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Mother, London

The different types of Schools in the UK

Here we breakdown the various different types of schools in the UK including which schools are fee-paying and which are non-fee-paying. We also discuss the difference between independent schools and state schools and what score in the eleven plus will grant you admission to a grammar school.

Non-Fee-Paying Schools

State Schools

As a result of the 1870 Forster’s Education Act, all children living in the UK between ages 5-16 are guaranteed places to state schools. State schools are funded by the local council and must follow the National Curriculum. Admissions to state schools are based on catchment area (your post code and its radius from the school), meaning that you will need an address in the UK to qualify a place at a state school.



Academies are state-funded schools that are under the maintenance and directly funded by the Department of Education, rather than the local council. Academics are required to include the National Compulsory subjects in their curriculum, which are Mathematics, English and Science, but have more flexibility in their curriculum than state schools. Admissions, policies on Special Education Needs and exclusion are the same as state schools.


Grammar Schools

Grammar schools are state-funded secondary schools that are selective. It was originally implemented in several counties to ensure for a meritocratic society. Depending on the school, some will have catchment but not necessarily all, so the top grammar schools without catchment could receive up to 3,000 applications per year! Students will have to take a short exam in September when they are in Year 6; most schools will ask for a score of 120 on each of the components to receive admissions, though there are several caveats. More selective and top grammar schools in London may ask for higher scores.



Fee Paying Schools

Independent and International Schools

Independent schools, or private schools, are the most common form of fee-paying education in the UK. They are highly selective, and have common entrance points at Year 3, Year 4, Year 7, Year 9 and Year 12. It’s not to say that you can’t enter an independent school in the other years, but it may be slightly trickier – contact us if you’d like some help with an uncommon admission to a school! They are not required to follow the National Curriculum, though majority of schools will offer the GCSEs and A-Levels. Some schools will offer other internationally recognised exam boards too – such as the International Baccalaureate or the American AP.


Boarding Schools

As a subcategory of independent schools, boarding schools are pretty self-explanatory. At some schools, they can take both Day and Boarding pupils, where a small portion of international students will live on school campus whilst Day pupils go home in the evenings. There are also ‘Flexi-Boarders’, who sometimes return home in the evenings; each school will have their own unique arrangement of flexi-boarders and when they are allowed to go home.


Sixth Form Colleges

Sixth form colleges, as suggested by their name, take students who are sitting for their A-Levels or equivalent. They normally take students at the age of 16 after the completion of their GCSEs. Sixth form colleges can offer a range of advance education boards, from A-Levels to BTEC to IB. Some sixth form colleges even offer boarding for mainly international students.

If you would like to seek further advice or consultation on the UK’s education system please give us a call on +44 (0) 20 3763 9109 or fill in an enquiry form below.


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