Types of school

In Northern Ireland, the school categories are grant-aided and Independent. Most schools are grant-aided. These schools follow the Revised Curriculum. Independent schools are fee-paying and follow their own curriculum.

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.

Most schools follow the Revised Curriculum and are regularly inspected by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).


Controlled schools are managed and funded by the EA through school Boards of Governors (BoGs). Primary and secondary school BoGs consist of representatives of transferors - mainly the Protestant churches - along with representatives of parents, teachers and the EA.

Controlled nursery, grammar and special school BoGs consist only of representatives of parents, teachers and the EA .  There are no transferor governors. 

Within the Controlled school sector there are some Controlled Integrated schools and several Irish-Medium schools.

The Controlled Schools Support Council supports and represents the interests of Controlled schools.  

Catholic Maintained

Catholic Maintained schools are managed by BoGs nominated by trustees - mainly Roman Catholic - along with parents, teachers and EA representatives.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) is responsible for the effective management of the Catholic Maintained sector and is the employing authority for teachers in Catholic Maintained schools.

The Catholic schools trustee service is funded by DE to provide support and advice to trustees on area planning.

Voluntary Grammar schools

These are managed by a BoGs. The BoGs are constituted in line with each school's scheme of management - usually representatives of foundation governors, parents, teachers the DE and in most cases EA representatives.

The BoGs is the employing authority and is responsible for the employment of all staff in its school.

Voluntary Grammar schools vary in the rates of capital grant to which they are entitled depending on the management structure they have adopted, with the vast majority entitled to capital grants of 100 per cent.

The Governing Bodies Association is funded by DE to provide support and advice to Voluntary Grammar schools on area planning. 


These schools invite Protestant and Catholic to come together with other traditions 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 a grant maintained Integrated school is the employing authority and is responsible for the employment of staff.

DE has a duty to encourage and facilitate integrated education.  With funding from DE the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) promotes the strategic development of Integrated schools and provides advice and guidance to all Integrated schools, both Controlled and grant maintained. 


Irish-Medium education is education provided in an Irish speaking school or unit. DE has a duty to encourage and assist in the development of Irish-Medium education. Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG) was established by DE and its remit is to promote, assist and encourage Irish-Medium education.

There are Controlled and Maintained Irish-Medium schools and units.  Maintained schools are Voluntary schools owned by trustees and managed by boards of governors which consist of members nominated by trustees along with representatives of parents, teachers and the EA.  


A Special school is a Controlled or Voluntary school which is specially organised to provide education for pupils with special needs.


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.

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