Groundbreaking new research maps the segregating impact of faith school admissions

3 December, 2013

The Fair Admissions Campaign, of which the British Humanist Association is a part, has today published groundbreaking research into the extent of religious selection in state schools and its effect on social and ethnic inclusiveness. Launched in map form, for the first time it scores how religiously selective, socio-economically inclusive and ethnically inclusive every mainstream state secondary school in England is. Users are able to see profiles for individual schools, compare and rank different schools in their area and nationally, and see how segregated different denominations, dioceses and local authorities are. It is hoped that the tool will prove useful to parents, schools, and individuals concerned about segregation in school admissions. It can be viewed at

The research combines data from five main sources and hundreds of admissions directories. The map details the proportion of pupils each school is allowed to religiously select in its oversubscription criteria; how many pupils at the school are eligible for free school meals by comparison with its local area; and how many speak English as an additional language.

Key findings include:

  • Comprehensive secondaries with no religious character admit 5% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected given their areas. Comprehensive Church of England secondaries admit 15% fewer; Roman Catholic secondaries 28% fewer; Jewish secondaries 63% fewer; and Muslim secondaries 29% fewer.
  • There is a clear correlation between religious selection and socio-economic segregation: Church of England comprehensives that don’t select on faith admit 1% fewer pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected, while those whose admissions criteria allow full selection admit 35% fewer.
  • 16% of schools select by religion but they are vastly overrepresented in the 100 worst offenders on free school meal eligibility and English as an additional language. They make up 46 of the worst 100 schools (and 67 out of 100 if we exclude grammar schools) on FSM eligibility and 50 of the worst 100 (55 if we exclude grammar schools) on EAL.
  • The most segregated local authority as a result of religious selection is Hammersmith and Fulham. While 15% of pupils nationally are eligible for free school meals, the segregation between the religiously selective schools and other schools is almost double that (27 percentage points).
  • The map represents the first time any data has ever been published on the degree of religious selection by faith schools. We estimate that 16% of places at state schools (or 1.2 million) are subject to religious selection criteria. This compares with 5% of secondary places in grammar schools and 7% of all places in independent schools.

More in depth findings can be found in the Fair Admissions Campaign’s briefing.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘Today’s findings make clear like never before the devastating effects that faith-based admissions have in segregating communities along socio-economic and ethnic lines. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently commented that Church of England schools are moving away from religious selection. We are yet to see if this is true, but at the same time believe it cannot come true soon enough. In any case, the scale of the problem demands not voluntary effort by religious groups but legislation – government should act now to make these divisive effects impossible by removing the possibility of religious selection in state-funded schools.’


For further comment please contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 020 3675 0959 or email For further information about the map please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072.

The map can be viewed at and a more in depth briefing at Note that unfortunately the map doesn’t work on mobile devices due to the fact that they can only handle about 100 pins (there are over 3,300).

Figures comparing different religious denominations and Dioceses can be seen on the ‘Overall averages’ tab of the map. For a fuller methodology (including how schools’ local area figures are calculated), details of the sources used, responses to possible criticism and answers to other questions please see the ‘FAQs’ tab.

The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.

Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and LecturersBritish Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

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.