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‘No room at the inn’: new report reveals religious discrimination in Church of England secondary schools is increasing

The number of places at Church of England secondary schools that are subject to religious selection criteria has increased in the last five years, a new report by Humanists UK has found. Despite claims made by the Church of England, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, that ‘there is a steady move away from faith based entry tests’ in Church schools, a survey of the admissions policies of all Church secondary schools in England reveals that more than two thirds still religiously select pupils, and a quarter to do so in allocating all of their places.

Humanists UK, which believes that state-funded schools should not religiously discriminate against children at all, has called on the Church to either ‘do away with its hypocrisy’ or, ideally, ‘do away with its discriminatory admission arrangements altogether’.

The Church of England and its spokespeople have long tried to portray the outlook of Church of England schools as broadly inclusive and tending towards a rejection of discrimination in their admission arrangements. Indeed, the Church’s 2017 ‘vision for education’, entitled An education where no passports are required, claims Church of England schools are ‘wide open to the communities they serve’

However, Humanists UK’s new report, entitled No Room at the Inn: Exclusive admissions policies in Church of England secondary schools, finds that the Church is falling some way short of practicing what it preaches. Key findings include:

  1. In the last five years, the number of religiously selected places at Church of England secondary schools has increased. This is particularly shocking given the general decline of those belonging to the Church of England, which fell from 21% of the population to 15% in the same period. Average weekly Church attendance also fell from 2% to 1.7% of the population.
  2. 69% of Church of England state secondary schools have policies that religiously discriminate in their admission arrangements to some extent.
  3. 25% of Church of England state secondary schools use religious selection criteria in allocating all of their places.
  4. One in four Church of England state secondary schools prioritise families from faiths other than the Church over children from non-religious families.

Humanists UK has drawn particular attention to the high proportion of Church schools that prioritise children from any religious background over all children from non-religious families, describing this discriminatory practise as unwarranted and suggestive of an offensive attitude to the 53% of the population who identify as non-religious.

Finally, noting that for many Christians Christmas is a time when minds turn to the story of a mother for whom there was no room at the inn, the report calls on the Church to end its hypocrisy and stop denying children access to their local state schools.

Humanists UK Education Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘The religious discrimination and segregation present in our state education system has long been a source of national shame. Indeed, if it were not so shameful, the Church of England would presumably feel no need to go to such great lengths in downplaying the extent to which it practices it. Regrettably, both the Government and parts of the media have tended to take the Church’s rhetoric at face value.

‘This report leaves the Church of England with nowhere to hide. Not only do the majority of its schools continue to discriminate against children in their admission policies, the extent of that discrimination is increasing. If the Church truly cares about the people it claims to serve, it will do away with its discriminatory admission arrangements altogether. And if not, the Government should require it to do so.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 07970 393 680

Read the full report here:

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on faith schools:

Humanists UK campaigns against ‘faith’ schools, and for an inclusive, secular schools system, where children and young people of all different backgrounds and beliefs can learn with and from each other. We challenge ‘faith’ schools’ admissions, employment and curriculum policies, as well as the privileged processes by which new ‘faith’ schools continue to open.

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association:

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