Academic success of religiously selective schools rests on back door social selection

Top ranking religiously selective faith schools have been found to be some of the most socio-economically segregatory schools in the country, exposing their dependency on social sorting for their academic performance.

The Government’s latest league tables on GCSE performance, released today, show that religiously selective secondary schools comprise 47 of the 100 best performing non-grammar schools. This is when religiously selective schools comprise only 16% of state funded secondary schools. However, findings from the Fair Admissions Campaign show that the 47 schools admit 44% fewer pupils entitled to free school meals than would be expected if they instead admitted their nearest local children. For the top 10 ranked religiously selective schools the figure is 56% fewer.

This compares to religiously selective secondary schools in general admitting 26% fewer. Secondary faith schools that do not religiously select admit just 1% fewer pupils entitled to free school meals than would be expected. Entitlement to free school meals is a key government indicator of deprivation.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Religiously selective admission arrangements provide a way for more affluent families to get their children into higher performing schools. Today’s league tables highlight how the success of religiously selective schools rests on serving the affluent at the expense of the deprived. Many people of faith will be appalled that schools that should focus on serving the poor should become so elitist.’

Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘The evidence from the academic literature shows that any difference in academic performance between religiously selective schools and other schools is down to the pupils that they admit. That the highest performing schools also turn out to be the most socio-economically selective is hugely disappointing. These schools are using complex admissions policies to deny the poorest pupils a chance to receive an academically strong education, thereby exacerbating existing divisions. It is time they stopped doing so.’

A survey commissioned and released last month by the Sutton Trust revealed that 10% of upper middle class parents in England with a child at a school admitted to attending church services when they did not previously, so their child could go to a church school. Meanwhile, a surge in late Roman Catholic baptisms of children over the last decade has recently been observed. Most state funded Catholic school show preference to children who are baptised, rather than according to Church attendance.

Top five religiously selective secondary schools

Rank School Location Faith designation

Proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals compared to expectations

1 Tauheedul Islam Girls High School Blackburn Muslim

64.6% fewer

2 Coloma Convent Girls’ School Croydon Roman Catholic

78.3% fewer

3 The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial RC School Kensington and Chelsea Roman Catholic

77.0% fewer

4 St Philomena’s School Sutton Roman Catholic

46.3% fewer

5 King David High School Liverpool Jewish

75.2% fewer


More information on the social and ethnic inclusiveness of religiously selective schools can be found at