Faith schools are more economically and ethnically segregated than secular schools, a new report has found.
This is particularly pronounced at Catholic primary schools, according to the study, Understanding School Segregation in England: 2011 to 2016, which has been produced by integration charity The Challenge.
The report states: "Faith schools at primary are more ethnically segregated than schools of no faith…when compared with neighbouring schools."
Among faith primaries, 28.8 per cent were found to be ethnically segregated, compared with 24.5 per cent of secular primaries.
Across all primaries, only 9.9 per cent had a low proportion of white British pupils. In Catholic primaries, however, this figure was 26.7 per cent.
Wealthier pupils in faith schools
Primary faith schools were also found to cater for wealthier pupils than average. Across the country, 11.4 per cent of secular schools serve communities where a high proportion of pupils receive free school meals.
In faith schools, this figure was 4.4 per cent.
More than a third (38.3 per cent) of Catholic primaries serve only a "low" number of pupils who receive free school meals. In non-faith schools, this figure is 17.1 per cent.
There were similar findings at secondary level: 28.3 per cent of Catholic schools serve a "low" proportion of pupils who receive free school meals, compared with 17.2 per cent of non-faith schools.
The Accord Coalition, which campaigns for the end of faith-based selection in schools, is calling on the government and individual academy chains to review their selection practice.
And it suggests that school governors should be required to publish details of their intake, highlighting trends over time.
'A fruitless task'
Jonathan Romain, chair of the coalition, said: "Society needs to urgently challenge the prevailing culture that says that it is OK for state-funded schools to be seen as belonging to and serving certain groups.
"Achieving this must include changing how faith schools currently select their pupils. Otherwise we risk only compounding disadvantage and leaving a legacy of fragmentation and division for future generations."
However, a spokesperson for the Catholic Education Service said that Catholic schools educated significantly more pupils from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds than the national average.
"What’s more, comparing Catholic schools to their neighbouring schools is a fruitless task, as the catchment area for Catholic schools is, on average, 10 times the size of other schools," he added.
"It is precisely because they draw in a variety of pupils from a much wider area, they are more ethnically mixed than their surrounding schools."
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