'I worry that it is the parents of the educated middle class who will gain'

February 3, 2006

John Micklewright, professor of social statistics, says 'trust schools' could become middle-class ghettos

Controversial plans to give schools more choice over admissions could increase social segregation, according to John Micklewright, professor of social statistics at Southampton University. He fears that the "trust schools" - state schools with more control over the pupils they admit - proposed by the Government in last year's Education White Paper, could become middle-class ghettos.

"I am uncertain as to how schools and parents will exercise the independence they gain," he said. "Parents will be offered more choice but I worry that it is yet again the parents of the educated middle classes who will gain."

In what will come as music to the ears of the many Labour MPs who oppose plans to create trust schools, Professor Micklewright's research shows a clear link between educational selectivity and segregation.

Professor Micklewright studied the level of social segregation in UK schools compared with levels in other industrialised countries.

Social segregation in schools, or the uneven spread of children from different backgrounds, could lead to inequalities in academic achievement, he said.

"We were particularly interested in whether social segregation in schools varied across rich industrialised countries," Professor Micklewright said. "We classified socioeconomic background according to parental occupation and status."

England was found to be in the middle ranks, below high-segregation countries such as Austria and Germany but above countries such as Scotland and Scandinavia.

Those at the top of the table had more selective education systems than those at the bottom.

"Our study shows that countries with high levels of social segregation in schools are associated with the prevalence of selective choice by pupils,"

he said.

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