The different types of schools in Cambridgeshire

There are more than 200 maintained and about 21 independent nurseries, primary and secondary schools for children in Cambridgeshire.

Mainstream state schools

All school age children in England are entitled to a free place at a state school.

The four main types of state school all receive funding from local authorities. They all follow the National Curriculum and are regularly inspected by Ofsted.

We publish statistical data on students in Cambridgeshire maintained schools in our schools booklet.

Community schools

A community school is run by the local authority, which:

  • employs the staff 
  • owns the land and buildings 
  • decides which ‘admissions criteria’ to use (these are used to allocate places if the school has more applicants than places)

Community schools look to develop strong links with the local community, sometimes offering use of their facilities and providing services like childcare and adult learning classes.

Foundation and Trust schools

Foundation schools are 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.

A Trust school is a type of foundation school which forms a charitable trust with an outside partner - for example, a business or educational charity - aiming to raise standards and explore new ways of working.

The decision to become a Trust school is taken by the governing body, with parents having a say.

Voluntary-aided schools

Voluntary-aided schools are mainly religious or 'faith' schools, although anyone can apply for a place. As with foundation schools, the governing body:

  • employs the staff 
  • sets the admissions criteria

School buildings and land are normally owned by a charitable foundation, often a religious organisation. The governing body contributes to building and maintenance costs.

Voluntary-controlled schools

Voluntary-controlled schools are similar to voluntary aided schools, but are run by the local authority. As with community schools, the local authority:

  • employs the school's staff 
  • sets the admissions criteria

School land and buildings are normally owned by a charity, often a religious organisation, which also appoints some of the members of the governing body.

State schools with particular characteristics

Within the state schools system described above, there are a number of schools with particular characteristics. As with other state schools, admissions are coordinated by the local authority. However, some may have different admission criteria or funding arrangements.


Academies are independently managed, all-ability schools. They are set up by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE) and the local authority. Together they fund the land and buildings, with the government covering the running costs.

Free schools

Free schools are funded by the government but aren’t run by the local council. They have more control over how they do things. They are ‘all-ability’ schools, so can’t use academic selection processes like a grammar school.

Free schools can set their own pay and conditions for staff and change the length of school terms and the school day. They don’t have to follow the national curriculum.

Community and foundation special schools

Special schools cater for children with specific special educational needs. These may include physical disabilities or learning difficulties.

Faith schools

Faith schools are mostly run in the same way as other state schools. However, their faith status may be reflected in their religious education curriculum, admissions criteria and staffing policies.

Independent schools

There are around 21 independent schools for 4 to 16 year olds in Cambridgeshire, and others aimed at sixth form students. These schools set their own curriculum and admissions policies. They are funded by fees paid by parents and income from investments. Every independent school must be registered with the DfE. Standards are regularly monitored by either Ofsted or an inspectorate approved by the Secretary of State, ensuring that the school maintains the standards set out in its registration document.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) represents more than 1,200 independent schools in the UK and overseas.

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Contact details for schools on the Cambridgeshire Online Directory