Close to two-thirds of the nation’s best performing primary schools have a religious ethos, according to the latest league table results.
The tables showed that out of the 693 schools in which all pupils achieved the Government’s expected standards, 62 per cent (427 schools) had a religious ethos.
That is despite faith schools making up just a third of all primary schools in England.
The faith schools include 330 Church of England and 88 Roman Catholic primaries.
Nigel Genders, the C of E’s Chief Education Officer, said: “I’m delighted that Church of England primary schools are leading some of the outstanding practice going on in schools across the country, and congratulate the pupils, teachers, support staff, parents and communities who have worked together to secure success.”
He added: “I am particularly pleased that our highest performing school, Hampden Gurney Church of England Primary School, has secured fantastic outcomes with a significant number of disadvantaged pupils in Year Six – demonstrating once again that a child’s success should never be limited by their background.”
But the Accord Coalition, which campaigns to abolish faith-based selection in schools, claimed that the primaries are using religion as a “mask” for choosing brighter pupils.
Under new school standards which came into force in September, a number of faith schools have been targeted and downgraded by schools’ regulator Ofsted.
Last week, The Christian Institute broadly welcomed new Government guidance relating to the standards, as they include important safeguards regarding the Government’s definition of ‘British values’.
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, said: “These guidelines, issued to every school in England, make clear that Department for Education regulations require schools to promote respect for people, as opposed to respect for their beliefs.”
He described this as an “important distinction” in light of the way that school inspectors have been implementing the new regulations.
Crucially, the guidance also states that schools are not required to “promote alternative lifestyles or same sex marriage”.
Mr Calvert said, “it is clear that Ofsted, which is enforcing the rules, is not following the guidance in many cases”.
As a result, he continued, The Christian Institute is “actively seeking to bring a test case against Ofsted where it has acted outside its remit, without proper regard for religious freedom”.