The UK Rules
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Types of Schools

Types of School Systems

A comprehensive list of the different English school systems and how community schools, academies, and free schools are run.

Different Types of Schools: Other types of school covered in this section include faith schools and state boarding schools.

In England, all children are entitled to a free place at a state school while they are between 5 and 16 years old.

As a rule, state schools are funded and controlled by local authorities (the state) and they do not charge fees for pupils to attend.

They are often called public schools outside of England and Wales.

The biggest majority of all state schools are inspected by Ofsted and they must follow the National Curriculum in the United Kingdom.

Main Types of State Schools

Special Needs Schools UK

A special needs school (also called a special school), is one which caters for students who have unique educational needs due to behavioural problems or some severe learning or physical disabilities. Special schools are often specifically designed, constructed, and staffed to provide an appropriate education which meets the needs of children who have specific challenges and difficulties.

Generally, special needs schools which cater for pupils aged 11 and above specialise in one of these categories of special educational needs;

Note: Special schools specialise even further within these categories to reflect those who require additional help (e.g. Autistic spectrum disorders, visual impairment or speech, language and communication needs.

Faith Schools UK

Even though a faith school is intended for students who have a particular religious beliefs, there can be different kinds of faith schools. For example, academies, free schools, and voluntary aided schools are all different types of schools which are actually associated with a particular, and individual, religion.

As a rule, faith schools are run the same as other state schools because they also have to follow the national curriculum with the exception of their religious studies.

Faith schools are free to teach religious subjects only about their particular religion. Even though anyone can apply for a place at a faith school, their admissions criteria and staffing policies may be different than a typical state school.

What is a Free School in UK?

As a rule, free schools in England are similar to an academy and are funded by central government. Free schools have more control over the way they operate because they are not run by the local council. There are more than 400 approved free schools which are non-profit-making, independent, and State-funded.

As you might expect, free schools are free to attend but their 'all-ability' process means they are subject to the same School Admissions Code as all other State-funded schools, similar to grammar schools. They can change the length of school terms and days, as well as set their own pay and conditions for staff, and free schools do not need to follow the national curriculum.

Who can set up a Free School?

Free schools can be set up by communities and groups such as;

Different Types of Free Schools

University Technical Colleges

University technical colleges (UTC) are similar to secondary schools in in England but they specialise in practical subjects such as construction and engineering which lead to technical qualifications for the pupils.

University technical colleges are usually led by a sponsor university (employers or further education colleges) which supports the curriculum development because they teach their specialist academic subjects besides business skills and using Information Technology. This provides professional development opportunities for teachers, and guides suitably qualified students to foundation and full degrees.

Studio Schools

Studio schools are mostly government-funded state schools for 14-19 year olds of all abilities. They tend to be small schools with less than 300 pupils and deliver mainstream qualifications through project-based innovative learning in realistic situations as well as learning academic subjects.

Studio school students work with local employers and a personal coach. The schools typically follow a curriculum which is designed to give them the skills and qualifications they need in the workplace or for preparation of taking up further education.


In general, academies are state-funded and independent - meaning they receive most of their funding directly from central government and not through a local authority. Academies set their own term times and they rarely follow the national curriculum.

Academies are required to follow the same rules as state schools on admissions, exclusions, and special educational needs. Usually, an academy trust (or business sponsorship) runs the school which also employs the staff. Academy sponsors are responsible for improving the school performance no matter whether they are run by a trust, university, or some other voluntary group.

City Technology Colleges

City technology colleges in England are similar to a secondary school. They are independent schools which are often set up through partnerships between central government and business companies - not local councils. They focus in inner-city urban areas with a particular emphasis on teaching technological and science practical skills.

State Boarding Schools

State boarding schools provide free education but charge fees for boarding. Some state boarding schools are run by local councils, and some are run as academies or free schools. State boarding schools give priority to children who have a particular need to board and will assess children’s suitability for boarding.

Charities such as Buttle UK or the Royal National Children’s Foundation can sometimes help with the cost of boarding. Contact the State Boarding Schools’ Association for more information about state boarding schools, eligibility and how to apply.

Private Schools

Private schools are not funded by central government and they charge fees to attend. In the United Kingdom there are around 2,500 private schools - often called independent schools - and they must be registered with the government. They are inspected regularly and provide annual performance reports but pupils who attend private schools (more than 600,000 children) do not have to follow the national curriculum.

Private School Report

Private school reports are published online by the particular organisation which is responsible for their regular inspections. The school will inform you which organisation inspects them, however, around 50% of all independent schools are inspected by Ofsted.

The Independent Schools Inspectorate inspects schools that are members of the Independent Schools Council. Some other schools are inspected by the School Inspection Service.

Special Educational Needs Private Schools

In England, some special education needs private schools also specialise in catering for and teaching children with particular challenges or disabilities.

Types of Schools; UK Rules Updated 2017