Catholic Education Service claims its schools are ‘beacons of diversity’ whilst arguing for more religious discrimination

1 December, 2016

80The Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CES) has today argued that its annual school census shows that its schools are ‘beacons of diversity and integration up and down the country’ – while at the same time arguing for further religious discrimination in school admissions. The findings reveal that 3% of pupils are from Muslim families (compared to around 6-10% of all young people, in the latest British Social Attitudes Survey) and just 7% are non-religious (compared to over 70% of all young people). The British Humanist Association (BHA) has called on the CES to drop its current campaign for further selection.

The CES has been campaigning extensively for full religious selection in school admissions and against the current 50% cap on religious selection that has been in place for new state schools since 2007. It has only opened two schools under the cap, as it claims that doing so would ‘contravene canon law’.

However, this is cast into doubt by the fact that most Catholic private schools do not select all of their places on the basis of religion and that many Catholic state schools in Scotland and abroad do not select in this way at all. In light of this and the ongoing Government consultation to have the cap removed, it comes as no surprise that the CES may want to portray Catholic free schools as nexuses for cultural and religious cohesion.

Using official figures, an analysis by the BHA found that ‘faith’ schools that have opened under the cap are more diverse than ‘faith’ schools whose admissions arrangements allow for selection of all of their places according to religious faith. Further research also suggests that religious selection leads to schools excluding the poorest children, including among Catholic schools, and that Catholic schools take significantly fewer Asian pupils than live in their local areas.

Perhaps more surprising is the divisiveness of the proposal to lift the cap within the religious community and within the CES itself. It was only a month ago that its head, Paul Barber said that ‘the move back to schools of 100 per cent faith is dreadful’ and the International Catholic Education Office, the umbrella body over organisations including the CES, has just recently called for all its schools to be ‘non-discriminatory’ and ‘open to all’. Polling also shows most Catholics (and indeed those of all other religions and beliefs) against the plans.

BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson commented, ‘The Catholic Education Service is trying to have its cake and eat it. It cannot, on the one hand, claim its schools are religiously diverse, while at the same time arguing in favour of more religious selection, more ethnic segregation, and more exclusion of poor children from its schools.

‘The Government’s proposals to increase religious selection in schools are unjustified, unpopular, and actively harmful to community cohesion. We urge it to listen to the growing evidence and think again.’


For media inquiries, please contact: Sarah Gillam, Director of Communications and Development, on 020 7324 3060 or 07534 248 596 or email

See the BBC report on this year’s CES School Census:

Read the BHA’s report and analysis on integration in religiously selective schools:

Read the BHA’s report on contradictions over claims about ‘canon law’:

Read about the International Catholic Education Office’s declaration in favour of inclusive schools:

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

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

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethically 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.