Faith schools undermine integration and anti-extremism policies, report finds


Religious selection in faith school pupil admissions has become a major and worsening source of racial discrimination in Britain's school system, according to a recent report, and is undermining government anti-extremism and social integration strategies.

The report, released by the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education on behalf of the Fair Admissions Campaign, highlights the problem through a case study of four religiously selective schools whose admission policies indirectly racially discriminate against local children of South Asian heritage.

It finds that, due to the local interplay between religion and race, selection by faith is serving as a proxy for selection by race in many ethnically mixed areas of Britain.  

Over a third of state-funded schools in England and Wales are faith schools and 98 per cent of these are Christian. Faith schools often obtain good results due to the skewed social and ability profile of their pupils which, as a consequence, means that many of best schools in the country are being effectively closed to families of some racial groups.

The report finds:

  • Many of those who are being disadvantaged are of South Asian heritage and from a Muslim background, and that the school system is becoming systemically discriminatory on these grounds.
  • Families losing out are those that would wish to send their child to the same school as other local families, but are being prevented from doing so.
  • The disadvantage is being entrenched, as successive generations from the same families lose out.
  • The discrimination is undermining the government's current counter-extremism strategy of building 'cohesive communities, tackling the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremist messages'.
  • The disadvantage goes against the values of faith groups and their common desire to support those in society who are marginalised.
  • The problems are set to only worsen due to demographic change, unless reforms are made.

The report questions the legality of schools operating on an oversubscription policy that indirectly discriminates against children on the grounds of race. It urges the government to extend its current cap of 50 per cent religious selection in admissions at newly created academy faith schools to all existing state-funded faith schools.