The integrated school that could teach a divided town to live together

Radiyah and Olivia live in Oldham and are best friends. They are 12 years old and met on transition day, when primary school students are introduced for the first time to their secondary school. They have been inseparable ever since. Olivia says one thing that binds them together is that they both love the colour purple. She thinks Radiyah is crazy and Radiyah thinks Olivia is crazy. “When she sees my brother at school she always says, ‘Hi brother,’” Radiyah says. “She never says, ‘Hi Radiya’s brother’. It’s crazy.” Olivia accepts that it is a bit crazy.

They help each other with homework. Radiyah excels at science and English. Olivia is solid at maths.

Olivia does not attend church, but Radiyah, like almost every Asian student in the school, goes to mosque. What does Olivia think of Radiyah’s culture? “They work so hard for what they believe in. They pray five times a day, they fast. I admire that.”

…. Back in Oldham, Radiyah and Olivia could serve as poster girls for Cameron’s integration agenda. At school their cultural differences – of which they are aware – seem small compared to what they have in common. Olivia is joking about Radiyah’s purple pencil case, and her obsession with all things purple.

Their rapport has an infectious quality. Even so, it is more complex than appears at first sight. They have never visited each other’s homes – they do not even know where the other lives, though they regularly talk on Skype after school.

That is not unusual for cross-racial friendships at Waterhead – the friendship checks in and then checks out again at the school gate. As they stream out of school at 3pm, the Asian and white kids go home to separate neighbourhoods. Radiyah and Olivia live less than two miles apart – though the psychological distance between their two neighbourhoods is substantially greater. [315 comments] [The Guardian] Read more

[TOP RATED COMMENT 112 votes] Ban all religious schools in the UK. Separating children aged 4 or 5 based on their parents’ often lapsed sky fairy of choice is backwards, illogical and wrong. It creates divisions in society.

Here in Scotland it is the reason for so much hatred, especially in west central Scotland.

I’m all for religious freedoms but religious observation and indoctrination should be for the home and places of worship.

[2ND 67] Children say what they think is supposed to be said rather than what they really feel. Muslims are only Muslims because they have no choice. If you let them choose, Islam would be gone in two generations. It only survives through strict application and the threat of being physically harmed and socially excluded if you don’t adhere. Ironically, that is evil.

[3RD 61] “They work so hard for what they believe in. They pray five times a day, they fast. I admire that.”

I truly, truly do not believe that is a quote from a 12 year old girl that does not attend a church. Or even one who does.

[4TH 52] A secular state is the requirement.

[5TH 51] This article is so lightweight and fluffy it’s hard to know where to start but I’ll begin with not believing a 12 year old said “they work so hard for what they believe in, they pray five times a day and fast. I admire that”. Really? A 12 year old?

It misses the point that not long after 12 Pakistani girls have to start wearing at least scarves if not hijab and are kept at home much more. As for being allowed to have white boy friends, forget it. I absolutely agree mixed schools are the way forward but please be a bit more aware of the huge issue of Islam being anti integration. And try not to beat us readers into submission by producing such massive articles!

[6TH 50] The problem starts young – some of the Asian kids are not allowed to visit the homes of school friends, not allowed to go to parties etc. we moved to an area with a large Asian population (approx 1/3 school) and it was a steep learning curve for my kids – I was told categorically no, they (the new friends) did not visit the homes of non family members, they socialized with cousins.

One if my daughters new friends is Asian (with more laid back parents) and my daughter was the first white friend she had. I was told by another parent that they (the Asian parents) don’t trust us not to give them pork / any meat (a lot here are Hindu and vegetarian) and want to keep the kids in “their” culture, thinking if they have white friends they would be too English. By secondary school these prejudices are ingrained, very hard to change.

Its not universal, some of our Asian families are friendly, and integrated but it is not the norm. Now older my daughter tells me its like two schools, the Asian kids don’t even speak English in their free time for the most part (they are all very bright, its a selective sixth form, nothing wrong with their English skills). I don’t have the solution but it needs to start back in nursery, and its a culture change that needs to hapoen

[7TH 46] This could be any Northern town with a sizeable Muslim population, and whilst I applaud the efforts from this school, the cultural requirements of Islam will always be a barrier to meaningful friendships and integration.

My eldest invited a Muslim classmate to his party at a laser game venue, before he was allowed to go his parents rang up with a boatload of questions such as ”What do they cook the chips in?’

‘Does the Pizza have real Ham on it’?’, ‘Will the children be given alcohol?’ (they’re 8!!!), and can I message you about his ‘requirements’, and on they went.

The boy came, ate non halal pizza and chips and everyone had a great time.

If it’s so difficult to let your kid even go to a birthday party what’s the rest of it going to be like?

Take five Muslim kids and five non Muslim kids, and give them a football, then you’ll see integration at work.

It’s the religions that create all the discord.

[8TH 44] Sounds more to do with culture rooted in religion, than a race problem. I never understand why the left are so keen to make cultural problems those of race, unless they have a corrupt ulterior motive.

Skin colour does not matter. Attitudes do matter – a lot.

[9TH 32] It all stems from the home and that little radiyah girl will be getting endless religious claptrap thrown at her. Taught that white food is dirty and you shouldn’t eat it. By the time she is 17 the trips to family weddings in Pakistan will start and pressure will mount for her to get married. Once she does the whole vicious circle will start again. [The Guardian] Read more

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