Two out of three public schools in Barcelona have more than twice immigrants than its nearest charter school

This is a translation of an original article published at Catalunya Plural in Catalan and Spanish.


In Barcelona, 17 primary schools have less than 1% of immigrant schoolchildren, while in 18 they exceed 50%

The extremes that school segregation reach in the education system can be seen in neighbourhoods such as Sant Andreu, in Barcelona, ​​where there is a public school with 38% of students of immigrant origin and, next to it, a charter school with 0.8% of them. Abysmal differences like this are a constant in the city. 63.4% of public schools — that is, almost two out of three — have more than twice as many foreigners as their closest charter school.

School segregation is not measures by percentage of foreign students — or lower class students — it has, but by how far it is from the social composition of the area that surrounds it. In this sense, the comparison between neighbouring centres in Barcelona shows great inequalities. Apart from Sant Andreu, in Nou Barris there are two centres separated by 200 meters with 48% and 1.2% immigration. In the district of Sants-Montjuïc, one with 30% and one with 1.32%. The first ones are public schools; the second ones, charter schools.


The gap between public and charter schools is a reality inthe majority of the city’s most exaggerated segregation cases. From the 20 schools with the greatest differences between them and their neighbouring centre, in 17 cases the one with the highest percentage of immigration is a public one and the one with the lowest, a charter one. Even so, it is true that there is also segregation among public schools. If you compare between the closest public, in up to 27% of cases one duplicates — or more — immigration from the other.

Charter schools, half of the immigration

Barcelona is one of the few cities in Spain in which historically there have been more students in charter schools than in public ones (until 2018, the trend was reversed then). Even so, these centres financed with public resources have not assumed more foreign students than the public ones, as can be seen from the data provided by the Department of Education to El Diari de l’Educació and, after an appeal to the Commission of Transparency. During the 2017-2018 academic year, the public system had 70% of the foreign children in the city enrolled, despite the fact that the public enrolment in Barcelona accounts for only 44% of the total.

Distribution between public and charter centres

Percentage of local and foreign students enrolled in each of the two networks


In other words, charter schools assume half of the immigrant students that they would in an egalitarian system. Among the reasons why immigrants who choose charter schools are less, there are the economic barriers that these centres present, with monthly fees — since many of the foreign families are lower class — or the fact that the charter network is mainly covered by Catholic institutions.

Even with exceptions, almost all the schools with fewer students of non-Spanish nationality are charter ones. Seventeen of them do not reach 1% of foreign schoolchildren, a percentage far from the average of any city district (the one with less of them, Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, has 6%). At the other extreme, 15 of the 18 Barcelona schools that have more than 50% of migrant students are public.

The school that has a higher volume of immigration is one in Raval, which reaches 87% of immigrant students. It should be remembered, however, that this neighborhood has the highest percentage of foreign students: 49% compared to 14% on average in the whole school system of Barcelona.

Percentage of foreign students in schools in Barcelona

Districts ordered from the highest to the lowest school segregation

Interactive version in original article

Sants and Ciutat Vella, the most segregated

No neighbourhood in Barcelona is oblivious to school segregation, although in some this problem is more pronounced than in others. In the districts of Sants-Monjuïc and Ciutat Vella, with a high percentage of immigration, it is where there are more differences between schools in terms of student origin. One way of calculating it is with the so-called standard deviation, that is, how far are all the schools in a given neighbourhood from its average, as can be seen in the following map:


Interactive version in original article

Thus, the neighbourhood with the greatest segregation is the Bordeta, in Sants. With 15% of immigrant students, there is only one public school in their area with 48% of these schoolchildren and two charter ones with 13.5% and 1.3%, respectively. In the district of Ciutat Vella, neighbourhoods such as Raval, Gòtic or Barceloneta have important internal inequalities between their schools. The case of Trinitat Vella, in Nou Barris, also stands out: with an average foreign student body of 34.4%, there is a charter school with 8% and two public ones with 43% and 49%, respectively. On the other hand, the neighbourhood with a more equitable distribution of this student body is Montbau, in Horta-Guinardó. It only has two public schools, one with 7% and another with 5%.

Percentage of foreign students in schools in Barcelona

Neighbourhoods ordered from the highest to the lowest school segregation

Interactive version in original article

The year against segregation

Until now, only the Síndic de Greuges (the Catalan Ombudsman) and some entities, such as the AMPA (families’ federations), the unions or the Jaume Bofill Foundation, had consistently warned about school segregation in Barcelona and Catalonia. In 2017 the Department of Education agreed to create the Pact against Segregation with the educational community and concerted institutions, but the application of 155 left it behind. The new Minister, Josep Bargalló, resumed it with the new Government, ensuring that the current year, 2018-2019, should be the year of the fight against segregation.

However, waiting for the Pact against Segregation to agree on its first measures, there will be no draft changes for the next year. The only thing that the Catalan Executive has announced is that, in the pre-registrations that open in March, the extra points for family affinity will be reduced and those given so far for celiac disease and other diseases of the digestive system will be eliminated.

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