Types of schools

There are a variety of schools that you can consider to work at once you have finished your studies or are looking at changing your place of work. This guide breaks down the fundamental differences between the types of schools throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Schools in England, Wales and Scotland

Schools in Northern Ireland

Schools in England, Wales and Scotland

State maintained schools

In England and Wales

Maintained schools (such as local authority-controlled ‘comprehensive’ or ‘community’ schools) are government funded, so parents don’t pay fees. Most children attend them and follow the national curriculum.

Maintained schools follow the School Teachers’ Pay & Conditions (Wales) Document (STPCD/STPC(W)D) /Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) which set out guidelines for schools.

For example, as a newly qualified teacher (NQT) in England, you should follow an induction process and be allocated 10% PPA (planning, preparation and assessment) time, plus an extra 10% for CPD (continuing professional development).

Grammar schools, which exist in some parts of England, unlike most schools, select all or most of their pupils based on academic ability and there is often an exam to get in.


In England only

Academies are also publicly funded but are run by an academy trust that employs the staff. However, NQTs will still receive the statutory induction period which applies to all schools. Academies don’t have to follow the national curriculum and can also set their own term times. They can also set their own pay and conditions for staff and don’t have to the follow the STPCD, although most do. However, they must still abide by the same rules on admissions, special needs students and exclusions as state schools. Academies can also be sponsored by businesses, universities and other schools, which are responsible for improving the performance of the academy.

Free schools

In England only

Free schools are funded directly by the Government and are not run by the local authority, so have more control over how the school is run. They set their own pay and conditions for staff, don’t have to follow the STPCD or national curriculum – although some do – and can change the length of the school’s terms and days. They are run on a not-for-profit basis by organisations such as charities, other teaching institutions and even parents and teachers. The curriculum at a free school tends to focus on specialist subjects, such as engineering and construction, and are usually supported by an organisation running the school and offering work experience. Free schools also include studio schools and university technical colleges.

Faith schools

In England, Wales and Scotland

Faith schools are funded by the local authority and a faith group. They are run like state schools, following the national curriculum, but have a religious character or formal link with a religious organisation. They will also teach about other faiths. The term is usually applied to state-run schools, but can also apply to independent schools, and academies. They do, however, differ from other state-run schools in terms of admission criteria and staffing policies. In Scotland, most faith schools are local authority operated and funded.

City technology colleges

In England only

City technology colleges are independent schools in urban areas that are free to attend. They’re funded by central government – companies can also contribute. City technology colleges emphasise teaching science and technology.

State boarding schools

In England and Wales

State boarding schools provide free education, but charge fees for boarding. Most state boarding schools are academies, some are free schools, and some are run by local councils. State boarding schools give priority to children who have a need to board and will assess children’s suitability for boarding. In Wales, there is only one state boarding school, St. Brigid’s School in Denbigh.

Independent schools

In England, Wales and Scotland

Independent (or ‘private’) schools don’t follow the national curriculum or the STPCD/STPC(W)D/SNCT and can set their own pay and conditions. Independent schools which are registered for Newly Qualified induction will carry out the same process as in the state sector. However, you do not have to be a qualified teacher to teach at an independent school. Teachers at independent schools have more freedom over what they teach.

Independent schools are paid for by the parents of the students that attend them, therefore are run on the fees paid.

Special schools

In England, Wales and Scotland

There are both state and private special schools. They provide for those with a need which might not be met in a mainstream setting. Schools with pupils 11 and older can specialise in areas such as:

  • communication and interaction;
  • cognition and learning;
  • social, emotional and mental health; and
  • sensory and physical needs.

Legislation in Scotland means that all children and young people have the right to be educated alongside their peers in mainstream schools, unless there are good reasons for not doing so. However, the needs of some children and young people will be better met in specialist settings rather than in mainstream schools. Approaches differ between local authorities. Some local authorities offer specialist settings within mainstream schools, others have no special schools.

There are around 2,000 primary schools, 360 secondary schools, and 140 special schools/SEN (Special Educational Needs) units in Scotland.

Other forms of teaching

Alternatively, if you’re not interested in working for one school, you could look at working as a supply teacher, giving private tuition, or teaching peripatetically, for example, as a visiting music teacher. These options come with variations on contracted hours, pay and conditions of service.

Schools in Northern Ireland

Most schools in Northern Ireland are grant-aided, follow the revised Curriculum and are regularly inspected by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).

Controlled schools

Controlled schools are managed and funded by the Education Authority (EA) and are supported by the Controlled Schools Support Council. Controlled primary and secondary schools are governed by representatives of transferors – primarily the Protestant churches, along with the EA as well as representatives of parents and teachers. Controlled nursery, grammar and special schools are governed by only representatives of parents and teachers. There are also several controlled integrated schools and several Irish-Medium schools.

Integrated schools

Integrated schools invite both Protestant and Catholic traditions to come together with other traditions to improve their understanding of each other’s culture, religion and values. Each of these schools is managed by a board of governors which consists of trustees, foundation governors as well as parent, teacher and Department for Education representatives. In grant maintained integrated schools, the board of governors are the employing authority for the school, thus are responsible for employment of staff. Integrated schools are funded by the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) which promotes the development of integrated schools as well as provide advice and guidance for integrated schools.

Irish-Medium schools

Irish-Medium schools focus on providing education to pupils in an Irish speaking environment. There are both controlled and maintained Irish-Medium schools. The maintained schools are owned by trustees and are managed by a board of governors. The Department for Education in Northern Ireland has a duty to assist and encourage development of Irish-Medium education, with the Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG) being a representative body which aims to facilitate, promote and encourage Irish-Medium education in Northern Ireland.

Catholic maintained

Catholic maintained schools are managed by boards of governors who are nominated by trustees, who are primarily Roman Catholic, along with parents, teachers and Education Authority representatives. The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) is responsible for managing the Catholic Maintained sector and is the employment authority for teachers throughout Catholic Maintained schools.

Voluntary grammar schools

Voluntary grammar schools are managed by boards of governors who are constituted in line with each school's scheme of management. This is usually representatives of foundation governors, parents, teachers, the Department for Education and in most cases Education Authority representatives. This board of governors are responsible for employing all staff in Voluntary Grammar Schools. These schools vary in the rates of capital grant they receive, depending on the management structure of each school, with most being entitled to grants of 100 per cent.

Special schools

Special schools are Controlled or Voluntary schools providing education for pupils with special education needs.

Independent schools

Independent schools are schools which provide full-time education for students aged from 4 to 16 and are not grant aided. These schools are responsible for setting their own curriculum and admissions policies. Independent schools are funded by fees paid by parents as well as income from investors. Each independent school must be registered with the Department for Education and are regularly inspected by the Education Training Inspectorate.

If you have any specific queries regarding a school type, please do contact us on 01332 372 337.