UK schools are most socially segregated

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Schools in the UK are among the most socially segregated in the developed world, with many immigrant children clustered together in disadvantaged schools.

The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) latest Education at a Glance research says the socio-economic composition of UK schools “poses significant challenges” for disadvantaged students and those with an immigrant background.

It reveals that 80 per cent of students from immigrant families attend schools with a high percentage of immigrant pupils. This is much higher than the OECD average of 67.6 per cent.

Three-quarters of immigrant students go to schools where large proportions of students speak a different language at home and nearly 80 per cent of immigrant students whose mothers did not receive a high level of education attend disadvantaged schools.

The report notes, however, that the Pupil Premium may help to narrow the performance gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.

It states: “Disadvantaged pupils who are behind in reading and writing will also be offered extra lessons before starting secondary school. The initiative may provide a way of reducing inequities in education quality and opportunities.”

But the study, which is based on data from 2008 and 2009, also found that while educational opportunities for youngsters from poorly educated families are limited in most countries, the UK is better than others at “moving people up the social ladder”.

A total of 41 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds in the UK have attained a higher level of education than their parents – four per cent higher than the OECD average.

The report called on all governments to reduce inequality, boost social mobility and improve employment prospects by increasing investment in early childhood programmes and maintaining reasonable costs for higher education. 

OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria said: “Investing from an early age is crucial to lay down the foundations of later success. High quality education and skills have to be the number one priorities for governments, for economies and for societies.”

The report analysed education statistics for the 34 OECD counties and others including Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa.


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