All children in England between the ages of 5 and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school.
State schools receive funding through their local authority or directly from the government. The most common ones are:
- community schools, which are sometimes called local authority maintained schools: they are not influenced by business or religious groups and follow the national curriculum
- foundation schools and voluntary schools, which are funded by the local authority but have more freedom to change the way they do things: sometimes they are supported by representatives from religious groups
- academies and free schools, which are run by not-for-profit academy trusts, are independent from the local authority: they have more freedom to change how they run things and can follow a different curriculum
- grammar schools, which can be run by the local authority, a foundation body or an academy trust: they select their pupils based on academic ability and there is a test to get in
Special schools with pupils aged 11 and older can specialise in one of the four 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 categories to reflect the special needs they help with, for example Autistic spectrum disorders, visual impairment, or speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
Faith schools have to follow the national curriculum (external link), but they can choose what they teach in religious studies. Faith schools may have different admissions criteria and staffing policies to state schools, although anyone can apply for a place.
Private schools (also known as ‘independent schools’) charge fees to attend instead of being funded by the government. Pupils do not have to follow the national curriculum. All private schools must be registered with the government and are inspected regularly.
Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can affect a child or young person’s ability to learn. They can affect their:
- behaviour or ability to socialise, for example struggling to make friends
- reading and writing, for example because they have dyslexia
- ability to understand things
- concentration levels, for example because they have ADHD
- physical ability
School admissions - How to apply
Follow your local council’s application process to:
You must still apply for a place, even if the school is linked to your child’s current nursery, infant or primary school.
Apply directly for :
- a sixth form place at a school or college
- a place at a private school
You can teach your child at home, either full or part-time. This is called home education (sometimes elective home education or homeschooling).
If your child is currently at school, you should tell the school if you plan to educate them at home. The school must accept if you are taking your child out completely. They can refuse if you want to send your child to school some of the time.
If your child is attending school because of a school attendance order, you must get permission from your local council before you can educate them at home.
School attendance and absence
You must make sure your child gets a full-time education that meets their needs (for example if they have special educational needs). You can send your child to school or educate them yourself.
Children must get an education between the school term after their fifth birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16.
You will be contacted by either:
- the school: if your child is enrolled in school and does not turn up (even if they are only absent for a day)
- the council’s education welfare officer: if they think your child is not getting a suitable education at home
You can only allow your child to miss school if either:
- they are too ill to go in
- you have got advance permission from the school
Safe walking or cycling routes to school
Enter your postcode (external link) to get advice from the council on safe walking and cycling routes to your child’s school.
The National Curriculum
The ‘basic’ school curriculum includes the National Curriculum (external link), as well as religious education and sex education (external link). The national curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools (external link) 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 (external link) like academies (external link) and private schools (external link) do not 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.
School terms and holiday dates
Find your child’s school term, half term and holiday dates on Cambridgeshire County Council’s website. School term and holiday dates vary across the UK.
Each school decides its uniform and must not discriminate based on sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, religion or belief.
The head teacher can discipline your child for not wearing the school uniform. Your child can be suspended or expelled (external link) if they repeatedly ignore the uniform rules.
Talk to the head teacher if your child is not wearing the uniform, including PE kit, because you cannot afford it.
You may be able to get help with school uniform costs (external link).