Schools are supposed to broaden young minds, teach critical thinking, and encourage wide learning about the world around us. But sadly, a third of tax-funded schools in the UK are ‘schools with a religious character’, permitted to evangelise to children from all backgrounds.

One of our most important campaigns is for an end to religious discrimination in schools – full stop. But one thing we encounter increasingly often is that the public are not informed about faith schools, how they operate, and what they’re legally allowed to do. So, we’re getting that information out there in more hands – with your help. Here are six facts about faith schools:

1) Most faith schools can select up to 100% of pupils based on religion

When oversubscribed, the majority of state faith schools are legally permitted to decline admission to children whose families are not of the faith of the school. That can mean requiring baptism, regular worship attendance, and more besides. Consequently, this leads to local parents being deprived of spots at their nearby school in favour of parents from distant areas. There is no way around it – this is religious discrimination.

2) Some faith schools use ‘faith school points’ 

This is granted by local churches and based on how much parents engage in ‘religious activities’. As well as attending services and baptism, this can mean participating in parent-toddler groups, joining choirs, taking part in nativity plays, and, in some cases, making donations to the religious group (although this last one is already against the law).

3) Faith schools divide communities

When children are selected based on their faith, this causes segregation of communities along religious, racial, and economic lines. Research shows that faith schools tend to admit fewer children from poorer families, instead favouring those from richer backgrounds.

4) Faith schools indoctrinate children – and the law encourages it.

So-called ‘collective worship’ is a legal requirement in all schools, and that requirement is strictly followed in most faith schools. All children are at risk of indoctrination, and any child removed from collective worship at the request of their parents is separated and isolated from their peers, often left with nothing to do. This should not be the case: we help parents to campaign for a better solution of inclusive assemblies. In the 21st century, the choice for parents should not be between religious indoctrination or social alienation.

5) Most faith schools discriminate against vulnerable children

In England, all state-funded schools are required to prioritise care-experienced children. However, because of their religiously selective admissions processes, faith schools are exempt from prioritising all Looked After Children (LAC) and Previously Looked After Children. We think this is a scandal that deserves further scrutiny and publicity.

6) The UK is only one of four countries in the OECD that does this

Alongside Estonia, Israel, and Ireland where state-funded schools can select pupils on the basis of religion.


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Watch the debate on Parliament TV.

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 110,000 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.