Schools in the UK


What kind of schools are there?
Types of school in the UK

What kind of schools are there?


Non-fee paying schools (state sector) Schools in this sector are maintained by the Government with public funds and are free for the pupils. They include:


  • Nursery - Non-compulsory schooling for 3-4 year olds
  • Infant schools - Children aged 4 - 7 Junior Schools - Children aged 7 – 11
  • Primary schools - Combining Infant, Junior and often Nursery classes within one school
  • Secondary schools - for all pupils aged 11 - 16 years. Some provide additional schooling for students from 16 - 18 years.
  • Sixth form colleges (non-compulsory) - for students 16 - 18 years
  • Special schools - For the education of children with various physical, emotional and behavioural learning needs which cannot be met in the mainstream.


Independent or private schools are fee paying. They normally follow the NC or the IB.


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Types of school in England - A to Z listing

Under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 there are three categories of school:

Schools in all three categories have a lot in common. They work in partnership with other schools and the LEAs, and they receive funding from LEAs and they have to deliver the national curriculum. But each category has its own characteristics.


City Technology Colleges (CTCs) and City Colleges for the Technology of the Arts (CCTAs)

Independent, all-ability non-fee-paying, schools for pupils aged 11-18. Despite being state schools, they are independent of local education authorities, receiving funding direct from the Department of Education and Employment together with some industrial sponsorship. The schools provide a broad secondary education with special emphasis on science and technology, and offer a wide range of vocational qualifications. Part of their role is to innovate in the development, management and delivery of the curriculum. There are 14 CTCs and one CCTA (City College for the Technology of the Arts) in urban areas across England.

Church Schools

Originally run by the church but now under local education authority control. Children of churchgoers may be given preference for places. See also Voluntary Aided Schools and Voluntary Controlled Schools.

Community Schools
Originally known as county schools, these are state schools in England and Wales which are wholly owned and maintained by local education authorities. The LEA is the admissions authority and has main responsibility for deciding arrangements for admitting pupils. Community schools are likely to open their facilities to the local community outside lesson times.

Comprehensive Schools
Originally secondary schools which took all the children in the local area regardless of ability or aptitude and educated them collectively. In recent years, however, league tables have led to these schools becoming selective according to each school's popularity and the pupils' abilities. Setting and streaming are often features of the schools and the Government is now encouraging them to develop specialist areas such as languages, performing arts and sports.

County Schools
Schools funded, maintained and controlled by the local education authority. Many of them have now opted for community school status.

Feeder Schools
Some admission authorities give priority to children from certain primary schools, known as 'feeder schools'.

First Schools
In the small number of regions which still retain the three-tier system of education, these are state schools which prepare pupils for middle school by taking them from the age of four or five until the age of eight or nine.

Foundation Schools
State schools funded and run by the local education authority, which pays for any building work, while the school retains control over admissions, staff employment and land and buildings. Most former grant-maintained schools opted to become foundation schools. These schools have more freedom than community schools to manage their school and decide on their own admissions. Some may have a foundation (generally religious) which appoints some of the governing body. The governing body is the admissions authority.

Grammar Schools
Grammar schools select all or almost all of their pupils by reference to high academic ability. The current policy on grammar schools was agreed by the Labour Party Conference in 1995, and states that there will be no new grammar schools and no further selection based on the 11-plus. Selection will only end where there is a local demand for this to happen. Legislation allows parents to make decisions about the future of selective admissions at existing grammar schools by means of petitions and ballots. Additionally, the governing body of a grammar school may publish proposals to end selection at the school.

Grant-maintained Schools
A term no longer applicable but which applied to state schools in England and Wales which voted to obtain their funds directly from the Government, making the school responsible for all of its assets, income and admissions and completely independent of local education authority control. Most of these schools have now opted for foundation status.

Independent Schools
Schools which are not funded by the state but which obtain most of their finances from fees paid by parents and income from investments. Some are selective but many are not, and take pupils regardless of their ability or aptitude. Some of the larger independent schools are known as public schools, while most boarding schools are independent. Further information is available from ISIS, the Independent Schools Information Service.

Infant Schools
State schools for four to seven-year-olds.

Junior Schools
Schools for seven to 11-year-olds.

Middle Schools
In the small number of regions which still retain the three-tier system of education, these are state schools which take pupils aged eight or nine, after first school.

Modern Schools
State schools which take pupils regardless of their ability or aptitude and who have not been selected for a place at a selective school.

These differ from nursery schools or classes in that they provide all-day care, but not education, for the under-fives. Day nurseries may be run by local authorities, voluntary organisations, private companies, individuals or employers.

Nursery Schools or Classes
Nursery education provided for under-fives during school hours. This can be part-time, private or funded by the local education authority. Nursery classes in state primary schools take children from the age of three or four and are open during school term time. They usually offer five half-day sessions a week.

Nursery Centres
Combined services run by the social services and the local education authority to provide care and education before, during and after school hours.

Pre-school Playgroups
Usually private or voluntary services, often with help from parents, which provide play learning facilities for under-fives.

Selective Schools
Any schools which choose which pupils to accept, based on ability or aptitude.

Self-governing Schools
The Scottish equivalent of what were grant-maintained schools in England.

Sixth-form Centres
Some schools co-operate together in a group known as a sixth form centre or consortium. The particular approach may vary. For example, all students from the schools involved in a consortium might study science at one school and languages at another, or a group of schools might choose to pool their resources so that sixth form teachers and students have a separate building.

Special Schools
Some children are unable to attend mainstream schools because they have severe learning problems or disabilities. Such children are accommodated in state special schools provided and maintained by the local education authority (although where possible, most authorities promote 'inclusive education', where pupils are placed in mainstream schools with support).

Specialist Schools
Secondary schools which specialise in a particular area such as technology, languages, sport or the arts while still delivering a national curriculum-based education. Specialist Schools are given additional funding to enable them to develop strengths in their subject area and are supported by local industry. They work in partnership with local schools and the wider community to share resources and expertise and can provide pupils at other schools with 'master classes'. By 2001 there will be 500 specialist schools in England.

State Schools
Otherwise known as publicly funded schools and attended by over 90 per cent of pupils in the country. Parents do not pay fees.

Steiner School
An independent school teaching children aged four to 18 according to the Steiner philosophy.

Voluntary Aided Schools
Schools where both the local education authority and a foundation (generally religious) meet the running costs. The foundation appoints the majority of the governing body of the school which acts as the admissions authority and retains control over the admissions policy, religious education and collective worship.

Voluntary Controlled Schools
Schools maintained by the local education authority, with a foundation (generally religious) which appoints some - but not most - of the governing body. In this case, the local education authority is the admission authority.

Voluntary Grammar Schools

Grant-maintained, integrated schools in Northern Ireland which take both Protestant and Roman Catholic pupils.

Voluntary Maintained Schools
Schools in Northern Ireland which are mainly managed by the Catholic Church.

Voluntary Schools

Schools in England and Wales which are provided by voluntary bodies, mainly churches or church-related organisations. Financed and maintained by local education authorities, but the assets are held and administered by trustees. This category includes voluntary aided schools, voluntary controlled schools and special agreement schools.


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