Faith Schools in England and Wales

28.2% of schools are faith schools, most of them Christian.

Faith Schools are schools which have either have formal links to particular faith based organisations or just have a ‘religious character’.

There are three main types of state funded Faith School in England and Wales: Voluntary Aided (VA), Voluntary Controlled (VC) and Faith Academies. Some Faith schools are also independent, or fee-paying schools.

Faith schools have to teach the National Curriculum (although not Faith Academies because all academies are exempt from this requirement) but they can teach what they like for Religious Education, limiting the content to their own faith if they wish.

Faith schools are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of faith in relation to applications if they only have a limited number of applications. For example if a Faith school has 1000 places and they only have 1000 applications, they MUST allow all of those students into the school no matter what the faith of the applicant.

However Faith schools discriminate on the basis of Faith of applicants if the school is oversubscribed, using Faith as a preference for admitting students of the school’s faith before students who do not share the faith of the school. (3)

How Many Faith Schools?

In 2019 there were 1342 Faith schools in England and Wales, meaning that 28.2% of all schools were Faith schools and the remainder, over 70% were non-faith schools (3)

What faith are Faith schools?

  • 68% are Church of England
  • 29% are Catholic
  • 1% are other Christian faiths
  • 2% are non-Christian.

The statistics vary a lot depending on whether the schools are primary or secondary.

Church of England72%34%
Catholic 26%52%
other Christian7%1%
non-Christian 1%6%

Looking at the figures in terms of raw numbers you really get an impression for how dominant Christian schools are, and especially Church of England schools…

  • 4370 Church of England
  • 1649 Roman Catholic
  • 25 Methodist
  • 72 Other Christian
  • 36 Jewish
  • 14 Muslim
  • 6 Sikh
  • 5 Hindu
  • 2 Multifaith.

There are very few non-Christian faith schools in England and Wales today.

Arguments against Faith Schools

Faith schools are selective: they take a disproportionate amount of students from wealthier, middle class backgrounds which explains their better results compared to non-faith schools.

However the fact that faith schools are selecting more middle class students results in a polarising effect with non-faith based schools having to take on a higher proportion of children from lower income backgrounds.

Parents really just want decent community focussed schools that encourage social cohesion, whereas Faith schools may have the opposite effect: by teaching pupils a particular faith they may well be isolating them from the wider community leading to increased social fragmentation.

For further arguments against Faith schools see The Humanist Society.

Signposting and relevance to A-level sociology

This material is mainly relevant to the sociology of education.

I guess the existence of faith schools is an argument against the view that education is postmodern as religions are the ultimate metanarrative.

They are also evidence that schools do not promote social solidarity, at least if you believe religion is source of conflict in the world today!


(1) Education Data Lab (2022) Faith Schools and Academisation.

(2) Wikipedia (accessed January 2023) Faith school.

(3) House of Commons Briefing Library (2019) Faith Schools in England: FAQs

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