The short answer is that people use a confusing mix of legal and non-legal terms to describe schools.
In simple terms! -
- “maintained schools” are schools maintained by local authorities. There are several types of maintained school: community school, special school, voluntary aided school, voluntary controlled school, voluntary aided special school, voluntary controlled special school and foundation school (and, linked, a trust school).
- “independent schools” are private schools run by private individuals or organisations under contractual arrangements (generally with individual parents)
- “academies” are independent schools where the contract is between the proprietor and the Secretary of State. Parents, pupils, staff and individual governors are not parties to the contract. The “term academy” came from section 482 of the Education Act 1996 (as amended by the Education Act 2002). It now arises from the Academies Act 2010. The contract must now include the SEN obligations. The Academy must have the following characteristics: (a) the school has a curriculum satisfying the requirements of section 78 of Education Act 2002 (balanced and broadly based curriculum); (b) if the school provides secondary education, its curriculum for the secondary education has an emphasis on a particular subject area, or particular subject areas, specified in the arrangements; (c) the school provides education for pupils of different abilities; (d) the school provides education for pupils who are wholly or mainly drawn from the area in which the school is situated.
- “free schools” are simply a type of academy – the term “free school” has no separate legal meaning. It is just a label coined and used by the Coalition Government. The Coalition Government’s policy seems to be that, where a maintained school becomes an academy, it is called an academy. But where an academy is created afresh it is called a free school. The previous, Labour, Government simply used the legal term academy (as used in the Education Act 2002) to refer to all academies, whether created by conversion of a maintained school or from cold.
- “state school” is an entirely non-legal term. It is sometimes used to refer to the academies/free schools and maintained schools taken together. But it has no technical legal meaning.
- “state-funded school” is also an entirely non-legal term. It is sometimes used to refer to the academies/free schools and maintained schools taken together. Although it has no technical legal meaning it is, at least, descriptive of the fact that all those institutions are schools which are funded by the state.
- “comprehensive school” – the non legal term used for maintained schools which are not selective (i.e. not grammar schools). I am not sure whether people would call academies/free schools “comprehensive” but, since it is not a term with any legal significance, this blog need not be too worried about that!
- UTC – or University Technical College – is a type of academy for 14-19 year olds
- studio school – seems to be another type of academy, again for 14-19 year olds