MPs misled on Catholic school admissions claims

20 November, 2017

Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening MP

Misleading claims made by the Catholic Education Service regarding the admission arrangements of Catholic state schools in England have been repeated in Parliament. During the most recent Education Questions in the House of Commons, two questions were asked by MPs to Education Secretary Justine Greening relating to the Government’s proposals on faith schools admissions. The MPs urged the Secretary of State to drop the so-called 50% cap on religious selection at free schools, stating that the cap is preventing new Catholic free schools from opening.  

This assertion reflects misleading statements made by the Catholic Education Service (CES), which claims that the 50% cap on religious selection ‘contravenes canon law’ and that Catholic schools must select 100% of their places on the basis of religion.

Humanists UK, which believes that no state school should discriminate against children on the basis of religion, has corrected the CES’ claims in a briefing to parliamentarians. Describing the claims as ‘demonstrably false’, the briefing notes that:

  1. a) the vast majority of Catholic private schools in England do not select all their places with reference to religion;
  2. b) many Catholic state schools in Scotland do not religiously select their pupils
  3. c) a recent OECD survey identified only the UK, Ireland, Israel and Estonia as countries that permit religious discrimination in state school admissions;
  4. d) there are already Catholic state schools in England that do not select all their places on religion;
  5. e) the Catholic International Education Office – of which the CES is a member – states that a ‘Catholic school is an inclusive school, founded in intercultural and interreligious dialogue. A non-discriminatory school, open to all… It must constantly promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue’.

The briefing goes on to warn parliamentarians of the very real danger that the Government could introduce a change in policy that will result in more discrimination and more segregation in the education system, simply on the basis of this misleading and politically motivated religious lobbying.  

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘The Catholic Education Service has uncharitably told the Government that it is not willing to cater for all children, irrespective of religion or belief, when operating schools paid for entirely by public money. And worse than that, it has misled both Government and Parliament in making its case.

‘Now that this has been exposed, we hope the Government will do the right thing and defend the importance of integration in the education system and of fair and equal access to schools.’

The Department for Education is currently considering the results of a consultation on the 50% cap held last year. 


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

Read a fuller briefing on religious lobbying around the 50% cap:

Read the Faith Schoolers Anonymous piece ‘We have a cap, not a quota, on religious selection’:

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