Public and Private Boarding schools in England: differences

UK Boarding school St. Michaels › Boarding schools in England

The debate over “Private versus public boarding schools” is, without a doubt, a tricky one, especially in England. There are many different opinions and convincing arguments on both sides of the dispute which makes it really difficult to decide where to position ourselves and ultimately, to make the right choice for our children.

In order to do so, first you should look at the main differences between Public boarding schools and Private boarding school in England. The main factor that may come to your mind may be their fees, but there are other significant differences between one and the other that you should also take into account:

Selection and number of students per class

The admission procedures vary a lot in private and public boarding schools. In the case of the private ones, the access is usually much more limited and requires passing a process of applications that includes interviews, essays, and testing. The top private boarding schools in the UK are known for being highly demanding and selective, which usually means that the number of students per class will be lower than in every other type of school.

In the case of public boarding schools in England, the admission process is usually simpler, although in some cases it may include an interview with the student. As a result, class sizes are normally larger than at independent schools and, thus, the attention that each student get individually from teachers and tutors may be lower.

Academic Guidance

Class sizes can, actually, affect many other aspects of pupils’ life at a boarding school. From a purely academic point of view, the amount of students enrolled in a class shouldn’t necessarily have a negative effect on the quality of the education.  However, other facets of the educational needs may be undermined in an institution with a high number of students. One clear example can be the academic guidance each students get.

In most independent secondary boarding schools, this kind of guidance is a very important value. The students get from tutors and specialized advisers all the information as well as the direction they need in order to make important decisions regarding their careers, their university applications, etc

Pastoral Care

Another important service that can be offered in very different ways in Public boarding schools and Private boarding school in England is the Pastoral Care. Boarders usually need emotional support during their school years and that is why it is very important that the boarding school is able to provide a friendly and caring environment for them.

The best UK independent boarding schools have developed skilled mechanisms to ensure that every student get the attention and care they need for their wellbeing. In many cases, pupils have their own tutor and they can reach out to them in search for advice or comfort.


Another important factor to keep in mind when choosing between a public or private boarding school in England resides on their facilities. These can vary greatly, both in terms of residence and food areas, as well as  in terms of those with academic and extracurricular character.

In the case of private boarding schools, most of them usually have sports facilities where students can play football, basketball or swimming. They normally offer interesting academic resources as broad science labs, art halls or large libraries. Such facilities provide added value both to the education and to the daily life of the children.

In order to choose between a private and a public boarding school, there are many factors we must consider. It is important to know the differences between the two and, only once we have identified them, we can begin to decide which features best suit what you are looking for.