Boarding in the UK

There has never been a better time to become a boarder at a British boarding school. Schools work hard to make the transition from home to school as smooth as possible, especially if a child is coming from overseas.

Access to school staff and facilities after the teaching day is a major benefit for boarding pupils. Homework for younger pupils will be supervised and therefore orderly, but with help available if needed. School libraries are valuable resources in the evenings or at weekends. Clubs and activities offer opportunities beyond the academic day to discover and nurture talents, and to explore occupations that may be life-changing.

Sport also plays a major part in the lives of many boarding schools, with whole afternoons given to its practice, and matches frequently played at all levels of enthusiasm and skill, both after school and on Saturdays.

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The Independent System.

There are three main types of independent boarding schools for students aged 7–18. These are:

Preparatory schools (sometimes called junior schools) for students aged from 7 (or younger if the school has a pre-preparatory department) to 11/13
Senior schools (sometimes called secondary schools) for students aged from 11/13 to 16/18
Independent colleges (which are often referred to as tutorial, sixth-form or further education colleges) for students aged 16 and over.

There are approximately 500 boarding schools across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  Boarding school – Wikipedia

All of the schools with profiles on this website operate in the independent sector. Most of them are preparatory and senior schools, although you will find some independent colleges listed. There are also some international study centres profiled on this site. Most of these centres are linked to boarding schools, and prepare international students for the day to day life at a traditional boarding school.

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A Typical Boarding Day.

Schools vary, but the daily routine is usually similar to the example given below. For younger pupils, the prep times in the evening will be shorter and finish earlier.

7.00 Wake-up bells Get up, shower and dress in uniform.

7.45 Breakfast Held in school dining hall, with a good choice of food from the breakfast buffet.

8.30 House meeting Notices and announcements. Roll call (register) taken.

8.45 Chapel Hymns, prayers, and a short address from the school chaplain. Usually compulsory, although some schools allow exemptions if requested.

9.00 Lessons begin three lessons, each lasting 40 minutes (eg mathematics, English, geography).

11.00 Break Go to your house and have a drink and a snack, eg juice and a piece of fruit or a biscuit.

11.20 Lessons Two lessons (eg double science).

12.40 Lunch Lunch in dining hall – many hot dishes (including vegetarian options), salad, baked potatoes, cold meats and fish, and dessert. Usually very lively with a buzz of conversation and discussion about the afternoon’s activities.

13.15 Activities There are so many to choose from: orchestra practice, private music lesson, play rehearsal, clubs, and extra English lessons for international students, etc.

14.00 Lessons Two 40-minute lessons (eg French* and history).

15.20 Tea Tea or juice and a cake or a sandwich.

15.30 House Change into sports kit.

15.45 Sport Winter term – football, hockey, rugby, netball, squash, badminton, etc. Spring and summer terms – cricket, tennis, swimming, athletics, etc.

17.30 House Wash or shower, change clothes. Roll call taken.

18.00 Supper Taken in dining hall (a selection of hot and cold dishes, including many healthy-eating options, plus fruit and desserts).

18.30 Clubs/activities Debating, science society, choir, modern languages society.

19.30 Prep in houses Homework, supervised by houseparents or prefects.

20.00 Prep break

20.10 Prep continues

21.00 Free time after another roll call, it’s time to relax! You can chat with your friends, watch TV, play table tennis, snooker, etc.

22.00 Bedtime Time to go to your room and get ready for bed.

22.30 Lights out Go to sleep – it’s another busy day tomorrow!

* International students at a traditional boarding school will usually follow the main school timetable. However, when the UK students study another language (eg French), the international pupils will have extra English language classes. They may also have English lessons during the lunch break or in the evening.

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English Support.

The kind of English language support provided for students varies according to the kind of school or college students attend. It will also depend on their age and the academic programme they are following.

Traditional UK boarding schools refer to English language teaching for non-native speakers of English as ‘Extra English’ or ‘English as a foreign language (EFL)’. Most schools expect students to use only English while they are studying and although almost all boarding schools provide some English language teaching for international pupils, this provision varies a great deal from school to school.

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Schools and colleges have modern dining rooms where three cooked meals of breakfast, lunch and supper are provided each day. Some schools allow senior students to prepare their own breakfast in their boarding house if they wish. All meals have a good choice of different dishes, so you can choose what you prefer to eat. Schools always provide vegetarian alternatives, and can cater for special diets and religious requirements, providing they have been notified of such requirements in advance. You will be able to keep small amounts of your favourite food or prepare simple snacks or hot and cold drinks in your boarding house. Most schools also have a ‘tuck shop’ that sells drinks, sweets and small items such as stationery, shoelaces, etc.

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The House System.

When students arrive at many UK boarding schools they are placed in a ‘house’. Students are members of their house from their arrival until they leave school and houses will compete in these groups in sports, drama festivals and other competitions.

You can often achieve points for your house for good behavior and work. At the end of an academic year a house cup may be awarded to the house with the highest number of points. Boarding schools will typically have four houses, though others have fewer or sometimes as many as seven or eight.

The house system is an excellent way to make friends, and older students from your house may be appointed to mentor you during your first years at boarding school.

Pupils will often board with others who are also in their house. Boarding areas are single-sex and generally younger students will share a dormitory, while older students may have a shared, or their own, room.

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If you live in a dormitory you will have your own bed and cupboard or storage area. Washing and bathroom facilities are close by and you will able to bring items from home to help you settle in. If you live in a private or shared room then you may have your own desk and extra storage space. Certain older students’ rooms may also have private bathrooms.

Boarding houses are looked after by members of staff called house masters or matrons, who will also usually live in or near the house. They are there to supervise pupils, provide academic and emotional support and oversee pupils’ welfare.

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Every independent boarding school in the UK has a mission statement that outlines the ultimate purpose, ideals and aims of the school. It is the motivating factor behind all policies and actions, and includes the principles by which the school is directed. The statement may also highlight the methods of achieving these aims and perhaps some of the methods of accomplishing the mission of the school.

Many schools are originally of a religious foundation, which may have an influence on the mission statement. They will have a particular spiritual basis and code, which may be a significant part of the education offered. The UK also has many secular schools, which have no particular religious affinity, to choose from.

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School Fees 2022 – 2023

Rates fluctuate from school to school, although the average boarding school fees would be:

Junior (3-10 years) £8,620 x 3 Terms

Senior (11-16 years) £11,800 x 3 Terms

Sixth Form (17-18 years) £13,500 x 3 Terms

Other expenses would be: Registration & deposit, uniform, additional English, horse riding, private music tuition, books, trips to the cinema/theatre.

Guardian organization: approximately 500 GBP x Term.

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Visa to study in the UK

Many students can study in the UK for up to six months without a visa and some nationalities need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa.

Visit the UK as a Standard Visitor: Overview – GOV.UK (

You can apply for a Child Student visa if you’re between 4 and 17 years old and you want to study at an independent boarding school for longer than six months.

The earliest you can apply for a visa is 6 months before you start your course. You’ll usually get a decision within 3 weeks.

Visit Study in the UK – GOV.UK ( for clear, simple information for students who want to study in a boarding school or take an English course in the UK.

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