Choosing UK Boarding Schools

Common years to begin Boarding School Education

Age 11 (Year 7)
[HK Primary 6/ F1]

Last year of entry for students wishing to be prepared for 13+ Common Entrance at UK prep schools

Age 13 (Year 9) [HK F2/3]

Beginning of senior school, 1 year before the 2-year GCSE programme commences


Age 16 (Grade 12) [HK F5]

Beginning of the 2-year A-Level programme

Age 18 [HK DSE/ F6 grad]

Entry into University/ Foundation Course/ Diploma programme

Earlier or later?



● Early exposure to a foreign environment allows students to get used to the new environment faster and to better assimilate into local community and campus life

● Early immersion into an English language environment will promote fluency at an earlier age (especially relevant if the goal is to complete A-Levels and/or higher education in the UK)


● May find it difficult to cope with foreign environment away from parents

● May struggle to keep up in class and/or integrate with wider student body if English language level is below peers

● A guardian is required for students below the age of 18



● More independent and is able to self-care

● As each school and its environment is so different, an older student may be better placed to determine which school can cater best to their academic and extracurricular interests and strengths

● English language level of student may be higher, hence it is easier to keep up with academic work and make friends


● May find it difficult to cope with new-found freedom in UK education

● Guardian – If you are not resident in the UK while your child is at school,
a person in the UK should be nominated as the guardian who can act as a point of emergency contact with whom your child can stay during shorter school holidays. If you do not have family or friends in the UK, we can recommend guardianship services for you.

Application period

● Top schools may require applications 3-4 years before admission

● Other schools usually require applications at least 12 months prior to admission

2. Academic Profile – Is the school the right academic fit for your child?

  • The most elite schools may not offer the learning environment that is most suited for your child
  • Different schools are suitable for different children
  • Choose a school that fits the academic position of your child
  • Find out what is important for you and your family, and compare the school philosophy with your expectations

3. Specifics of the school – What is the school’s curriculum, type, size, location, administration?


Does the school offer A-Level, International Baccalaureate (IB) or Pre-U qualifications? Does the school offer pre-A-level courses or EFL support? Independent Schools do not have to legally follow the National Curriculum in the UK, although the curriculum for most state and independent schools will be similar as public exams, like GCSEs are standardised. Independent schools often call it an ‘enhanced curriculum’.


Is it a Boys’ or Girls’ or Co-educational school? Does the school offer weekly boarding?


Most independent schools in the UK are loosely religious, most follow Christian-based faith and incorporate this into some extra-curricular activities (e.g. Students may be required to pray in assembly, pray before meals or attend weekly chapel or services at religious festivals), which do not affect studies etc. Some schools give the students to opt out of these activities if they declare they are of a different faith or the school may offer alternative arrangements/accommodation for the student to practice a different faith. However, there are some schools which are more heavily religious so some parents might want to bear this in mind when selecting schools if this is of concern to them and if they do not wish their child to follow a religion.

Size of campus​

Does the school have a big or small campus?

Size of student body

How many students are there in the whole school? How many students are there on average in each class?

Size of staff body

How many teachers/staff are there? How many/which staff live on site?


Is the school in an urban or rural area (for easier care by relatives/friends during holidays)? 

How integrated is the school into the local area? Is there a closed campus in one location or is the school spread across several locations? 

How far do students have to travel to visit the local town on a weekend/ during free time?


Who runs the school, e.g. a family, an individual, a charity, a board of governors etc.? Is there a good relationship/communication between the school and the PTA (Parent Teacher Association)?

4. Composition of Students

  • The percentage of international students at the school: around 10-20% of overseas students may be a better ratio for your child to know the local students well and integrate into a new culture
  • Origins of the international students at the school

5. Specialism(s) and facilities of the school

  • Is the school specially known for Sport / Music / Drama / Learning Support etc.?
  • What are the academic facilities and departments like? 
  • Does the school have up-to-date learning equipments and technology?
  • What facilities are available? Some schools may have an indoor swimming pool, equestrian training arena, and even kart track.
  • Does the school provide support for special educational needs and/or students with disabilities?
  • What kind of entertainment and after-school clubs, activities and school trips does the school offer?

6. School fees

  • School fees for boarding schools usually range from £8,000 to £12,000 per school term
  • There are 3 school terms per year:
    Autumn Term/ Michaelmas (Sept – Dec) up to Christmas Holiday break
    Spring Term/Lent (Jan – Mar) up to Easter Holiday break
    Summer Term/Easter (Apr – Jul) up to Summer Holiday break
  • There are also several short weekend holidays per year (exeats) that students can stay with guardians or host families

UK Schools Admissions

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