Ethnically mixed schools create more positive attitudes, DfE research finds

By Will Hazell on 01 August 2017

Research into secondary schools in Oldham finds White-British and Asian-British pupils have more positive views about each other at ethnically mixed schools than those taught in segregated institutions

White-British and Asian pupils have more positive attitudes to one another in mixed schools than in segregated ones, according to a new study.

The study also found that the merger of two ethnically segregated schools into a mixed one led to a fall in anxiety and an increase in the number of friendships between pupils from different ethnic backgrounds.

The Department for Education-commissioned research looked at interactions and attitudes between White-British and Asian-British students at ethnically mixed and segregated secondary schools in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

According to the researchers, "Both Asian-British and white-British pupils in mixed schools expressed more positive attitudes and higher levels of trust... towards outgroup pupils than those in segregated schools."

Over a seven-month period, the white-British pupils in mixed schools improved their attitudes, decreased their anxiety and reported "more outgroup trust" compared to their white counterparts in segregated schools.

For Asian-British pupils, anxiety levels also decreased over time in the most mixed schools, although the researchers found that they increased when Asians were in a small minority. 

The study also looked at interactions between pupils over a four year period following the merger of a predominantly white-British school with a mainly Asian school.

"The effect of the merger... can be seen, simply, by looking at changes in the proportion of pupils who have no friends from the ethnic outgroup," the report states.

"[In June 2012] approximately 20 per cent of White-British and Asian-British pupils reported that they had no outgroup friends. By [February 2015], these figures had dropped significantly to approximately 5 per cent in each case."

The research found that pupils self-segregated in the cafeteria at lunchtime, but this also decreased between two time points several months apart in the study. 

Researchers also looked at the impact of "family norms" on pupil attitudes, finding that even where students' perceived that their parents had negative views about mixing with pupils from the outgroup, contact still promoted more positive attitudes. 

A government spokeswoman said: “Schools have a vital role in encouraging integration and teaching pupils about tolerance and respect for all faiths and communities. We will consider the findings of this report and how we can use them to better support schools.”