Types of school and what they teach

Types of school and what they teach

Types of school

All children in England between the ages of 5 and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school. Most state schools have to follow the national curriculum.

The most common types of school are:

  • community schools, controlled by the local council and not influenced by business or religious groups
  • foundation schools and voluntary schools, which have more freedom to change the way they do things than community schools
  • academies, run by a governing body, independent from the local council - they can follow a different curriculum
  • grammar schools, run by the council, a foundation body or a trust - they select all or most of their pupils based on academic ability and there is often an exam to get in

All schools support children with special educational needs and most children with additional needs attend mainstream schools. If your child has significant needs, a formal assessment may be carried out with your consent to identify if they need more specialist provision or additional support in their current school.


Special schools

Special schools with pupils aged 11 and older can specialise in 1 of the 4 areas of special educational needs:

  • communication and interaction
  • cognition and learning
  • social, emotional and mental health
  • sensory and physical needs

Schools can further specialise within these areas to reflect the special needs they help with, for example Autistic spectrum conditions, visual impairment, or speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).


Independent schools

Independent ('private') schools are funded through fees paid by parents. If you want your child to go to an independent school, contact them directly to see what type of interview or test they have and how much it will cost for your child each term. You need to apply to the school directly.

Many of the normal education laws don't apply to independent schools, such as those relating to admissions, exclusions and the national curriculum.


The national curriculum

The ‘basic’ school curriculum includes the ‘national curriculum’, as well as religious education and sex education.

The national curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools so children learn the same things. It covers what subjects are taught and the standards children should reach in each subject.

Other types of school like academies and private schools don’t have to follow the national curriculum. Academies must teach a broad and balanced curriculum including English, maths and science. They must also teach religious education.


Key stages

The national curriculum is organised into blocks of years called ‘key stages’ (KS). At the end of each key stage, the teacher will formally assess your child’s performance.

The table below is based on the age of children between 1 September and 31 August.


Age Year group Key stage Phase of education
3 to 4   Early years  
4 to 5 Reception Early years (teacher assessments) First or primary
5 to 6 Year 1 Key stage 1 First or primary
6 to 7 Year 2 Key stage 1 (national tests and teacher assessments) First or primary
7 to 8 Year 3 Key stage 2 First or primary
8 to 9 Year 4 Key stage 2 First or primary
9 to 10 Year 5 Key stage 2 Primary or middle
10 to 11 Year 6 Key stage 2 (national tests and teacher assessments) Primary or middle
11 to 12 Year 7 Key stage 3 Middle or secondary
12 to 13 Year 8 Key stage 3 Middle or secondary
13 to 14 Year 9 Key stage 3 Secondary or high
14 to 15 Year 10 Key stage 4 Secondary or high
15 to 16 Year 11 Key stage 4 (GCSEs and other national qualifications) Secondary or high

You can challenge the result of an exam or qualification at Key Stage 4 or A-level if you think it’s wrong.

Phases of education

In most of Newcastle, children are educated in a primary school from age 4 to 11 before transferring to secondary school at the end of year 6. In the Gosforth area, arrangements are slightly different, and children are educated in first schools up to year 4, then transfer to middle schools from year 5 to year 8, and to high school from year 9.

Most first, primary and middle schools have a named feeder school which their pupils usually transfer into. However, this is not automatic, and parents have to apply for transfer places.

Almost all schools in Newcastle teach boys and girls together. At secondary age, there are 2 single sex Catholic schools – Sacred Heart (girls) and St Cuthbert’s (boys).