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What is the difference between Schools and Academies


When you first hear about schools and academies, one thing that rings in your mind is education. Yes, both refer to education institutions charged with a directive of educating young people from primary to secondary education level.

If you were to ask around for a difference between schools and academies, many will tell you that an academy operates like a business or it has better building than a school. If you check both responses, they don’t really answer the simple question - what's different between schools and an academy.

difference between schools and academies

What is an Academy?

An academy refers to a state funded education institution which is directly sponsored by the Department of Education. It is an institution which is independent of local authority control and its terms of arrangements are set by individual Funding agreements. In England, most are secondary level education institutions but there are those academies which are primary institutions too.

They have more authority over their finances, their curriculum, teacher’s pay and conditions. They do get funds which would have been held back by local authority thus providing extra services like helping children with special needs. They do not follow National Curriculum which means they can design theirs as long as it is balanced and covers a wide range of subjects. This also means that they don’t always follow the Local Education Authorities term dates and school holidays.

In England, there are more than 200 which are all secondary schools. They were established by Labour Party's government which was done as a way of turning around worst performing institutions and those located in disadvantaged places.

Features of an Academy

They are expected to follow a broad and balanced curriculum. One reason for this is to ensure that an education institution is able to cater for every child’s needs even those that require special attention. Its curriculum covers science, arts, business, computing, engineering, mathematics, modern foreign languages, performing arts, sports and technology.

While they are not required to follow the National Curriculum, there are core subjects in it - National Curriculum that have to be included. They are Maths, English and science. Academies are also mandated to participate in same Key Stage 3 and GCSE exams.

The institutions are required to adhere to a National Admissions code when it comes to admitting students. When it comes to governance, they are established much like companies which mean they have a board of directors who act as a Trust. It is known to have exempt charity status which is regulated by Department of Education. Its Board is known to serve as a legal entity so individual trustee are legally but not financially answerable regarding operations. They manage the running of the academy so they do delegate responsibility to a local governing body. Head teachers run day to day operations of the institution together with senior management staff.

What is a School?

The word “school” is widely used to refer to an institution that is mandated with responsibility of educating children in a wide range of subjects. They include Maths, Science, Information Technology, Arts and Religion. This is done under guidance of experienced and well trained teachers. A school forms part of the formal education system in any country. Students are required by law to progress through different levels of learning institutions beginning with elementary all the way to high school.

In lay man terms, it is a formal institution that provides primary and secondary education to students. Once they have completed high school, students can progress to high education institutions like polytechnics, colleges and universities.

Primary education institutions provide education to young children aged between 6 years to 14 years. There are some institutions which accept children who are younger especially if they display exceptional learning capabilities. They are owned by government and these are referred to as public institutions. Private institutions are owned by individuals or organizations which are independent of government.

Features of a School

Schools are run by government, individuals or organizations. Public institutions are sponsored and managed by government while private institutions are owned and managed by individuals and organization. A head teacher is charged with duties of running it each day. A deputy head teacher is available who seconds a head teacher and is charged with different responsibilities.

Every school is composed of classes which begin from a low level to a higher level. Students are required to undergo an admission process in order to have access to an institution. To move from one class to another, students have to sit for exams each semester. A National Curriculum must be followed by all schools.

Final Thoughts - Academies v Schools

Not to be confused anymore, there is a difference between an academy and a school. While both are education institutions that help to educate children, teens and young adult, academies are more focused on specialized subjects. There are public and private schools. Public institutions are sponsored and managed by government while private ones are privately owned. On the other hand an academy is a self-governing institution which is state sponsored in England. They are mostly secondary learning institutions but there are primary ones too.