Research finds Scottish schools are less 'segregated' by income than in England

The IFS report assessed the impact of different catchment area rules across the border

Pupil catchment rules in Scotland make schools more reflective of their local neighbourhoods and less “segregated” by income than in England, research has found.

However, the report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggested the Scottish system was more likely to encourage wealthy parents to try to move into the catchment areas of “good” schools, pushing up local house prices.

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The research institute compared the model in England, where parents must express a preference as to which school their children attend, to Scotland, where the local authority sets a default school based on where a family lives.

School pupils. David Jones/PA WireSchool pupils. David Jones/PA Wire
School pupils. David Jones/PA Wire

North of the border, parents can make placing requests to move schools, but this is not encouraged and is used by fewer than 15 per cent of parents, according to the report.

Despite both nations having a similar spread of poorer residents, the study found England had more schools with very low shares of pupils accessing free school meals, and more schools with very high shares, when compared with Scotland.

Scottish schools were also found to be “more representative of their local areas”, as a result of the catchment system.

However, the IFS researchers assessed property prices on either side of catchment area boundaries, and found a higher premium of being on the side of better-performing school.

This "premium” was said to be 8 per cent in Scotland and 3 per cent in England, suggesting stronger demand for homes in desirable catchment areas in Scotland.

The report said: “Incentives to sort into areas with ‘better’ schools translate into higher house prices, and more so in Scotland.”

Elaine Drayton, research economist at IFS and an author of the new report, said: “The consequences of school assignment policies for socio-economic diversity are not straightforward.

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"While Scottish schools are more likely to reflect income segregation in local neighbourhoods, schools in England are more segregated by income overall.

"Any policymaker interested in tackling segregation and social mobility should pay attention to both the formal rules for how children are assigned to different schools and the way parents make whatever choices are available to them under these rules.”



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