Education Policy Institute: disadvantaged pupils ‘less likely to be admitted’ to faith schools

9 February, 2024

A new report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) released today starkly highlights how faith schools are failing disadvantaged pupils. This is just the latest batch of damning evidence

The report sets out how schools linked to dioceses, both in Multi-Academy Trusts and non-Multi Academy Trusts, have pupil intakes that are ‘less representative’ of the local area in which they are based. The report recommends a review of the schools admission code ‘with a focus on inclusion’. 

Any review, the EPI argues, should ‘consider why certain types of school groups (such as dioceses) appear to be less likely to reflect their local areas in terms of the number of pupils from low-income backgrounds that they admit.’

Fit for purpose?

In an answer to a written question on the adequacy of the schools admission code from Sir Stephen Timms MP this week (8 February), Schools Minister Damian Hinds MP stated the code contained provisions ‘to ensure that children from low-income backgrounds are not unfairly disadvantaged’, while accepting that the code remained under constant review to ensure it is ‘fit for purpose’.

Humanists UK has long campaigned for an end to religiously selective admissions policies on the basis that they segregate children by faith, socio-economic status, ethnicity, and prior attainment. In 2013 it helped launch the Fair Admissions Campaign, which focused on faith-based admissions. 

The campaign published a map that revealed for the first time the extent that schools religiously and socio-economically select, and how much this correlates, and also detailed research on how religiously selective schools are invariably breaking the School Admissions Code. In 2018 we successfully defeated a UK Government proposal to remove a 50% cap on religious selection in free schools.

The EPI’s report is just the latest exposé of the selective nature of faith schools. Earlier this year the Sutton Trust found that faith schools were ‘consistently more socially selective’ than schools without a religious character, with fewer students eligible for free school meals (FSM) than would be expected given their catchment areas.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Lewis Young said:

‘This EPI report is yet further evidence that faith-based admissions policies are putting children from poorer backgrounds at further disadvantage, and are less reflective of the area they are based. 

‘Just this week the Schools Minister stated that the school admissions code is under constant review to ensure it is fit for purpose. This report, on top of the recent Sutton Trust report, shows that it is not. It’s time for the School Admissions Code to be amended to require every state school to be open to all regardless of religion or belief.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Kathy Riddick at or phone 020 3675 0959.

Read more about our work on state-funded faith schools. Sign our petition to end discriminatory faith-based selection.

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