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New research finds pretending to be religious is most common form of school admissions cheating

A new report published today by the Sutton Trust has found that 30% of English parents know someone who has ‘Attended church/religious services’ when they otherwise wouldn’t ‘so that their child(ren) could enter a church/religious school’. This was more than any other factor that was surveyed, including private tutoring, moving house, or using a relative’s address on the application form. Around 7% of parents admitted to engaging in such behaviour themselves. In response to the findings, Humanists UK has called for an end to faith-based admissions to state-funded schools.

Around 16 percent of places in English state schools are allocated on the basis of religion, when the schools are oversubscribed, and around a third of all state schools are religious. Around a quarter are Church of England, in spite of the fact that just two percent of young adults nowadays say they belong to the Church.

Previous Church research has found that its churches grow the most in places where there are religiously selective schools nearby.

Church schools are seen as desirable to attend due to their academic performance, but research has consistently concluded that any difference in academic performance between faith schools and other schools is totally attributable to the different intakes of each school. This was underlined by new research on the question published yesterday.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Too many parents are faced with the invidious choice between attending church when they are not religious or being unable to get their children into their local state school. This is simply not fair – the state school system should not incentivise parents to take part in dishonest behaviour of this nature.

‘This problem has been an open secret for too long. Instead of promoting religious, ethnic, and social segregation through faith school admissions, the Government must move to a system that encourages diversity in schools.’


For further contact or information, please contact Humanist UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on or 0207 324 3072.

Read the Sutton Trust research:

Read about the new research on academic performance:

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

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.

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