Revealed: Number of pupils attending Church of England schools more than entire ‘worshipping community’

23 October, 2020

The number of pupils attending Church of England schools is more than the Church’s entire ‘worshipping community’, new analysis from Humanists UK can reveal.

According to the latest edition of the Church of England’s Statistics for Mission – which gives an overview of the size of the Church community as well as information about the number of people who attend services of different types – the CofE’s total ‘worshipping community’ is made up of 1.11 million people.

However, the most recent Government data on schools, pupils, and their characteristics shows that the number of children attending Church of England schools is 1.16 million, demonstrating that the level of influence the Church has over the education system is entirely disproportionate when compared to levels of adherence to its beliefs and practices in the wider community.

The Statistics for Mission show that, between 2009 and 2019, Church attendance has steadily decreased and, in just five years, the ‘worshipping community’ has shrunk by close to 30,000 people. This decline is further evidenced by the results of the most recent British Social Attitudes Survey, which found that 12% of the total population, and just 1% of those aged 18-24, identify as belonging to the Church of England.

Despite this, the number of schools the Church runs has been going up for several years now.

The number of pupils in state-funded CofE schools is 1.07 million, and so it is expected that this number will also soon be more than the size of the Church’s ‘worshipping community’.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented: 

‘The fact that the entire community of regular CofE worshippers is now smaller than the number of pupils attending its schools makes it crystal clear that it is time to reassess the level of power and control the Church exerts over state-funded education. Church schools are legally permitted to prioritise pupils who share their faith in their admissions and teach religion from their own perspective, all funded by the public purse. This would be bad enough if Church adherents made up a majority of the population, but in a context where most of those helping to fund these schools will be denied access to the ever increasing number of school places they represent, it is utterly indefensible.

‘We urge the Government to put an end to this system which allows minority religious interests to ride roughshod over the needs of the majority and ensure all our state schools are integrated, inclusive, and open to all regardless of background.’


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

Read our most recent news item on the Church of England school banned from using weekly church attendance in its admissions policy.

Read our recent article about how faith school admissions discriminate against vulnerable children.

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

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.