Pupils in more than a quarter of primary schools and four in ten secondary schools are segregated in the UK according to ethnic or socio-economic backgrounds - and the numbers are on the increase, according to recent research.
The Challenge charity has revealed findings from the first report to look at segregation by comparing schools' ethnic intakes and numbers accessing free meals. In the study, a school was classed as 'segregated' if the proportion of ethnic minority pupils was very different to the proportion of pupils from the 10 nearest schools in the area.
The study found that secondary schools are more likely to be segregated by ethnicity while primaries are more likely to be divided along socio-economic lines. It also suggested that in some areas the situation is worsening - with primaries becoming more ethnically segregated in the last five years in over half of the 150 areas analysed.
Areas seeing increased school segregation included Blackburn with Darwen, Lancashire; Kirklees in West Yorkshire, the London Borough of Barnet and Peterborough in Cambridgeshire.
Jon Yates, Director of The Challenge, said "This study shows far more needs to be done to make sure school intakes are representative of local communities. We know that when communities live separately, anxiety and prejudice flourish, whereas when people from different backgrounds mix, it leads to more trusting and cohesive communities and opens up opportunities for social mobility.
"One of the key recommendations in this report is that the government, local authorities, academy chains and school leaders should continue to promote the National Citizen Service - a programme that The Challenge delivers. NCS is a tried and tested way of bringing young people from different schools and backgrounds together to create an integrated and strong society.
"Shortly, The Challenge will be launching a new campaign - EqualNotDivided - to encourage more integrated schools that reflect our diverse society and where children from all walks of life can mix."