Friday, 14 December 2007

Social capital in schools Social capital continues to make a comeback. Last month the Department for Children Families and Schools published research into 'the development and impact of young people's social capital in schools.' Drawing on survey and qualitative interview data from two inner London schools, the researchers looked at the sense of school belonging, access to social support networks, and attitudes to diversity. As we'd expect, their conclusions assert the importance of the school context in the social life of young people. They emphasise the uneven distribution of social capital (with white boys from lower socio-economic backgrounds having the lowest levels of social capital, and white girls having the lowest levels of socio-psychological resources). They also point to the need to relate the citizenship curriculum to the neighbourhood context and build extended services that promote collaborative relationships between different social groups. The report refers to the new duty on schools to promote community cohesion, and I noted one striking finding described in the summary: The schools in this study were highly ethnically diverse and, on average, students tended to hold positive attitudes to cultural and racial diversity... However, in both schools gay people were perceived as a small minority, and students seemed much less positive to diversity in terms of sexual orientation. Hence, while cultural diversity appeared to be valued, or at least regarded as a non-controversial issue within school, the data suggest that homophobia was a considerable problem in our two secondary schools.

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