Eton and Harrow are perhaps the most famous of the UK boarding schools, but there’s more, much more. Learn more about the boarding schools of the United Kingdom in this article.
Public and Private Schools in the UK
In the UK, there is an organization called The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC). Many of the leading independent day and boarding schools in the UK belong to this organization, as do some schools from the Commonwealth, for example, Australia and New Zealand, and beyond. Members of the conference, among others, have traditionally been referred to as public schools, said to be because there was an expectation that attendees would enter into public service or because they were open to any member of the public who could pay the fee (in contrast to schools with a religious affiliation, which were only available to members of that denomination. These schools correspond to what, in the United States, are referred to as college preparatory schools—private boarding schools with strong academics, small class sizes, faculty with advanced degrees, well-appointed facilities, and broad extracurricular opportunities in sports and the arts. Many are single-sex.
Private schools in the UK has traditionally referred to K–12 schools that are funded by the government—what we, in the United States would call public schools. Just as there are some public boarding schools in the US—mostly with a focus on a specific academic area or subject matter—there are some state boarding schools in the UK. In this case, the tuition bill is covered by the government, and the parent pays the room and board. Most of these are secondary schools, covering students from age 11 or 13 up. They are primarily coeducational.
Recently, perhaps aware that the terminology did not match up with other locales, some have taken to using the terminology used in the United States, so UK boarding schools may be called independent schools, public schools, or private schools. Searching for boarding schools will help cut through this thicket of vocabulary differences.
How to Search for UK Boarding Schools
There are several popular aides to finding an apt UK boarding school. Those with an online presence may have multiple levels of service, including a free web search tool, articles about UK schools, a subscription service that provides you with a larger amount of web content, printed guides for purchase, and educational consultants for hire. There may also be a way for registered users of the website to post comments about schools that may be useful to other users.
Perhaps the UK boarding school search site with the fullest array of services is Good Schools Guide http://www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/ For UK boarding school seekers, you might begin by selecting ‘Choosing a School’ > ’Boarding Schools’ in the left frame menu to read articles about boarding schools. Going back to that left menu, you can then choose ‘Find a School’ and begin your search. Subscription services, print editions of the guide, and education consultants are all available. If you have a subscription, you can read the article “Notes for Foreign Parents” about having a child at a boarding school in a country other than the one in which you live. Other sites that may prove useful are Gabbitas Education http://www.gabbitas.co.uk/search/ and UK Boarding Schools http://www.ukboardingschools.com/