Education Secretary accepted donations from Catholic Church

30 May, 2024

Pictured: Education Secretary Gillian Keegan visiting Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, West London. Photo credit: Catholic Church of England and Wales Official Flickr, distributed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

A significant donation to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales raises serious conflict of interest concerns, says Humanists UK. This is particularly true regarding her subsequent decision to lift the 50% cap on faith-based admissions – the campaign for which was driven by the Church.

The register of members’ interests shows that Gillian Keegan accepted £17,710.60 in kind from the Catholic Church to fund a parliamentary intern for 10 months. The payment was received on 10 October 2022, with the internship running until 28 July 2023. While Mrs Keegan was a foreign office minister at the time of the donation being accepted, she was promoted to Education Secretary two weeks after it ended.

The donation was made as part of the Bishops’ Faith in Politics internship programme which claims to offer ‘a foundation of Catholic faith and spiritual formation for those who believe they may have a vocation to public service in politics or public affairs’. The group has been at the forefront of the campaign to scrap the 50% cap on faith free school admissions, meeting the Education Secretary and Number 10 in the months prior to the Government announcing it intended to lift the cap. Humanists UK recently revealed how the Education Secretary launched her plan at an extremely segregated Catholic school. 

In 2018 Humanists UK exposed the substantial level of financial support provided by the Catholic Church to MPs with education briefs. The then Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat education spokespeople were all recipients of paid Catholic Church interns. The Education Secretary at the time, Damian Hinds, is also now the Schools Minister.

Humanists UK’s Education Campaigns Manager Lewis Young said:

‘The Catholic Church is leading the calls for the 50% cap to be scrapped, and so this donation from them to the Education Secretary therefore leaves serious questions about a potential conflict of interest.

‘Rather than expanding religious selection at the behest of a small number of lobby groups, any government that cares about cohesion should be seeking to create a single admissions system where all state schools are open to children from any background or belief.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 0203 675 0959.

Read more about our work on faith schools.

Read our faith cap explainer

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.