‘Independent school’ is the name usually given to a private school. This is because these schools are not funded by the state. Sometimes they are called ‘public schools’.
Independent schools can choose who is allowed at the school, what to teach, school hours, holiday times and exams. Many are boarding schools. Some are specialists in a subject, like sport, drama or a language.
The cost of independent school is on average between £14,000-£40,000 a year per child. There are usually a few paid scholarships available for parents on low incomes.
Independent schools often have 3 age groups, although some schools take all ages. Others only combine the pre-prep and prep stages.
Many people send their child to a state primary school, then choose a private school after age 8 or 11.
There can be a lot of competition for the best schools, so it is not always possible to choose the school you want.
For state schools, it is usually a local council that will make the final decision – but you can choose which schools to apply for. Some types of school have an entrance exam. Maintained state schools must have teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Other schools have more freedom about whom they employ.
For private schools, there might be a long waiting list and/or an entrance exam.
Most schools have special weeks when it is possible to visit the school. Ask the school for details.
All English and Welsh state schools are inspected by Ofsted (the government inspection service). Scottish schools are inspected by Education Scotland. There are six grades: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Satisfactory, Weak and Unsatisfactory.
To compare schools, see these government websites. See the next question for more information about Ofsted ratings:
All English and Welsh state schools are inspected by the government department Ofsted. It also inspects some private schools.
Ofsted inspections make sure schools reach certain standards. If they reach them, the school is marked as ‘Good’. If they are better, the school would be marked as ‘Outstanding’.
A schools that is below the ‘Good’ standard is marked as ‘Requires Improvement’. If the school is failing, it is marked as ‘Inadequate’. These schools will be inspected regularly to make sure they are getting better.
Don’t judge a school only by its Ofsted rating. Some ‘Satisfactory’ schools can be well managed and fun places to learn, just weak in some subjects. Some ‘Outstanding’ schools might reach high standards, but feel unfriendly.