PSHE GCSE: Friendships forged across racial chasm

This video explores the division of society along ethnic lines in parts of the UK.

Reports to government have in the past described white and minority communities as living “parallel lives”, with little interaction, particularly in some areas of northern England.

Rotherham, where this video was filmed, has a large and growing Pakistani and Kashmiri community, which numbered about 8,000 people in 2011.

Tensions over ethnic divisions increased after the discovery that gangs of men of predominantly Pakistani origin had sexually abused hundreds of young girls in the town over decades.

Evidence presented at court cases and a subsequent public inquiry prompted regular marches through the town by far-right groups.

To address concerns about the division, the local council began a series of initiatives to encourage people to cross the cultural boundaries and mix with people from different backgrounds.

Rotherham’s ethnic division is mirrored in schools and, in the video, we hear from two young people, Casey and Waj.

The teenagers are from different ethnic backgrounds and were brought up in separate districts, each predominantly surrounded by people of their own ethnicity.

Despite being the same age, and from the same town, Casey and Waj say they would never have mixed with youngsters from each other’s community in the past.

However, they met while taking part in the government’s National Citizen Service scheme for 16 and 17-year-olds.

The girls soon realised they had more in common than they expected and developed a “special friendship”.

Their story explores the reasons why they would never have mixed, and what happened when they did.

Casey and Waj talk about how they bonded over their differences, how they no longer consider a different culture something to be afraid of, or intimidated by, and how the experience has changed them.

This clip is from the BBC's 'Crossing Divides' project.

Teacher Notes

You could start by examining the friendship groups in your class and determining whether any of these have been formed along ethnic, cultural or geographical lines.

What do the pupils have in common with their closest friends? Do youngsters from certain friendship groups share different hobbies, interests or characteristics to those with whom they rarely mix?

You could explore the demographics of your area. What ethnic groups are there in your county, town or borough, and are some communities associated with single ethnic groupings?

Is this reflected in your school, or do people from different ethnic communities go to separate schools?

Ask your pupils if they think they are living parallel lives with other youngsters nearby.

You could ask pupils about their reaction to people from different ethnic groups, or who dress in a certain way.

Ask them their assumptions about people based on their appearances or habits – perhaps using photographs or video - and how they might feel if they met someone like this.

You could ask people how they would feel about walking through an area where everyone looked, or behaved, differently to them. Would they be nervous, and why? Ask if anyone has experience of this? What happened? Did they mix with anyone? How did the experience change the way they thought, or felt?

Has anyone made a friend they didn’t expect to like? Are they very similar, or do they like each other despite being different? Why did they get on well?

You could mix pupils from different friendship groups and ask them to find out something they didn’t know about their new “partner”. Did they discover anything that made them more interested in each other? Could this discovery lead to a new friendship?

Curriculum Notes

This clip is relevant for teaching PSHE at GCSE,in particular for Identity and Diversity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and for Modern Studies at National 4/5 in Scotland.

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