There are approximately 500 boarding schools across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some of these schools are over 1000 years old.

Why choose a UK boarding school?

UK boarding schools offer pupils an outstanding education, helping them to develop their skills and progress to university. All UK boarding schools have to meet strict government standards on the quality of their teaching, facilities and student care. International students are an important part of all UK school and staff are well accustomed to them.

Many UK boarding schools combine beautiful, centuries-old buildings with a mix of modern classrooms and traditional architecture. The excellent facilities help make living and learning a great experience and pupils will improve their social and academic skills while they study.

Life at UK boarding schools

Most UK boarding schools teach a mix of international pupils and local UK pupils. ‘Boarders’ are pupils who live at the school. ‘Day pupils’ live with their families and return home at the end of the school day. This mix helps to create a good social atmosphere.

Boarding schools usually close for the long summer and Christmas holidays and pupils return home to their parents or guardians. Some schools do, however, run language courses during this period.

For the shorter half-term holidays (called Exeats), some schools stay open. Typically, pupils won’t have normal classes but will be supervised by staff and be able to take part in activities and events.


At a boarding school, pupils live with other pupils in a boarding house – there might be several boarding houses in each school. Girls and boys stay in separate accommodation.  There will also be at least one house parent who lives on the premises who is there to look after students and care for their needs. They will often help with academic supervision in the evening.

Young boarders will probably share a bedroom or dormitory with other children. Older boarders usually have their own private bedroom, or share a room with just one other pupil. Boarders usually have their own bathroom or washing facilities.

Most boarding houses have comfortable communal areas where pupils can relax, socialise and watch television with fellow pupils. Most schools open up their main canteen and social areas in the evenings for students to use.

Subjects and qualifications

The UK boarding school system is split into three levels.

Primary education is for children aged four or five up to 11 or 13. You might hear this referred to as primary school, infant school, junior school, pre-preparatory school or preparatory school.

Secondary education is for pupils aged 11 or 13 to 16. You might hear this referred to as secondary school, high school or senior school.

In the last two years of secondary school (age 14 to 16), most pupils study for GCSE qualifications. Alternatives include Standard grades and Intermediates in Scotland, or the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme.

Sixth form is for students aged 16 to 18. The two years are often called Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth.  At sixth form level, most pupils take A-levels. Alternative qualifications include Standard Grades and Highers in Scotland, or the International Baccalaureate.

Boarding schools offer a wide range of subjects including maths, sciences, history, geography, drama, IT, literature and foreign languages.  All of these qualifications are highly regarded by universities, colleges and employers in the UK and around the world.

How to apply

Applications to independent boarding schools are made directly to the school. Look on the school’s website or contact them to ask about the application process.  International students are often asked to complete an online test known as UKISET. The results can be used for up to 6 school applications.

Tuition at state schools is free of charge, but you will need to pay for boarding. For independent schools, you will need to pay for tuition and boarding.  Boarding fees generally cover items such as accommodation, food and drink and laundry.  You may be able to fund your studies with a scholarship or bursary. Ask the schools that you are interested in what they can offer.

Pupils may need to take an entrance exam or take an English course, so please check the entrance requirements on the boarding school’s website. The school will normally conduct an interview either online or face to face to gauge the level of English. An additional set of tests for English, Maths and Non verbal reasoning may also be administered.

Visa requirements

Most international students need a visa to study in the UK. You can apply for a Tier 4 (child) visa if you’re aged between 4 and 17 and you want to study at an independent school in the UK.

Students must also:

  • have a place on a course
  • have the consent of a parent or guardian
  • have enough money to cover course fees and living costs
  • be from a country that is not in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland
  • Check the visa requirements and terms on the official UK government site


She completed 2 years of preparation with TiC and passed entry exams in 4 schools. She decided on CLC as it had an excellent swimming program.

Peter L.

Peter was particularly strong in Humanities and enjoyed the competitive sport at school. He gained a sport's scholarship at Clifton and was accepted into Bath University.


Jung has performed across all areas of study and was accepted into 5 schools. He wished to study in London and decided on Westminster as it was very central.

Exhibiting Schools

Click on the school to find out more