The church empire expands

Around a third of England's 20,000 primary, middle and secondary schools are controlled by faith groups.

According to latest figures from the Department for Education and Skills, the Church of England has the biggest representation, with 4,468 primaries and 201 secondary schools.

There are 1,713 Roman Catholic primaries, and 351 secondaries.

Other Christian churches, including the Methodists, control 107 primary and secondaries. There are 36 Jewish schools, five are affiliated to the Islamic faith and two Sikh schools.

Faith schools are hugely popular with parents, attracting large numbers of applicants.

This has prompted accusations that some select pupils by the back door. The schools have a relatively low number of pupils on free meals and on the special needs register compared with community schools.

Nevertheless, their high academic standards cannot be doubted. Just under half of the schools named among the top 200 for GCSE results last year were faith schools.

Lord Adonis, schools minister, this week denied that there was a "serious problem of exclusivity" in faith schools. He said provisional figures from January this year showed that 21 per cent of pupils at Catholic secondaries and 17.5 per cent at Anglican schools are from ethnic minorities, compared with 16.2 per cent at non-faith schools.

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