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Faith schools segregated by poverty

31 March 2017

Adam Hollingworth

Diverse: a session on presentation skills for school students last August at the Carlton Centre, Brent

Diverse: a session on presentation skills for school students last August at the Carlton Centre, Brent

CHURCH and other faith schools are more likely to be segregated both by ethnicity and by poverty than non-faith schools, a new study suggests.

Some 29 per cent of faith primary schools were ethnically segregated, compared with 26 per cent of non-faith schools.

The picture for secondaries was similar: 44 per cent of faith secondary schools were segregated by ethnicity, compared with 40 per cent of non-faith schools.

These new figures come from Understanding School Segregation in England, a report by the social-integration charity The Challenge, the Institute of Community Cohesion, and education-data analysts SchoolDash.

The report’s definition of “segregated” here means different from the surrounding neighbourhood. The report compared all of England’s 20,000 state schools with the ten schools nearest to them. If a particular school’s proportion of ethnic minority pupils or pupils entitled to free school meals was 15 percentage points more or less than the average of the ten closest schools, it was deemed to be segregated.

By this formula, faith schools were also found to be marginally more segregated on socio-economic lines..

A director of The Challenge, Jon Yates, said: “We know that, when communities live separately, anxiety and prejudice flourish, whereas when people from different backgrounds mix, it leads to more trusting and cohesive communities, and opens up opportunities for social mobility.

“We urge local authorities, faith schools, and academy chains to consider the impact admissions policies have upon neighbouring schools, and put policies in place that encourage better school and community integration.”

Professor Ted Cantle, who established the former Institute of Community Cohesion, said: “We know that contact between groups improves tolerance and breaks down prejudice — and will even contribute to tackling extremism. But we appear to be going in the opposite direction. Schools are our best chance for integration; they can be the bridges between communities.”

Professor Cantle, who chaired the team that was tasked by the Government to review integration after the 2001 race riots, also campaigns against state-funded faith schools’ being allowed to consider religious affiliation during admissions.

While the gaps between segregation in faith schools and non-faith schools described in the report were relatively small, they widen significantly when looking at the different types of faith school.

For instance, C of E primary schools have almost identical rates of both ethnic and socio-economic segregation compared with non-faith schools, whereas Roman Catholic primaries on average have significantly more segregation on both measures.

Similarly, C of E and RC secondary schools have almost identical levels of ethnic segregation (43 and 44 per cent respectively), and are not much more segregated than non-faith schools (40 per cent).

Non-Christian faith secondaries (a much smaller category with only 32 in total across England), however, are vastly more ethnically segregated; more than 94 per cent are deemed to be less diverse than their neighbourhoods.

The C of E’s chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, emphasised that most church schools did not admit pupils on the grounds of religious affiliation. Many C of E schools also offered programmes that directly supported the integration of ethnic minorities, he said.

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