British Education

Introduction to Boarding Schools

UK boarding schools are residential schools for children and teenagers up to the age of 18, offering internationally recognised qualifications such as GCSEs, Scottish Standard Grades and Highers, A-levels, and the International Baccalaureate. There are approximately 500 boarding schools across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Most UK boarding schools are co-educational, teaching both boys and girls (the classes are mixed, but accommodation is separate), although there are many single-sex schools too.

All UK boarding schools have to meet strict government standards on the quality of their teaching, facilities and student care. Many UK boarding schools combine beautiful, centuries-old buildings with a mix of modern classrooms and traditional architecture. Excellent facilities make living and learning a great experience.


All boarding schools charge fees for boarding, but independent schools also charge for tuition. State boarding schools offer tuition for free as it is funded by the state. Academic standards across boarding schools are high, but independent schools oftentimes have more money to invest in facilities and classroom resources. They also tend to have smaller class sizes which can lend to a more focused learning environment.

  • Boarders : Average £31,000 per year in 2015 including tuition, food and accommodation
  • Day pupils : Average £17,500 per year in 2015

UK Boarding School System

Below the age of 7, children can attend boarding schools as a day pupil. From the age of 7 and upwards, children can attend as either day pupils or boarders. Most international pupils join boarding schools at the age of 7, 11, 13, 14, or 16.

The UK boarding school system is split into three levels;

  • Primary education – children aged 4 to 13 years old.
  • Secondary education – pupils aged 11 to 16 years old. In the last two years of secondary school, most pupils study for GCSE qualifications.
  • Sixth form – pupils aged 16 to 18 years old. At sixth form, most pupils take A-Level qualifications.

Academic Year

Schools in the UK have three terms although each school sets its own term dates;

  • Autumn term – September until mid-December. The autumn half-term holiday is a week or two weeks at the end of October
  • Spring term – early January until Easter. The spring half-term holiday is a week in February
  • Summer term – after Easter until early July. The summer half-term holiday is a week at the end of May

School Holidays

For the summer holidays and Christmas holidays most boarding schools close and pupils return home to their parents or guardians. Some schools do however, run language courses during this period which may be useful for international pupils who want to improve their English language skills.

For shorter half-term holidays, some schools stay open although the pupils won’t have normal classes. They will however be supervised by staff and be able to take part in activities and organised events. If your school is closed during half-term holidays however, you will have to return home or stay with a guardian.

If you are in need of a guardian or would like to find out more information about the guardianship services that we can offer at Christine Lee & Co. (Education) Ltd. please see the Guardianship section of our website.

Boarding School Accommodation

At a boarding school, you live with other pupils in a boarding house – there might be several boarding houses in each school. Girls and boys stay in separate accommodation.

In each boarding house, there will be at least one house parent who lives on the premises. Their job is to look after you and care for your needs. They may also teach at the school too.

Young boarders will probably share a bedroom or dormitory with other children. Each pupil has their own area which can be personalised with photos, a lockable cupboard and wardrobe for possessions. Sharing in this way can be great fun – you might be tempted to stay up all night playing games and talking with your roommates, but don’t forget about your classes the next day!

Older boarders usually have their own private bedroom, or share a room with just one other pupil.  You might also have your own private bathroom or washing facilities.

Most boarding houses have comfortable communal areas where you can relax, socialise and watch television with your fellow pupils, or play indoor activities like table tennis, table football, pool or snooker. Many have a small kitchen area too, so you can make snacks.