Choosing a boarding school in the UK

UK boarding schools are some of the world’s best-performing and most sought-after schools, and the global appetite for a traditional residential education shows no sign of diminishing.

Below is an extract from this article published in Relocate's Guide to Education & Schools in the UK. Click below if you are interested in receiving a full printed copy of the guide.

Remarkably, a handful of the UK’s boarding schools have been around for over a thousand years. The King’s School, in Canterbury, was established in 597 and boasts alumni including 16th-century playwright Christopher Marlowe and novelist Somerset Maugham. Fortunately, though, boarding schools have moved with the times and now offer a 21st-century education, often with modern residential facilities, and the compassionate and attentive pastoral care to match, in both single-sex and coeducational environments.With several hundred to choose from across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, UK boarding schools can offer a wide range of surroundings, specialisms and religious affiliations. In both rural and urban settings, there are top-performing schools that specialise in areas such as sport, music, art, drama, or an academic subject.“Part of the strength of the British boarding market is the diversity of schools available,” says a Boarding Schools’ Association spokesperson. “They may be near airports for ease of travel back to far-flung countries; or near the mountains, giving pupils more access to the great outdoors; in the middle of fine cities with all their facilities; or in small country towns where the high street is a safe and friendly resource for young people off site for a couple of hours.”

Global mobility and boarding

But it is for the relocating family that the option of a residential education could be a particularly appealing option. Karin Purcell, of Marymount London, a Catholic boarding school for girls, believes that choosing a boarding education can have very obvious advantages in the global mobility context. “The benefits of continuity and academic consistency provided by remaining at the same school are immeasurable,” says Ms Purcell. “This removes the stress of changing systems, languages, climates, cultures and friends, especially in the final years of education, when disruption is least desirable.”[…]
Fettes College

Full, weekly or flexi?

“Modern boarding can be a flexible option,” says Antonia Beary, headteacher of Mayfield School, a Catholic independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11–18, set in the Sussex countryside. “It can allow parents more freedom within increasingly busy schedules while removing the sometimes substantial travelling time from a child’s day, enable children to participate in more sport and extracurricular activities, and allow extra study time.”Full boarding provides residential education for pupils during the week and over the weekend for the whole term. This type of boarding usually appeals to overseas families and those who would ordinarily have a long journey to the school.But, says Ruth Hughes, of Catholic coeducational day and boarding school Stonyhurst, in Lancashire, which was established in 1593 and offers both A Levels and the International Baccalaureate, it is important when choosing this option to ensure that the team in charge of running the boarding houses is trained in boarding management.[…]In fact, it is worth noting that there are fewer and fewer boarding schools that predominantly offer full boarding. As Dr Niall Hamilton, senior admissions tutor at Marlborough College, in Wiltshire, explains, Marlborough does not offer day, weekly or flexi-boarding. “We are one of a very small number of full-boarding schools that do not take day pupils or weekly boarders,” he says. “The full-boarding environment encourages a firm sense of community and helps to develop friendships that will be sustained in life beyond the college. Pupils learn to treat each other and all members of the community with kindness, sensitivity and respect.”Weekly boarding and flexi-boarding can offer a more tailored boarding experience to suit the needs of individual families. While weekly boarders can opt to travel home at the weekends, flexi-boarders can take advantage of boarding for part of the week, perhaps to break up a week of long journeys to and from the school.[…]

Further UK Guide articles:


Boarding houses

It is within the schools’ boarding houses that students really get the chance to integrate with other students and make friends while spending time away from family. But not all boarding houses are the same, and it is worth checking how your chosen school organises and structures the way in which students live, study and spend their extracurricular time together.“Boarding-house structures are very different one from another,” says Stonyhurst’s Ruth Hughes. “Some schools have vertical houses like those in Harry Potter, which foster leadership of the younger students by the older ones. At others, like Stonyhurst, students board horizontally, which means that every child from the same year group is in the same boarding house.”[…]Sevenoaks School, in Kent, a coeducational day and boarding school for students aged 11–18, was rated ‘exceptional’ in its latest inspection report. With a 600-year history and around 1,040 pupils, including international students from 40 countries around the world, the school has a total of 350 boarders, the vast majority of whom are sixth-formers.“Sevenoaks School has seven boarding houses, two of which – the International Centre and the Girls’ International House (GIH) – are dedicated specifically to sixth-form IB students,” says head of boarding Nichola Haworth.
Box Hill School

A global appeal

But it is Sevenoaks School’s international reputation that often attracts globally mobile families.“The global appeal isn’t just the huge variation of nationalities at the school, it’s also the willingness of parents to move internationally to further careers,” says Nichola Haworth. “Many of our parents are expatriate; they work in a vibrant global mix and recognise a similar mix in the make-up of our international boarding houses. Their children are here because they believe the connections that they make will open up a whole world of opportunity in the future.”[…]

Living with others

“Learning to live with others, to cope with snoring, to share and to empathise, helping to look after a friend when they are feeling sad, have lost a pet, or have failed an exam, will teach children skills that will benefit them throughout their whole lives,” says Ruth Hughes. “Equally, others will be there to support them when they need a hug, to push them when they need encouragement, and to work with them in order to create a culture of achievement that will take them forward in the next step of their lives, at university or in the world of work.”Kyla, a 16-year-old full boarder at Mayfield School, agrees wholeheartedly. “Being a full boarder, I have gained independence and wonderful friendships, strengthened my patience and perseverance, but, most of all, I’ve gained so much knowledge,” she says. “The best thing is the immense diversity, but we all get along and care for one another like a big family. Mayfield has opened my eyes to the world and all the experiences possible, here and beyond.”[…]Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit

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