A NORTH-EAST academic has called for a reduction in the range of schools on offer to parents, after his research showed that the growth of academies was encouraging greater social segregation.

The advice from Professor Stephen Gorard, of the School of Education at Durham University, flies in the face of the current policy of the coalition Government to encourage greater diversity in school provision.

While his overall research showed that the combination of immigration and the recession have combined to reduce the levels of race and class segregation between English schools in recent years, Prof Gorard also found that schools which had been allowed to convert to academies since 2010 now had much lower number of youngsters claiming free school meals compared to mainstream comprehensives still under local authority control.

His findings come in major new studies analysing background data for pupils in all mainstream English state schoools over the past quarter of a century which are being presented at the British Educational Research Associations annual conference today (Wednesday, September 4).

In a separate paper, Professor Gorard's team analysed the level of segregation within 36 local authority areas to see if there was any link between segregation and type of school.

It found that the proportion of schools in an authority which were local authority-controlled and comprehensive was strongly linked to both lower levels of segregation and lower growth of segregation.

Largely successful schools which have been allowed to convert to academy status were found to have much lower rates of children eligible for free school meals than the national average, with large numbers of such schools in a local authority tending to be associated with higher levels of segregation. The same was true in relation to grammar schools.

"Segregation by poverty is highest in areas with fewest 'bog standard' schools, and lowest in areas with fewest independent, special, selective, faith-based, foundation, CTC or academy schools," concluded the paper.

Overall, he suggested, the way education policy-makers could reduce segregation - including income-related segregation - was to try to reduce diversity in the range of schools on offer to parents "If you want less segregation, do not have different types of school," said Prof Gorard, who was assisted by colleagues Rita Hordosy and Dr Beng Huat See from Birmingham University.