We are creating a unified UKRI website that brings together the existing research council, Innovate UK and Research England websites.
If you would like to be involved in its development let us know.

Survey shows support for religious education

Date: 21/10/2015

Survey shows support for religious education, but more opposition to Islamic schools than those of other faiths.

Three quarters of adults in Britain believe religious education should be a compulsory or optional part of the National Curriculum, with younger people more likely to believe it should be compulsory despite being less likely to identify themselves as religious, according to a new survey which also found that 44% of adults think that Islamic faith schools should be completely prohibited.

The online survey of 2,198 adults by YouGov was developed by Ideate Research in discussion with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, University of Cambridge, Newcastle University and YouGov and comes in advance of a major debate on faith and education at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas on 21st October with former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

The survey found that 77% of adults believe religious education should be part of the UK national curriculum, but that 53% of those aged 18 to 24 said it should be compulsory compared with an average of 45% for all ages. Fewer than a fifth (17%) of adults believe religious education should not be part of the curriculum at all.

Survey respondents were also asked about faith schools. Three quarters said Christian faith schools should be allowed (75%), compared to 46% who said the same for Islamic faith schools. Older people were more likely to say that Christian schools should receive state funding - half of those aged 55 or over said they should. Only 12% thought Islamic faith schools should get state funding, with younger people more likely to think they should than older groups. Middle aged people were most likely to oppose Islamic faith schools - 52% of 45 to 54 year olds said they should not be allowed compared to 44% of all adults. Survey respondents were more likely to support Jewish faith schools than Islamic ones, with 16% saying they should get state funding (12% for Islam) and 28% saying they should not be allowed (44% for Islam).

Across all three types of faith school, men were more likely than women to think faith schools should not be allowed. Views varied in different parts of Great Britain: the English were more in favour of Christian and Jewish faith schools than the Scots and Welsh. However, views were more similar when it came to Islamic faith schools.

The survey comes ahead of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Anniversary Debate on ‘The way we live now’ Faith and education: an uneasy partnership at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas. Those taking part include former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association; Adam Dinham, Professor of Faith and Public Policy, Goldsmiths, University of London; and Farid Panjwani, Director of the Centre for Research and Evaluation in Muslim Education. They will explore the relevance of religious education in British schools and discuss whether the inclusion of religion in curricula and the funding or even existence of faith schools are more likely to foster inter-religious understanding and contribute to an inclusive society or to encourage division and to undermine the goals of education. This event is Chaired by BBC documentary maker Catrin Nye.

For more information, contact Mandy Garner on mjg209@admin.cam.ac.uk or ring 07789 106435.

Live Video Stream

Join the Conversation

Please share your thoughts and comments about the debate using the #AHRC10 hashtag.


If you experience any difficulties with this live video stream, please send a tweet to @AHRCPress and we will do our best to help.

Notes to editors:

  • Further information about the Cambridge Festival of Ideas can also be found at:
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/cambridgefestivalofideas
    Twitter: @camideasfest #cfi2015
    Instagram: @camideasfest@camideasfest
  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2198 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th - 15th September 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+)
    • 51% of adults taking part in the survey identified themselves with Christianity, rising to 69% of those over 55. The age group least likely to identify themselves with any religion is 25-34 (40%). A fifth (20%) of those aged 18-24 years old identify themselves with Atheism
    • Established in 2008, Cambridge Festival of Ideas aims to fuel the public’s interest in arts, humanities and social sciences. The events, ranging from talks, debates and film screenings to exhibitions and comedy nights, are held in lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge
  • This debate is one of a series of ten debates being held at universities and cultural organisations around the UK in 2015/16 to mark the AHRC's tenth anniversary. The theme of the series is ‘The Way We Live Now’ and individual debates will focus on themes including The Future City, Curating the Nation, the Challenge of Change, the Death of Digital and many more. These debates will examine key aspects of our human world, the ways in which they are changing and shaping our lives, and explore the ways in which the arts and humanities can help us understand our changing world. All debates will either be live-streamed or made available as video recordings through the AHRC website. Please go to www.ahrc.ac.uk/ahrc10 for further details. Or follow the debates on @AHRCPress or #ahrc10
  • Of the over 250 events at the Festival, most are free. The Festival sponsors and partners are Cambridge University Press, St John’s College, Anglia Ruskin University, RAND Europe, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Cambridge Live, University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden, Arts Council England, Cambridge Junction, British Science Association, Heritage Lottery Fund, Heffers, WOW Festival, Southbank Centre, Collusion, TTP Group, Goethe Institut, Index on Censorship and BBC Cambridgeshire
Return to news list