School Bussing Works, Claims Equality Chief

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Clark

BUSSING poor children to better schools in richer areas could be a wayto radically improve 'social cohesion', Britain's equality supremo saidyesterday.

Trevor Phillips heaped praise on a U.S. scheme in an economically segregatedarea which used quotas to create an even spread of disadvantaged andlow-achieving pupils across schools.

He said the bussing project in Wake County, North Carolina, had produced'exceptional' results and had even encouraged white families to return to thecities from the suburbs.

Mr Phillips told a conference that it was crucial to think of integration interms of social class, not merely colour.

Wake County has abandoned its policy of trying to mix pupils by race. Instead,it mixes them by economic background. Forty other education districts acrossthe U.S. have picked up the idea.

Under the scheme, children on free school meals - used as an indicator ofpoverty - must not take up more than 40 per cent of claims pupils at any schoolwhile poor performers in tests must not number more than 25 per cent.

The scheme has led to hundreds of low-income pupils being bussed tohigh-performing schools in wealthier areas.

And, according to reports from parents in North Carolina, it has in some casesworked the other way, with well-off pupils brought into poorer inner-cityschools.

Bussing to meet racial or economic quotas has long been an incendiary issue inU.S. politics.

Under the latest version of the system, the county is divided into hundreds ofgroups of families which are classified according to the number of children ineach qualifying for free school meals.

Each group is assigned a specific set of schools, allowing officials todistribute pupil wealth across the region.

It means groups of pupils could find themselves being bussed to lessons even ifthere are alternative schools in walking distance. …