By Claire West

The British Humanist Association has welcomed a new report by the children's charity Barnardo's which concluded that the admissions policies of 'faith' schools exclude children from poorer backgrounds.

The 'Unlocking the Gates' report found that 'faith' schools 'seemed to take disproportionately fewer pupils entitled to free school meals, compared to their local population' and that complex questions related to religious observance could 'put off parents who lack confidence in writing, particularly the 16 per cent of adults in the UK who are estimated to lack functional literacy.'

The report confirms the findings of previous research by bodies such as the Runnymede Trust and the Institute of Education, which has found that many 'faith' schools operate covert selection in their admissions procedures.

BHA 'faith' schools campaigns officer James Gray commented, 'This research is the latest in a long line of reports to conclude that the discriminatory admissions policies of 'faith' schools lead to socio-economic segregation. The evidence is now overwhelming that 'faith' schools are in practice excluding children from poorer backgrounds.'

'The reality is that 'faith' school are divisive, discriminatory and - despite the claims of religious lobbyists - deeply unpopular with the public. There is no excuse for turning away a child simply because his or her parents have the 'wrong' beliefs.'