Study Reveals Extensive Ethnic Segregation in British Schools


Six in ten UK ethnic minority students enter schools where their ethnic minority is a majority, a new study has found. More than 9 in 10 white British students started their education in schools where white British were the majority in 2013, the study by Demos Integration Hub reveals.

The Demos think tank has shown that parents prefer to send their children to schools where their own ethnicity is dominant, something that leads to a broader division of society and inhibits the educational prospects of white children who tend to benefit academically when learning in racially diverse schools.

The Demos Integration Hub and Simon Burgess of the University of Bristol analyzed how white and ethnic minority students in Britain enter schools and discovered that children from Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black Caribbean families tend to prefer schools where their ethnicity is dominant.

An important finding by Burgess and Demos is that schools in segregated communities tend to be more segregated than the communities they serve:

 “[S]schools do not dilute the residential segregation of the neighborhood, but rather tend to strengthen it’.

The study also reveals that segregation in schools tends to decrease as children get closer to ending secondary schooling and slightly increases again by the time students graduate. 

In London, 90% of ethnic minority Year 1 students are in ethnic minority majority schools. At the same time, 49% of Year 1 White British students are in schools where White British is the dominant ethnicity. In the British capital, white British students make up 26% of all students. Trevor Phillips, Chairman of Demos’s mapping integration project, said to BBC Radio 4:

 “To some extent, in London the clever thing for smart middle-class parents to do is to look for schools which have substantial numbers of Indian heritage children, because the statistics say that their child will benefit from sitting in the same class as those motivated kids.”

Having White British students attend racially segregated schools impedes their education, the study points out.

Phillips says that parents are unconsciously choosing schools with their own ethnicity being dominant as a way of making their students feel more comfortable. However, parents should actively seek schools with ethnic diversity to promote community cohesion. He commented specifically about White British students:

“White children are the ones who are doing least well. Those white children who are in schools where there are a lot of high-performing minorities tend to do better. There is something about sitting in class with those kids that improves performance … We are trying to prepare children for a diverse world – schools should reflect that.”

The Sunday Times has revealed that school segregation in certain parts of England is far worse than areas in St. Louis, Missouri in the United States, the region recently hit by the Ferguson riots.