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School Types

Types Of School

Schools across England are funded and managed in different ways and will vary depending on the age of your child.

There are four phases of schooling:

Early Years or pre-school education between the age of 2 and 5
Primary Education
Key stage one – Infants (5 – 7)
Key stage two – Juniors (7 – 11)
Secondary Education (11 – 16)
Further Education (FE) (16 – 18)

In each phase there are different kinds of school. These may include different age ranges of pupils, have a different philosophy or be funded differently. Understanding the types of schools in an area could help you to select the most appropriate school for your child.

Independent Schools

Independent schools are schools that charge fees to attend. They are sometimes referred to as private schools or, in the UK, Public schools. Some are privately owned, some are run by charitable trusts.

The independent school sector is not obliged to teach the National Curriculum. Independent schools are also free to set the day and term lengths.

Half of all independent schools are inspected by Ofsted. Schools that are members of the Independent Schools Council are inspected by The Independent Schools Inspectorate and some schools are inspected by the School Inspection Service.

Admission to independent schools can be based on interview, common entrance exam, previous school report or a mixture of all of them. Independent schools generally have smaller class sizes and offer a wider range of extra-curricular, activities.

Boarding Schools

A boarding school provides education for pupils who live on the premises. Traditionally pupils will remain at the school for the length of the term but many boarding schools offer weekly boarding and flexi-boarding. Some boarding schools also have day pupils. Some are specifically for either boys or girls and some are co-educational.

State Maintained Schools

In the United Kingdom, the term "State Maintained School" refers to government-funded schools which provide education free of charge to pupils. Throughout education in the UK, most state-funded schools are under the control of local councils. These schools must follow the national curriculum and must act in accordance with government guidelines in areas of admissions, exclusions and special educational needs.

Comprehensive Schools

Comprehensive schools are state funded schools that provide education to all children from the age of 11, irrespective of academic achievement. They must follow the national curriculum and are inspected by OFSTED. They generally offer a wide range of subjects both academic and practical. Most comprehensive secondary schools offer education up to the age of 16 with post 16 provision being offered by sixth form colleges and further education colleges. However, there are some comprehensive schools that offer education provision to 18.

Grammar Schools

Grammar schools are academically selective state funded schools. Pupils must achieve a set of standards in the 11+ examination administered by the local grammar school consortium to attain a place. They also follow the National curriculum and are inspected by OFSTED. Grammar schools tend to be more academically rigorous than comprehensive schools and offer mainly academically lead subjects rather than practical subjects. Most if not all Grammar Schools will have a sixth form offering a variety of A level subjects. Some will also offer the International Baccalaureate.


Academies are state funded schools and are free to pupils, but they have much more independence than other schools including the ability to be flexible about their curriculum, term dates and staffing. They are funded from central government, rather than through a local authority. Academies are inspected by OSTED.

The day-to-day running of the school is with the head teacher or principal, but they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts and may be part of an academy chain. These trusts and chains provide advice, support, expertise and a strategic overview. They control their own admissions process and have more freedom than other schools to innovate.

Free Schools

A Free school is a type of academy - a non-profit-making, independent, state-funded school which is free to attend but which is not wholly controlled by a local authority. Teachers, parents, charities and community groups can set up a Free School.

With complete freedom from local authorities, free schools do not have to follow the national curriculum. However, they must offer a broad and balanced curriculum and are subject to the same Ofsted inspections as other schools.
Other powers include the freedom to set their own pay and conditions for staff, as well as change the length of school terms and the school day.

They are "all-ability" schools, meaning they can't use academic selection processes.

Sixth Form Colleges

Sixth form colleges provide education to 16 to 18-year-olds enabling them to progress to university or higher-level vocational education. They are generally more informal than sixth forms in schools and don’t generally require pupils to wear uniform. Most are larger than school sixth forms and offer a wide range of academic, technical and professional courses.

Further Education Colleges

Further Education Colleges (FE) offer a range of academic, vocational, technical and professional courses. Further Education Colleges are attended by people of all ages, from 16 to 90+ although most students are between 16 and 18 years old.

Some colleges are very large, with several sites or campuses and some are specialist, such as those offering agricultural or marine courses.

Further Education Colleges offer courses at every level from entry level courses that do not require GCSE grades at entry through to higher level qualifications such as HNC/ HND and degree courses.

The main difference from school is that an FE college is a much more adult environment and students will typically call teachers by their first name and be expected to be independent.

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