I'm a long term fan of some UK panel comedy show. "Mock the Week" is a particular favourite of mine.

In a recent episode they had a real laugh at the expense of some parents who pretended to be religious to get their kids into church schools.

Is this a common occurrence in the UK? It seemed to be social commentary of some sort. I was wondering how common it was?

It would to be rather incredible that a nation that we would generally associate with healthy doses of secularism would have such attitudes or do such things.

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    Wouldn't secularism be a justification (as opposed to counterevidence) for people needing to pretend to belong to a religion, specifically because they don't already follow that religion?
    – Flater
    Aug 20, 2021 at 14:16
  • There seem to be many parents in the UK who deeply care for their children then. Actually, pretty poor that people would ridicule parents who go to such lengths for the best of their children. I would personally be pretty unhappy if I had to do it.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 24, 2021 at 11:35
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    @NeilMeyer There are extra layers to this - there are very legitimate questions as to whether or not these schools are actually better (in the sense that they educate their pupils more effectively), rather than simply having a generally higher-attaining intake (and therefore better final results for reasons having nothing to do with what they're actually doing to educate them).
    – SamFord
    Dec 20, 2021 at 23:50
  • Higher selection criteria means higher academic standards which in turn means higher achievements and leads to the school being more in demand. It is what I like to call an upward spiral.
    – Neil Meyer
    Dec 21, 2021 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


It is unfortunately a real thing.

In lots of areas, the best-performing school is run by the church. Schools affiliated with religious organisations, known as faith schools, are allowed to select the majority of their pupils by religion, and can demand proof of regular attendance at church/synagogue/mosque in order to qualify for a place.

So, many parents do indeed attend church for the couple of years leading up to time when their child is of the age to apply for the school, even if they're not really religious - the school doesn't demand proof of actual religious belief or practice, just attendance.

This therefore quickly becomes a self-reinforcing circle: the school selects children of the sort of (mostly middle-class) parents who are willing to devote regular time to attending church in order to get their children into a good school, so the school tends to get better results and is therefore desirable by those parents.

Note also that strangely it was Tony Blair's Labour government from 1997 onwards that started this, by relaxing the rules around religious organisations running schools and extending it to religions other than Christianity. More than a third of schools in the UK now have some kind of religious character, even though the UK as a whole is largely non-religious.

Richard Dawkins made a documentary on this, Faith School Menace?, in 2010.

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    What school did Richard Dawkins send his kids to? Does he mention it in his movie?
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 20, 2021 at 17:56

Not an answer but wanted to point to some statistics from WikiPedia:

There is a disparity between the figures for those identifying themselves with a particular religion and for those proclaiming a belief in a God:

In a 2011 YouGov poll, 34% of UK citizens said they believed in a God or gods.[79]

A Eurobarometer opinion poll in 2010 reported that 37% of UK citizens "believed there is a God", 33% believe there is "some sort of spirit or life force" and 25% answered, "I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force".[80]

The 2008 European Social Survey suggested that 46.94% of UK citizens never prayed and 18.96% prayed daily.

A survey in 2007 suggested that 42% of adults residents in the United Kingdom prayed, with one in six praying daily.

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