Extremist views more common in young people who don’t mix with those with other beliefs

14 September, 2020

Young people who do not mix with those from other religions or beliefs are more likely to hold extremist views than those who do, a new report has found.

Humanists UK, which has long campaigned for an integrated school system that is open to all irrespective of background, said that the findings show just how important it is that children with different beliefs are educated together and not segregated by faith schools.

The research, published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and conducted by the polling agency Savanta ComRes, compared the views of British Muslims and white non-Muslims aged 18-30. It found that one in five young people in both of these groups agreed with extremist statements, including those justifying violent action against other groups, and that this agreement was more likely among those who ‘have homogenous social networks in terms of race and religious belief’ and ‘lack social integration and inter-group contact’.

The report urges the Government to support integration by ‘[supporting] schools in sharing spaces, events and experiences’ and suggests ‘scaling up’ schemes which fund schools to create links to other schools in their local areas. It also says that parents should be provided with education on ‘intercultural mixing’. However, it makes no mention of the role faith schools might play in exacerbating the problem. Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister expanded the number of state-funded faith schools in England after decades of no such increase. This included opening Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh state faith schools for the first time.

Research on faith schools, which are legally permitted to select their pupils on religious grounds, has found that they not only separate pupils by faith, but also by ethnicity and parental wealth. This denies disadvantaged groups the chance to attend their local schools and deprives the pupils who do get a place the opportunity to mix with those who are different from themselves. A recent poll by the Sutton Trust also found that 80% of parents think state schools should have a mix of pupils from different backgrounds.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham said:

‘This new report starkly demonstrates what all the best evidence already shows – namely, that mixing between groups with different beliefs helps to foster social cohesion and, conversely, that a lack of mixing intolerance and extremism.

‘Despite this, the report fails to mention that our school system remains deeply segregated by design, with faith schools across the country legally permitted to exacerbate the problem by selecting 100% of their pupils on religious grounds.

‘Although strategies such as school linking programmes can provide children and young people with mixing opportunities, they are no replacement for pupils from different backgrounds learning alongside one another in the same classroom every day. We therefore call on the governments of the UK to do all they can to address the formation of extremist attitudes by abolishing faith-based admissions criteria and thereby ensuring all state-funded schools are open to all.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

Read the full report.

Read our recent research on the impact of religiously selective admissions in Liverpool.

Read our most recent article on unfair and discriminatory faith-based admissions policies acting as a barrier to socio-economic diversity in schools.

Read our article on the Sutton Trust poll saying 80% of parents think schools should have a mix of pupils from different backgrounds.

Read our article on the first fully religiously selective state-funded school to be approved for a decade.

Read more about our work on faith schools and religious selection.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.