How religiously selective schools have been found to break the Admissions Code

The Fair Admissions Campaign is today publishing a comprehensive summary of the all the complaints made to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator about ‘faith’ schools since the introduction of the 2012 Schools Admissions Code. The new piece of research highlights numerous religious schools that adopted unlawful admissions arrangements in breach of legislation and the Code.

Some of the 75 cases identified saw schools resorting to drastic measures to reinforce their religious exclusiveness. For example, one Catholic school that could not find enough Catholic students to fill all its places attempted to lower their Published Admissions Number in order to exclude non-Catholic students who were entitled to a place. Several schools used religious selection criteria that prioritised those children whose parents contributed to the church through voluntary activities such as bell ringing, flower arranging, coffee rotas and church maintenance. Such, the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) found, amounted to requiring parents to give practical support to the Church, which is not allowed. Many other schools were guilty of providing parents with misleading, confusing or unclear admissions policies, or asking for unnecessary information that could lead to socio-economic selection.

Recently the Fair Admissions Campaign examined the admissions policy of every religious secondary school in England and found widespread code breaches will form the basis of a forthcoming series of complaints to the OSA.

Professor Ted Cantle CBE of the iCoCo Foundation commented, ‘This piece of research presents very disturbing evidence of widespread manipulation of admissions with the consequence of unfairly excluding children on the basis of faith and non-faith. I am continually shocked by the way that religiously selective schools – which we might have expected to trust – are found to be cheating the system.’

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, Chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education, commented, ‘It is hard to know what is worse: that those entrusted with educating the next generation have been found guilty of breaches of trust, or that many of them have been faith schools who have broken their own self-proclaimed moral standards.’

Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘This research highlights numerous cases where faith schools that are already able legally to discriminate against applicants on the basis of parental religion have pushed the boundaries further and found themselves in breach of the Admissions Code. Every complaint that is upheld represents families and children suffering religious discrimination in school admissions, with some schools employing ever more creative strategies that skirt the law. We do not think that any school should be allowed to religiously select in admissions: it is unfair and the evidence shows that it often causes socio-economic and ethnic as well as religious segregation.’


For further information or comment please contact Paul Pettinger on 020 7324 3071 or email

Read the overview:

The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.

Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and LecturersBritish Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.