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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Types of School

Community Schools

A community school is run by the local authority, which employs the staff, owns the land and buildings and decides the admissions criteria.

Community schools have no religious designation and cannot discriminate on religious grounds in admissions or employment.

All pupils follow the National Curriculum and follow the locally agreed syllabus for Religious Education.

As with all maintained schools, community schools are required to have daily acts of collective worship.

Faith schools

Faith schools can be different kinds of schools (eg voluntary aided schools, voluntary controlled schools, academies and free schools) but all are associated with a particular religion.

Voluntary Controlled schools (VC)

A voluntary controlled school is a state-funded school in which a foundation or trust (usually a Christian denomination) has some formal influence in the running of the school.

Voluntary controlled schools are funded by central government via the local authority. The land and buildings are typically owned by a charitable foundation, which also appoints about a quarter of the school governors.

The Local Education Authority employs the school's staff and has primary responsibility for the school's admission arrangements. Therefore VC schools cannot discriminate in admissions on religious grounds.

VC schools can however apply a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting one fifth of teaching staff, including the Head Teacher.

Pupils follow the National Curriculum. VC faith schools follow the locally agreed syllabus for Religious Education but parents of any pupil have the right to request their child receives RE in accordance with the tenets of the faith and the school should provide such RE for these pupils.

As with all maintained schools, VC schools are required to have daily acts of collective worship.

Voluntary Aided schools (VA)

A voluntary aided school is a state-funded school in which a religious foundation or trust owns the school buildings. All running costs and at least 90% of building costs are funded by central government via the local authority. The religious foundation contributes the remaining 10% of capital costs.

The governing body determines the school's admission arrangements in consultation with the local authority. VA schools can discriminate against all pupils on religious grounds if oversubscribed.

The governing body employs the staff and can apply a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting all teachers. It may also apply a religious test to non-teaching staff if a 'genuine occupational requirement' can be demonstrated. In addition, teachers can be disciplined or dismissed for conduct which is 'incompatible with the precepts of the school's religion.

Pupils at VA schools follow the National Curriculum. In religious education they are free to devise their own syllabus and only teach about their own religion.

VA schools are required to have a daily act of collective worship.

Foundation schools

Foundation schools are state-funded schools run by their own governing body, which employs the staff and sets the admissions criteria. Land and buildings are usually owned by the governing body or a charitable foundation. The foundation usually appoints around a quarter of the governors but in some cases it appoints the majority of governors.

The governing body determines the school's admission arrangements in consultation with the local authority. Foundation schools can discriminate against all pupils on religious grounds if oversubscribed.

Foundation schools can also apply a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting one fifth of teaching staff, including the Head Teacher.

Pupils follow the National Curriculum and Foundation schools follow the locally agreed syllabus for Religious Education, unless parents request RE to be taught in accordance with the tenets of the faith of the school.

Foundation schools are required to have daily acts of collective worship.

Academies and Free Schools

Academies and free schools are independently managed but state-funded schools set up by sponsors from religious, business or voluntary groups in partnership with the Department for Education. Some have a religious designation, others do not.

If converting to Academy status, the governing body, foundation or trust of the existing school forms an 'academy trust' which then takes over the control of the school.

Collective worship is required in Academies, not through primary legislation, but by virtue of the funding agreements. Academies also enjoy the freedom to adapt the national curriculum.

Private Schools

Private schools (also known as 'independent schools') charge fees to attend instead of being funded by the government. Pupils don't have to follow the national curriculum.

Independent schools with a religious designation are permitted to take account of certain religious or denominational considerations in making specified employment decisions which relate to teaching staff (such as decisions on appointment or promotion).

All private schools must be registered with the government.