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Keywords:

  • multiculturalism;
  • parents;
  • Birmingham;
  • encounter;
  • school;
  • learning

In the UK, schools are considered vital to the realisation of intercultural cities, to the strengthening of community relations and to the development of new forms of social learning. This paper brings work on the geographies of education and learning together with work on the challenges of living with difference, to examine how the routines and repetitive interactions of everyday school life shape the capacities of parents to live with difference. Utilising research with white British parents at a multicultural primary school in Birmingham, UK, the paper builds on the growing interest in the spaces and theories of urban encounter to extend work that has examined the value of shared school spaces. While attending to the (re)production of social difference and the problematic accounts of anxiety, hierarchy and belonging that fracture the school community, the paper also examines the shared parental commitments and aspirations that underpin the motivations for intercultural dialogue and learning. In so doing, the paper details how existing knowledges and ways of living are called into question and gradually altered through personal work, pragmatic negotiation and the development of practical competencies and calls for much greater emphasis on these small and incremental changes in future work.