The effect of terrorist attacks such as the 2005 London bombs and 9/11 has had a profound effect on our UK communities; the rise of the Far Right, and increasing prejudice towards Muslim communities has put pressure on community relations.
But how does a community respond to the news that the 7th July 2005 London bombers came from their local area in Leeds; and what do we do when this news is seen to contribute to a rise in racially motivated violence between young people on the playground?
The Foundation for Peace was brought in to help resolve just such a conflict, at South Leeds High School in Leeds.
The Foundation for Peace worked with a group of young people at the school, some of whom were identified as developing strong racial prejudices and potentially even showing sympathies with the bombers.
Over a period of three years we worked with 98 pupils at the school; developing a ‘Leadership Development Programme’ to enable the young people to understand the effects that their racial abuse was having on each other, and to learn how to become positive leaders in their communities.
The Foundation went on to deliver a similar programme at a school bordering Leeds and Bradford. Priesthorpe High School was experiencing some tensions between its Asian and White pupils with the likes of the English Defence League and older gangs of Asian youths trying to prey on young minds and influence pupils to take sides.
The Foundation worked with 80 students over two years delivering a similar intervention to the one carried out in South Leeds.
What was the outcome?
The young people involved cited their involvement on the Leadership Development Programme as life changing; and the School reports that in the period 2007 – 2012 the number of pupils that achieved 5 A*-C grades at GCSE has risen from 53% to 85% – a fact which the School says the Foundation for Peace had a key role in helping them to achieve.
The Leadership Development Programme is one of the ways that the Foundation for Peace works to support young people to turn away from violence; building stronger communities; and preventing young people from developing extreme views and behaviour which in extreme cases could potentially lead to some individuals becoming involved in future terrorist activity, community violence – or simply not fulfilling their potential in life.
Below: – Case study of Laura Chawla and Fahad Sohail, former students at Preisthorpe School, and comments from the school’s Head Teacher Ken Hall.
Laura’s Story, former pupil at Priesthorpe School:
Laura Chawla was 15 when she began racially abusing other pupils and fighting at her school; Priesthorpe School in Leeds.
Laura says: ‘There was loads of fights and conflict at school, mainly in the playground, with lots of racist abuse. I just wasn’t interested in school and so I keep getting joining in and getting in a lot of trouble.’
‘I remember a lot of the time it was about football. There was one football team that had asian and black students, and another that just had white students – they would both play at break and when things didn’t go right there was lots of racial shouting and fights breaking out. It felt really divided but I kept joining in – I thought it was cool.’
Laura was just one of a group of young people at the school who were becoming disengaged in this way. Many of the young people involved in the fighting were very vocal and influential among their school peers, and their involvement in racial conflict was encouraging others at the school to join in.
The Foundation for Peace was contacted by the school’s Head Teacher because of their expertise in conflict resolution, and began working with a targeted group of young people in order to enable them to lead in a more positive way. This ‘Leadership Development Programme’ was devised by the Foundation for Peace in order to enable the young people at the school to develop an understanding of their fellow students’ cultures and backgrounds, and of the negative effects of their prejudice.
‘At first I wasn’t interested in the Programme as I thought I had to do it to punish me, rather than to help me. One of my teachers really encouraged me to go and said that I would learn a lot. And when I did, it was great !’, Laura recalls.
‘The Programme really opened my eyes, particularly about making assumptions about other people. On the Programme we had to guess things about other people, even just their favourite colour or where they like to go on holiday – and we nearly always got it wrong! I learnt how often we make assumptions that are wrong, and how this is the same in real life – I have learnt that you can’t make assumptions about people based on their race.’
The Foundation’s Leadership Development Programme takes young people through a range of workshops and discussion groups. These groups enable the young people to learn about other cultures, races and faiths; but also how to better communicate and how to resolve any conflict around them without using aggression.
Now 18, and with a conditional offer to study for a social work degree at Bradford University, Laura credits her involvement with the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace as being pivotal in helping her to turn her life around.
Laura says, ‘I was always really bossy, always wanted to be in charge. But now I have the opportunity to use this in a really positive way, and to show other young people how it isn’t good to behave like I did. I have done my AS Levels and I am now studying for a university access course in Humanities and Social Sciences, and the careers advisor says that will help me on my degree course when I start next year. I am really proud of my studying – I never thought I would achieve this.’
‘The Foundation for Peace really helped me. Even my friendship groups have changed; they are more positive and I have a lot more friends from all over the world. I would never have taken the time to speak to people who are different to me before, and now they are my friends. I have no idea what I would be doing now if I hadn’t taken part in the Programme, but I know I wouldn’t have been up to good.’
The Leadership Development Programme is just one of the ways that the Foundation for Peace is working to build stronger communities and to support young people to turn away from violence – helping young people like Laura to feel proud of what they have achieved.
Fahad’s Story, former pupil at Priesthorpe School:
This September Fahad Sohail will start a BA honours degree in Enterprise Development at The University of Huddersfield; a course launched by ‘Dragon’ Theo Pathitis to nurture budding entrepreneurs.
Fahad was selected from 280 applications for only 19 places on the course; an incredible achievement made even more incredible by the fact that only two years ago Fahad had no interest in finishing school and was increasingly becoming involved in racial fighting.
Fahad says ‘I was a bit of a bad one at school and I had a bad reputation for fighting and being rude. I wasn’t interested in school and just wanted to pass the time to go home. I wouldn’t even bother turning up when I was given a detention – I didn’t care.’
Fahad was a student at Priesthorpe School in Leeds; a school which was increasingly feeling the effects of racial tensions in the community following the 7th July 2005 London terror attacks and the news that the bombers had come from the Leeds area. ‘ At school we would all play football, but if you were Asian you were on one side of the playground; and if you were White you had to be on the other.
There was loads of fighting between the Asians and the Whites, and you didn’t want to get in the middle of it’ says Fahad.
The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace was approached to support the school in resolving the racial conflict among its pupils. The Foundation for Peace embarked on a three year ‘Leadership Development Programme’, devised in order to identify those young people who were leading the tensions, and support them away from violence so that they could begin to lead in a positive way.
The Leadership Development Programme included a series of workshops and residential sessions at the charity’s Warrington based Peace Centre; providing the young people with an opportunity to understand the negative effects of racial prejudice and to develop ways to resolve conflict in a peaceful way.
Throughout the Programme, young people have the opportunity to see things from other people’s perspectives; and to learn about each other’s cultures, similarities and differences.
Fahad says: ‘At first I thought I would go because it was a way of getting out of school for a few days, I wasn’t really that bothered. But then I started to listen to the stories of other people taking part and realised that I could be different. I realised that there are people out there going through some really bad things because of prejudice and violence – and that I could give something back, I could help stop it. It really opened my eyes to what’s going on in the world’.
‘I knew that at school a lot of people were scared of me, and that because of this they would copy me and do what I said. Taking part in the Programme made me realise that I could stop fighting and instead use this influence to encourage others at my school to get along better – I could use it for a positive thing.’
Fahad did so well on the Programme that he was invited to become a Peer Mentor; mentoring younger pupils at the school. Feeling newly found respect from his teachers, Fahad even went on to start a mixed race football team on the playground to bring the two divided sides together.
‘My teachers couldn’t believe the change in me, and my mum and dad were really proud. When I got back to school I used the fact that I had a big voice to say that we should all have a football game together – we should get on’ says Fahad.
Fahad is now 18, and with a place secured at University he plans to utilise his positive leadership skills to become an entrepreneur and start a business in the car industry.
The School’s story – Priesthorpe School, Leeds:
Ken Hall, former Head Teacher at Priesthorpe School between 2007 – 2012 says: ‘There were certain tensions that had slipped over from the communities, tensions that were evident post 9/11 and 7/7. This had been noted and the School was already working with the local authorities to improve the situation. Priesthorpe School has always prided itself on having a strong school community, with an ethos of inclusion; and so these occurrences of racial tension were worrying – we wanted to resolve it as quickly as possible.’
The Foundation for Peace began working with the School in order to intensify the work already taking place; for example the School had already successfully reached the first of three levels in the Stephen Lawrence Award – recognising the school’s good practices in promoting inclusion and diversity.
Former Head Teacher Ken says: ‘We were making excellent progress at the School; but despite our efforts there were issues going on in the community, particularly after the 2005 London terror attack, which were impacting upon our School culture and which were out of our capacity and capability to deal with.
The Foundation for Peace brought about a real stepped change in our ability to tackle this; but also the young people’s ability to make real sustainable changes for themselves and their lives. I was impressed with the Foundation’s approach, often engaging the most challenging of our pupils in order to enable them to become positive leaders in the school.’
Following the Foundation’s ‘Leadership Development Programme’ at the School, many of the young people involved went on to organise Peace Days – taking the message of diversity right to the heart of the School, and in fact the local community.
Ken says: ‘The Foundation’s Leadership Development Programme has not just had a positive effect on the young people involved, or the School community; but it has also had a very positive effect on the local community. Priesthorpe School is considered to be a very inclusive school and was graded as ‘outstanding’ for Community Cohesion in the 2011 Ofsted report.’
During the period between 2007 – 2012, achievements at the School have risen dramatically with the numbers of young people achieving 5 A*-C grades at GCSE rising from 53% – 85%; and the numbers of young people achieving 5 A*-C grades including GCSE English and Mathematics rising from 39% – 63%. In fact, 98% of all pupils now leave the school with at least 5 GCSEs, and 99% with at least 1 GCSE .
Ken cites the Foundation as a major factor in helping the School to progress in the way it has.
Ken says: ‘Along with our teaching, the curriculum and the strength of our school community – the involvement of the Foundation for Peace undoubtedly helped our School in making these great strides. I would say that my involvement with the Foundation for Peace was one of the most positive and impact making experiences of my 30 year teaching career.’
Today, Priesthorpe School is now over-subscribed as it has such a positive perception in the local community; and the School has recently achieved the top Level 3 in the Stephen Lawrence Awards for racial inclusion and diversity.
Supporting contextual information:
1. Hate crime prosecutions reach record high Some 13,276 people came before the courts for such crimes in 2010-11. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17029139 2. Home Office figures relating to racist crimes Home Office figures show in 2010, 48,127 hate crimes were recorded by police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of these: 39,311 were racist crimes 4,883 were based on sexual orientation 2,007 were religious hate crimes 1,569 targeted disabled people 357 targeted transgender people http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime/hate-crime/ 3. Riots cost taxpayer at least £133m, MPs told http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/06/riots-cost-taxpayer-133m (Sandra Laville, crime correspondent, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 6 September 2011 14.30 BST) 4. Widespread anger significant cause of summer riots http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/dec/05/anger-police-fuelled-riots-study by Paul Lewis, Tim Newburn, Matthew Taylor and James Ball, The Guardian, Monday 5 December 2011