‘Divided Oldham’? Inside the school that defies Farage’s narrative

Eighteen years in the past teens had a controversy over a recreation of cricket in Oldham, with the dispute spilling into the worst violence the mill city has experienced in its modern-day records. Three nights of ethnically inspired riots followed, as hooligans from both facets burned barricades and fought police with petrol bombs.

Those were darkish days in Oldham. Since then politicians have periodically used the metropolis as an example of a divided Britain – most recently Nigel Farage, who informed a target audience in Pennsylvania that Oldham had whole streets break up alongside racial lines.
But one organization, at least, is converting the narrative. The Waterhead Academy, which has sought to convey the city again together, has gained the yearly Accord Inclusive Schools Award for its formidable contribution to improving community cohesion within the metropolis.
The 1,300 scholar academy become shaped in 2010 with the aid of merging ethnically homogeneous secondary faculties – the predominantly Asian Breeze Hill faculty and the especially white British Counthill college, using an approach of engineered integration in an try to expend racial tensions.
The new school moved directly to its modern campus in 2012, a place wherein the massive majority of citizens are white. Many of its students are drawn from monocultural primary faculties; its consumption is 33% white British students and forty-six % of South Asian background.

Erin, 15, a white pupil, moved to Oldham four years ago from Canada. She sits together with her buddies Hamra, Emaan, and Grace. While the riots came about the yr earlier than the ladies were born, they are all aware of the outcomes on their place of origin. Their faculty is an image of wish, they agree.
The ladies stay in special elements of the metropolis and, had it now not been for his or her college, they would no longer have combined. However, when Erin started at Waterhead in 2015, she was “buddied up” with Hamra. Teachers plan in which kids sit so pupils from special ethnicities mix.
Hamra and Erin are actually exceptional pals, frequently touring each different’s houses. “There had been not that many Asians in my faculty in Canada, so it turned into a completely new revel in meeting humans from unique cultures. I’ve been to Hamra’s to get my henna completed at some point of Eid and I have learned about Ramadan,” says Erin. “Hamra might also come to my home almost every day after college.”
Erin remembers the first time she tasted Hamra’s grandmother’s dhal. “It became actually delicious. I made my mum buy it from Tesco.”

Hamra and Emaan, who perceive as British, say they’ve learned approximately Erin’s existence in Canada. Emaan says: “We feel proud that we’re a part of something larger than just a faculty. As a faculty, we are a part of society.” Grace adds: “We are integrated inside and outside of faculty, that’s making people realize that we need to come collectively.”
The headteacher, James Haseldine, admits the faculty nevertheless has its issues. It is currently rated as requiring development by way of Ofsted, and Haseldine is the 5th headteacher in its incredibly brief records.
When the idea for the faculty become cautioned in 2007 there were numerous protests. “People had been scared”, says Haseldine. “They had been involved that the youngsters would begin every other revolt if brought together. You had something very extreme manifest inside the network after which there was a completely extreme move to try and address that. It turned into very a whole lot a political choice, due to the fact following the riots nearby politicians and communities had been underneath a whole lot of stress to get matters looked after out.”
Alison Taylor, one in every of three vice-principals on the college, labored at Counthill throughout the riots and dealt with its aftermath. “There becomes real actuality that it would go badly incorrect,” she says. “There become to speak of it being a test and that clearly hit a nerve, due to the fact you don’t test with children’s futures.”

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