94% of parents say faith is not important when choosing a school

94% of parents do not consider the faith-based affiliation of a school to be an important factor in choosing where to send their children. That is according to Ofsted, which has published the figures in its Parents Annual Survey 2021. Humanists UK says they show that the fact that a third of state-funded schools are religious is completely out of step with public demand. Almost all parents would prefer state-funded schools that are inclusive and open to all regardless of background.

The survey of parents with school-age children was conducted by YouGov. It asked them which three of eleven key factors were most important when deciding which school was right for their child. Proximity to home was found to be the most important. For parents of pre-school children, faith affiliation was ranked last, with just 2% saying it had been important. For the parents of school-age children, it ranked tenth, with 6%. In this age group only ‘the specialism of the school’ ranked lower.

Despite this, in April the UK Government announced over £2 million in funding for religious multi-academy trusts (MATs). They will enable religious groups to take over many more schools, including some without a religious character. It has also recently given the green light for four more Church of England schools. This includes one in Kingston upon Thames where residents have been told a faith school is ‘the only option’. This is despite the fact that the number of places in such schools now outstrips the Church’s entire ‘worshipping community’.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:

‘The UK Government often defends decisions to open more and more faith schools by arguing that they advance parental choice. However, this survey shows that religious character is not a driving force in school selection. In fact, the prevalence of religious schools generally works against parental choice.

‘The vast majority of parents simply want a good local school that offers a broad and balanced curriculum. With this in mind, the UK Government should take immediate steps to halt the increase in faith schools. Instead it should give all families access to schools that are inclusive and open to all regardless of background.’