Tuesday, 19 February 2013

10 ways to make our Schools less segregated

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Our schools are more divided by income and ethnicity than any other rich country.  This should worry us.  It means we are failing to prepare our children for living in modern Britain.  So what can be done about it.  What would you do?

As a thought-starter, here are ten things we could do to make our schools less segregated.

1. Change Catchment Areas: At present, catchment areas are often based on who lives nearest.  This encourages parents to spend money buying houses nearest to schools.  This leads to income segregation in our schools.  If catchment areas were bigger and based on a lottery rather than who was nearest, this would make a dramatic difference.

2. Incentivise Marketing of the School to all Groups: Incentivise schools to receive applications from a representative sample of the population.  If one ethnic group is over-represented, the school should be encouraged to be creative in reaching out to other groups at application stage.

3. Introduce Small Pastoral Groups: Research shows that in large groups, people self-select to spend their time with people like them.  If you want to ensure segregation doesn’t happen within the school, we need the primary identity for students to be a pastoral group of around 8-12, alongside their class and year group.

4. Provide cross-background Mentoring: Lots of schools have mentoring programmes linking younger students to older ones.  Try to make this cross-backgrounds as much as possible – linking young people from different income-brackets and ethnicities.

5. Link to a residential home: By definition, all schools are segregated by age.  Form a link with residential care homes for joint projects and volunteering to ensure students gain an understanding and empathy of the older generation.

6. Prioritise work experience: Ensure all students experience meaningful work experience – ideally in an environment that they might not access through their parents.  This way they can understand a workplace and work culture different from their families.

7. Back Clubs and Societies: Reward and praise teachers who run clubs and societies.  Ensure that clubs and societies are seen as open to all groups of students – not just one ethnic or income group.

8. School Council: Set up a school council representing students made from students from all backgrounds.  Invest time in ensuring they spend time together resolving issues together and understanding other points of view.

9. Residentials: Use residentials to bond new students together and create an identity beyond the ethnic and income identities.

10. National Citizen Service: Promote and sign your students up for National Citizen Service – to ensure they mix across backgrounds with young people in and outside your school.  If you‘re in London, Midlands or North-West you can do this with The Challenge Network!

What do you think?  Are these the right ten?  What would be your number 1?

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