Join Donate

Faith schools do not perform better than other schools – Humanists UK sets record straight

Humanists UK has challenged new findings that faith schools perform academically better than other state and private schools, highlighting research which shows many religious schools socially select their pupils which is why they might seem to perform better.

A report in the Sunday Times concluded that faith schools account for almost half of the 500 academically strongest state primaries, with 48 in the top 100 schools.

But Humanists UK said it is a myth that faith schools do better than other schools because faith schools often turn away the poorest in society at the school gates by socially selecting students based on their backgrounds. Humanists UK’s response was published in a news story today in The Times.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Academic research has consistently made clear that religious schools don’t in fact perform any better than other schools, when the background of the pupils is considered. For example, “Faith Primary Schools: Better Schools or Better Pupils?” by Steve Gibbons and Olmo Silva concluded that “pupils progress faster in faith primary schools, but all of this advantage is explained by sorting into faith schools according to pre-existing characteristics and preferences… there is no unambiguous performance advantage that cannot be attributed purely to pupil-side sorting into [faith] schools”.

‘Coupled with the ample evidence that religious selection in school admissions causes social selection, it is clear that religious schools are not performing any better than other schools, but are simply perpetuating an illusion of doing so, through turning away the poorest in our society at the school gates.’

Last week Humanists UK responded to an announcement that 100% religiously selective schools are set to open in England after the Department of Education released new guidance for voluntary aided schools.

And a recent poll commissioned by The Sunday Times found 70% of readers were against the state funding of faith schools.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read our news item on the recent announcement of 100% religiously selective schools here:

For more information about our faith schools campaign work, visit

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.

Search Humanists UK