Children must be taught about Britain’s rich history of immigration if Theresa May is to achieve her “mission” of tackling racial injustice, the UK’s anti-discrimination watchdog says.
The Prime Minister has been urged to follow up her promise to make addressing inequalities a “personal priority” by putting immigration in the national curriculum.
Educating children on the topic of immigration would “tackle prejudiced attitudes” and build community links by helping children understand people’s different backgrounds, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said.
The failure to include a detailed exploration of immigration in school citizenship lessons has previously drawn criticism as a lost opportunity.
The former UK government mental health champion, Natasha Devon, suggested it would help combat the belief – seen in the Brexit campaign – that immigration is a threat to the UK.
Now the issue has been given fresh impetus in the Commission’s response to the “race audit” issued by the Prime Minister to highlight inequalities between different ethnic groups.
The Government’s Ethnicity Facts and Figures website provided a blizzard of statistics to highlight the problem in provision and achievement – but few concrete proposals for change.
The Commission said that project had to start early, by ensuring “equality and human rights are part of the curriculum to instil shared values”.
“The curriculum should also include Britain’s immigration history to enable children to understand how this has shaped all aspects of our country,” its response said.
David Isaac, the Commission’s chairman, added: “Immigration has played a large part in the history of our country, from ancient times right up to the debates during the Brexit referendum.
“As classrooms become more diverse, it’s important that children fully understand the role immigration has had in shaping our communities.
“Teaching immigration will instil shared values, help tackle prejudiced attitudes, and foster community cohesion, allowing our young people to fully participate in a democratic society.”
The call comes after the Prime Minister described the audit as evidence that tackling racial inequality in the provision of public services is her “mission in politics”.
It provided an “unprecedented level of transparency” and would be followed up by intensified efforts in 20 “hotspots” across the UK, No 10 said.
Ms May admitted the statistics were uncomfortable reading and that Britain had a “way to go” to create an equal society.
“What this audit shows is there isn’t anywhere to hide. That’s not just for Government, it’s for society as a whole,” she said.
“Britain has come a long way in promoting equality and opportunity but what the data we’ve published shows is that we still have a way to go if we are going to truly have a country that works for everyone.”
But her only mention of education was a review of expulsions to “focus on the experiences of groups who are disproportionately likely to be excluded”.