New poll reveals just 5% of British Christians became Christian after leaving school

18 September, 2017

Just 5% of Christians say that they became Christians after reaching the age at which they left school, a new poll commissioned by the Church of England has revealed. The poll, carried out by ComRes, also reveals that just 6% of British adults consider themselves to be practicing Christians.

Humanists UK has stated that the findings raise questions not only about the motivation behind the church’s involvement in schools, but also the appropriateness of a school admissions system that requires people to attend church just to gain access to their local state school.

Of the 8,150 adults in Great Britain who responded to the ComRes poll, 64% stated that they became Christian between the ages of 0-4, 13% from 5-10 years old, 8% 11-18, and just 5% thereafter (9% of respondents didn’t know). The figures for Anglicans specifically were similar, though just 3% of Catholics stated that they became Christian after reaching 18 years of age.

The figures give important context to the efforts of both the Church of England and the Catholic Education Service in seeking to dramatically increase the number of their schools in the coming years. In July last year the Church of England announced plans to open more than 100 new state schools by 2020 as part of the free schools programme. The Catholic Education Service, whose lobbying is behind the Government’s proposal to drop the 50% cap on religious selection at free schools, has also announced plans to open as many as 40 new state schools.

The Church of England has been open about the motivations behind its continued involvement in the state education system in recent years. In 2014, for instance, their Evangelism Task Group published a report calling for ‘a renewed sense of urgency’ in engaging with and evangelising children and young people. And in the same year, research published as part of the Church of England’s Church Growth Research Programme found that church growth is strongest in areas that have an oversubscribed, religiously selective school, adding that ‘some churchgoing is clearly motivated by a desire to qualify for school admission, but the boost to attendance may last into the longer term if families decide to stay’. Last year the Church also appointed its first Youth Evangelism Officer.

Meanwhile, the latest British Social Attitudes Survey, published earlier this month, has shown that fewer people are religious than ever before. 53% say they belong to no religion, while 71% of those aged 18-24 say the same. Added to this, a new poll published yesterday found 72% of Scots of all ages say they are not religious, up from 56% six years ago.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘Whatever conclusions one draws from these figures, and however well-meaning the motivations of individual teachers and leaders in church schools, it is impossible to ignore the fact that religious organisations will always have a vested interest in running schools. To the extent that this interest detracts from a school’s primary purpose of educating children and promoting their development, the role of religious organisations in running schools must be challenged. That is what Humanists UK has always done, and we will continue to champion the rights of children to an objective, balanced, and secular education’.


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on

See the full results of the ComRes poll for the Church of England:

Read about the Survation poll for Humanist Society Scotland:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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