North African Islamism and Other News

The threat posed by Islamism in North Africa is the lead story in today’s round-up of religious statistical news, with two of the other three items concerning the role of religion in state education.  

North African Islamism

Recent events in Mali and Algeria have raised the profile of ‘Islamist militants in North Africa’ to such an extent that 23% of Britons now consider them to be a great threat to this country and a further 43% a minor threat. Those regarding them as some kind of threat are concentrated among Conservative voters (77%) and the over-60s (81%, almost double the number of 18-24s, 42%, holding this view). Only 19% of Britons deem North African Islamism to pose little or no threat, with 15% undecided (including more than one-fifth of the under-40s).

Source: Online survey by YouGov of 2,119 Britons aged 18 and over on 21 and 22 January 2013. Full data posted on 24 January at:

Faith schools

Almost half (49%) of Britons support making all state schools secular, and thus severing existing links with particular religions. This is 11% more than implicitly back the status quo arrangement for faith schools, with 14% uncertain. The demographics of support for the proposition are interesting. Men (54%) are more in favour than women (44%), which was predictable. The age breaks are more surprising, almost the reverse of what might have been expected: it is the over-60s (54%) who most support ‘secularization’ of state schools and the 18-24s (42%) who are the least sure. Is this a tacit expression of the elderly’s suspicion of Islam and Muslim schools? Geographically, it is in Scotland (63%) where opposition to faith schools peaks, perhaps reflecting the long-standing controversies around the position of Roman Catholic state schools in Scotland. Parents of children in the state primary sector (where the majority of faith schools in Britain are to be found) are somewhat less in favour of secular schools than parents of children in the secondary sector, 42% versus 51% respectively. Conservative voters (48%) are only slightly less likely than Labourites (52%) to want to abolish faith schools.

Source: Online survey by YouGov of 1,750 Britons aged 18 and over undertaken on 6 and 7 January 2013 for Prospect magazine. Full data tables were posted on 24 January, to coincide with publication of Peter Kellner’s feature about the survey in the February 2013 issue of Prospect. The tables are available at:

EBacc and RE

The Government’s introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is having a negative impact on school provision of non-EBacc subjects, including religious education (RE), according to a new survey of schoolteachers. Among respondents, 13% reported a decline in provision for RE in their schools as a consequence of the EBacc (3% more than recorded that their schools were planning to cut RE in a similar survey in May 2011). Comparable reductions in provision for other non-EBacc subjects were: 14% for citizenship, music, and personal, social and health education; 15% for information and communication technology; and 16% for art, and design and technology.

Source: Online survey of over 2,500 schoolteachers by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the largest teachers’ union. No methodological details were given in the press release about the survey issued by the NASUWT on 23 January 2013. However, by analogy with the 2011 study, it seems probable that the sample comprised members of the NASUWT working in secondary schools in England, and reporting on the experiences of their own schools. The press release can be found at:

Ageing priests

Quite a bit is known about the age profile of Church of England clergy (see, for example, Tables 23 and 24 in Church Statistics, 2010/11), but less information has been available about Roman Catholic priests. Now, thanks to new research by the Movement for Married Clergy (MMC), we know that only 4% of secular clergy in England and Wales in 2012 were aged 40 and under, and 38% aged 60 and under. That left 27% aged 61-70 and 35% over 70 years. Projecting the data forward by a decade, the MMC notes ‘a danger sign about replacement’, not least considering that, although ‘secular priests continue to remain in parishes until 70, the most effective work is done by those below the age of 60’.

Source: Analysis by the MMC of the dates of birth of 1,074 secular priests in seven English and Welsh dioceses in 2012, representing 26% of all such priests in England and Wales. Information was either extracted from published diocesan directories or provided by diocesan offices. The analysis is unpublished but has been generously supplied to BRIN by Dr Michael Winter, MMC’s chairman. It should be noted that the snippet about the study in the Catholic Herald of 18 January 2013 is garbled.


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