The general election will, of course, be dominated by Brexit. But, in the light of the Casey review, it should also make some space to discuss issues of integration and segregation. The increasing segregation of our schools is one very good reason for that.
A number of previous reviews of school segregation have refused to even recognise the problem as it seems to run counter to parental choice. Or, it has been dismissed on the basis that ‘nothing can be done – schools just represent the areas around them.’ These have been convenient excuses. School admissions can easily be adjusted – only in the last week or so the government has made it clear that grammar schools will be expected to include more children from poorer areas.
Our new report, Understanding School Segregation in England 2011-2016, by iCoCo Foundation, SchoolDash and The Challenge separates the two issues of school admission policies and segregation and exposes the reality of how schools segregate young people from an early age.
It also reveals a pattern of increasing school segregation and especially, that school segregation now exceeds the segregation in the local area, as measured by the proportions of school age children who could take up places.
Schools now need to take responsibility – perhaps especially the governors – for the problems that they are helping to create. We should recognise that school segregation is the result of official policies, as much as that of parental decisions.
The focus of segregation in the past has also been on the concentration of ethnic minorities, but this is only part of the story – the over representation of ethnic minority pupils (categorised as ‘low’ White British’) in some schools is almost inevitably supported by schools that have an over representation of White British pupils (categorised as ‘high’) in other schools and our approach thus enables us to highlight those schools that are ‘contributing to segregation’. These schools also need to be challenged and have been neglected by more traditional approaches to segregation. A large number of schools are included in this category and for many local authority areas the number of schools with an over-representation of White British pupils exceeds those with a low representation.
This is also true for some categories of schools, perhaps especially faith schools. Catholic and Church of England schools are by far the most numerous and their collective impact on school representation is clearly significant yet often un-examined. As an example, in one London Borough the 17 faith primary schools that have somewhat diverse intakes, take up to five times the proportion of White British compared to the area, substantially reducing the potential for other schools to become more mixed.
We now need to recognise that school segregation is not simply the result of ethnic minority clustering and cultural determinants – it is actually fostered by institutional arrangements and supported by traditional patterns which have been exacerbated by recent policy choices. Change is possible.
We now need to put a premium on mixed schools and develop a strategy to achieve that aim.
As Jon Yates, Director of The Challenge, a co-author of the report has said:
“This study shows far more needs to be done to make sure school intakes are representative of local communities. As the government’s Casey Review pointed out, segregation is at a “worrying level” in parts of the country. At a local and national level, Government needs to commit to doing much more to reduce school segregation. We know that when communities live separately, anxiety and prejudice flourish, whereas when people from different backgrounds mix, it leads to more trusting and cohesive communities and opens up opportunities for social mobility.
“We urge local authorities, faith schools and academy chains to consider the impact admissions policies have upon neighbouring schools and put policies in place that encourage better school and community integration.”
From a wider perspective, we do need to give children the chance to grow up with others from different backgrounds, especially where their communities are segregated and they have no experience of difference. We know that contact between groups improves tolerance and breaks down prejudice – and will even contribute to tackling extremism. But we appear to be going in the opposite direction.
Tackling residential segregation is more difficult and will take longer to achieve, so schools are our best chance for integration; they should be the bridges between communities, not compounding the problem and slowly dismantling the bridges.
READ OMAR KHAN’S CRITICISM HERE
ALSO, RALPH SCOTT’S THOUGHTS HERE