Segregated schools do not affect pupils' exam results

Richard Garner
Thursday 18 June 2009 14:52

Children taught in segregated schools do not suffer in their exam results, according to the first research of its kind to be carried out in the UK.

A report published today by researchers from Bristol University showed that the gap in performance between pupils of different ethnic groups at GCSE remained largely unaffected regardless of whether they were taught in well-integrated schools or those dominated by a particular ethnic minority group.

Whether they were brought up in a segregated neighbourhood or not does not make a difference, either.

The findings are in stark contrast with similar research in the US which shows the gap in performance between white abd black pupils growing by as much as 25 per cent if black children are taught in schools dominated by their own ethnic group. The gap also widens in the US for Hispanic and Asian students.

The results from the UK study of 1.6 million pupils show - on average - white pupils scored 41 points at GCSE. Chinese and Indian pupils score higher at 55 and 48 points respectively - while Bangladeshi (40 points), Pakistani and black African (38) and Black Caribbean (33) do worse.

The gap, however, between the performance remains largely unaffected no matter the circumstances in which they are taught. The only difference is - where the gap widens - in London amongst black Caribbean pupils.

The researchers say the reason why the UK experience differs from the US could be attempts by the Government to ensure that spending per pupil here is equalised between schools - whereas there are large differences in the US.

Also, levels of segregation in England are lower than in US where many schools are known as “the Hispanic school” or “the black school”.

Teachers’ leaders and academics have been worried about the impact of segregation in UK schools for some time - in particular drawing attention to the imbalance in ethnic make-up in many of the country’s faith schools. They warn this means there is less likely to be social cohesion in the community.

In addition, they are worried that more parental choice has led to a “white middle-class flight” from inner city schools.

Today’s report, produced by a team of researchers led by Professor Simon Burgess at Bristol University’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation, says its findings support their demands for more integration.

It cites an inquiry into race relations headed by Lord Ouseley which concluded that “a segregated school system ... has failed to challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes and that has played a marginal role in brokering cultural shifts between family, school and public life”.

Professor Burgess added: “The fact that our results suggest that levels of segregation do not impact - either positively or negatively - on test score outcomes adds weight to the call for increasing integration of different ethnic groups at school in order to increase the potential for improved social cohesion.”

The results of the survey also showed that white, indian and Chinese pupils were likely to live - on average - live in the least deprived areas and Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils in the most deprived areas. This could be the main reason for the difference in exam performance.

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