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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Types of school

There are many different types of state school as well as independent schools. To help you make a choice for your child, this page provides some information on each type of school and their admission procedures.

Mainstream state schools

All children in England between the ages of five and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school. Most go to state schools.

Children normally start primary school at the age of four or five, but many schools now have a reception year for four year olds. Children normally leave at the age of 11, moving on to secondary school. Most state schools admit both boys and girls, though some are single-sex.

The four main types of state school all receive funding from local authorities. They all follow the National Curriculum and are regularly inspected by Ofsted.

Community schools

A community school is run by the local authority, which:

  • employs the staff
  • owns the land and buildings
  • decides which ‘admissions criteria’ to use (these are used to allocate places if the school has more applicants than places)

Community schools look to develop strong links with the local community. They can do this in a number of ways, including providinguse of their facilities, or providing services like childcare and adult learning classes.

Foundation and Trust schools

Foundation schools are run by their own governing body, which employs the staff and sets the admissions criteria. Land and buildings are usually owned by the governing body or a charitable foundation.

A Trust school is a type of foundation school which forms a charitable trust with an outside partner. For example, a business or educational charity aiming to raise standards and explore new ways of working.

The decision to become a Trust school is taken by the governing body, with parents having a say.

Voluntary-aided schools

Voluntary-aided schools are mainly religious or 'faith' schools, although anyone can apply for a place. As with foundation schools, the governing body:

  • employs the staff
  • sets the admissions criteria

School buildings and land are normally owned by a charitable foundation, often a religious organisation. The governing body contributes to building and maintenance costs.

Voluntary-controlled schools

Voluntary-controlled schools are similar to voluntary aided schools, but are run by the local authority. As with community schools, the local authority:

  • employs the school's staff
  • sets the admissions criteria

School land and buildings are normally owned by a charity, often a religious organisation, which also appoints some of the members of the governing body.

State schools with particular characteristics

Within the state schools system described above, there are a number of schools with particular characteristics. As with other state schools, admissions are coordinated by the local authority. However, some may have different admission criteria or funding arrangements.


Academies are independently managed, all-ability schools. They are set up by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE) and the local authority. Together they fund the land and buildings, with the government covering the running costs.

City Technology Colleges

These are independently managed, non-fee-paying schools in urban areas for pupils of all abilities aged 11 to 18. They are geared towards science, technology and the world of work, offering a range of vocational qualifications as well as GCSEs and A levels.

Community and foundation special schools

Special schools cater for children with specific special educational needs. These may include physical disabilities or learning difficulties.

Faith schools

Faith schools are mostly run in the same way as other state schools. However, their faith status may be reflected in their religious education curriculum, admissions criteria and staffing policies.

Grammar schools

Grammar schools select all or most of their pupils based on academic ability.

Maintained boarding schools

Maintained boarding schools offer free tuition, but charge fees for board and lodging.

Independent schools

There are around 2,300 independent schools in England. These schools set their own curriculum and admissions policies. They are funded by fees paid by parents and income from investments. Just over half have charitable status.

Every independent school must be registered with the Department for Education (DfE). To ensure the school maintains the standards set out in its registration document, standards are regularly monitored by either Ofsted, or another inspectorate.

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