The UK Boarding School system

UK Boarding school St. Michaels › Boarding schools in England

Most boarding schools in England teach a mix of local and international pupils.  The difference is that local pupils are referred to as “Day” pupils as once school ends, they return to their homes and those living on the school grounds, or sometimes with host-families, are referred to as “Boarders” or “Boarding” pupils.

The boarding school system in the UK or England usually offers a co-educational education; this type of education teaches both male and female pupils in the same institution.

In the UK boarding school system though, although classes will be mixed, teaching both boys and girls – it is almost always the case that boarders will be housed in single-sex residences, meaning that girls will be housed in one building or floor and boys in a separate building or floor.

There are two main types of boarding school in England:

  1. Independent Boarding Schools (also known as private or public boarding schools)
  2. State Boarding Schools

The main difference being that Independent Boarding Schools in England or the UK mean that a fee is charged for the enrolment of the pupil, whereas in State Boarding Schools in the UK no fee is charged and the educational provision is free (However, all boarding schools in the UK will charge a fee for the accommodation and often the catering provision).

Educational Levels in the UK Boarding School System

Any pupil enrolling in a boarding school in England will need to fit into one of the following areas:

  • Primary Education (Broken down into Infants and Juniors)
  • Secondary Education
  • Sixth Form or College Education

UK boarding school system table

Primary education in the UK Boarding school system, begins with “Infants” and is offered to pupils from the age of 4 (Reception) to 7 (Year 2).  Following Infant education, pupils progress to Junior school (still within the Primary education system) and this sees pupils start at age 7 in Year 3 and progress until age 11 (Year 6).

After this pupils enter in to Secondary education from the age of 11 (Year 7) and onto age 16 (Year 11).  In Year 11 pupils take GCSE exams, which are official independently marked exam papers that conclude in a recognised qualification in the UK educational system.

The Primary and Secondary years are a very crucial stage in the UK educational and boarding school system, as these are the ages of mandatory education.  Once a child completes their studies in the UK education system at Year 11 (the age of 16) education then becomes optional, but if a child wishes to enter into higher education or university they would need to continue their studies into Sixth Form or College.

Sixth Form caters for pupils aged 16 – 18 (Year 12 – 13) in the UK education system, these years prepare the pupil for higher education and at this time pupils undertake formal examinations called A-Levels, which are also official exams that are independently marked and offer the pupil an official qualification that defines their ability level and enables them to apply for a place at university. (University is referred to as “Higher Education” in the UK education system)

NOTE: Subjects that are taken at GCSE and A-Level are a mixture of mandatory subjects such as English, Mathematics and Science (also known as “Core” subjects in the English Curriculum) and these are complemented by additional subjects of the pupil’s choice. The UK education system and the vast number of boarding schools in the UK, mean that there is an array of optional choices at the sixth form level, though these differ from school to school.  You can find out more about a school’s selection of subjects on their website.

The English National Curriculum

The focus of the UK education system is on learning through experience.  The objective of the National Curriculum of England and Wales is to create open-minded, creative and dynamic individuals who speak fluent English and think outside the box: these are the hallmarks of a British education.

Qualifications gained from UK Boarding Schools (GCSE’s and A-Levels) are all highly regarded by universities, colleges and employers in the UK and around the world, as a British education is widely renowned to be the gold star in education.