Breaking: UK Government to allow religious groups to run special needs schools for the first time

1 May, 2024

The UK Government has proposed to allow special schools to be designated with a religious character, which has never previously been possible. The proposals are subject to a seven-week consultation, which Humanists UK will be encouraging its members and supporters to respond to. The Government has also proposed to allow all state-funded faith schools in England to base 100% of pupil admissions on religion – scrapping a 50% cap that has existed on new faith schools since 2007. A special school is a school attended by children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:

‘It is particularly important that pupils with special educational needs have access to high quality and balanced education, including a balanced and comprehensive relationship education that is free of religious bias. The proposal to allow special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) schools to be designated with a religious status is something we will be looking at very closely.’


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 the Government’s announcement.

Read the consultation.

Read more about our work on faith schools.

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.