British Studies Web Pages


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Website of the Month - November 2002

Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) 

Value for ELT contemporary issues/realia/ culture background/ culture projects/ general interest/ British Studies

Producer of site (and intended audience)

The CRE, set up in 1976 as part of the Race Relations Act, is full of irresolvable contradictions - it has been set up by the government (a quango) yet finds itself continually in conflict with it. In a sense the government is also its main audience, along with other established institutions in society. The general public is not addressed specifically and often finds itself taking the role of interested, sometimes critical, observer.

The Commission for Racial Equality works in partnership with individuals and organisations for a fair and just society which values diversity and gives everyone an equal chance to work, learn and live free from discrimination, prejudice and racism.

The groups it represents have mixed feelings about its approach, what it stands for and its claimed achievements. It is mostly non-European in focus and has an unclear ambivalent relation with Scotland, Wales and Ireland (the Welsh language seems strongly supported in its publications whereas Scottish and Irish Gaelic seem to be absent). A particularly sensitive role is where different ethnic groups are in conflict with one another.

It is very exposed publicly and recent problems including a scandal resulting in the resignation of its director mean it remains in a very sensitive position. Continuing concerns at the moment are islamophobia and the highly controversial so-called ‘citizenship tests’ to decide who should have the right to live in Britain. Follow up via newspaper archives e.g.

Its contradictions mirror those within the society that has produced it and in a way its existence is a true image of Britain - a society incapable of being reduced to a single set of values, a single identity or a single culture. Its crises are the crises of society as a whole - a necessary stage perhaps of post-colonial adjustment.

Description of site

The home page focuses on relevant news issues. It tries to present government policy in a positive light yet articles from Connections (its online more academic journal) are often critical. Much of the site is devoted to practical guidance on racial equality and the law.

From an ELT point of view the most useful part is Ethnic diversity with its straightforward background articles on the racial mix in the UK and their often hidden contribution to the achievements of the country. There is no school-based material but some is available from the Runnymede Trust (which also has material on Islamophobia).

There is a good range of Publications, many downloadable (see below), and a very good Links section though not with equivalent organisations in other countries to enable comparisons. It is a good source of links on the police, the media, education, sport and so on, and the subsection Ethnic Minorities and Diversity is perhaps the most useful on multilingualism. There is little else on issues of language (either original or varieties of English).

A related site is that of the Institute for Race Relations which is more independent and outspoken

Accessibility *** 

Easy to navigate with an effective and easy to use search engine

Range of themes covered **

Focused on national, often legal issues, but a much greater range can be found through its links

Language level

Advanced often journalistic, or in the bureaucratic registers of the civil service and the legal profession

Value for students

Age: 13+ 16+ ** 19+ *** Lang. level: pre-int/ int* upper-int/ adv***

Issue-based project work for older advanced students only, or perhaps personal interest

Value for teachers *

For guiding older students and those doing projects - personal background on the perplexing issues of identity that are so central to the concept of Britain today.

A number of publications are available as downloadable pdf files which could be used for teaching materials e.g. The Irish in Britain, Race Equality policy, Framework for higher education institutions, Young People in Britain (factsheet), CRE Welsh Language Scheme, The Voice of Britain, Then and now: change for the better. Postcards and posters are inexpensively available (unfortunately you cannot see what you are ordering).

Overall value *  

Mostly for British Studies (where it would receive more stars), the judgements here reflect its value for ELT not its overall quality as a site. For background to some contemporary issues useful yet obviously from a government desperately worried to appear ‘correct’. In the time of conflict and ‘cold war’ with the Islamic world it perhaps says more about the government’s hopes than the reality of those it speaks of and for. As interesting in its struggle to keep contradictory positions simultaneously afloat as in what it actually says.

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