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Are we headed to Integration or segregation for England’s pupils?

6 December 2016

Dame Louise Casey’s independent review into integration and opportunity in the UK was published on Monday 5 December 2016. Her report recommends new ways of tackling divides within communities. Simon Burgess has written about the divisions in today’s society and ethnic segregation within English schools. His research looks back at changes in segregation over the last decade.

Standing at the end of 2016, the divisions in society are inescapable. Differences in outcomes, attitudes and votes are clear, whether by class or education level, by gender or ethnicity, by latitude or urban setting.

What of the next generation? Is there more hope in the future? What levels of integration or segregation are today’s young people growing up in?

There is no doubt that schools in England are ethnically segregated. Some ethnic groups are dramatically over-represented in some schools relative to the population in their Local Authority. This has been known for a while (examples of our early work are here (2003) and here (2004)), and is uncontroversial. In some places, segregation is relatively low (for example, London) and in others considerably higher (for example, Oldham or Blackburn).

Some of the statistics from London secondary schools are quite startling in the levels of integration they show. For example, 65% of such schools have no majority group at all: no single ethnic group in these schools accounts for more than 50% of places. And in only 18% of schools does the largest ethnic group account for more than two-thirds of the pupils. By and large, and with exceptions, London’s secondary schools exemplify “integration”: a patchwork of pupils from many different ethnic groups, all generally doing very well.

Clearly, that is not a pattern seen everywhere in England, and in some places almost mono-ethnic schools co-exist in a multi-ethnic city.

Much more controversial is whether ethnic segregation in schools is rising or falling. Famously, in 2005, the then Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality argued that English schools were “sleepwalking into New Orleans-style racial segregation”, though we later showed that in fact segregation was not rising. Again in Spring this year, Labour MP Chuka Umunna claimed rising ethnic segregation, forming an all-party parliamentary Group on Social Inclusion. Recently, Ted Cantle has returned to this issue, with a rather pessimistic view, though focussing less on schools.

This issue is difficult to resolve because there are many different measures of segregation, many different indices with different properties. There are also many different ethnic groups whose levels of school segregation are of interest, and no reason to believe that they will all move in the same direction. And finally, there are many different places which can experience different dynamics. Any overall summary of this has to reflect that there are bound to be some places where segregation is increasing and others where it is decreasing.

The tables below summarise the data for ten different ethnic groups. I provide results for the most common and widely quoted index of segregation, the dissimilarity index. I provide results for this in two forms, addressing two slightly different questions: the focus ethnic group relative to all other ethnic groups combined, and the focus ethnic group relative to only White British pupils. I also report on another widely quoted measure that is quite intuitive, though without the clear statistical properties that the dissimilarity index has. This is the “school majority” index: for example, the percentage of Black African pupils in a particular Local Authority who are in a school where the majority of pupils are Black African. More broadly, how many pupils are in schools in which their group is the majority?

There are two perspectives that are of interest. First, I give the weighted percentage of Local Authorities in which the measure fell between 2008 and 2013. Second, I also report on the relationship between the change and its prior level. This is because we are interested not only in whether on balance the indices are rising or falling, but also where it is rising. Specifically, if it is falling where high and only rising where low, that seems to a much more benign situation than if it is rising where high. The measure in the table here picks that up: a negative number shows a negative relationship between change and initial level (the more benign outcome). The more worrisome outcome in which the index is rising where already high is revealed by a positive number. The absolute size of the number is meaningful – the bigger it is the stronger that relationship is.

Finally, I have provided a subjective summary measure for each ethnicity for each measure, which I have labelled “Cause for concern?” This is a composite measure, equal to YES if the index is rising in more than half of LAs AND it is increasing where it is already high AND that relationship is statistically significant; otherwise it is equal to NO.

See attached for tables: 

Simon Burgess Casey Tables (Office document, 27kB)