Mario Washington-Ihieme shares her idea of an an inter-city exchange programme for schools which could help to build a renewed sense of national identity.
There is a perception that there are significant differences between London and the UK. Research at Centre for London revealed that a large proportion of Londoners strongly identify with the city, but do not feel particularly British or English. Young people living in cities are unlikely to cross paths with those living in adjacent areas, let alone with those living further afield – leading to an “us versus them” dynamic.
Mario’s idea is to create a 3-month nationwide inter-city school exchange programme for pupils aged 14-16. The scheme, similar to existing French or Spanish school exchange programmes, would see schools in London form partnerships with schools in cities and towns across the UK. Young Londoners would be offered the opportunity to study elsewhere as part of the curriculum, and vice versa. They would stay with a local family, and relationships between pupils would be created a year prior to the programme beginning,
By taking part in this programme, young people from across the country would have the opportunity to learn in a different environment, meet peers from outside their own community and experience different cultures within the UK. It could help pupils to develop their inter-personal and soft skills. More than this, giving young people the opportunity to travel to a new part of the country could help them to develop a deeper understanding of what it can mean to be British. An inter-city exchange programme could contribute to a renewed sense of national identity and encourage a feeling of belonging among the younger generation.
Mario Washington-Ihieme is Research Assistant, Centre for London. Follow her on Twitter.