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In the United Kingdom, most schools are publicly funded and known as state schools or maintained schools in which tuition is provided free. There are also private schools or independent schools 

In England and Wales, the term "public school" is used to refer to fee-paying schools for students aged around 13 to 18. They acquired the name "public" as in they were open to anyone who could meet the fees, distinguished from religious schools which are open only to members of that religion.

Throughout education in the UK, the vast majority of state-funded schools are under the control of local councils (local education authorities in England and Wales, Department of Education in Northern Ireland), and are referred to in official literature as "maintained schools". The exceptions are a minority of secondary schools in England funded directly by central government, known as academies and City Technology Colleges.

The National Curriculum is followed in all local council maintained schools in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. State schools in Wales, including Welsh-medium schools, are controlled by the Welsh Government. Academies, which are state schools, but not maintained by local authorities, have more freedom to adapt the National Curriculum.

Some state schools, known as faith schools, have formal links with religious organisations, and are permitted to promote a particular religious ethos and to use faith criteria in their admissions. Some maintained schools are partially funded by religious or other charitable bodies; these are known as voluntary controlled schools, voluntary aided schools or foundation schools.

The oldest state school in England is Beverley Grammar School, which was founded in 700 AD.