Children in care ‘effectively disadvantaged’ by state-funded faith schools says Office of Schools Adjudicator

2 April, 2024

Vulnerable children in England are continuing to miss out on school places because of faith-based admissions, the Office of Schools Adjudicator (OSA) has said in its annual report.

This is the fourth report of the OSA to highlight how ‘looked after’ and ‘previously looked after children’ (the formal term for children who are or were in care) are being disadvantaged by state-funded faith schools. Humanists UK, which has long campaigned for fair school admissions for all children regardless of background, has said these findings highlight the need for the UK Government to make fair admissions, regardless of faith, a legal requirement once and for all. 

The OSA oversees the Schools Admissions Code and ensures compliance of it from English schools. Its recently released 2023 Annual Report states that local authorities

‘are still reporting that schools which have religious character in their area effectively disadvantage looked after children who are not of their faith of the school because of the combined effect of their faith-based oversubscription criteria and the local pattern of schooling.’

A 2021 report from Humanists UK found that religious state schools routinely de-prioritised ‘looked after’ and ‘previously looked after’ in their admissions policies, by making use of their powers to select pupils on faith grounds. The report, Careless or Uncaring?, highlighted how 41% of all state-funded secondary schools of a religious character in England discriminated this way with 76% of Catholic and 100% of Jewish secondaries applying discriminatory policies towards ‘looked after’ and ‘previously looked after children’ who were not of their faith.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Lewis Young said:

‘Once again the Office of Schools Adjudicator has highlighted that some of England’s most vulnerable children are being let down by faith-based admissions – and yet the UK Government continues to ignore this issue. It is completely unacceptable that state-funded faith schools continue to get away with excluding ‘looked after’ and ‘previously looked after children’ on the basis of religious background. 

‘We urge Ministers to finally act: end religious discrimination in admissions and guarantee that every child, regardless of their background, has access to the best possible education.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Kathy Riddick at or phone 07534 248 596.

Read more about our work on state-funded faith schools.

Read our 2021 report Careless or Uncaring: How faith schools turn away children who are or were in care

Read more about our successful campaign against proposals to remove the 50% cap on religious free schools admissions. 

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 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.