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Children's Centres as Spaces of Interethnic Encounter in North East England

Social & Cultural Geography, Volume 16, Issue 8 Pages 888- 908



In this article, Parks starts first by introducing the issue at hand which is the cohesion between different ethnic communities in the UK. Basing her argument on other researchers like Simpson, Anthias, David, and others while citing their works, Parks cites governments efforts in trying to bring cohesiveness between different ethnic communities that reside in North East England. She presents various views of writers and challenging aspects of the same. For example, Parks introduces the ideas of Staeheli and Nagel where they propose that the host society determine the grounds of becoming part of the society. Parks presents a counteractive argument presented by Phillips in 2006 where she argues that integration in the society is not determined by the host community but by the ethnic background from where the immigrants come.

Parks further moves from the general view of the integration of different ethnic communities to the specific topic. Specifically, she discusses the efforts of the government in promoting cohesion of diverse ethnic communities through the Sure Start Programmes. With this, she gives a clear focus for the study which she further elaborates by providing related data from different studies on the subject. Parks' introduction starts with the general information on the topic from various researches then narrows further down to the specific focus of the article. The opening gives a clear understanding of the issues which not only impacts on the knowledge of the subject but also allows for a good flow of information for the readership.


The focus of the paper is on ethnical coherence between the locals in the North East England communities and the people who migrate to live in the region and whether the Children centers facilitate the interethnic interactions and mix. Parks draws a lot from research that was conducted between 2007 and 2008 on two children’s centers in North East England region. She argues that the role of this centers in dealing with child poverty and their significant role in improving social cohesion has been eclipsed by the government where it has reduced the funding without looking at the impact the programme has on the cohesion.

The paper reviews the various literature on migration processes and some other encounters other than the Children’s centers to try and bring out the significance of the Children’s Centers in increasing interethnic interactions and ultimately promoting cohesion. The encounters are for the recent immigrants, first-generation immigrants and the locals (‘white English’) whose origin is where the encounters are happening.

The article further explores the significance of the interactions in the Children’s Centers between the indigenous residents and the recent immigrants. The importance is about language learning and development for the parents who just migrated. The research, therefore, argues that there is a need for the provision of further ESOL classes to the immigrant’s parents since this would enhance more meaningful contact in the Children’s Centers if there were ease in communication. Parks suggests that further research needs to be done to compare language barrier with other factors of communication that arose during her research such as personality barriers and accents in their language.

Structure of the paper

Parks’ paper is structured in such a way that; she looks at the general idea of encounters between different races based on various researches, what pushes people to interact based on various researches she cites and then concludes with what has been done to evaluate the subject and the gap of research. After reviewing some researches on the general idea, she points out the gap in research where she specifically states that research has been done on micro and macro public interactions but none has ever focused on a more important setup which is the Children’s Center.

After discussing the literature, Parks proceeds to enlighten the reader on how she collected information, discusses the results and then concludes the paper with proposals based on her findings. The literature section of the paper elaborates on research that has been done on the subjects then build to the point where it shows the gap. Research methods, on the other hand, discuss the methods used to research on the subject leading to findings that directly relate to the research gap. It is also the point where Parks discusses them and the soul of the paper and finally a conclusion that closes with a recommendation on the argument.


Park creates an argument from a general point of view to specifics. Because the paper is on immigration and encounters, the residents have with the migrants, Parks first reviews various researches that talk about the issue. In her introduction, she presents several views from different researchers. Then from here draws on the specifics that are directly related to the subject. After introducing the issue and the various aspects, Parks presents the areas in which the immigrants and the host communities meet under the topic geographies of encounter.

Parks divides geographies of encounter into three sections; Migration and networks, the contact hypothesis, and ‘Micropublics’ and Children’s Centers. Under migration and networks, Parks focuses on literature that talks about what influences integration in new countries for immigrants. She presents an argument by one researcher which suggests that most migrants do not follow unbeaten regions but instead go to areas that their co-ethnics have already traveled and settled.

It is the co-ethnics that they meet in their new residence that they relate to as compared to the indigenous residents. She presents the basis of this assumption through the eyes of another researcher who suggests that personal information like nationality of spouse and friends is used to indicate the level of integration. Parks also presents another argument from a different research which indicates that encounters of a migrant are shaped by ideas and practices that they come with from their origin. Hence, proposing that when looking at the interethnic interaction any research should also consider the origin of the migrant as it also plays a part in the encounters and interactions.

Parks further goes to discuss the contact hypothesis where she presents various views on the interaction between BME groups and the locals. All the opinions she shows seem to rely on the idea that prejudice in different ethnic communities appears to hinder general acceptance of an ethnicity, instead interactions with a single individual seem to reap positive effects. For example, if an ethnic group were to be introduced to another, there would be some prejudice that would hinder one group from accepting the other. But from an individual level, this does not seem to happen because there is a personal interaction.

Parks concludes the literature with Micropublics and Children’s centers where she explores how researchers have moved the discussion from Micro level like a local setting to macro-level interactions like the urban places through the eyes of another researcher. She explores various kinds of literature that talk about both the macro public and micro public interactions. She cites many kinds of research that talk about how macro public interactions are a good place for interactions, but sports clubs and other interaction sports would form a better place for positive interactions. Parks gets down to her argument where she concludes that a lot of research has been conducted on these macro and micro public places but none has ever focused on Children’s Centers and which is where her research is therefore based.



The author of this research paper used two Children’s Centers in these research where she interviewed some parents and caregivers to children who went here. The author discusses that the initial focus of the research was to find out the use of Children’s Centers and not on two specific Centers. The data collected reflected a difference in experience between the encounters the parents had in the Children’s centers and those encounters outside the children’s centers with the local broader host community. The total number of parents and children caregivers was 50 from both Centers.

Parks used a table to compile the number of respondents and the area in which they lived. The research included First-generation immigrants, recent immigrants and the “White English” who represented the indigenous people. The research was conducted between 2007 and 2008. One Children’s Center was known to have taken care of a more diverse cultural mix since the region was known to have been receiving more asylum seekers with the other one having less mixed culture. The data collected in the interviews are presented in the paper on a table. The author argues that Children’s Centers play a role in promoting encounters and interaction between people of different races and cultural backgrounds.

An argument presented in the literature suggested that people from same ethnical background would in a way interact and go to the Children’s Center. The notion was backed by some interviewees where one of them even said that she would not have gone to the children’s Centers were it not for encouragement from the family members.

Another respondent also echoed an argument presented in the literature that some parents use the Children’s Centers as an opportunity for the children but also for them to interact and make new friends. A third respondent also supported the author's argument by saying that she goes to the Children’s Center for her children to interact with others, to meet new people from different parts of England and finally to learn how to speak English. The response was in support of the author’s argument. The reactions are just a few of the many examples that support the author’s argument.


In conclusion, the author suggests that, as much as the Children’s Center play a role in developing the English language for the parents, there needs to be a provision of ESOL classes that help the new immigrant parents to learn the language. The author also suggests further research that could be done in the area as there were a lot of issues that were discovered during the research. The suggestions include a comparison of the language barrier with other issues like personality barriers, local accents, and even inter-gender communication.


The author cited thirty-seven (37) sources 29 of which were peer-reviewed journal articles obtained from online sources. Five of the references were print books. One of the sources was a government document, and the other two were media reports. The author did not obtain any information from Wikipedia are a source close to an encyclopedia.

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