Reducing the different types of schools on offer to parents will help to tackle a “stubborn underlying level” of segregation in English education.
Immigration and the recession have led to a reduction in the levels of race and class segregation between schools in England, academics have found.
However, they warn that there is still an underlying problem of segregation between disadvantaged pupils and their peers and claim that successive governments’ attempts to increase the types of school available seem to have contributed to the problem.
The academics from the Universities of Durham and Birmingham analysed the background data of students in state schools in England over the past 25 years. They found that a rising number of people falling into economic hardship since 2008 has led to a more even spread of pupils who claim free school meals.
A similar process has happened with children from minority ethnic groups and for those with English as an additional language, while the policy of inclusion has also led to a more even spread of SEN students.
However, based on an analysis of 36 local authority areas, the research also found that the proportion of schools that were local authority-controlled and comprehensive in an area was “strongly linked to lower levels of segregation”.
Notably, they discovered that successful schools which have been allowed to convert to academy status under the coalition government’s acceleration of the academy programme have much lower rates of children eligible for free school meals when compared to the national average.
The paper states: “Segregation by poverty is highest in areas with fewest ‘bog standard’ schools and lowest in areas with fewest independent, special selective, faith-based, foundation, city technology college, or academy schools.”
Data on the first of the new free schools set up in 2011 also show “generally low numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals”.
Professor Stephen Gorard of the University of Durham, who led the research, said reducing the diversity in the range of schools on offer to parents would help tackle the issue.
“If you want less segregation, do not have different types of school,” he added.
The research was presented at the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association last week. Visit www.bera.ac.uk