New evidence shows Government proposal to allow 100% religious selection in schools will lead to increased segregation

30 September, 2016

The 50% cap on religious selection in free schools has significantly boosted the access of ethnic minority families to their local schools. The Government proposes to scrap it.

Analysis by the British Humanist Association has found that figures provided in the Government’s green paper show that allowing free schools to choose all pupils on religious grounds will lead to increased ethnic and religious segregation across England.

Using the same data, the BHA found that 100% religiously selective Christian schools are less diverse and admit a far higher proportion of children classified as ‘of white origin’ than schools which operate under the 50% cap on religious selection or do not select on religious grounds at all.

The Government announced that it was proposing to drop this so-called ‘50% cap’ on religious selection, because it claimed it was failing to boost integration in schools.

On the contrary, BHA analysis reveals that ethnic integration in schools has improved as a result of the rule requiring religious free schools to keep at least half of their places open to local children, regardless of religion or belief.

For instance, in existing Church of England free schools that are bound by the 50% cap, the Government found that 63% of pupils are classified as ‘of white origin’, but in Church of England secondaries that religiously select all of their places, 78% are white.

Similarly, in ‘other Christian’ free schools opened under the cap, 55% of pupils are white, but in fully religiously selective ‘other Christian’ secondaries, 85% of pupils are white.

BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman said, ‘Today’s research reveals that the proposals run entirely counter to the evidence, which clearly demonstrates that the 50% cap has dramatically improved ethnic and religious integration in religious state schools.’

‘We have written to Justine Greening, Education Secretary, to draw her attention to the evidence and to urge her to drop the current proposals, which will only lead to greater segregation and be a massive setback for social cohesion.’

The Government’s green paper states that the 50% cap has been particularly ineffective in minority religious schools (Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and Hinduism). The research reveals that whilst this is largely true, some slight improvement in diversity at minority religious schools has nonetheless been observed. Muslim free schools, for example, have an intake that is 80% Asian, while Muslim schools that are fully selective perform worse in terms of diversity, with an intake that is 86% Asian. But the research has demonstrated that the positive impact that the cap is having in Christian settings, which make up the vast majority of religious schools, is reason enough to leave it in place regardless of the situation in minority religious schools, which can be tackled by the additional measures proposed in the green paper.

The move has been widely criticised since it was announced. Rabbi Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, said that ‘in a country that is becoming increasingly diverse, this is exactly the wrong time to give faith schools the power to divide and segregate children’, while Director of the Hindu Academy Jay Lakhani said ‘Removing the 50 percent cap the government is suggesting cannot help integration. To suggest this is a contradiction in terms. It will promote greater division in our society.  Such measures increase polarisation between people of different faiths and no-faith’.   


For further contact or information please contact BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

See the full breakdown of figures here:

Read the Government’s green paper, where it sets out the proposals:

See the BHA’s previous news item ‘Government published plans to allow full religious discrimination in school admissions’:

Read the BHA’s news item ‘Exposed: Catholic hypocrisy in calls for end to restrictions on religious selection in schools’:

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

The BHA is a co-founder of the Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC).

The FAC 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 British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British 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 Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond 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.