The schools system in England

When working with schools, it is useful to understand how the school system in England works.

The BBC has produced a very useful guide to School systems in England, which includes information on the types of schools in the state and private sectors; funding and regulation; School admissions and stages of schooling and assessment of pupils and schools.                       

However it should be noted that a new UK Government took office on 11th May 2010 and as a result this document may no longer reflect current Government policy.

This page will be fully updated shortly but here are some important changes to the English School system:


Directgov describes Free Schools as:

Non-profit making, independent, state-funded schools. Unlike normal state-funded schools, Free Schools are not controlled by the local authority. Free Schools are similar to academies, but will usually be new schools. Academies are usually the result of a change to an existing state school.

Because Free Schools are not controlled by the local authority, it means they:

• can set their own pay and conditions for staff

• do not have to follow the National Curriculum

• have control over their own budget

• can change the length of school terms and the school day

Free Schools will be funded in a similar way to other state-funded schools, and groups running Free Schools cannot make a profit. Free Schools will have the same Ofsted inspections as all state schools and will be expected to maintain the same high standards.

The BBC has a number of pages and articles about Free Schools on its website including a useful Q&A on free schools with a map showing their locations.

Stories on Free schools can be found on The Independent, from where this list of new Free Schools in London was taken (there are none in Lewisham).

  • West London Free School, Hammersmith and Fulham: This is the proposal put forward by the journalist and author Toby Young, which will concentrate on a traditional academic curriculum with an emphasis on pupils learning Latin. It will also be a specialist music school.
  • Eden Primary School, Haringey, north London: This will be the first Jewish primary school in the borough. It hopes to attract all members of the Jewish community – Reform, Masorti, Liberal and secular.
  • St Luke's Church of England primary school in Camden, north London: The school is in an area where there is a shortage of primary school places. It will have 15 pupils in each year group and also open its doors to non-faith children.
  • Aldborough E-ACT free school, Redbridge: This primary school has a private sponsor, E-ACT, which already runs some of the Government's flagship academies and whose director general is former headteacher Sir Bruce Liddington.
  • Canary Wharf College, Tower Hamlets: The school will start as a primary school but later expand to provide secondary education as well. It plans to restrict class sizes to 20 and provide a Christian environment "welcoming children from different faiths and backgrounds".
  • Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy, Enfield: This will be a "sister" school to the neighbouring Cuckoo Hall school, one of the first primary schools ranked as "outstanding" by inspectors to become an academy. It says it will adopt all of the "best practice" of Cuckoo Hall.
  • Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School in Mill Hill: The name means "tree of life" and the school aims to be part of the "beating pulse of Jewish life". Supported by Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, it describes itself as a "modern orthodox Jewish school".


Academies are independently managed, all-ability schools. They are set up by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE) and the local authority. Together they fund the land and buildings, with the government covering the running costs (taken from Directgov).

Academies were a Labour policy and frequently, but not always, used as a tool to turn around under performing secondary schools. After the coalition government were elected they passed the Academies Act in July 2010 and invited all primary and secondary schools rated as outstanding by Ofsted, to become academies. From April 2011, the criteria was broadened to all schools that were "performing well" - with stable or improving results above or moving towards the national average - and judged by Ofsted to have the capacity to improve. All other schools can also apply to become academies, as long as they apply in a formal partnership with a school that is performing well. Consequently the number has grown dramatically from 203 in May 2010 to 1,300 open in England on 1 September 2011.

More information can be found at the Department for Education website, including spreadsheets of academies and maps showing their location . The BBC also has a Q&A page on academies from which some of this information was taken.