Categories of schools
Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors Ltd and Victoria Hatton of Browne Jacobson LLP
Categories of schools

The following Local Government guidance note Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors Ltd and Victoria Hatton of Browne Jacobson LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Categories of schools
  • Schools defined by their funding
  • Maintained schools defined by their ownership
  • Maintained schools defined by their pupils’ age range
  • Maintained schools defined by their pupil intake
  • Federations of maintained schools

Education law treats different categories of school in different ways. The management systems of the school, its funding and the procedures for opening, closing or altering the school all depend on its category.

The first level of categorisation distinguishes schools into three groups:

  1. independent schools (commonly referred to as private schools)

  2. academies and free schools, and

  3. maintained schools

Further categorising divides schools by their ownership, by their pupil age ranges and by other selectivities of pupil intake.

Many schools make no reference at all to these categories in their school name, on their website or when erecting signs at the school gate. The Department for Education (DfE) maintains a searchable online register of schools and colleges in England which provides information on each establishment, including the school type.

Schools defined by their funding

An independent school is defined as a school at which full-time education is provided for five or more pupils of ‘compulsory school age’, or for at least one child with an education, health and care (EHC) plan or a statement of special needs (in Wales) or for at least one child who is ‘looked after’ by a local authority and which is neither a school maintained by a local authority nor a non-maintained special school.

An ‘independent educational institution’ is defined as ‘an independent school’ or ‘an institution other than an