How British Boarding Schools Work | Rusbase

What is a private British school

There are only 500 private boarding schools in Great Britain. These are really elite and rather expensive institutions. Some names are on everyone’s lips – Eaton, Harrow, Rugby, Marlboro, and some will not say anything to the uninitiated.

A typical boarding school is a kind of small town. As a rule, in any school there are excellent conditions for classes, educational and not only, and a rather modestly organized life. Schoolchildren, as a rule, live in dormitories of three to four people. Discipline, active sports, busy daily routine.

Despite the outward resemblance, each such town has its own specifics. One of the schools has stables, the other has a zoo, and the third, let’s say, is by the river, and everyone is rowing in it. Some schools are located in the center of a small town, some – on the contrary, in the fields, isolated from the whole world. There are schools located on the coast, blown by the sea breeze. Often these have a military legacy: imagine a parade ground facing the sea, where children march in the rain in fine British weather.

At what age can a child be sent to a boarding school

The boarding school starts at the age of eight, but students from abroad, as a rule, come from the age of 13. This means that you need to start preparing a year or two before that. In some schools, entrance examinations at 10 years old – as a rule, these are those institutions where there is a particularly serious emphasis on academic achievement: success in general education disciplines, as well as broad development of various fields (for example, art, photography, success in sports and music, hobby literature, social work, help to animals).

In such schools, children are expected to be motivated accordingly: to find their own path and exciting direction, so that in high school they already concentrate on studying the chosen subjects. It is not uncommon for children to enter boarding schools at the age of 16 for the last two years of high school, where they study in the A-Level program and study in depth three or four specialized subjects that are necessary for admission to the university.

How to proceed

Entrance tests consist of academic exams in mathematics and English, depending on the profile of the school, tests in sciences, logic, music, intellectual potential or other specialized subjects may also be included.

Exams are taken on one day with a lunch break, the duration of each stage is from 45 minutes to one hour. The tests take the form of a variety of written or computer tests. Each examination sheet can contain from one task to write an essay or analyze a passage of text to dozens of questions: from simple ones from the general school curriculum to the so-called with an asterisk.

The latter will require a high level of intelligence, critical thinking skills, logic, spatial thinking and, of course, general literacy. Lack of knowledge of the general principles of passing exams and inadequate knowledge of English are the most common reasons for a drop in scores.

On the English exam, the student will be offered a grammar and vocabulary test or analyze the text, or write an essay. Sometimes all together. For example, they may be asked to write their own sequel to a well-known story from The Wizard of the Emerald City, or to compose their own version of the development of events in Harry Potter.

In addition to academic exams, an equally important part of admission is an interview with a child. During these interviews, school representatives try to form an impression of the child’s personal qualities, ambitions and inclinations.

It is also important what impression the parents made during the visit to the school. There are times when it is they who do not pass the test. For example, if parents, enveloping a child with hyper-care, from the doorway tell the school how the child’s life should be arranged, the chances of admission will be zero, the British do not allow parents to participate in intra-school organizational processes. Parents who assume that everything can be solved with money will not pass the exam either.

How training is structured

The study runs from the first days of September to the first days of July. The academic year is divided into terms: autumn, winter-spring and summer. A total of approximately 36 weeks of study, the rest – six vacations a year.

A feature of the British educational system is the so-called “pyramid principle”. The older the student, the less compulsory subjects he has, and, accordingly, the deeper he can immerse himself in those that he chose to study.

At the age of 13, a student can have up to 13 compulsory disciplines, including, for example, mathematics, English, literature, geography, chemistry, biology, physics, art, drama, as well as business, two foreign languages, religion and philosophy. And in the senior class there are no more than five, or even three, subjects: only those that the child has chosen for further in-depth study and that he needs to enter the university.

What the cost of studying

Boarding houses are non-profit structures run by board of trustees. All profits go to the needs of the school, so tuition prices are about the same everywhere, with a discount for minor differences due to geographic location, etc.

Sending a child to high school after age 13 will cost parents £ 50,000 a year. Now it is about 5 million rubles. What is included in this amount? The training itself is about 36 thousand pounds a year. In the boarding house, children live on an “all inclusive” system: the price includes tuition, accommodation, meals, sports and hobby classes.

All additional expenses will be within about 3 thousand pounds a year: buying some little things, souvenirs, travel, taxi, etc. You also need to take into account the cost of six vacations a year – that’s 12 flights. Health insurance will cost £ 300 a year. Visa – 800 pounds.

What are the advantages of boarding schools

What does a foreign private school give in addition to a fairly serious academic education and a good chance of entering a university with a big name? Boarding houses are primarily a school of life, and not only and not so much a way to get an academic education.

Raising an independent personality

Pensions actively shape the personalities of their pupils, and this process is not always comfortable. The boarding school creates difficulties for independent overcoming literally at every step and encourages children to make their own decisions: which subjects to choose, what pace of self-study to apply, how and with whom to interact, how to adapt and get along with very different people with whom the boarding school brings the child.

Independence vaccination is guaranteed. From the walls of private schools, future leaders most often come out, people who are able to independently build their own lives and be responsible for it, who know how to openly look at the world and accept it, because they received these skills in childhood.

Adaptability and openness

Going to the boarding house, the child finds himself in a new environment, to which he is forced to adapt, literally every minute. But in the English school, he will certainly be treated with respect, his unusualness or “non-English” will not become a reason for bullying. As a result, the child develops skills such as openness, the ability to communicate and negotiate, take initiative and find compromises, and self-confidence.

Team spirit

An important feature of the English school is the team spirit, which develops in common projects, participation in interschool competitions and simply in the course of study, because each faculty or house is a kind of community, a collective.

Ability to overcome oneself

This is greatly facilitated by all kinds of sports activities that are compulsory for everyone and which they are engaged in regardless of the weather, for example, in the rain or snow.


As strange as it may sound, pupils of expensive private schools really learn to think not only about themselves: all schools participate in social projects to raise funds for the needy, in favor of the environment and on scholarships for those children who cannot afford to pay for their studies.

Building on tradition

This is one of the most prominent features of British boarding houses. Clothing traditions, gathering traditions, dinner parties, centuries-old rituals such as religious.

It is interesting that honoring age-old traditions, for example, compulsory attendance at Sunday services, goes well with equipping boarding houses with ultra-modern equipment for study: computers, recording studios, laboratories, etc.

What are the disadvantages of boarding schools

Stress for both children and parents

First, getting into an unfamiliar environment is always stressful for both children and parents. This is the hardest part for parents: they do not see what is happening and cannot help the child. Imaginary fears are always greater than real ones.

Plus, schools have a negative attitude towards attempts at total control by parents and are not inclined to make concessions. Total control of the school is excluded: there are no parent chats, no regular parent meetings. Three times a year, a testimonial will be sent by e-mail with a detailed report on the child’s progress and academic performance.

The child may not adapt to the new environment

There are times when you have to pick them up. You need to understand that this form of education is not universal: for example, it will not suit a child who, for some reason, cannot interact with society at all. For him, facing a new world can be a colossal trauma.

The specifics of boarding life can provoke some weaknesses.

For example, a child, let’s say, with a pronounced commercial streak, has a risk of plunging into the underground trade in some little things (and getting problems with the school administration). Excessive softness or, conversely, authoritarianism can be subject to serious tests in unfamiliar walls.

Problems with discipline and diligence

In a situation in which there is no petty control over academic performance – no one in the boarding house will force them to do their homework, and parents are far away – some children risk becoming procrastinators. They are engaged in those subjects that are interesting to them, and the rest is catching up in an emergency order before exams.

What myths exist about boarding houses

There are many myths around boarding houses, and one of them is true: you cannot enter a boarding house for money. Indeed, money will not help if the admissions office considers that the child or his family is not suitable for them. It is better to invest money in training.

Sometimes they also say that non-English children are not liked in private schools. In fact, in modern British schools up to 30% of foreigners, and no one thinks to treat them differently. Rather, on the contrary, manifestations of racism or intolerance are something for which it is very easy to get kicked out of any English school.

At the boarding school, the student gains the experience of communication in a very multicultural environment, gets the skill of an open attitude towards everything unfamiliar, even a vaccination against xenophobia.

Another mythologized fear that the child will be cut off from the family. In a physical sense, this is so. But, first of all, there is a vacation. Secondly, the quality of communication in the family, as a rule, on the contrary increases when the element of everyday, routine, everyday discussions disappears from the relationship. After all, it often happens that children feel unnecessary, abandoned, day after day living in the same apartment with their parents.

And, thirdly, if you look at things realistically, a family that has the opportunity to send a child to a boarding school is, as a rule, people who are passionate about business and do not have the time and energy to fully engage in upbringing day after day. In such a business-oriented pace of life, the boarding house is a good way out.

And his parents see it not as an opportunity to get rid of the child, but as a chance in a modern busy family to give the child the opportunity to grow up in an interesting environment and get a unique experience.

And fears about harsh conditions, cold and hunger, have become obsolete in the days of Dickens. Believe me, no one will pamper students, but they are not threatened with deprivation either. These are not correctional institutions: they always interact with children, respecting their personality.

Cover photo: Malgosia Janicka/

Source: RB.RU by

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