THOSE of us who are a little out of touch with what is being taught in British schools these days may have been surprised to see how many subjects that come under the vague heading of “Britishness” have been absent from the curriculum of late. For example: the Commonwealth and the legacy of Empire; Britain as a multinational state, made up of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with a shared Union flag; immigration through history; the end of slavery, the sufragette movement and equal opportunities legislation; ethnicity, religion and race, with an explicit link to political issues and values.

These topics and a number of others were identified in a report published yesterday under the heading Identity and Diversity: Living Together in the UK and they will form the basis of a new lessons for pupils from 11 to 16 that will be added to the existing compulsory citizenship courses. There was a general welcome for this development and praise for the work of its principal author, Sir Keith Ajegbo, a former London headteacher. Sir Keith has emphasized the importance of engaging white pupils in these studies because, he said, “their attitudes are overwhelmingly important in creating community cohesion”. Gordon Brown has come under criticism recently for his efforts to define and underline the importance of “Britishness”. However this new report is very much in line with Mr Brown's thinking and fully justifies the attention he has given the subject. Why has it taken so long?


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