What’s the difference between a school and an academy?

25/07/2022 | All

There are an increasing number of different types of schools in England and it can be difficult to distinguish between them. The main two types of school – the most common type in the UK – are maintained schools and academies. Although you’ve most likely heard of both types, you may not be aware of the difference. So, what’s the difference between a school and an academy?

Maintained Schools

Whilst the number of academies in England is expanding, the majority of state schools are ‘maintained schools’. This means they are overseen, or ‘maintained’ by the Local Authority. These schools must follow the national curriculum and national teacher pay and conditions. There are four main types of maintained schools; community schools, foundation and trust schools, Voluntary Aided schools (VA schools) and Voluntary Controlled schools (VC schools). 


The main difference between schools and academies is that maintained schools must follow the National Curriculum. They are able to focus on specific subjects as long as the National Curriculum requirements are still met. Teaching hours are stricter at maintained schools and they must go through a lengthy consultation process to make changes to the school day. Similar to academies, student outcomes are monitored through Ofsted and they must meet national floor targets. 


Restrictions on the age-range of schools are usually set by the local authority and can vary. Concerning admissions, selection by ability is allowed for grammar schools but no others. However, like academies, they can prioritise up to 10% of secondary pupils on aptitude.


Arguably the biggest difference between academies and schools is that schools are funded by the Local Authorities. Schools are free to allocate all funds received however the Local Authority keeps a proportion back for ‘central services’.

Personnel management

QTS is required for all teachers in a school. All performance management is performed by the Local Authorities whereas academies are free to employ their own performance management techniques. Schools also must follow all national pay and conditions. 


While there are different types of academies in operation in England, they all have the same status in law as ‘academies’. Academies are publicly funded, independent schools, held accountable through a legally binding ‘funding agreement’. These schools have more freedom and control over curriculum design, school hours and term dates, and staff pay and conditions. 


Unlike maintained schools, academies are exempt from following the National Curriculum. Certain subjects, however, must be taught – such as Maths, English and Science. Teaching hours are less controlled than in a maintained school and academies have more free reign to change day and term lengths. Much like maintained schools, student outcomes are monitored through inspection by Ofsted and must reach national floor targets.


Concerning the restrictions on age-range of academies, anything between the 5-19 age range is usual. Unlike schools, admissions and selection are not aptitude permitted – however they can prioritise up to 10% of secondary pupils on aptitude. The cap on the number of students is the same as schools – Primary classes are limited to 30 pupils by statute and Secondary classes are not limited.


Academies’ source of revenue and disbursement is public – funding is disbursed directly by formula calculated by the DfE. Funding varies between LAs and often have additional funding from the academy sponsor. Academies also have full flexibility to allocate funds as deemed fit, including services normally provided by local authorities.

Personnel management

As with schools, all teachers are required to have QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). However, there are a few major differences in personnel management associated with academies compared to schools. Academies are free to set their own pay and conditions and are also free to hire for non-teaching positions as they see fit. Performance management is not regulated by local authorities as it is with maintained schools. Academies are free to evaluate and manage performance as required (subject to TUPE restrictions).

How i-teachers can help you find a teaching role

Here at i-teachers, we are an education recruitment consultancy focusing on providing long term and permanent jobs in Primary, Secondary and SEN schools across the UK. 

So, how can i-teachers help you to find a teaching job?:

  • Our friendly and experienced education consultants are dedicated to perfectly matching our candidates to schools suited to their skills set and personal goals. 
  • We work with NQTs and experienced teachers across the UK, as well as graduates looking for teaching assistant roles prior to teacher training. 
  • For our job seekers we provide an approachable, responsible and easy to work with team of professionals, all driving towards finding the perfect role and ideal solution for the future. 

What makes us unique:

  • Caring and experienced team of education consultants (check out our 5* TrustPilot reviews to see for yourself!). 
  • We won’t rest until we have found you the perfect role in the ideal school.
  • We are education experts, and offer industry leading, specialist advice. 
  • We work nationally, so we are ideal if you want to relocate. 
  • Our consultants are with you every step of the way, helping you to make the best decisions for your career before, during and after your placement. 

Get in touch with one of our dedicated consultants to find out more on how to find teaching jobs, or have a look through some of our current vacancies!