What different types of school can you teach in?

Jill Valentine from Sheffield Hallam University provides an overview of different kinds of schools in England, helping you to discover the range of types of state-maintained schools, such as academies and free schools, as well as the independent sector.


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This article has been written in partnership with AGCAS.

Education in the UK falls into two sectors: state maintained and independent. An understanding of the system will help you to decide where you would prefer to work.

The information that follows applies to England. For variations in the other parts of the UK, see our advice on teaching in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What are state maintained schools?

Within the maintained sector there are different types of schools and these can be defined by who employs the staff, controls admission and owns the land and buildings. Combinations of local authorities (LAs), school governing bodies and charitable trusts or religious organisations might be involved.

The main types of maintained school are:

  • Community schools: wholly LA controlled.
  • Foundation and trust schools: controlled principally by a trust and governing body.
  • Voluntary aided and controlled schools: mainly religious or 'faith' schools run by a charitable foundation, often a religious organisation.
  • Academies: may have businesses, faith groups or voluntary groups as sponsors. They are publicly funded by central government and have some freedom from the national curriculum.
  • Free schools: established by groups such as parents, teachers, charities or businesses. They are not-for-profit, government funded schools, which have some freedom from the national curriculum.

Most state-maintained secondary schools are all-ability comprehensive schools, but a few are grammar schools, which select pupils according to ability. Around 95% of maintained secondary schools have a specialism such as sports, arts, science etc.

What is available in the independent sector?

The independent sector includes:

  • Independent schools: no direct income from the state. These schools are sometimes called public schools or private schools and there are about 2,500 in the UK. They don't have to teach the national curriculum or employ teachers with qualified teacher status (QTS), although most do. Information about independent schools is available from the Independent Schools Council and the Independent Schools Directory .
  • Montessori schools: follow their own teaching method and in the UK cater for children mostly from the ages of three to six though there are some primary schools. For more information see Montessori .
  • Steiner Waldorf Schools: part of an international movement with a particular philosophy of education. Find out more at Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship .

This article was last updated August 2021.

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