Segregation in schooling is increased by more choice
Repeated attempts to introduced different types of state schools could contribute to segregation of pupils, according to research.
While England's schools are becoming more mixed in terms of class and race, there is a "stubborn" underlying level of segregation, a study found.
It suggests that moves by successive governments to offer parents more choice in where their child is educated, such as through faith schools, academies or grammar schools, might be adding to the divisions, as areas that have many different types of schools tend to be more divided than places with more community primary schools and comprehensives.
The study, led by Professor Stephen Gorard at Durham University, used national figures on pupils at England's mainstream state schools to create a "segregation index".
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This looked at how clustered students are in particular schools in terms of poverty, speaking English as a second language, special educational needs (SEN), and coming from a minority ethnic group.
The findings show that overall, on different measures, between 20% and 50% of pupils would have to change schools for there to be a fair mix of students. The level of segregation of SEN children was the lowest, with segregation of children speaking English as a second language the highest.
The researchers suggest that the impact of the recession and immigration have led to a reduction of segregation based on race and class.
Rising numbers of people facing financial hardship since the economic downturn in 2008 have led to more pupils becoming eligible for free school meals – a key measure of poverty – which meant these students became more widely distributed between schools. This has led to a fall in segregation based on this measure.
Segregation in schools based on poverty fell between 1989 and 1993, then rose up to the early 2000s before levelling off and starting to drop again from 2008, the study says.
There is also less division in pupils by ethnicity and English as an additional language. Immigration has meant a rise in the numbers of non-white students, which means they are more mixed between schools, the researchers suggest.
The could be partly down to historical increases in immigration, as well as changes to the way ethnic minority groups are reported in official figures.
Segregation in terms of special needs has fallen as more pupils with SEN are taught in mainstream schools, it adds.
Prof Gorard warned that despite falls in segregation, there are still underlying permanent levels of divisions.