Types of Schools

There are so many types of schools in the UK. They are categorized by where the fund is from, whom it is operated by, who own the land, who contributes to the maintenance costs, who are responsible for admissions, religious background, curriculum, whether they charge tuition fee, etc. 

Independent School / Private School / Public School

Independent schools may be described as private or public schools and are funded by the fees paid by the parents of pupils, contributions from supporting bodies and investments. They are not funded or run by central government or a Local Authority. All private schools must be registered with the government and are inspected regularly. Pupils do not have to follow the national curriculum. Independent schools may provide education for all pupils regardless of ability. Some independent schools select students by ability requiring them to pass an entrance examination or test. Some provide education only for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities. Parents may apply for admission directly to the school. These schools are not subject to the government Code on Admissions.

International schools

These are schools that promote international education, in an international environment, either by adapting a curriculum such as that of the International Baccalaureate, or by following a national curriculum different from that of the school’s country of residence.

Community Schools

Controlled and run by the Local Authority. The Local Authority owns the land and buildings. The Local Authority determines the admission arrangements.

Foundation Schools

Foundation schools are funded by the Local Authority, but are run by the school governing body. The governing body is the admission authority for these schools. The governing body employs the school staff and has primary responsibility for admissions. The school land and buildings are owned by the governing body or a charitable foundation.

Trust Schools

A type of Foundation school which forms a charitable trust with an outside partner; usually a business or a charity. The decision to become a Trust school is taken by the Governing body with parents also having a say. Similar to a Voluntary Aided school however the land is owned by a trust which may include commercial organisations. Trust schools are run by their governing body.

Voluntary Aided Schools

These are usually religious or ‘faith’ schools, although anyone can apply for a place for their child. Both the Local Authority and the supporting body (e.g. the Roman Catholic church) will contribute to the funding of the school. The governing body employs staff and decides admission arrangements. The land and buildings are normally owned by a charitable foundation. The governing body contributes to building and maintenance costs.

Voluntary controlled schools

Voluntary controlled schools are similar to voluntary aided schools, although these schools are funded solely by the Local Authority. The Local Authority is the admission authority but will consult with the supporting body in drawing up the admission policy.The land and buildings are usually owned by a charitable foundation. The Local Education Authority employs the school staff and has responsibility for admissions.


Academies are schools that are state funded and free to students but they have much more independence than most other schools including the power to direct their own curriculum. (This can include the introduction of faith-based topics, or a change to the school hours for example). Academies are established by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups in partnership with the Department for Education working with the community. Together these fund the land and buildings with the Government covering the running costs. Academies can be flexible with their curriculum, term dates, and staffing to meet local needs. The Academy Trust is the admission authority.

Free Schools

A free school is a type of Academy. Free schools are funded by the government, but are not controlled by the Local Authority. Teachers, parents, existing schools, educational charities, universities, or community groups can set up free schools. The group must form a company and choose members and directors to run it. Academies can be flexible with their curriculum, term dates and staffing to meet local needs.

Schools specialising in a particular subject

Though Specialist Schools follow the national curriculum, they can focus on a particular subject area. Any state secondary school in England (maintained or Academy) can become a specialist school in areas such as technology, language, sports or arts. The schools must meet full national curriculum requirements but have a special focus on the chosen specialist area.

Faith Schools

These are schools with a religious character. Any new faith schools must have the agreement of parents and the local community, and be approved by the Local Authority. Faith schools are usually voluntary controlled. Voluntary aided faith schools are responsible for setting their own admission policies and teach religious education according to its religious precepts. Faith schools admit pupils on religious affiliation grounds but many admit those who are not of the school faith and voluntary aided faith schools have to comply with the school admissions code of practice.

Grammar Schools

Grammar schools are similar to foundation schools but are permitted to select pupils by ability. They are funded by the Local Authority, but run by the governing body, which acts as admission authority. Parents apply for school places for their child through the Local Authority-coordinated admissions scheme, but a place will not be offered unless the pupil achieves a set standard in the 11+ examination administered by the local grammar school consortium. The result of this test will determine whether they can gain entry to the local grammar school.

City Technology Colleges

City technology colleges are funded partly by the government and partly by independent organisations. They offer a wide range of vocational qualifications alongside GCSEs and A-levels for pupils aged 11-18. The governing body will act as the admission authority and create its own admission policy. Funded directly by the Government and offer a wide range of vocational qualifications alongside A-Levels or equivalents. They teach the national curriculum but focus on vocational subjects such as science, mathematics and technology .

Sixth-form colleges

Students between the ages of 16 and 19 attend these colleges to study for qualifications including A-levels and GCSEs.

State boarding schools (Also Maintained boarding school)

These are state-funded schools that provide free education but charge fees for boarding. Most state boarding schools are academies but some are free schools or are run by local councils.

Special schools

Schools can further specialise within these categories to reflect the special needs they help with, for example Autistic spectrum disorders, visual impairment, or speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).