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New study reveals racial divide in UK schools

DIVIDE: Research warns of ethnic segregation in education

A STUDY which examines diversity in the education system has revealed that 61 per cent of black and minority ethnic (BAME) pupils attend schools where they are in the majority.

The research by Demos Integration Hub and Simon Burgess of the University of Bristol analysed how white and ethnic minority pupils are integrated within schools.

The analysis found patterns of pupils being more likely to be taught with other pupils from a similar background, which did not reflect diverse local communities.

In London for example, approximately 26 per cent of pupils are white British, but 49 per cent of these children are in schools with a white British majority.

Children from Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black Caribbean communities are also disproportionately likely to be at school with children from the same ethnic background.

According to the research, about a third of pupils in primary school are now from a BAME background but below this figure there are wide regional differences.

In seven local authorities in London, there are no white British pupils in a school situated in an area where there is a white British majority. The figures also found that in 71 authorities across England, there are no ethnic minority pupils in schools situated in areas where the BAME population is in the majority.

SEGREGATION

The study examines where there is greatest segregation, in terms of how dissimilar school intakes are to local populations.

The top 10 authorities with the highest levels of segregation are mostly in the north and Midlands. These include: Blackburn with Darwen, Birmingham, Haringey, Bradford, Rochdale, Kirklees, Leicester, Oldham, Rotherham, and Manchester.

The study does not examine why or how such segregation takes place, on a local or national level. However it points to research that said “schools were more segregated than the local neighbourhoods that they served".

However Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Mapping Integration Project at Demos and former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said this was “not a story of terrible racial hostility".

Instead, he said, it reflected demographic shifts and a pattern of the individual, localised choices of parents about where they and their children would feel “comfortable".

He said: “Most families unconsciously make a choice which tends to line up with their own racial background."

DIVERSE

But he added that this tendency towards separation had a negative effect which prevented preparing children to live in a diverse society.

Phillips added that the success of schools in London showed how much children from all backgrounds could benefit from schools with a high proportion of BAME pupils.

Professor Simon Burgess, who helped lead the research said that although schools “in some places remain highly segregated", the longer-term trend is that such separation is “generally declining or is stable".

Dr Richard Norrie, from the Demos Integration Hub that published the report, said: “While we couldn't expect these communities to spread out on a truly equal scale, we would hope for a much greater level of integration for students at the start of their education."

The study showed that, allowing for socio-economic factors, white British pupils are the lowest achieving group at GCSE level.

It also found that BAME pupils are more likely to have private tutors, more likely to attend private school and go to a Russell Group university than their white counterparts.

The publication of the research comes after Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said last week that it was important to have outstanding schools available to white, working-class communities.

Sir Michael warned that white low-income families can feel “abandoned" and “forgotten" by the school system.