The number of parents lying about their faith to ensure their children are admitted to good schools has considerably increased, a new poll has revealed.
A survey commissioned for ITV's 'How to get into a good school', found that 12.6 per cent of parents have pretended to practice a religion they don't believe in so that they can get their child into a reputable faith school. This shows a marked increase since a November 2012 YouGov poll, which found that 6 per cent of parents with children at a state funded school had attended church services purely so their child could go to a church school.
Of the 1,000 parents of primary school aged children surveyed by OnePoll this spring, an additional 23.7 per cent agreed that they would pretend to have a faith if necessary.
Perhaps more shockingly, 13.7 per cent of parents admitted to having had their child baptised to improve their chances of admission, and a further quarter (253 parents in total) said they would do the same. More than one in ten (11.1 per cent) said they have actually lied about their child having been baptised in order to gain a school place.
Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said the survey proves that the issue of parents manipulating the faith school system is "widespread".
"This poll is a game-changer, replacing the many anecdotal stories with hard evidence of widespread cheating," he said.
"'Rather than blame parents, we should blame the system that allows tax-payer funded schools to have admission procedures that discriminate on religious grounds. No other publicly-funded institution is permitted to make faith a condition of entry. It forces parents to either lie or bus their children further away from home."
The Church is the biggest education provider in England, with an estimated one million children currently attending a faith school, many of which are oversubscribed.
In the past, faith schools have traditionally favoured the allocation of places to students whose parents are regular church goers, and attendance registers are sometimes taken in churches within the catchment area of the most popular schools.
Rev Nigel Genders, chief education officer for the Church of England told ITV: "The fact of the matter is that we're often a victim of our own success, because our schools are so good and so popular.
"So a parent's choice as to whether or not they go to church or whether they want their child to go to this particular school is their choice. What we're doing is broadening choice rather than closing choice down."
Government guidelines brought into effect several years ago mean that only half of the places in faith-based free schools or academies can be reserved for religious pupils.
In a recent statement on faith-based admissions, Genders said: "The majority of Church of England schools do not prioritise their places on the basis of church attendance, and most of those that do still make places available for children in the school's immediate community."
In a 2013 interview with the Times, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby suggested that he was in favour of "a steady move away from faith-based entry tests," although a statement from Lambeth Palace later confirmed that the he was not advocating a change in policy, and remained in support of the ability for Church schools to "set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith".
Romain said it was unfair that children should lose out on place in a local school "unless their parents play the religious game".
"The survey will appall all those who value faith and find that it is being used to cheat one's way into a school place," he added. "We call on the newly-reappointed Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, to remove faith requirements from schools that are publicly funded."