Types of schools explained

A guide to some of the labels and terms used to describe schools on our website and in the UK:

“Local Authority” is the local region within which the school is situated, and the local government responsible for that region. England consists of over 150 Local authorities, each containing many schools and institutions covering all ages.

“Institution type” is the type of school. Institution types include:

Early years education

  • “Pre-school” is a nursery or other institution specializing in educating and caring for children under age 5. Some of these institutions are managed by the Local Authority “Pre School – Local Authority”.

Mainstream schools – all ages

  • “Community School” is the most usual type of state school in England and Wales. It is funded by the local authority (LA). The LA, not the school, also has main responsibility for deciding arrangements for admitting pupils. Usually proximity, as well as siblings at the school and special needs are the admissions criteria. Different community schools teach at all school ages- from infant & primary, through high school up to age 16 or 18. This is also the case for the other school types listed below.
  • “Voluntary Aided School” is a state school, but with a foundation (generally a church) that appoints most of the governing body. The governing body is the admissions authority. These schools will often place an overwhelming emphasis on religious background in admissions criteria.
  • “Voluntary Controlled School” is also a state school. It is similar to a Voluntary Aided school but the the foundation appoints some – but not most – of the governing body. The LA is the admissions authority. These schools will often place emphasis on both religious background as well as proximity and other criteria in selecting pupils.
  • “Academies” are publicly funded independent school offering free education to pupils of all abilities, established by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups working in partnership with central Government and local education partners. Often Academies are set up to replace community schools that are perceived to be failing.
  • “Foundation School”, maintained by the LA. May have a foundation (generally religious) that appoints some – but not most – of the governing body. The governing body is the admissions authority. “Independent School” is a school for which you normally have to pay fees to send your child.

Post 16 education

  • “Sixth form centers” specialize in educating children after age 16, usually primarily for A-Level exams.
  • “City Technology Colleges” and “Further Education” are institutions that educate pupils from 16 right through adulthood. While they often teach A-Levels, they may also teach a range of vocational and other qualifications. However, they do not have the ability to confer university degrees.
  • “Universities” teach individuals usually from age 18 and have the ability to confer degrees. They are also, of course, centers of study and research.

Wales

  • “Welsh Establishment” designates any school (but not University) that is based in Wales.

Other institution types

  • “Overseas Schools” is a listing of schools overseas (typically Independent Schools) which adhere to the English curriculum and which often educate British nationals abroad.
  • “SEN” signifies that the school is specially set up to cater for pupils with Special Educational Needs (eg dyslexia, autism, physical disabilities etc). These are further divided into Community, Independent, Foundation etc as per the above definitions.
  • “Pupil referral units” are institutions set up for pupils who are excluded or otherwise unable to attend mainstream school. “Secure units” are institutions set up for pupils who are under custody. “Playing for success centres” are training centres linked to sports clubs and associations.