Voluntary aided school

A voluntary aided school (VA school) is a state-funded school in England and Wales in which a foundation or trust (usually a religious organisation), contributes to building costs and has a substantial influence in the running of the school.

Such schools have more autonomy than voluntary controlled schools, which are entirely funded by the state. In most cases the foundation or trust owns the buildings.[1] In some circumstances Local Authorities can help the governing body in buying a site, or can provide a site or building free of charge.[2]


Voluntary aided schools are a kind of "maintained school", meaning that they receive all their running costs from central government via the local authority. The majority are also faith schools.

In contrast to other types of maintained school, only 90% of the capital costs of a voluntary aided school are met by the state. The foundation contributes the remaining 10% of the capital costs, and many VA faith schools belong to diocesan maintenance schemes or other types of funding programme to help them to manage those costs.[3] [4][5][6] They are not allowed to charge fees to students, although parents are usually encouraged to pay a voluntary contribution towards the schools' maintenance funds.[7] [8] [9][10][11][12][13]

The foundation usually owns the school's land and buildings, although there are instances where VA schools use local authority land and buildings.[14]

The foundation appoints a majority of the school governors. The governing body runs the school, employs the staff and decides the school's admission arrangements, subject to the national Schools Admissions Code.[15] Specific exemptions from Section 85 of the Equality Act 2010 enables VA faith schools to use faith criteria in prioritising pupils for admission to the schools.[16]

Pupils at voluntary aided schools follow the National Curriculum.

VA faith schools, like all faith schools, may teach religious education according to their own faith.[17][18][19]


Prior to the 19th century, there were a variety of schools in England and Wales, from charity schools providing basic education for the poor to endowed schools (often grammar schools) providing secondary or all-age education.

Early in that century, the British and Foreign School Society and the National Society for Promoting Religious Education sought to provide elementary schooling for poor children, setting up non-denominational British Schools and Church of England National schools respectively.

From 1833, the State began to provide grants to support these elementary schools and the less wealthy endowed schools. They were joined by the Catholic Poor School Committee, which established Roman Catholic elementary schools and received its first state grant in 1847. Secondary education also expanded at the same time, including a series of Roman Catholic secondary schools established by religious orders.[20][21]

The State began to provide elementary education in 1870 and secondary education in 1902, but also continued to increase funding to the schools run by private organisations, now known as voluntary schools. In return these schools were increasingly influenced by the state, and were subject to jointly administered inspections.[21]

In 1926, secondary voluntary schools were required to choose between being "grant-aided" by the local authority, or receiving a "direct grant" from central government.[22] Under the Education Act 1944, most of the direct grant schools became direct grant grammar schools. The Act also imposed higher standards on school facilities, and offered the remaining voluntary schools a choice in funding the costs this would incur:

The Catholic Church chose to retain control of all of its schools, while more than half of Church of England schools became voluntary controlled. The state contribution to capital works for voluntary aided schools was originally 50%. It was increased to 75% by the Education Act 1959, and is now 90%.[21]

By the 1970s, most local authorities were in the final stages of reorganising secondary education along comprehensive lines. The Roman Catholic hierarchy supported this change.[23] Some non-Catholic voluntary aided grammar schools opposed it. Local authorities could not compel voluntary aided schools to change any aspect of their admissions, but they could submit a proposal to the Minister to cease to maintain a school.

This was done in cases where the local authority and school could not agree. Some of these schools became independent schools:[24][25][26]

Year LEA Name of school Gender
1975 Richmond Hampton School Boys
1976 Surrey Reigate Grammar School Mixed
1977 Inner London Emanuel School Boys (now mixed)
1977 Surrey Royal Grammar School, Guildford Boys
1977 Inner London Godolphin and Latymer School Girls
1977 Inner London Colfe's Grammar School Mixed
1978 Kirklees Batley Grammar School Boys (now mixed)
1978 Surrey Sir William Perkins's School Girls
1979 Wolverhampton Wolverhampton Grammar School Boys (now mixed)
1979 Lancashire Kirkham Grammar School Mixed
1979 Hampshire King Edward VI Grammar School, Southampton Boys (now mixed)
1979 Hampshire Churcher's College Boys (now mixed)
1983 Cambridgeshire Wisbech Grammar School Mixed

Direct grant status was abolished at the same time and over forty such schools, almost all Roman Catholic, converted to voluntary aided status.[27]

Many voluntary aided schools converted to grant-maintained status in the late 1980s, generally reverting to voluntary aided status when grant-maintained status was abolished in 1998.

A few formerly independent faith schools that had become grant-maintained in the early 1990s also converted to voluntary aided status at that time.[28][29]

By 2008, within the maintained sector in England, approximately 22% of primary schools and 17% of secondary schools were voluntary aided, including all of the Roman Catholic schools and the schools of non-Christian faiths.

Almost all voluntary aided primary schools and 93% of voluntary aided secondary schools were linked to a religious body, usually either the Church of England or the Catholic Church, with a minority of other faiths.[30]

In November 2012, the interpretation of the Education Act 2011, which appeared to prioritise the creation of academies over maintained schools, was tested by a judicial review, which upheld the decision of Richmond Local Authority to establish voluntary aided schools, St. Richard Reynolds Catholic College, without first seeking proposals for an academy.[31]

See also


  1. "Voluntary and faith schools: Voluntary-aided schools". Department for Education Website. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  2. "CAPITAL FUNDING FOR VOLUNTARY AIDED (VA) SCHOOLS IN ENGLAND". Blue Book Guidance. Department for Education. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  3. "CAPITAL FUNDING FOR VOLUNTARY AIDED (VA) SCHOOLS IN ENGLAND" (PDF). Blue Book Guidance. Department for Education. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  4. "Buildings Maintenance Scheme" (PDF). London Diocesan Board for Schools Website. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  5. "School Buildings". The Diocese of Southwark Website. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  6. "Service Level Agreement 2008/9" (PDF). Diocese of Manchester Board of Education. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  7. "Guidance on Finance and Insurance for Catholic Voluntary Aided Schools" (PDF). DoW website. Diocese of Westminster. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  8. Richardson, Hannah (3 September 2015). "Schools 'demand money from parents'". BBC News. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  9. "School Building Fund". Sacred Heart Primary School Website. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  10. "Governors". St. Pauls' School Website. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  11. "Governors Fund". St. Richard Reynolds' School Website. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  12. "Charging and Remission Policy". Gunnersbury School Website.
  13. "Governors' Fund 2013" (PDF). St. Mary's & St. Peter's School Website. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  14. "New Catholic Schools in Richmond Upon Thames". London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames Website. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  15. "School admissions code". gov.uk. Department for Education. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  16. "Equality Act 2010". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  17. "Voluntary Aided Schools". Teachernet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 8 January 2008.
  18. "Categories of Schools - Overview". Governornet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 5 September 2003.
  19. "The Composition of Schools in England" (PDF). Department for Children, Schools and Families. June 2008.
  20. McLaughlin, Terence H.; O'Keefe, Joseph; O'Keeffe, Bernadette (1996). "Setting the scene: current realities and historical perspectives". In McLaughlin, Terence; O'Keefe, Joseph; O'Keeffe, Bernadette. The contemporary Catholic school: context, identity, and diversity. Falmer Press. pp. 1–21. ISBN 978-0-7507-0471-7.
  21. 1 2 3 Lawson, John; Harold, Silver (1973). A Social History of Education in England. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-43251-1.
  22. Walford, Geoffrey (1990). Privatization and privilege in education. Taylor & Francis. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-415-04248-2.
  23. Walford, Geoffrey (2000). Funding for Private Schools in England and the Netherlands. Can the Piper Call the Tune? (PDF). Occasional Paper No. 8. National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  24. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1979/jul/02/schools-reorganisation |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 2 July 1979. col. 486W.
  25. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1980/nov/05/schools-status |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 5 November 1980. col. 579W.
  26. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1981/jan/29/education-cambridgeshire |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 29 January 1981. col. 1151.
  27. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1978/mar/22/direct-grant-schools |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 22 March 1978. col. 582W–586W.
  28. Levinson, David; Cookson, Peter W.; Sadovnik, Alan R. (2002). Education and Sociology. Taylor & Francis. pp. 215218. ISBN 978-0-8153-1615-2.
  29. "Grant Maintained Schools Database". The National Digital Archive of Datasets. The National Archives. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  30. "Pupil Characteristics and Class Sizes in Maintained Schools in England: January 2008 (Provisional)". Department for Children, Schools and Families.
  31. Wolfe, David. "No longer a presumption that new schools will be academies?". A Can of Worms. Wordpress. Retrieved 20 April 2014.

Further reading

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