Strong majority opposed to plans for school admissions on basis of religion

2 November, 2016

School kids play outside
New poll: most parents favour integrated schools

Nearly three quarters of the public are opposed to government plans for state schools to select pupils on the basis of religion, according to a new survey commissioned by the Accord Coalition and the British Humanist Association.

It follows the Government’s recent intention to allow new and existing ‘faith’ schools to religiously select 100% of their places, when for the last nine years, all new Academies and Free Schools have been limited to just 50%. The poll reveals that 72% of the public are opposed to any religious selection, compared to just 15% supporting it, and provides a breakdown of the results by respondents’ religion or belief.

Nearly two thirds (63%) of Catholic respondents are also opposed to religious selection, as are 68% of all Christian respondents. The Catholic Education Service (CES) has long been calling for the abolition of the 50% cap on religious selection, though last week CES Director Paul Barber admitted that he had doubts about this position, stating that ‘the move back to schools of 100 per cent one faith is dreadful’. A staggering 82% of Muslim respondents also expressed a preference for no religious selection in admission arrangements at ‘faith’ schools, with 5% taking the opposite view. This is a figure which chimes with previous polling revealing that most Muslim parents would rather send their children to schools with no religious character.

Earlier this month it was revealed that, contrary to Government claims, the 50% cap has been hugely effective in boosting integration within religious free schools. Figures published by the BHA showed that nearly a fifth of pupils at ‘other Christian’ schools subject to the 50% cap on religious selection, are from Asian backgrounds, while ‘other Christian’ schools that are fully religiously selective are much less diverse, with only 3% of their intake being Asian. A similar situation was found to exist across Church of England schools (see graph below).

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘The poll highlights how religious discrimination is out of step with mainstream values in modern Britain. Schools are one of the very worst places where it should be tolerated. They are the state funded institutions that should be doing most to prepare people for life in a diverse society, not segregating and discriminating against children on the grounds of faith.’

Welcoming the results of the poll, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘The Government may say that it is on the side of integration and parental choice, but having proposed that a whole new generation of schools become single-faith enclaves and arbitrarily turn away local families at the gate, it’s no wonder the public are reacting strongly in favour of fair access to schools.

‘Contrary to Government claims, the cap on religious selection has significantly boosted integration in English schools, something that religious and non-religious people alike clearly support.

‘Given the increasing diversity of our society it would be incredibly disappointing if this progress were to be thrown away simply at the behest of a religious lobby that we now see does not share the views of the people it claims to represent. We will continue to encourage those who are yet to speak out against the proposals to do so, and to urge the Government in the strongest possible terms to climb down from this disastrous policy.’


Poll findings

Populus interviewed 2,054 people living in Britain between October 14th and 16th. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of all British adults aged 18+. Populous is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. The results by respondents religious affiliation are set out in the table below. The full survey results and field work data can be found at

Q.  To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement? ‘State funded schools, including state funded faith schools, should not be allowed to select or discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy.’
Religious affiliation Net agree Net disagree Don’t know
All respondents 72% 15% 13%
Net Christian 68% 19% 13%
  Anglican 69% 17% 14%
  Catholic 63% 27% 9%
  Methodist 62% 21% 17%
  Other Christians 69% 23% 9%
Other religions 79% 8% 13%
  Muslim 82% 5% 13%
Non-religious 76% 11% 11%


The consultation on the Government’s ‘Schools that work for everyone’ Green Paper ( including proposals for University sponsored schools, expansion of Grammar Schools and academics selection) runs until 12 December.

Read the Government’s green paper, where it sets out its proposals to scrap the 50% faith discrimination cap:

See the BHA’s previous news item ‘New evidence shows Government proposals to allow 100% religious selection in schools will lead to increased segregation’:

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

Read Faith Schoolers Anonymous’s news item ‘Five ways the catholic church misled the government into a u-turn on fairth school admissions’ at

About the Accord Coalition

The Accord Coalition was launched in 2008 and brings together religious and non-religious organisations who want state funded schools to be made open and suitable to all, regardless of people or their family’s religious or non-religious beliefs. It campaigns to end religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions, and for all state funded schools to provide PSHE, as well as assemblies and Religious Education that boost mutual understanding and teach about the broad range of beliefs in our increasingly diverse society.

About the British Humanist Association

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.