By John Bingham, Telegraph

Middle class parents vying to get their children into church schools have started a “rush to the font”, official figures showing a surge in demand for baptisms of nursery-age children suggest.

While the most recent annual figures from the Church of England show a further slight fall in attendance at Sunday services, the number of couples having their children baptised is on the rise.

And although the numbers of families having babies christened are growing steadily, demand for baptism from those with older children – mostly preschool age – are growing three times as fast.

There was also a boom in demand for less formal “thanksgiving” services for children, again primarily for toddlers and young children rather than babies.

The Church of England said it was clear that parents still see it as important to have their child baptised but are increasingly leaving it later to do so.

But, according to the Rev Dr Sandra Millar, who now runs the Church of England’s Christenings Project – an ongoing “market research” programme on baptisms, their motives are often mixed.

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