Types of school
Schools in Northern Ireland fall under two categories - grant-aided and independent. While nearly all are grant-aided, there are some independent schools. To help you make a choice for your child, below are some details on how each type of school operates.
Free school places
All children between the ages of four and 16 are entitled to a free school place. Children normally start primary school at four years and leave at the age of 11, moving on to a post-primary school.
The main types of schools all receive funding from their local education and library board (ELB) or directly from the Department of Education (DE). They all follow the Revised Curriculum and are regularly inspected by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).
Controlled schools are managed and funded by the five ELBs through school Boards of Governors (BoGs). Primary and post-primary school BoGs consist of representatives of transferors - mainly the protestant churches - along with representatives of parents, teachers and ELBs.
Nursery, grammar and special school BoGs consist of parents, teachers and ELB representatives along with DE governors. There is a growing number of controlled integrated schools.
Voluntary maintained schools are managed by BoGs nominated by trustees - mainly roman catholic - along with parents, teachers and ELB representatives.
The employing authority of teachers in these schools is the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).
These are mainly voluntary grammar schools managed by a BoGs. The BoGs are constituted in accordance with each school's scheme of management - usually representatives of foundation governors, parents, teachers and in most cases, DE or ELB representatives.
The BoGs is the employing authority and is responsible for the employment of all staff in its school.
These schools seek to add value to the education process by inviting Protestants and Catholics to come together with other traditions in order to improve their understanding of one another, their own cultures, religions and values.
Each grant maintained integrated school is managed by a BoGs consisting of trustees or foundation governors along with parents, teacher and DE representatives.
The BoGs of an integrated school is the employing authority and is responsible for the employment of staff.
Irish-medium education is education provided in an Irish speaking school. DE has a duty to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish-medium education. Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG) was established by DE and its remit is to promote, facilitate and encourage Irish-medium education.
A special school is a controlled or voluntary school which is specially organised to provide education for pupils with special needs and is recognised by the DE as a special school.
An independent school is a school at which full-time education is provided for pupils aged from four to 16 and is not grant aided. These schools set their own curriculum and admissions policies and are funded by fees paid by parents and income from investments.
Each independent school must be registered with DE and is inspected regularly by ETI.