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Types of schools and education

General school types (how they are run and funded)

There are many ways to describe schools. You'll hear different terms depending on what it is about a school that's being described.

A school could be described generally to convey how they are run and funded, or described more specifically, to indicate the pupils and levels taught.

The most basic way of categorising schools is:

  1. schools funded the government (state schools)
  2. schools that fund themselves, usually through fees (private schools).

The general types of state schools tell you more about how they are run and funded. Here's an overview.

State Schools

Academies and Free Schools

Academies and Free schools are both funded directly by the government rather than via a council and they don't have to follow the national curriculum.

  • Academies are run by an academy trust
  • Free schools are usually founded and run by groups like charities, universities, businesses and parents


Collages are generally focused on the 16 to 18-year-olds phase of education and provides vocational and academic courses. Some colleges also provide for full-time study at key stage 4.

Faith Schools

Faith schools follow the national curriculum, but they can choose what they teach in religious studies. Faith schools are government funded but may have different admissions criteria.

Maintained schools

Maintained schools are funded by the government and run by the Council. They follow the national curriculum and term times.

Special schools

Special school specialises in educating pupils with special educational needs (SEN). Special schools can be maintained schools funded by the government or independent schools that are privately funded.

Private schools

Private schools are not funded by the government and they usually charge fees to attend. Private schools are also known as 'Independent schools' and 'Public schools'.

In North America and other places, state schools are also called public schools, but in the UK, Public schools are private, fee-charging schools.

Historically, the term public school came from the idea that pupils could attend them regardless of where they were from, their Christian denomination or the jobs their parents did.