What kind of school do you want to teach in?

The way a school is funded and managed has a big impact on its working environment. Before you apply for a teaching job you need to think about what you want to get out of it and what kind of school will best suit your needs.


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This article has been written in partnership with AGCAS.

There is no such thing as a standard school. Location, size and the gender mix are important factors; a small rural primary school will face different challenges to a large city academy in a deprived area or a single-sex grammar school. The way a school is funded and managed will have a big impact on the working lives of its teachers, so it’s worth giving some thought to the type of environment that will suit you best.

Maintained schools

Maintained schools are funded by the state and are inspected by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted). Some types of maintained school have greater flexibility in terms of the nature of the education they offer and the extent to which they have control over their budgets.

  • Community schools are wholly controlled by the local authority (LA) and not influenced by business or religious groups.
  • Foundation and trust schools are controlled principally by a trust and governing body.
  • Voluntary-aided and controlled schools are mainly religious or faith schools. A charitable foundation, often a religious organisation, is usually involved in the school in some way. However, in voluntary-controlled schools, the local authority employs the staff and sets the admissions criteria, rather than the governing body.
  • Grammar schools select all or most of their pupils according to academic ability.
  • Comprehensive schools are open to children of all abilities.
  • Faith schools incorporate more religious and spiritual elements into the schooling of their children.

Most schools do not select pupils based on ability, though some will restrict intake to their catchment area if they are oversubscribed.

Other types of state school

  • Academies are a type of school found in England only, and 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. The number of academies has increased dramatically in recent years, with many secondary schools in particular converting to academies. Many academies are managed in groups, referred to as academy chains.
  • Specialist schools teach the whole curriculum but focus on a particular subject area. Both maintained and non-maintained schools can apply for specialist status.
  • Pupil referral units provide teaching and learning for children of compulsory school age who cannot attend school, for example, due to medical reasons or exclusion.
  • Special schools in the state and independent sectors provide education for pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities that are too severe for them to integrate within a mainstream school.
  • Free schools are similar to academies but have even greater independence, although they are still inspected by Ofsted. They can set their own curriculum, term dates, and conditions and pay for staff. Free schools can be set up by charities, universities, businesses, educational groups, teachers and groups of parents.They are funded directly by central government.

Independent schools

Around 7% of children in England and Wales are educated in the independent sector, which is funded through fees, usually set by the individual school, and includes public schools and most boarding schools. Independent schools are not required to teach the national curriculum. Associations of schools belonging to the Independent Schools Council (ISC) are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, while some other independent schools are inspected by Ofsted. The ISC represents around 1,300 independent schools.

Working as a supply teacher

As a newly qualified teacher it is possible to complete your induction period working as a supply teacher if your placements are of suitable length, and supply posts frequently lead to offers of permanent positions. This means you can try a variety of different schools, before looking for a permanent post at the type of school you are best suited to.

Making the decision

Each individual school will have its own ethos and atmosphere, shaped by the leadership and vision of its head teacher. The best way to assess this is to visit in person, having done your research and read the latest inspection report online beforehand.

There are also some less obvious differences in the working environment that you should consider. For example, at an urban school there are likely to be more children who speak English as a second language. All this should be borne in mind when you make your decision.

This article was last updated August 2021.

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