What do we want to know?
This review was commissioned by the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre), part of the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education, University of London, on behalf of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). It is intended to inform the DCSF about the nature and extent of research literature on school actions to promote community cohesion.
Who wants to know?
The policy context for this work is the duty laid on schools by the Education and Inspections Act 2006 to promote community cohesion and on the schools inspectorate, Ofsted, to report on the contributions made in this area. As a new policy area, DCSF wanted a relatively quick overview of the literature, in order to help get a feel for current coverage of the issues and plan future research needs.
What did we find?
The review provides evidence that there is a research literature (broadly understood) on the role of schools in promoting community cohesion in England and, more generally, in the UK. The literature provides information about different contexts for action, the issues schools seek to address and the ways in which schools seek to address them. Some evidence is also presented of the impact and/or effectiveness of interventions.
What are the implications?
Overall, the research literature in this field is limited in extent, uneven in coverage and (apparently) variable in quality. It provides plenty of ideas for action, but much less by way of robust understanding or evidence of outcomes. It is also biased towards particular kinds and scales of action. Perhaps most significant, it actually has very little to say about community cohesion as opposed to students’ behaviours and attitudes. This situation is not entirely surprising, given that community cohesion as such has only recently become a significant issue in education policy, and that there has never been a sustained programme of research in this field.
Further research would therefore seem sensible in order to increase current knowledge and understanding in this area. In particular, funders might consider ways of encouraging systematic and high quality research.
How did we get these results?
The review was carried out over a fixed period between February and June 2008. There were, therefore, constraints on the amount of time that could be spent on different tasks. This means that while the review is extensive, it is not exhaustive.
The EPPI-Centre’s reference numbers for these reports are 1613R (Report) and 1613T (Technical Report). The full citation is:
Dyson A, Gallannaugh F (2008) School-level actions to promote community cohesion: a scoping map. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.