The sections below give explanations for terms commonly used on this site. Select the first letter of the term you're searching for.


Academies Financial Handbook

A handbook produced by the ESFA that sets out the financial management requirements that apply to academy trusts. Find out more.


Academies are publicly funded independent schools. They don’t have to follow the national curriculum and can set their own term times. They still have to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other state schools. Academies get money directly from the government, not the local council. They’re run by an academy trust which employs the staff. Some academies have sponsors such as businesses, universities, other schools, faith groups or voluntary groups. Sponsors are responsible for improving the performance of their schools.

Academy converter

Former schools which have chosen to convert to academy status.

Academy special

These are special schools which have chosen to become an academy. These will be handled differently to academy converters and will follow a different process which is currently being developed.

Academy sponsor led

These academies are established and managed by sponsors from a wide range of backgrounds, including high performing schools and colleges, universities, individual philanthropists, businesses, the voluntary sector, and the faith communities.

Accounting officer

Responsible for ensuring that public money is spent as intended, ensuring value for money and keeping proper records.

Admissions policy

All establishments have an admissions policy to decide which children get places. For state-maintained schools, these may be set by the local council. Many establishments, for example independent schools, have their own admissions policies.

All-through school

All-through is a school that includes the primary and secondary years and therefore covers all compulsory school years (including reception).

Attainment 8

Attainment 8 measures a pupil's achievements across 8 qualifications including maths and English. Find out more.


Boarding provision

Places for boarders are offered at some establishments. National minimum standards are in place to ensure that boarding schools safeguard and protect the children in their care.

British Schools Overseas

British schools overseas are a diverse collection of institutions which, in varying degrees, provide instruction in English, have teachers who are native English speakers and which prepare their pupils either for British public examinations and/or for entrance to British universities.



The number of pupils the school is organised to provide for. For academies the capacity refers to the planned capacity as stated in the academy's funding agreement.

Chair of governors

Responsible for leading and developing the team of governors, managing performance and headteacher recruitment.

Chair of local governing body

The person in charge of a trust responsible for multiple establishments. The body can include parent, staff and pupil representatives.

Chair of trustees

Broadly speaking, the equivalent of a chair of governors, but for an academy. They are accountable to regional schools commissioners, rather than local authorities.

Chief financial officer

The lead finance professional appointed by the academy trust board.

Children looked after

Children who have been in the care of local authorities for at least one day in the last 6 years, or who have been adopted from care.

Children's centre

A centre offering early childhood services, including education, childcare, social services and health services.

Children's centre collaboration

A group of centres which share early childhood services, but do not share leadership and management.

Children's centre group

A group of centres offering early childhood services, including education, childcare, social services and health services. They also share leadership and management.

Children's centre linked site

Formerly children's centres in their own right, but they no longer meet the statutory definition of a children’s centre. However, they offer some early childhood services on behalf of another children's centre.

City technology colleges

These are independent schools in urban areas that are free to go to. They’re owned and funded by companies as well as central government (not the local council). They have an emphasis on technological and practical skills.


A school is described as 'coasting' if it does not support its pupils to achieve their potential. Signs of coasting include the pupils' performance, especially in English and maths, falling below certain standards. Read more about coasting.


Colleges generally focus on education for 16-18 year olds. They provide vocational and academic courses and some also offer full-time study at key stage 4.

Community school

In these schools, the local authority employs the school's staff, owns the school's land and buildings and is the admissions authority (it has primary responsibility for deciding the arrangements for admitting pupils).

Community special school

This is the special school equivalent of a mainstream community school. It caters wholly or mainly for children with special educational needs.

Companies House number

A registration number issued by Companies House for companies. With respect to GIAS they are visible for single academy trusts (SATs) and multi academy trusts (MATs) (group level) and for online providers only at establishment level.



This is the area covered by a Bishop's jurisdiction and only applies to Catholic and Church of England schools.


Pupils may be defined as disadvantaged if:
  • they are known to have been eligible for free school meals in the past 6 years (from year 6 to year 11), or
  • they are recorded as having been looked after for at least one day, or
  • they are recorded as having been adopted from care


English additional language

This refers to children who were initially exposed to a non-English language during early development and continue to be exposed to this language in the home or in the community.

English first language

This refers to children who were initially exposed to English during early development and continue to be exposed to English in the home or in the community.

Establishment accreditation date

The date the online provider is given accreditation by the department.

Establishment accreditation date ended

The date the online provider has their accreditation withdrawn. The online provider can no longer use the term accredited online provider.

Establishment accredited

For online providers only and confirms if the online provider is accredited or not.

Establishment name

For all establishment types except online provider (see name of setting).

Establishment status

For online provider, the status of open and open, propose to close means it is accredited.


A collective term for educational establishments such as children's centres, schools, colleges, and further education and higher education institutions.

European schools

European schools provide free education for the children of employees of European Union institutions. Where places are available, they admit other children on payment of fees.


Faith school

Faith schools have to follow the national curriculum, but they can choose what they teach in religious studies. Faith schools may have different admissions criteria and staffing policies to state schools, although anyone can apply for a place.


The aim of a federation is to address or prevent school failure, achieve economies of scale and to offer pupils greater choice.

Foundation school

In these schools, the governing body is the employer and the admissions authority. The school's land and buildings are either owned by the governing body or by a charitable foundation.

Foundation special school

A special school equivalent of the mainstream foundation school catering wholly or mainly for children with special educational needs.

Free school

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’re ‘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.

Free school meals

This shows whether a pupil's family have claimed eligibility for free school meals as reported in the annual spring school census. Parents are able to claim free school meals if they receive a qualifying benefit. This does not show pupils who actually received free school meals but those who are eligible to receive them.



Governor identity. Used to identify governors, for example if 2 governors have the same name, this number identifies each of them.


At local authority maintained schools, governors hold the headteacher to account for performance and oversee the use of resources.


Independent school

Also known as ‘private schools’, these schools charge fees to attend instead of being funded by the government. Pupils don’t have to follow the national curriculum. All independent schools must be registered with the government and are inspected regularly.

Independent special school

This is equivalent to an independent school, catering wholly or mainly for children with special educational needs.



Local authority establishment. A 3-digit local authority code, followed by a 4-digit establishment code.

Local authority nursery school

A nursery school maintained by a local authority which provides education for children over 2 but under compulsory school age.

Local governor

A governor on a trust responsible for multiple establishments.



The upper tier of the academy governance structure. They can appoint and remove trustees and make sure the academy's objectives are being met.

Middle deemed primary

A former middle school which has been deemed primary because most of its pupils are of primary school age.

Middle deemed secondary

A former middle school which has been deemed secondary because most of its pupils are of secondary school age.

Multi academy trust (MAT)

A trust responsible for a number of academies. It consists of members, akin to company shareholders, and trustees, responsible for governance.


Name of setting

The name of the online provider establishment.

Non-maintained special school

These are run on a not-for-profit basis by charitable trusts and normally cater for children with severe and/or low incidence special educational needs. They get the majority of their funding from local authorities placing children with special educational needs statements at the schools and paying the fees.

Nursery provision

This is when an establishment offers nursery classes, usually for 3 and 4 year old children.


Online providers

The term online provider refers to a provider of online education services which operates online-only on a permanent basis, delivering a full-time education, a full curriculum, and representing at least one child’s main source of education. Online providers are registered under the online education accreditation scheme. To be eligible for the scheme, an online provider must have at least one learner of compulsory school age in England. The scheme is restricted only to online providers that are registered in the UK with Companies House or the Charity Commission. Where we refer to a ‘provider’, we are referring to a provider of online education services. The term is not to be interpreted as meaning a provider of education under the Education and Skills Act 2008 or any other relevant Act. Providers of online education services will often be commissioned services that hold responsibility for the delivery of education services only; other education providers, such as independent schools, may have additional responsibilities as a result of their operation from physical premises and the physical presence of pupils. Establishments delivering remote education, such as online classes, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, are not impacted by the online education accreditation scheme as they are not categorised as this establishment type.


Progress 8

Progress 8 measures a pupil's progress across 8 qualifications including maths and English. Find out more.

Pupil referral unit

A pupil referral unit (PRU) is established and maintained by a local authority to provide education for children who are excluded, sick or otherwise unable to attend mainstream school. It is not a special or other type of school.


Quality assurance body

The quality assurance body for online providers only. This is still to be confirmed.

Quality assurance report

The quality assurance body report on the online provider.


Religious character

A school designated with a religious character has to follow the national curriculum, but it can choose what to teach in religious studies.


School sponsor

Sponsors include businesses, charities and faith organisations. They are responsible for:
  • the performance and finances of their school (or group of schools)
  • setting up the academy trust
  • selecting the governing body
  • recruiting the headteacher
Sponsors work closely with the governing body to run the academy.

SEN support

See 'Special educational needs'. This is when the school gives children extra or different help from its usual curriculum. Outside specialists may advise or support the class teacher and SEN coordinator.

Single academy trust (SAT)

A trust responsible for a single academy. It consists of members, akin to company shareholders, and trustees, responsible for governance. In a single academy trust (SAT), one school becomes an academy, or two schools combine to form a single academy.

Sixth form college

An educational institution, funded by the Learning Skills Council, for 16-19 year olds.

Sixth form provision

Places for sixth form pupils are available both at establishments catering for a wider age range of pupils and at dedicated sixth form colleges.

Special educational needs (SEN)

This refers to pupils who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age. There's a formal assessment to decide if a pupil needs a statement of SEN or an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

Special measures

This is when OFSTED judges that a school is failing, or likely to fail, to provide an acceptable standard of education.

Special post–16 institutions

Special post–16 institutions which are legally established to provide education and are not maintained schools or FE colleges, which provide specialist post-16 education and support to young people with some of the most severe learning difficulties and/or disabilities or low incidence needs.


An academy sponsor is an organisation or person approved by the Department for Education to support an underperforming academy or group of academies. Sponsors are generally businesses, charitable trusts, church groups or other educational institutions.

Studio school

Small free schools - usually with around 300 pupils - delivering mainstream qualifications through project-based learning. This means working in realistic situations as well as learning academic subjects.



Trustees are broadly the equivalent of governors, but for academies. They hold the headteacher to account for performance and oversee the use of resources. They are both company directors and charity trustees.



UK provider reference number. A reference number issued by the UK Register of Learning Providers.

Unique Reference Number (URN)

The Unique Reference Number (URN) is a six-digit number allocated to establishments by Get Information about Schools (GIAS).

University technical college

These are a kind of free school specialising in subjects like engineering and construction. They usually teach these subjects along with business skills and IT. Pupils study academic subjects as well as practical subjects leading to technical qualifications. The curriculum is designed by the university and employers, who also provide work experience for students. University technical colleges are sponsored by:
  • universities
  • employers
  • further education colleges


Voluntary aided school

A school where the governing body is the employer and the admissions authority. The school's land and buildings (apart from playing fields which are normally owned by the local authority) will normally be owned by a charitable foundation.

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