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What are Specialised Subjects?

By: Jonathan Milward - Updated: 3 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
What Are Specialised Subjects?

For children who have talents in a particular area of the school curriculum, many parents like to encourage and nurture those talents by putting them in a specialist school. These schools focus on teaching a particular subject or group of related subjects so that students can reach their full potential in their chosen field.

The Specialised Schools Programme

The Specialised Schools Programme is a government initiative delivered by The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) which actively encourages schools in England to specialise in certain areas in order to boost achievement. There are currently over 2000 specialist schools in England, benefiting from the sponsorship of companies, individuals and trusts that keeps the SSAT going. The fields a school can specialise in are:

  • Arts
  • Business & Enterprise
  • Engineering
  • Humanities
  • Languages
  • Mathematics & Computing
  • Music
  • Science
  • Sports
  • Technology

Schools sometimes opt to combine two or these specialisms, offering a wider range of teaching. Choosing the right school for your child will obviously depend on their particular talents and interests and what they want to do in the future. Once they know which field they are interested in, it’s worth getting in touch with the SSAT or checking out their website to find a list of appropriate schools. With such a huge diversity between specialist schools, it’s worth taking the time to look for the one that suits your child’s needs and skills the best.

It’s worth remembering not to confuse specialised schools with vocational schools, where children are taught particular skills with the aim of preparing them for a particular job. Although focusing on a particular area, specialised schools are not gearing children toward a specific job.

It’s also important to remember that the majority of specialist schools are not independent. Therefore, if your choice is to educate your child in the private sector, this might limit your options for a specialist school. Don’t let this put you off though. There’s a wide range of options available to make getting your child into the right school easier, and you never know, you might just get lucky and find that the right one is just around the corner.


So are specialist schools a success? The short answer appears to be yes. A 2003 study showed that non-selective specialist schools scored 10 percent higher in GCSE results than their non-specialist counterparts. The research not only suggested that all types of specialist school performed better than non-specialist, but they appeared to perform better the longer they had been specialising as well. These sorts of findings are why specialist schools are becoming more and more important in our education system.

The Critics

Some people might suggest that the high results achieved by specialist schools are simply down to the extra funding they receive. However, the difference in funding is often no greater than from school to school anyway, which would suggest that although funding will inevitably play a role in their performance, it is not the only factor coming into play.

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