The “desegregation” of English schools

Bussing, race and urban space, 1960s–80s

Author: Olivier Esteves

In 1960–62, a large number of white autochthonous parents in Southall became very concerned that the sudden influx of largely non-Anglophone Indian immigrant children in local schools would hold back their children’s education. It was primarily to placate such fears that ‘dispersal’ (or ‘bussing’) was introduced in areas such as Southall and Bradford, as well as to promote the integration of mostly Asian children. It consisted in sending busloads of immigrant children to predominantly white suburban schools, in an effort to ‘spread the burden’. This form of social engineering went on until the early 1980s. This book, by mobilising local and national archival material as well as interviews with formerly bussed pupils in the 1960s and 1970s, reveals the extent to which dispersal was a flawed policy, mostly because thousands of Asian pupils were faced with racist bullying on the playgrounds of Ealing, Bradford, etc. It also investigates the debate around dispersal and the integration of immigrant children, e.g. by analysing the way some Local Education Authorities (Birmingham, London) refused to introduce bussing. It studies the various forms that dispersal took in the dozen or so LEAs where it operated. Finally, it studies local mobilisations against dispersal by ethnic associations and individuals. It provides an analysis of debates around ‘ghetto schools’, ‘integration’, ‘separation’, ‘segregation’ where quite often the US serves as a cognitive map to make sense of the English situation.

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