Education Policy Institute: ‘faith schools’ academically no better than others, increasing them bad for social mobility

2 December, 2016

2016_09_29_lw_v1_children_b_wTake action! It’s urgent that as many people as possible respond to the Government’s consultation on its proposals to remove the 50% cap on religious selection. You can do so quickly and easily, using a handy form on our website.

In a new report published today, the Education Policy Institute has found that there is no academic difference between state religious schools (‘faith schools’) in England and others once pupils’ backgrounds are taken into account. It also found that faith schools take significantly fewer pupils eligible for free school meals than live in their local areas.

The report by independent academics concludes that with respect to current proposals to remove the 50% cap on religious selection in school admissions, ‘If the objective of government policy is to increase social mobility, this policy intervention is unlikely to be effective’ and that the Government’s planned expansion of faith schools will come at the cost of social mobility. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the report and called for Government plans to be dropped.

Amongst other things, the academics find that:

  • After controlling for deprivation, prior attainment and ethnicity, there is no difference between pupil performance at ‘faith’ and other schools at Key Stage 2, and a very ‘small’ difference at Key Stage 4
  • Making a national comparison, ‘Faith schools educate a lower proportion of disadvantaged children (12.1 per cent eligible for free school meals at Key Stage 2 versus 18.0 per cent; 12.6 per cent at Key Stage 4 versus 14.1 per cent)’
  • Locally, the odds of a child eligible for free school meals getting into a religious secondary school is just 70% the odds of any given local child gaining entry. This chimes with 2014 research by the Fair Admissions Campaign, which further established a clear link between the level of religious selection in a school’s admissions policy and the social makeup of its intake

Commenting on the report, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘Allowing religious selection in admissions to state faith schools is often justified by lauding their academic performance. Today’s report confirms that alleged academic superiority is a myth. It also demonstrates that Government aspirations to improve social mobility will be harmed, not helped by their planned expansion of faith schools, which are in any case a disaster for religious segregation and community cohesion. The current cap on religious selection is popular and it has worked. We implore the Government to listen to the academic and public consensus and think again.’


For more information, please contact Sarah Gillam, Director of Communications and Development at or on 020 7324 3079 or 020 3675 0959.

Read the report:

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 items:

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.