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The best of British

This lesson focuses on the population of the UK, and the ethnic and cultural diversity of the UK’s constituent countries. Pupils explore the values of democracy, the rule of law and tolerance within society. The process of migration is examined, as are the ‘pull factors’ attracting people from different locations to England’s capital city

Key questions

What are the key aspects of being ‘British’?

How do different ethnic groups express their culture in Britain?

What are the benefits of living within a multicultural society?

How might tension develop between different racial/cultural groups? What can we do to prevent this?

How has London’s culture changed over time? What role has the migration of different ethnic groups played in this process?

Where in London might you find different cultural groups living happily together?

Key Ideas

The British political system is ‘democratic’, however it has not always been. In the mid-nineteenth century Britain was not a democracy and the majority of politicians did not support democratic values. Voting was not seen as a universal right but was a privilege for the wealthiest class of society. Since 1969, both males and females who have reached the age of 18 years have the right to vote.

The law plays an important role in safeguarding citizens and people have freedom to choose and freedom of speech.

Britain is ‘multicultural’, meaning people of several different cultural backgrounds or ethnicity live alongside each other. The urban areas of Britain tend to be the most ‘multicultural’, for example London, Birmingham and Bristol.

The increasing interconnections of our world with globalisation, and the movement of people via the process of migration means that most cities around the globe (especially in more developed countries such as England) are home to people of diverse race, religion and culture.

First generation settlers in the UK are people who immigrated themselves; second generation are people who were born here and their parents immigrated; third generation are people who were born here, their parents born here, and grandparents immigrated etc.

Often people originally from other countries identify themselves as British, particularly if they were born and schooled in Britain as well identifying with their country of origin.

Web Links

To view a series of images on the topic of multicultural cities to discuss go to Google

To view an interactive map of England’s electoral wards and their ethnic diversity go to the Guardian website

Learning Objective

To understand how processes of globalisation and migration have led to Britain being a multicultural society, and to recognise trends and patterns resulting in some areas being more culturally diverse than others.


Ask pupils to provide guesses of the number of different nationalities living in London and the number of different languages spoken in the city. Write the guesses on the board and see who is closest to the actual figures. London is home to more than 270 nationalities. Over 250 languages are spoken in the city, making the capital the most linguistically diverse city in the world.

Main Activity

The urban areas and major cities of Britain are the most culturally diverse, as these are the areas where most people choose to migrate to due to a range of ‘pull factors’ including job prospects, family/friend connections and good services such as health and education.

Read key figures on ethnicity in England and Wales from the Ethnicity data England and Wales Excel spreadsheet (see downloadable resources). Data source is Census 2011 (ONS). 

Ethnic Group 2011

White British 80.5%

White Irish 0.9%

White Other 4.4%

White Gypsy or Irish Traveller 0.1%

All White 86%

Mixed White-Caribbean 0.8%

Mixed White-African 0.3%

Mixed White-Asian 0.6%

Mixed Other 0.5%

All Mixed 2.2%

Indian 2.5%

Pakistani 2.0%

Bangladeshi 0.8%

Chinese 0.7%

Other Asian 1.5%

All Asian 7.5%

Caribbean 1.1%

African 1.8%

Other Black 0.5%

All Black 3.3%

Arab 0.4%

Other 0.6%

Highlight that the UK is home to people from other European countries, as within the European Union there is the free movement of people. The UK is also home to people from outside the UK.

The latest net migration statistics show that in the year ending September 2015, net migration to the UK was 323,000 (Source: Migration Watch UK)

Discuss the line graph on slide 8 of the Best of British PowerPoint presentation (see downloadable resources). Pose questions such as:

  • What does the blue line represent?

  •  How would you describe the trends in migration since the 1990’s?

  • During the years shown, have more people migrated from EU or non-EU countries?

The EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK

Pupils imagine that they have recently migrated to London from another country. They write a diary entry/passage about the opportunities and difficulties that they might encounter. 

First they use the atlas to locate their country of origin and mark it on the map, before writing their diary entry on the Diary entry activity sheet (see downloadable resources). It is recommended that pupils choose a place of origin that they are familiar with already. The countries shown on the world map on slide ten of the Best of British PowerPoint presentation are also good options.

Encourage pupils to consider and include the ‘pull factors’ to London, for example the job prospects, good quality of life, it being a safe place to live etc. and also state which country they emigrated from and whether it is an EU or non-EU country. Ask pupils to consider the differences between the place they emigrated from and London, and to imagine they are seeing London with fresh eyes. Pose the questions:

  • What would surprise you?

  • What would excite you?

  • What would scare you?

Encourage pupils to include detail of place and location, for instance their delight at seeing the lights of Leicester Square, meeting people of the same cultural background in Brick Lane, or finding restaurants that serve food typical of their origin etc.


Using squared paper, pupils can create a bar graph showing the 2011 census data of percentages of the different ethnic groups living in England and Wales (Ethnicity data England and Wales, see downloadable resources)


In their table groups, pupils can read aloud their passages, and record the combined ‘pull factors’ they included on an A3 sheet to feedback to the rest of the class.

File nameFiles

File type



The United Kingdom Lesson 6 The Best of British


3 MB

The United Kingdom Lesson 6 Ethnicity Data for England and Wales


14 KB

The United Kingdom Lesson 6 JWF Ethnicity England and Wales Information Sheet


804 KB

The United Kingdom Lesson 6 Diary Entry


194 KB

The United Kingdom Lesson 6 Diary Entry (1)


128 KB

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