 29). Only a small proportion of students continue with Higher Education. Consequences are that young people with lower education have restricted job opportunities and very often they cannot find a proper job and are forced to do some secondary work. Especially young women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities were not allowed by their parents to leave Oldham for Higher Education. They also complained about the lack of English teachers. In 2001 there were two FE colleges, both of them trying to increase the number of ethnic minorities’ students.
One of the recommendations was that students should be better prepared for their AS exams as this transition to post-16 education is problematic. Also access to Higher Education must be improved.
IV. 1. 3. Summary of recommendations
The Ritchie Report in its final recommendations concerning education emphasises the necessity to raise the levels of achievement of the ethnic minority pupils. The progress of all pupils should be measured in the same way and clear targets should be set. Local Educational Authorities in conjunction with police should tackle the problem of truancy and try to improve the attendance. One of the ways is to inform the parents about the official regulations and legislation concerning attendance. They should be made aware of the negative impact the truancy has on the performance. They should also be encouraged to visit schools of other ethnic groups and an ‘open door policy’ needs to be adopted by all the minorities’ schools. Schools should also celebrate their success so that the public know about the quality of education.
One of the majors issue in the Cantle Report was a focus on education and learning, the aim was “A borough which gives everyone a chance to live, work, study and enjoy life together when and where we choose” (Cantle 36). The educational authorities in Oldham have achieved a positive change as many projects were successful, especially The Schools Linking Project, Oldham College’s Celebrating Diversity Competition, Establishment of the new University Centre, Oldham College’s partnership with Tameside College in developing an Asian Underachievers programme. There is also much more cooperation between organisations opening many advisory centres offering a wide choice of training and religious programmes to involve parents and children from different ethnic backgrounds. Another project is the Anti Discriminatory Practise Programme focusing on children and their backgrounds and topics such as sexuality, religion, and culture. Similar is a Youth Service which is a network of 22 youth clubs and projects in Oldham (Cantle 36).
The best results are seen in the success of The Oldham Schools Linking Project which started with six primary schools and this number has increased significantly since then involving 50 of Oldham’s 95 primary schools and seven secondary schools. It is operated through a partnership between schools and Councils and many organizations. Also this programme offers a wider range of activities such as art, drama, and outdoor activities. Based on the research, both schools and families are positive about the programme. More parents are involved in the programme even though there is still little contact of children from different ethnic backgrounds outside of school. The suggestions for future developments of the programme are teacher swaps, cooperation between urban and rural schools, and working class and middle class schools (Cantle 38).