The new school term is approaching (except for those of you in Scotland, for whom the new school term is here!). For most 11-12 year olds, this means a new school, as they make the transition from primary to secondary education. But ‘secondary school’ isn’t a specific enough term anymore; in order to understand what kind of school your child will be attending, you need to navigate your way through the differences between state and private, free schools and academies, foundation schools and faith schools. So, read on for a quick definition of the different types of secondary school now available.
1. State schools.
‘State school’ is the umbrella term for a school which is free for a child between the ages of 5 and 16 to attend. Most state schools have to follow the national curriculum, which should mean that children attending one state school should, over the course of an academic year, achieve broadly similar learning objectives to a child at another state school. All state schools are monitored by Ofsted (The Office for Standards and Education).
2. Private schools (also known as Independent Schools).
In order to attend a private school, pupils (or, more accurately, their parents) will pay fees. Private schools do not have to follow the national curriculum, although some might choose to do so. Not all private schools are monitored by Ofsted – but all must be registered with the government.
An Academy is a publicly funded school, and therefore free for pupils to attend. However, academies are independent schools, in as much as they do not have to follow the national curriculum. An academy will have more autonomy from the local authority than a regular State School – not only does the funding for an academy come directly from the government rather than the local authority, but they can also set their own term dates and suchlike. They do, however, follow the same rules about admission procedures and special educational needs as ‘normal’ state schools.
4. Free schools.
A Free School is a type of Academy that has even more autonomy than a regular Academy. Not only can a Free School set its own term dates, but it can also set different pay and working conditions for staff, and it can change the length and times of the school day. As with a regular Academy, a Free School does not have to follow the national curriculum.
I hope that the next time you see or hear an article on the news using all these terms and titles, you will now have a better grasp of what is going on, and hence, a better understanding of what is happening in the wonderful world of education. When you do, you will be in a much better position to form your own opinions on the issue of the day!