Thirteen years ago I coined the phrase "parallel lives" to describe the segregation of Asian and white communities in the riot-torn towns of northern England. People from different communities did not live in the same areas, work in the same places, or share social and cultural activities. More importantly, they did not go to school together. My worry is that, as the criticism of schools in the Muslim communities of Birmingham has demonstrated, nothing has changed since my report in 2001.
Often schools are the only way to break this pattern of segregation. They should be safe places, in which pupils learn about different faiths and backgrounds, share experiences and develop common bonds. In mixed schools, this may happen naturally as children grow up alongside each other, visiting each other's houses and taking part in shared activities. But it is far more difficult in segregated schools. Young people will be entirely dependent on imaginative learning experiences provided by open-minded teaching staff and a respectful and tolerant ethos within the school. Without this, the students will emerge into a diverse world ill-equipped "to live and work in a multicultural, multi-faith and democratic Britain" – to use a phrase from the recent "Trojan Horse" Ofsted Reports.