Uk School Types Explained

UK School Types Explained

Academy, State, Private – what are the differences?

Whether you have been put through the British education system or are an Overseas Teacher, the UK schooling system can seem a little complicated – even overwhelming if you are new to education. Below is a short guide in simple terms to the different types of schools and education provisions that exist in the UK.


Academies are publicly funded independent schools that are given money directly from the government, not the local council. Academies are created when a school is falling below national average and this change in status provides the school an opportunity to develop and improve. Academies must meet the same National Curriculum in Core Subjects but are allowed to create their own curriculum for non-core subjects. Some Academies will have sponsors, such as Businesses, Universities, other schools, faith or voluntary groups.

State/ Maintained:

This is the most common type of school that Celsian Education work with, as they dominate the UK education sector. State school refers to primary or secondary schools created for or offered to all children without charge, funded in whole or in part by taxation. They follow the National Curriculum.


Faith schools can be different kinds of schools, for example Voluntary aided schools, Free schools, Academies etc, but are associated with a particular religion. Faith Schools are mainly run like State schools as they follow the National Curriculum, except for Religious Studies, where Faith Schools are free to only teach about the religion they are affiliated with.

Private/ Independent/ Public:

Private Schools charge fees to attend and are not funded by the government. Private schools do not need to follow the National curriculum but can create their own Curriculums. Some Private schools are inspected by Ofsted, whilst others are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. 


Grammar schools are academically centred Secondary schools, which accept pupils based on the 11+ exam. Grammar schools tend to be highly selective due to their focus on academics but are free for pupils to attend.

Special Schools:

Special Schools are schools created for children with Special Educational Needs that will hire experienced staff who are trained in Special Education. Special schools follow a different National Curriculum that correlates with pupil’s ability levels. Special schools focus more specifically on individual pupil’s ability and progress so that education is tailored to their Needs.

Virtual Schools:

The Virtual School acts as a local authority champion to encourage and promote the progress and educational attainment of young people and children who are looked after (CLAs). Ensuring that they receive the highest quality of education available to them – as this is the foundation for improving their lives.

Children do not attend the school, as there is no physical building. All pupils remain the responsibility of the school which they are enrolled at. Virtual Schools are simply organisations which have been created who employ teaching staff to visit pupils at more suitable locations.

Pupil Referral Unit (PRU):

Pupil Referral Units are a school that caters for children when they are unable to attend a mainstream educational facility.

Pupils at PRUs are often referred there if they need greater care and support than their school can provide. This includes children who have been permanently excluded from their mainstream school for behaviour reasons, experience SEMH difficulties, new starters that have missed out on a school place or pregnant/young mothers.

Alternative Provisions (AP):

Alternative Provisions is a collective term used for any Educational Provisions that are not classed as mainstream education.

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