Across the UK there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 16. FE is not compulsory and covers non-advanced education, which can be taken at further (including tertiary) education colleges and HE institutions. There are four main types of state schools funded by local authorities. They all follow the National Curriculum and are inspected by Ofsted. All children aged 5-16 are entitled to a free place at a state school. Most families take up this place. A few, around 6.5% (Source: BBC), choose to pay for a place at an independent (private) school, where parents pay fees. The majority of state schools are “maintained schools”. This means they are overseen, or ‘maintained’, by the Local Educational Authority (LEA). The four main types of “maintained schools” are:
1. Community Schools
Community schools are run solely by the Local Educational Authority (LEA), which is responsible for the entrance exams and admissions and may support the school through the local community by providing a support service (such as catchment area). These schools are closely linked to the community they are embedded in and strive to serve any special needs of the area. Community schools also help to develop strong links with the community by offering the use of their facilities and providing childcare classes and adult learning programmes. E.g. in an industrial area, pupils tend to choose professions linked to the local industries, therefore they need more preparation in certain subjects to pursue further professional education. Community schools’ staff members are employed by the Local Authority and the land and buildings of the schools are also owned by the Local Authority, although the schools governing body is responsible for the running of the school.
Admission criteria are different for each school. For example, schools may give priority to children:
• living in the area of the school;
• with a brother or sister who already attends the school;
• with a professionally supported medical or social need, whose application identifies a particular school that is especially able to meet that need;
• of any member of the school’s staff.
The Local Authority provides support services such as psychological and special educational needs services. Pupils who attend a community school must follow the national curriculum.
2. Foundation Schools and Trust Schools
Foundation schools are run by their own elected governing body, which has the authority over the admissions policy in consultation with the Local Education Authority. The governing body not only employs the staff and sets the criteria for admission, but it can also own the land the school is on as well as its buildings, although often it is owned by a charity (or charitable foundation). Foundation schools were set up under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 to replace grant-maintained schools, which were funded directly by central government. Grant-maintained schools that had previously been voluntary controlled or county schools (but not voluntary aided) usually became foundation schools. These institutions own their land and property and buy any services e.g. electricity from their own budget. The reasoning behind having a Foundation school, according to its proponents, is that they give parents and school administrators a greater say about what happens within the school gates, creating a bit of independence from the LEA.
In conclusion, foundation schools can:
• set their own admissions policies;
• have more freedom when it comes to appointing staff;
• exert a greater influence on decisions taken by the LEA.
Trust schools are state funded Foundation schools which receive extra support from a charitable trust, that is an outside body made up of partners, e.g. business or educational charities who work together for the benefit of the school. Trust schools have therefore evolved from Foundation schools. Trust schools’ main benefit comes from its relationship with its partner, which it sees as helping to raise school standards and maximise the benefits for all. Having the trust status will enable schools to raise standards through strengthening new and existing long-term partnerships between schools and external partners, as well as broaden opportunities for pupils supporting their development and learning. Often the outside body is either an educational charity or a business, according to Directgov. Although Trust schools are still funded by the state, they can set their own admissions policy, manage staff independently and manage its own assets. Having said that, the land and buildings used by the school will be owned by either the governing body, or the charitable trust.
3. Voluntary Aided Schools (Faith Schools)
Voluntary Aided (VA) schools can be different kinds of schools e.g. Faith schools, free schools, academies, etc., but they are often associated with a particular religion. In contrast to other types of maintained school, only 90% of the capital costs of a voluntary aided school are met by the state. The foundation contributes the remaining 10% of the capital costs, and many Voluntary Aided Faith schools belong to diocesan maintenance schemes or other types of funding programme to help them to manage those costs. They are run by their own governing body in the same way as a Foundation school, although the charitable foundation usually owns the school’s land and buildings. However, there are instances where VA schools use local authority land and buildings. The governing body runs the school, employs the staff and decides the school’s admission arrangements, subject to the national Schools Admissions Code. Specific exemptions from Section 85 of the Equality Act 2010 enables VA faith schools to use faith criteria in prioritising pupils for admission to the schools.
These schools are not allowed to charge fees to students, although parents are usually encouraged to pay a voluntary contribution towards the schools’ maintenance funds.
These schools must follow the National Curriculum except for religious studies, where they are free to only teach about their own religion. They may have strict admissions criteria and staffing policies may be different too, although anyone can apply for a place.
4. Voluntary Controlled Schools
Voluntary Controlled schools are a kind of “maintained school”: they are funded by central Government via the Local Educational Authority, and do not charge fees to students. The majority are also faith schools. These schools are a cross between Community and Voluntary Aided schools. The LEA employs the staff and sets the entrance criteria, like a Community school, but the school’s land and buildings are owned by a charitable foundation, often a church, which also appoints some members of the governing body. Specific exemptions from Section 85 of the Equality Act 2010 enables VC faith schools to use faith criteria in prioritising pupils for admission to the schools.
Pupils at Voluntary Controlled Schools follow the National Curriculum.
These are independent State schools where the contract is between the proprietor and the Secretary of State. Academies are directly funded by the Department for Education and independent of Local Authority control. Parents, pupils, staff and individual governors are not parties to the contract. The “term academy” came from Section 482 of the Education Act 1996 (as amended by the Education Act 2002) and it now appears in the Academies Act 2010. The contract must now include the SEN obligations. The Academy must have the following characteristics: it should have a curriculum satisfying the requirements of Section 78 of the Education Act 2002 (balanced and broad curriculum); if the school provides secondary education, its curriculum for the secondary education should have an emphasis on a particular subject area specified in the arrangements; the school should also provide education for pupils of different abilities and education for pupils who are entirely or mainly drawn from the area in which the school is situated.
The terms of the school’s arrangements need to be set out in individual Academy Funding Agreements. Most academies are secondary schools (and most secondary schools are academies). However, slightly more than 25% of primary schools (4363 as at December 2017, according to Schools, pupils, and their characteristics – Official Statistics, 2018), as well as some of the remaining first, middle and high schools, are also academies.
Academies are self-governing non-profit charitable trusts and may receive additional support from personal or corporate sponsors, either financially or in kind. They do not have to follow the National Curriculum but do have to ensure that their curriculum is broad and balanced, and that it includes the core subjects of Mathematics and English. They are subject to inspection by Ofsted. These schools have more freedom and control over curriculum design, school hours and term dates, and staff pay and conditions.
The main types of academies are as follows:
• Sponsored academy: A formerly maintained school that has been transformed to academy status as part of a Government intervention strategy. They are consequently run by a Government-approved sponsor.
• Converter academy: A formerly maintained school that has voluntarily converted to academy status. It is not necessary for a converter academy to have a sponsor.
• Faith academy: An academy with an official faith designation.
• Cooperative academy: An academy that uses an alternative cooperative academy agreement.
• Free school: Free schools are new academies established since 2011 via the Free School Programme. From May 2015, usage of the term was also extended to new academies set up via a Local Authority competition. Most of free schools are similar to other types of academy. However, there are two distinctive sub-types of free school:
1. Studio school: A small free school, usually with around 300 pupils, using project-based learning;
2. University Technical College: A free school for the 14-18 age group, specialising in practical, employment focused subjects, sponsored by a university, employer or further education college. This type of school is specialised in subjects like engineering and construction and teaches these subjects along with business skills and using IT. The curriculum is designed by the academy and employers who also provide work experience for the pupils.
An academy trust that operates more than one academy is known as an Academy Chain. An Academy Chain is a group of schools working together under a shared academy structure that is either an Umbrella Trust or a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).
In the United Kingdom, Independent schools (also known as “private schools”) are fee-paying private schools, governed by an elected board of governors under contractual arrangements and independent of many of the regulations and conditions that apply to State funded schools. For example, pupils do not have to follow the National Curriculum. Many of the older, expensive and more exclusive schools for the 13- to 18-year-old pupils in England and Wales are known as public schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868, where the term “public” derives from the fact that they were open to every pupil regardless of where they lived or their religion. Prep (preparatory) schools educate younger children up to the age of 13 to prepare them for entry to the public schools and other independent schools.
According to Hensher (2012), there are about 2500 independent schools in the UK, which educate around 615,000 children, some 7% of all British children and 18% of pupils over the age of 16. In addition to charging tuition fees, many independent schools also benefit from gifts, charitable endowments and charitable status. Many of these schools are members of the Independent Schools Council. In 2017, the average cost for private schooling was £14102 for day school and £32259 for boarding school. Independent schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum and the admissions policy is determined and administered by the Head Teacher along with the governing body. All independent schools must register with the Department for Education under the Education Act 2002 and applications of new schools must be made before a school begins to function and admit pupils. Regulations made by the Education Act 2002 sets out standards that all independent schools in England must satisfy as a condition of registration. Only half of independent schools have a “charitable status”; all donations made to public schools that are supported by the Local Government, allow them to claim charitable deductions.
The specialist schools programme was a UK Government initiative which encouraged secondary schools in England to specialise in certain areas of the curriculum to boost achievement. 92% of Specialist Schools are in secondary education. These institutions are specialised in a certain subject area or profession, providing a training that leads to a degree in a profession or prepares for further specialised studies. Specialist schools can also apply for this status to be given for a specialism in Special Educational Needs (SEN), under one of the four areas of the SEN Code of Practice. These may include learning disabilities or physical disabilities. Some specialist schools are funded by the Local Education Authority. These could be Community, Voluntary Aided or Controlled, or Foundation Specialist schools. Some specialist schools are independent. Their aim is to work together to ensure good practice to promote effective approaches to enhance the students learning with Special Educational Needs.