Wisbech slams ‘unjustified’ integration report

Imogen Newell with some of the pupils from diverse backgrounds to go with a piece on the Wisbech being second least integrated town in the country'left to right back 'Harry Smith (Portuguese), Emanuel Malaquias (Portuguese), Gabriel Ferreira (Portuguese), Jonas Lotuza (Lithuanian), Imogen Newell EAL leader,  Alicia Baghdouyan (French), Jade Lartillier (French), Anastasija Kurisko (Russian) and Justina Kakstyte (Lithuanian) ANL-160102-135445009

Imogen Newell with some of the pupils from diverse backgrounds to go with a piece on the Wisbech being second least integrated town in the country'left to right back 'Harry Smith (Portuguese), Emanuel Malaquias (Portuguese), Gabriel Ferreira (Portuguese), Jonas Lotuza (Lithuanian), Imogen Newell EAL leader, Alicia Baghdouyan (French), Jade Lartillier (French), Anastasija Kurisko (Russian) and Justina Kakstyte (Lithuanian) ANL-160102-135445009

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A report which claims that Wisbech is one of the least integrated towns in the country has been slammed by people in the town.

Think tank Policy Exchange placed Wisbech as second on its list, released last week.

Writers of the report have been criticised for basing their findings on the 2011 census without visiting the town and discovering more about the groundbreaking initiatives being run there.

People of all nationalities and ages are coming together at the various activities run at the Rosmini Centre.

Director Anita Grodkiewicz said families with young children do integrate and that a third of her volunteers are from the migrant community.

But she added that language and a lack of opportunities to socialise outside of work are added barriers.

Mrs Grodkiewicz said: “My personal opinion considering the poor infrastracture and transport and that most people are on zero hours or seasonal work, Wisbech is a very nice place to live.

“There are lots of opportunities for people to mix and learn other languages which is positive. Wisbech is starting to move forward and we should all be looking forward and being positive.”

Thomas Clarkson Academy principal Clare Claxton highlighted that the “unjustified” report was written from London using a desktop research project.

She said 35 per cent of her pupils have English as an additional language and add a lot to the school by helping to broaden youngsters’ horizons.

They are given survival English before joining mainstream lessons and are also part of the many extra-curricular clubs.

Mrs Claxton said: “I think quite rightly that the people who live in Wisbech are pretty outraged by this. Wisbech is a very diverse area and it gets a bad press.

“Fundamentally, there are a lot of things which can be shared from language to culture to customs. What binds us together are common values such as liberty, tolerance and respect.

“And what better way to demonstrate that than having the application of those values in school where people of different cultures understand the differences and get along side-by-side?”

Fenland District Council’s cabinet member for equalities and transport Simon King said he was sceptical about the report and added a diverse population has helped the town.

“There are issues, people wouldn’t pretend otherwise – but there are a lot of positives as well. The Eastern European population have brought a lot of positives to Wisbech and there would be a lot more empty shops without them.

“We have made some really good progress in integrating the two communities.”

North East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay said it was a “surprisingly dodgy report” from a respected think tank.

He said: “I understand that they have never visited Wisbech or Fenland; never taken the trouble to understand the good work being done by local teachers in Wisbech Reads, by the local police and housing team in Operation Pheasant, by sports clubs such as Wisbech Tennis to run programmes bringing the community together and all the work of community groups such as the Rosmini Centre and Catholic Church.

“The report also seemed to base its findings on out-of-date data from 2011 census.”

Sean Finlay from the Wisbech Interfaith Forum disagrees with the report. Mr Finlay, who hails from Ulster, said: “As a migrant myself, my experience of Wisbech has been positive.

“I hope our leaders lead us rather than sitting back. We need everyone pulling together to get us moving forward.”

Policy Exchange released its report, which states that Amersham in Buckinghamshire is the most integrated place, to launch its new demography, immigration and integration unit.

The report looked at 160 places with a population over 20,000 of whom at least 15 per cent were from an ethnic minority.

The unit’s head David Goodhart said: “If there’s a national consensus that we want to avoid parallel lives, any pressure on them to produce figures and to get councillors thinking about how they can make schools and neighbourhoods more mixed is a help.

“Ethnic minority integration has shot up the political agenda in recent months and it is useful to know where the biggest challenges and the often quiet success stories actually are.”

Read more: http://www.fenlandcitizen.co.uk/news/latest-news/boston-spalding-and-wisbech-least-integrated-towns-in-uk-after-mass-immigration-new-report-finds-1-7184874#ixzz3yeVfP5NM