Faith schools: the evidence

Over a third of schools in Britain are faith schools, yet their place within public education systems remains deeply contested.

Proponents of faith schools claim that they improve parental choice, achieve superior educational outcomes, and are better at promoting moral values. The evidence from the research strongly contests these claims.

Such research is often piecemeal and difficult to access, making it hard to gain a comprehensive view of the debate. This research bank is intended as a valuable resource for policymakers, politicians, academics and anyone else interested in the ongoing debate around faith schools in Britain.

Each entry provides an at-a-glance overview of the key evidence and central arguments made in a different study. The research bank is arranged chronologically within a number of key sections: social cohesion; performance; school choice; values; and public opinion.

Together, the evidence provides a compelling and comprehensive case against state-funded faith schools.

Opinion polls

Opinion poll evidence challenges the claim that faith schools are popular with parents and communities, showing strong and consistent opposition to the idea of state-funded faith schools, from religious and non-religious citizens alike. There is significant variation between the phrasing of questions and between religious denominations. Opposition to religious selection or discrimination in faith schools is particularly strong.

Download the research bank as a PDF >>> | Share on Twitter>>>

Faith Schools

Populus (October 2006)

A poll conducted by Populus in October 2006 found that a majority of respondents (62%) thought that faith schools were divisive, and that most people would not be happy for their child to attend a faith school in which they were outnumbered by pupils of a different faith to their own.

Faith schools are divisive because they prevent children from different religious backgrounds from getting to know and understand each other

Agree: 62%

Disagree: 33%

Refused/Don't know: 5%

I would be happy for my child to go to a faith school of a different religion from my own, even though they would be outnumbered by children from other religions

Agree: 46%

Disagree 50%

Refused/Don't know: 4%

Link to source

Attitudes to Living in Britain – A Survey of Muslim Opinion

GfK NOP Social Research for Channel 4 Dispatches (April 2006).

A survey of Muslim opinion conducted by NOP for Channel 4 Dispatches found divided opinion on the issue of schooling, with equal proportions favouring faith schools and non-faith state schools.

Schooling preference

Muslim school that follows National Curriculum: 43%

Popular state school with good results: 44%

Don't know: 13%

Link to source

Guardian Opinion Poll

ICM (August 2005).

A poll conducted for TheGuardian by ICM in August 2005 found that almost two thirds of respondents (64%) did not think that the government should be expanding the number of state-funded faith schools.

Q.9. The government is expanding the number of state funded faith schools, including Muslim schools. Which one of the following statements do you most agree with?

Schools should be for everyone regardless of religion and the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind: 64%

Faith schools are an important part of our education system and if there are Anglican, Catholic and Jewish state-funded schools there should also be Muslim ones: 25%

Faith schools are an important part of our education system but the government should not be funding Muslim schools: 8%

Don't know: 4%

Link to source

YouGov / ITV Tonight

(April 2004).

A poll conducted by YouGov found that 29% of parents in Britain would consider using dishonest means to gain entry into high-performing schools, including moving house, 15% admitted considering falsifying their address, and 20% said that they would lie or exaggerate their religious affiliation if they thought that doing so would help their child get into the school.

Link to source