three students all smiling at the camera, the one in the middle is holding flowers

Understanding School Segregation in England: 2011 and to 2016

Working with the Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo) Foundation and education data analytics company, SchoolDash, The Challenge conducted research on segregation in England’s 20,000+ state schools. We found that thousands of schools are divided along ethnic and socioeconomic lines. The report set out six key recommendations to ensure school intakes are more representative of local communities across both ethnicity and socio-economic status. This included recommendations for central government, local government and all individual schools.

Segregation should be understood as a multi-faceted concept related to the various possible divisions within and between communities

Understanding School Segregation in England

Key findings

  • Those areas of the UK most deeply segregated along ethnic lines in 2011 had made little progress by 2016 in overcoming these divisions. Segregation in some areas had even increased, for example in Blackburn with Darwen and Kirklees.
  • While in some areas there is a connection between school segregation and residential segregation, in some there is not. London is highly diverse and, apart from a small number of areas, is not marked by high levels of residential segregation. Yet, London experiences high levels of school segregation in many areas.
  • We also found a socio-economic divide in schools, although one which appeared to have improved between 2011 and 2016. In 2016, 30% of primary schools and 28% of secondary schools were found to be segregated by Free School Meal (FSM) eligibility, whereas in 2011 these figures were 34% and 32% respectively.
  • To foster more integrated schools, the Government should build on the 2016 Casey Review to set out a clear direction for tackling segregation in the UK, including in schools.
  • Local government, faith schools, academy chains and all individual schools should review their practice, including their impact on neighbouring schools, and support joint interventions to tackle segregation wherever possible.
  • School governors should publish details of their intake, comparing trends over time and working with parents to develop open, transparent arrangements to support integration.
  • The Government, local authorities, academy chains and school leaders should continue to promote the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme and other social action schemes that bring young people together from different backgrounds.
  • All schools should ensure that young people learn about difference, in the context of British values, and have the opportunity to build intercultural competence and religious literacy.

Interested in learning about our Policy Impact?

We believe that, through reforming and growing institutions and practices in small but intelligent ways, policymakers and social entrepreneurs could substantially increase integration between different people.

Visit our Policy Impact page.