Types of school

You have three options available for how and where to educate your children:

State schools

These are run by public authorities and you do not pay fees (the money comes from taxes). State schools have to follow rules from the government's Department for Education, for example on the timings of the school year, and the subjects and exams offered.

Private schools ('independent' schools)

Private schools charge fees, and are not bound by the same regulations as state schools.

Home schooling

This is a less common option, but can offer greater flexibility. For more information on home schooling, including the legal requirements, please see:

Expand All

Most children in the UK attend state schools. These are normally run by the Local Education Authority. In Oxfordshire, this is Oxfordshire County Council. Their webpage on Starting School contain a list of all state schools in Oxfordshire. Attendance in state schools is free but you must apply for a place for your child. 

State schools in Oxfordshire are 'comprehensive', ie they do not select pupils on academic ability. One of the neighbouring counties, Buckinghamshire, has academically selective schools, which are known as 'grammar schools'.

State schools can also be:

  • a faith school associated with a particular religion
  • a special school for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), which may include physical disabilities, learning difficulties, or behavioural difficulties
  • an academy or free school which receives funding directly from central government, and may set their own term dates, times and curriculum

Some schools have specific admission requirements, for example a faith school may require evidence of religious affiliation.

Private schools (also called independent schools) charge fees. They do not necessarily follow the same curriculum, school phases and timings as state schools. For example, some have lessons on Saturdays, or expect pupils to stay at school in the evenings for supervised homework.

Some independent schools are boarding schools, where pupils live at the school during term time. For younger pupils, there may be a range of partial and weekly boarding options.

Private junior schools may be called preparatory schools (often shortened to prep schools), because they prepare pupils for entrance to senior school. Some private senior schools have their own associated prep and pre-prep (nursery/infant) schools. 


Most private schools operate waiting lists for entry into each year group. Places for the most usual entry years may be offered a year or more in advance of the start date. Pupils may be required to attend a selection interview and/or sit an entrance exam.

Private schools have their own websites that provide information on admissions, fees, scholarships and bursaries. Many private schools are members of the Independent Schools Council (ISC) organisation.


Did you know?

The most prestigious private schools in Britain are often referred to, rather confusingly, as 'public schools'. The name dates back to the time when schools founded for local children went 'public' and admitted children from further afield. Some of the more famous public schools are Eton, Winchester, Harrow and Rugby.


Disclaimer: Please note that the University does not endorse any of the external websites listed above, or elsewhere in this guidance

Popular links