Church of England dioceses failing to encourage non-discriminatory school admissions policies

The Church of England and its dioceses are failing to encourage their schools to have inclusive, non-discriminatory admissions policies, despite claims to the contrary, a new report released today has revealed. Published by the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education on behalf of the Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC), the report accuses the Church of ‘mis-selling its schools to the public’ and details the findings of a survey of the admissions guidance offered by dioceses to their schools. Humanists UK, a founding member of both Accord and the FAC, has commented that the Church of England must either stop its schools religiously discriminating or else be more honest about the exclusive nature of many of its schools.

Currently, Church of England dioceses are legally responsible for issuing their schools with guidance regarding the use of religious selection in their admissions policies. In recent years the Church has been vocal in claiming that its schools are inclusive rather than discriminatory, stating that its schools are ‘not faith schools for the faithful’, but ‘Church schools for the community’.

However, Accord’s and the FAC’s new report, entitled Mixed Signals, finds that this is overwhelmingly not the case, and there is very little evidence to suggest that the Church is encouraging its schools to be more inclusive:

35 out of 40 Church of England dioceses do not advise schools to stop religiously selecting and have fully inclusive admissions policies instead.

A quarter of dioceses explicitly recommend that schools religiously discriminate in their admissions policies. The same is true of the most recent national admissions guidance issued by the Church of England.

Even in those five dioceses that recommend non-discriminatory admissions policies, 50% of the schools were found to be discriminating.

Church of England Reverend Stephen Terry, who campaigns for inclusive education, said that discriminating against and segregating school children on the grounds of religion ‘threatens the reputation of the Church, and is seen by many, inside and outside the Church, as potentially hindering the growth of integration and cohesion in our society.’

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman added, ‘The religious discrimination and segregation present in our state-funded education system is inappropriate, unpopular, and incredibly damaging to mutual understanding and respect. The Church of England may claim that its schools are inclusive and serve all the families in their respective communities, but unfortunately the evidence is very clear that in both policy and practice, Church schools continue to discriminate along religious lines. At the very least the Church ought to do away with this hypocrisy, but if it truly supports the best interests of children, it ought to do away with its discriminatory admission arrangements too.’   


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

Read the full report Mixed Signals: The discrepancy between what the Church preaches and what it practices about religious selection at its state-funded schools:

Read more about the Fair Admissions Campaign:

Read more about our 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.