Ethnically mixed schools boost integration, but the lunchtime divide still exists

Ethnically mixed schools boost integration, but the lunchtime divide still exists

Pupils have less “anxiety” towards peers from other ethnic groups when they are taught in mixed schools, a government study has found.

However, while there is evidence that mixed schools boost positive attitudes between pupils of different ethnicities, the report found segregation still exists during lunchtimes.

The study was commissioned in the wake of the Casey Review into the impact of migration on schools, which warned that high concentrations of ethnic minorities in schools and residential areas increased the likelihood of children “growing up without meeting or better understanding people from different backgrounds”.

The new study used data collected over seven years to assess the extent, quality and consequences of mixing between youngsters from different ethnic and religious communities.

It looked at white-British and Asian-British-Muslim pupils at state secondary schools in Oldham, which is one of the government’s Opportunity Areas that receive extra funding to improve problems around social mobility for pupils.

The report used three points of contact – frequency of interaction, how positive or negative it was, and the number of friends from other ethnic groups.

Both Asian-British and white-British pupils in mixed schools have more positive attitudes and higher trust levels towards pupils from different communities than those at segregated schools, the study found.

White-British pupils at mixed schools also have lower levels of anxiety over mixing with the other group of pupils, but more negative interactions.

While the study found “consistent evidence” of mixing in the classroom, there is evidence that segregation remains during lunchtime.

Researchers used systematic observations of seating across year groups in the canteen at lunchtime at two points in the school year at Waterhead Academy, a merger of a segregated Asian-British school and a segregated white-British school.

They found pupils self-segregated by gender, and to a significantly greater degree, by ethnicity.

However the report found that at both points in time, January 2014 and July 2014, year 11s showed a greater increase in lunchtime mixing pupils of different ethnicity, compared with lower year groups.

But researchers did note that there had been fewer year 11s in the second data set as it was after summer exams, and admitted it was unclear whether this had affected the results.

The report also found that despite neither white-British or Asian-British children having strong support for mixing from their families, mixed schools appeared to help promote more positive attitudes towards pupils of different ethnicities.

A government spokesperson said schools have a “vital role in encouraging integration and teaching pupils about tolerance and respect for all faiths and communities.”

They added the government would consider the findings of the report and how to use them to support schools.