A specialist school, also called a specialist college, is a type of
secondary school A secondary school describes an institution that provides secondary education and also usually includes the building where this takes place. Some secondary schools provide both lower secondary education (ages 11 to 14) and upper secondary educat ...
in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
that specialises in a certain
field Field may refer to: Expanses of open ground * Field (agriculture), an area of land used for agricultural purposes * Airfield, an aerodrome that lacks the infrastructure of an airport * Battlefield * Lawn, an area of mowed grass * Meadow, a grassl ...
curriculum In education Education is the process of facilitating , or the acquisition of , s, , morals, s, s, and personal development. Educational methods include , , , and directed . Education frequently takes place under the guidance of educat ...
. In
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

, most specialist schools were originally
maintained school English state-funded schools, commonly known as state schools, provide education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, and habits. Educatio ...
s run by
local authorities Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration Public administration is the implementation of government policy Public policy is a course of action created and/or enacted, typically by a government ...
, however the majority of English specialist schools are now
academies An academy (Attic Greek Attic Greek is the Greek language, Greek dialect of the regions of ancient Greece, ancient region of Attica, including the ''polis'' of classical Athens, Athens. Often called classical Greek, it was the prestige (sociolin ...
. Specialist schools were introduced in 1988 through the discontinued English CTC programme. They were then expanded through the specialist schools programme, a government initiative where schools were encouraged to specialise in subject areas of their choice. These specialisms provided schools with government funding (£100,000) which was then used to expand the provision of the selected subject areas. Since the specialist programme's discontinuation in April 2011, schools in England have gained specialist status freely through academisation or through funding by the Local government in England#Funding, Dedicated Schools Grant. In Northern Ireland, the programme was introduced in 2006 and discontinued in August 2011. A replacement model was envisioned but the Department of Education (Northern Ireland), DENI could not afford the required funding. Scotland entered the programme in 2005 through the Schools of Ambition, schools of ambition initiative, leaving in 2010. Some Independent school (United Kingdom), independent schools in England and Scotland are specialist schools.

Types of specialist schools

Specialist schools programme

The specialist schools programme introduced 12 types of specialist schools. Although the specialist schools programme is now defunct, English schools can still become one of these specialist colleges through either academisation or the Dedicated Schools Grant. Some of these specialist schools were granted the ability by the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 to admit 10% of their intake by academic aptitude, making them Partially selective school (England), partially selective. Schools in the programme took part in "extended provision", forming connections with the local schools and community. The programme was introduced to Scotland in 2005 and Northern Ireland in 2006.

Academies programme

The English academies programme introduced two new specialist schools; the studio school and the University technical college, university technical college (UTC). Both schools are a type of Free school (England), free school. Studio schools typically serve around 300 14 to 19-year-old students regardless of academic aptitude and operate with a unique Year-round school in the United States, year-round 9 to 5 school day, meant to emulate Employment, work. Furthermore, studio schools combine academic studies and vocational education, specialising in a multitude of subject fields including Video game, gaming and Marine industry, marine industries. Studio schools appear to inherit the specialist schools programme's extended provision, with studio schools' specialisms usually coinciding with industries of significance in their local areas. Studio schools are usually sponsored by a diverse range of companies such as Disney, Sony, Hilton Worldwide, Hilton Hotels, Amazon (company), Amazon and National Express. UTCs also serve students from the age of 14, albeit rarely enrolling from Key Stage 3. All UTCs are controlled by university sponsors and specialise in at least one Vocational education, technical field that is connected to a "local industry partner". UTCs focus on a mixed technical and academic curriculum and are meant to progress their students into the technical Workforce, work sector. There are seven main UTC specialisms; engineering, digital technology, design, creative media, science, health and construction. The precursor to academies, City Technology College, City Technology Colleges (CTCs), specialised in technology-based subjects, mostly science and technology. City Technology Colleges were the first specialist schools and were introduced in 1988. They acted as a foundation for the wider specialist schools programme.

Music and dance schools

The government's Music and Dance Scheme designates nine independent boarding schools throughout England and Scotland as specialist Music school, music and dance schools. These schools provide A-Levels and Highers and also offer Day school, day places. The nine specialist schools are: * Chetham's School of Music * St Mary's Music School * Wells Cathedral School * Yehudi Menuhin School * The Purcell School for Young Musicians * Elmhurst Ballet School * The Hammond School * The Royal Ballet School * Tring Park School for the Performing Arts

Football schools

The UK Football Schools initiative provides specialist Football in England, football education. The initiative consists of football boarding schools, football academies and football universities. Some specialist football boarding schools are Independent school (United Kingdom), private and some specialist football universities are international, with additional provision in Europe. The boarding schools offer free five day trials known as "football trial camps". All schools and universities within the initiative are funded by and partnered with UK Football Schools Limited, a private limited company headquartered in Redruth, Cornwall.


Multiple English schools have adopted a combined specialism in the four STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). A rarer specialism in the five STEAM fields, STEAM subjects has also been adopted by schools. A new specialism called STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and mathematics) has recently been introduced. These specialist schools offer these subjects into the sixth form and provide a unique curriculum throughout the school day, offering subjects such as Coding theory, coding and robotics.

Higher education

In Higher education in the United Kingdom, British higher education, a specialist institution is a higher education institution which offers courses based around one specific specialism. Most specialist institutions are small Vocational university, vocational universities, offering Postgraduate education, postgraduate and undergraduate education. Funding for specialist institutions is determined by the Office for Students under the oversight of the Secretary of State for Education. There are currently 16 specialist institutions in the UK and their specialisms range from performing and visual arts, medical, veterinarian, humanities and business, and science and technology. Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable praised specialist institutions as part of his vision of a "new generation of National Colleges: specialised institutions, acting as national centres of expertise, in key areas of the economy. They will be employer-focused, and combine academic knowledge with practical application." In Wales, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama is a specialist music and drama conservatoire. It is the national conservatoire of Wales and is granted Royal Patronage, royal patronage by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.


{{Education in the United Kingdom Specialist schools, Secondary education in the United Kingdom School types Education policy in the United Kingdom High schools and secondary schools Public education in the United Kingdom