Silke Stephens tells us about Gatehouse School celebrating diversity for International Day

Most of us living in London count many nationalities amongst our family, friends and colleagues. The 2011 census showed that East London has one of the most diverse populations in the country, something we might not find surprising at all – but when do we actually sit back and appreciate this multi-cultural world we live in?

Five years ago, parents at Gatehouse School in Tower Hamlets felt that more could be done to let their children experience the many nationalities represented at their school. This sentiment was shared by the school and International Day was born.

“It started with a simple idea to invite parents to represent their country” says Erin Crowe-Cawley who coordinated the parent efforts for the past 3 years and whose enthusiasm is infectious.

“Straight away, nearly 30 countries came forward with the number steadily rising each year. It has become a very colourful event and the school has introduced International Week to allow children to learn about different countries ahead of the actual International Day.”Even the school caterer is on board, serving international dishes throughout the week. “The spirit is amazing!” Mrs Crowe-Cawley says with a beaming smile. “Parents and teachers make such an effort and we have the school and the parent association working closely together. The children astonish us with their artwork, enthusiasm and costumes on the day.”

The event fell on fertile ground as Gatehouse School, situated south of Victoria Park and close to the border between Tower Hamlets and Hackney, has always been brimming with diversity. The school has celebrated this throughout its 70 year old history, making inclusiveness its core ethos:

Children of any race, colour, creed, background and intellect shall be accepted as pupils and work side by side, without streaming or any kind of segregation, and with the aim that every child shall get to know and love God, and to develop their own uniqueness of personality, to enable them to appreciate the world and the world to appreciate them”.

This year, International Day fell on Thursday, March 28th – a rather poignant date given that our country was gearing up to leave the European Union the following day.

So at a time when BREXIT is dominating the headlines it is wonderful to be reminded by the parents, teachers and children of Gatehouse School that it is a pleasure and a privilege to live in this very international world and that there is a lot we can learn from other cultures.

Silke Stevens is a member of the Gatehouse Parent Association and is part of the International Day committee.

Images courtesy of Gatehouse School