Ofsted survey: 94% of parents say faith is not important when choosing a school

24 May, 2021

94% of parents do not consider the faith-based affiliation of a school to be an important factor in choosing where to send their children. That is according to Ofsted, which has published the figures in its Parents Annual Survey 2021. Humanists UK says they show that the fact that a third of state-funded schools are religious is completely out of step with public demand. Almost all parents would prefer state-funded schools that are inclusive and open to all regardless of background.

The survey of parents with school-age children was conducted by YouGov. It asked them which three of eleven key factors were most important when deciding which school was right for their child. Proximity to home was found to be the most important. For parents of pre-school children, faith affiliation was ranked last, with just 2% saying it had been important. For the parents of school-age children, it ranked tenth, with 6%. In this age group only ‘the specialism of the school’ ranked lower.

These findings reflect other research on the school choices of parents. In 2013, research from the University of Lancaster gave adults a list of seven factors that may be important and asked to pick three. It found that ‘grounding of pupils in a faith tradition’ was important for just 5%. Just 3% picked ‘Transmission of belief about God’. 77% picked ‘academic standards’ and 58% ‘location’. Last year the eighth annual British Sikh Report found that 89% of British Sikhs thought faith ethos was not an important factor in school choice.

Despite this, in April the UK Government announced over £2 million in funding for religious multi-academy trusts (MATs). They will enable religious groups to take over many more schools, including some without a religious character. It has also recently given the green light for four more Church of England schools. This includes one in Kingston upon Thames where residents have been told a faith school is ‘the only option’. This is despite the fact that the number of places in such schools now outstrips the Church’s entire ‘worshipping community’.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:

‘The UK Government often defends decisions to open more and more faith schools by arguing that they advance parental choice. However, this survey shows that religious character is not a driving force in school selection. In fact the prevalence of religious schools generally works against parental choice.

‘The vast majority of parents simply want a good local school that offers a broad and balanced curriculum. With this in mind, the UK Government should take immediate steps to halt the increase in faith schools. Instead it should give all families access to schools that are inclusive and open to all regardless of background.’


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

Read the Ofsted survey.

Read our most recent article on the Government announcement of more than £2 million in funding that will enable religious take-over of yet more schools.

Read our most recent article on the relaunch of a public consultation on a faith school Kingston Council says is ‘the only option’ to create new school places.

Read our recent article on anger as council rejects challenge to Catholic school unfairly imposed on newbuild community.

Read our news items on the four CofE schools given the green light by the Government.

Read our article on data showing the number of pupils attending Church of England schools is more than the entire ‘worshipping community’.

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

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