Abstract In this paper, a new first-order shear deformation theory is presented for functionally graded sandwich plates composed of functionally graded face sheets and an isotropic homogeneous core. By making a further assumption to the existing first-order shear deformation theory, the number of unknowns and governing equations of the present theory is reduced, thereby making it simple to use. In addition, the use of shear correction factor is no longer necessary in the present theory since the transverse shear stresses are directly computed from the transverse shear forces by using equilibrium equations. Equations of motion are derived from Hamilton’s principle. Analytical solutions for bending, buckling and free vibration analysis of rectangular plates under various boundary conditions are presented. Verification studies show that the present first-order shear deformation theory is not only more accurate than the conventional one, but also comparable with higher-order shear deformation theories which have a greater number of unknowns.