Religious schools most racially segregated state schools, new findings show

18 October, 2013

New research has found that religious schools, particularly minority religious schools, are the most ethnically segregated. The findings show that the majority of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu state-funded schools have no ‘white British’ pupils at all, while the rest have only one or two at most. At the same time, most Jewish state schools have no ‘Asian’ pupils at all. By comparison, the average Muslim, Hindu and Sikh school is situated in an area where a third of the local population is ‘white British’, whereas Jewish schools are in areas where 12 percent is ‘Asian’. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has challenged the Government’s decision to fund such segregated schools, with all of the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh schools and many of the Jewish schools having opened in the last few years.

The findings are based on the most recent available data, namely January 2013 figures for school populations and the 2011 Census for local area populations. Specific findings include:

  • Out of the five Sikh state schools for which data is available, four have no pupils at all that are classified as ‘white British’, compared to 30 percent of their local populations.
  • Out of four Hindu state schools, two have no pupils classified as ‘white British’, compared to 45 percent of their local populations.
  • Out of 15 Muslim state schools, eight have no pupils classified as ‘white British’. On average, over a third of the local populations are ‘white British’. Overall, Muslim schools have on average 34 percentage points fewer ‘white British’ pupils than would be expected for ethnically diverse schools in the areas in which they are located.
  • Out of 44 Jewish state schools, 29 have no pupils who are classified as having an ‘Asian’, compared to 12 percent of their local populations – with one school having a majority ‘Asian’ population in its immediate vicinity. Jewish schools have on average 13 percentage points fewer ‘Asian’ pupils than would be expected for ethnically inclusive schools located in their areas.
  • Out of 1,985 Roman Catholic schools, 245 have no ‘Asian’ pupils. Catholic schools typically have 4.4 percentage points fewer ‘Asian’ pupils than would be expected for schools located in their areas.
  • CofE secondaries that don’t select any of their places on the basis of religion take an average of 0.7 percentage points more ‘Asian’ pupils’, while those that select all of their places on religion take an average of 1.5 percentage points fewer.
  • Out of 13,121 schools with no religious character, just 18 have no ‘white British’ pupils. 2,344 have no ‘Asian’ pupils, but less than 1 percent of these schools’ local populations are ‘Asian’. Schools with no religious character have on average 0.8 percentage points more ‘Asian’ pupils than would be expected for schools located in their areas.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘On the one hand what our research shows may not seem surprising as we know that many religions have an ethnic dimension. But these findings are stark and a timely reminder of the racially segregating effects of religious schools, the division of communities that ensues, and that an expansion of such “faith” schools will only lead to racial segregation in state schools on a scale we have never seen before in this country. Just five or six years ago, these children would not have faced these barriers to growing up together, but now they are growing up apart. If the Government continues to increase the number and type of “faith” schools and while failing to take action, so will their children and their children’s children.’

Professor Ted Cantle CBE, founder of the Institute of Community Cohesion, commented, ‘In 2001 my report into the race riots pointed to the dangers of “parallel lives”, with segregated Church schools being identified as a cause. After this some changes did follow. But now we are going backwards with the increasing balkanisation of children in schools, including a large number in the same areas.

‘Exclusion of children from schools on the basis of faith or ethnicity is now becoming more and more prevalent. Children who grow up with no knowledge of others, with no friends from other backgrounds and with no understanding of other religions and ethnic groups, stand little chance of being able to challenge stereotypes and avoid prejudice.’


For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at or on 020 3675 0959.

Local areas used for comparison are ‘Middle Super Output Areas’, which comprise of 5,000-15,000 people or roughly the same number of pupils as a secondary school.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.