A COUNCILLOR has called for a radical change to Bradford's education system to stop schools becoming dominated by one culture.
Councillor Ishtiaq Ahmed (Bradford Independent Group, Manningham) said he was worried that an increasing number of the district's schools had either mostly white or mostly minority ethnic pupils.
Last month, Prime Minister David Cameron blamed segregation for the rise of far-right and Islamist extremism, and said Bradford was among "the most segregated parts of our country".
Cllr Ahmed said he agreed to an extent with these comments, and called for a major overhaul of school admissions policies to prevent ignorance breeding intolerance or racial tensions.
Cllr Ahmed said things had been very different when he was at school in the 1980s and 1990s.
He said: "It was fantastic. We had friends from different cultures. We had white friends, we had Asian friends, we had black friends."
Cllr Ahmed said he remained friends with many of his old classmates even now, and as a result they had all learned to respect each other's cultural and religious backgrounds.
But he said greater emphasis on parental choice meant schools were becoming increasingly mono-cultural.
He said: "It has changed dramatically because school catchment areas and schools are either all Asian or all white.
"That is not healthy for the future generations to come. Some of the kids will find it increasingly difficult to understand, appreciate and tolerate other cultures."
Cllr Ahmed said minority ethnic children in his ward now complained that they were given very few opportunities to properly socialise with those from other communities, and gaveFrizinghall Primary and Oasis Academy Lister Park secondary school as examples of schools in his neighbourhood which now had almost wholly British Pakistani pupils.
He said he would be writing to senior Bradford councillors asking them to reconsider an idea floated and then shelved after the Bradford riots in 2001, for schools in multi-cultural areas to be limited to taking in a maximum of 75 per cent of pupils from any one ethnic group.
He said the authority could also consider mergers of majority-white and majority-Asian schools.
But Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, executive member for education at the Labour-led authority, took a different view.
She said: "Getting to know people of different backgrounds whether that be through school or work is obviously desirable but I would not recommend artificially selecting children to go to different schools based on their ethnicity.
"Instead our absolute focus in schools has to be about raising standards, no matter what a child’s ethnicity or how rich or poor they are."
She said: "New faith academies and free schools can only prioritise half of their places according to the faith. But we will now go further to incentivise schools with high levels of ethnic or religious segregation to share sites and facilities and introduce more integrated teaching across sites."A spokesman for the Department for Education said Mr Cameron was "committed to looking at how we can ensure young people aren’t studying in segregated schooling".