Chalk Talk: It's top marks for the most inclusive schools in Britain


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The Independent Online

Now that education-standards watchdog Ofsted no longer rates schools on their efforts to promote community cohesion, the Accord Coalition's Inclusive Schools Award takes on a new dimension. It can give some deserved credit to schools that have been beavering away to break down barriers – not, of course, that the award is their main reason for doing so.

It's interesting to note that this year special schools came first and third in the judge's ratings – the first time any special schools have been commended by the judges. This is the fourth year of the award scheme.

The winner was Little Heath School, a special school in Romford, where pupils not only study the six major world faiths within the school, but also Humanism, the Baha'i faith and Jainism. In addition, it has a Zoroastrian teacher on its staff.

Interestingly, since the school took the decision to enter the awards, its approach to religious education has been highlighted by Ofsted as an example for other special schools to follow – a way, obviously, that Ofsted still can reward efforts to promote cohesion and spread the message to other schools.

Another aspect of the school's work that was highly thought of by the judges was its health and fitness garden, which has been dedicated to the memory of the holocaust victim Anne Frank and has a plaque devoted to her memory.

Second was Thornhill School, a secondary school in Sunderland, two of whose features were singled out for commendation.

Firstly, the school has an award-winning rap group called The Word, which beats out a message of respect for others as a central theme in its music. The group has appeared on the BBC TV Sunday Life show.

Secondly, its pupils have produced their own film about mental health, called Take A Stand, which has already been screened nationwide and in North America and Canada.

It's good to draw attention to the fact that there's a lot going on in schools out there that is not dictated by the national curriculum.