Report: ‘White Flight’ Causes Growing School Segregation

Joanna Sugden, Times of London, July 10, 2009

White parents are pulling their children out of schools where they are outnumbered by ethnic minority pupils, according to a report that paints a picture of growing segregation in schools in some parts of England.

The Institute of Community Cohesion studied 13 local areas and questioned parents from places such as Bristol, Bolton, Sunderland, Oldham and Blackburn.

It found that where schools were more mono-cultural parents of all ethnicities preferred to send their children to the school where pupils were most like them.

“We heard strong evidence of ‘white flight’ in some areas,” the report said.

Middle class parents–who tend to be white–were also removing their children from schools with growing ethnic minority populations because they didn’t want them to stand out, the reports authors said.

The report concluded: “Despite the fact that most people we spoke to in focus groups wanted their children to have a mixed education. Parental choice tended to push people to what they saw as the safe option, where children with similar backgrounds went.”

Nick Johnston, one of the authors of the report and a policy director at the iCoCo said parents didn’t want their child to be the odd ones out. “People don’t mind a diverse school but what they do mind is their kid being in a visible minority in a school. This trend has increased in the last few years.”

Councils should consider using lotteries to increase school diversity, he added.

ICoCo was set up in 2005 to promote community relations and research cohesion.

In one school in Blackburn, once the number of non-white pupils rose above 60 per cent, white parents began saying they did not want their children to feel different.

At another unnamed school 85 per cent of the pupils were white British at the end of 2005. During the next two terms pupils from 15 to 20 Somali families joined.

“Many white parents reacted negatively, arguing that their children were being disadvantaged by large numbers of non-English speakers. By September 2006, 60 white children had been removed from the school . . . and the percentage of black and minority ethnic pupils rose to 45 per cent. But many white families stayed,” the report said.

Researchers found evidence of pupils of different ethnicities not socialising even when sharing classrooms and playgrounds.

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