The report examines the actual primary school choices available across England, and within rural areas specifically. It also analyses school admission data and other school preference research to quantify how these effects impact school choice.

  • Almost three in ten families across England live in areas where most or all of the closest primary schools are faith schools. There is significant regional variation and the problem is more prevalent in rural areas. However, even in urban areas around one in four families live in areas with high or extreme restrictions.
  • Every year between 45,000 – 60,000 families apply for primary schools in areas with extreme restrictions on non-faith school choice, with a further 111,000 – 136,000 in areas of high restriction.
  • In 43.4% of rural areas restrictions on non-faith school choice are categorised as "high" or "extreme". In fact, 53% of rural primary schools are faith-based.
  • 20.6% (7,727) of those who missed out on their first choice of a non-faith primary school in September 2018 were assigned a faith school. This includes 1,398 people who had made all their preferences (typically five) for a non-faith school.
  • When parents appeal against the allocation of a faith school, there is no guarantee they will succeed – effectively forcing children into faith schools against their parents' wishes.

What can be done?

The report makes a number of policy recommendations.

  1. The Department for Education should monitor faith-based restrictions on school choice and suitability across England. New school plans should focus on addressing these.
  2. Local authorities school provision should monitor faith-based restrictions on school choice and suitability and prioritise inclusive school provision when making decisions about amalgamations.
  3. Faith-based discrimination in admissions should be phased out particularly in areas of significant restrictions on school choice.
  4. A moratorium should be introduced on the opening of new faith-based schools. This could be phased in starting in the areas with the highest faith-based restrictions on school choice and suitability.
  5. It should be made easier for faith schools to lose or downgrade their religious designation, particularly in areas where they are contributing to high faith-based restrictions on school choice or are significantly unrepresentative of their local communities.
  6. There should be a legal entitlement for all families to have reasonable access to a non-faith school.

Update 2019

The report contained figures for the number of children assigned faith schools against their wishes in September 2017 and 2018. The updated figures for September 2019 showed a further rise.

  • 20,644 assigned faith school despite non-faith preference (8,333 primary | 12,311 secondary).

Printed copies of the report are available on request.

Take action:

Share with your MP

Please share the report with your MP along with this personalisable cover letter.

Take a stand against faith schools

No More Faith Schools is a national platform for everyone who wants to see an inclusive education system, free from religious control.

Are faith schools restricting your options?

Are you locked out of your local school based on religion? Have you been assigned a faith school against your wishes? Are faith schools your only option?

Parents' perspectives

Below are three randomly selected parents' perspectives on the how faith schools restrict their choices. Click the link here or below to browse a wider selection.

Jenny, from SOUTHAMPTON

"My son recently started reception at a faith school. Not because I'm religious, but because I had no choice. This is our local school; most other local schools are also faith schools. As a result, I will be forced to navigate challenging conversations with a four-year-old whether I feel he is prepared for them or not. Religious families will already be speaking to their children about religion at home, and non-religious families will not appreciate having to contradict what their children are taught at school."

Sarah, from SWINDON

"My child had no choice but to go to a faith school - all of the state primary schools near us are faith schools. We eventually placed him in a private school in order to get out of the faith system - not an ideal solution. I really object very strongly to the stranglehold that religion is taking in our children's education. The state system is forcing non-faith families into religious obligations around our children's education. This is unacceptable and contrary to the freedom to follow and practice any religion or none!"

Joanne, from CANTERBURY

"I'm a Christian but I believe faith schools cause big problems in society. They cause segregation and reduce school choice for parents. It is so much better for all children to learn together, mixing with all the children in their community. It is wrong that children are turned away from a school or prioritised for entry based on what their parents happen to do on a Sunday! I know a number of people who've told me they faked faith to get a school place, and I know one rather corrupt C of E primary school that helps out children who fail the 11-plus with their secondary application, so they go to a faith school not a regular high school. These sorts of problems are avoided by having all schools open to all local pupils."


Is a faith school your only option?

Are you locked out of your local school based on religion? Have you been assigned a faith school against your wishes? Are faith schools your only option?

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