Introduction to getting a place in a school

Types of schools

There are a large variety of different types of schools in England. There are important differences between schools in the way they are governed, how they can choose their pupils, how they are funded, what gets taught, and whether their teachers have to be qualified. These could be important factors in picking the right school for the child you are raising to attend, and it will probably help you to make the right choice if you find out about the types of schools which are near you or which are accessible for the child to attend.


What are the different types of school that exist?

There are two main categories of school:

  1. State schools: these are free to attend (although there are a small number of state-funded boarding schools which may charge for board but not for tuition). These schools are:
  • generally required to follow the national curriculum (see below for exceptions);
  • regularly inspected by Ofsted; and
  • legally required to follow the Department for Education's School Admissions Code(i). Although it applies to all state schools, this code does make some important distinctions between different types of school, the most significant being the permission given to grammar schools to select all of their intake according to academic ability – see below for more details.

       2.  Independent schools (also known as 'private schools', and some are termed 'public schools') which charge fees for a child to attend, although some offer subsidised places through scholarships or bursaries for a limited number of children. These schools:

  • are not required to follow the National Curriculum
  • are inspected either by Ofsted or by a variety of different inspectorates(ii); and
  • do not have to follow the Department for Education's School Admissions Code.
  • They have their own admissions procedures, sometimes based on academic ability or particular aptitude. You can find out about this by asking the particular school for their prospectus or their admissions procedures.

Further information

A small number of parents/carers choose to teach their child at home. This is allowed, provided the child receives full time education. For more information, see here.
For further information about types of state school
For further information about how schools can choose their pupils
For further information about how to find out about local schools
For further information about applying for a school place
For further information about appealing against a decision not to offer a child a place at a school


(i) DfE School Admissions Code
(ii) Half of all independent schools are inspected by Ofsted. The Independent Schools Inspectorate inspects schools that are members of the Independent Schools Council. The Bridge Schools Inspectorate inspects schools that are members of the Christian Schools' Trust or the Association of Muslim Schools. Some other schools are inspected by the School Inspection Service.

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