The main difference between boarding schools and regular schools is that students at boarding schools stay the night at school. For UK boarding schools, there are lots of different ways in which this works. Sometimes students can just stay for one or a few nights per week (known in the UK as ‘flexi-boarding’), or students can stay at school for the entire week and over weekends as well.
The famous private boarding schools in the UK that you have likely heard of (Eton, Rugby, Harrow, Badminton, etc.) have ‘full time’ boarding as the standard arrangement for students. Therefore, students stay overnight at the school on all week nights and weekends by default and only go home at half term and holidays.
How does boarding at school in the UK work?
The main question about this arrangement is: when would I see my son or daughter if they are in the UK for school? Children are required to go home during half terms (‘half term’ is a week-long holiday given to the students in the middle of each term/semester) and school holidays. If the child lives abroad, then the options are to return to their home country or to remain in the UK, staying with a guardian.
If a student is attending boarding school in the UK, but the parents do not live there, then the student is required, by both the school and UK law, to have a guardian in the UK. This is typically someone who is over 25 and a UK resident. This can be a relative or friend of the family, or it can be a British person who professionally acts as a guardian for international students. Advisors and consultants can be helpful in assisting with finding a guardian if parents need help.
Returning to time away from school, lots of UK boarding schools have classes and sports activities on Saturdays. This contributes to the sporting and academic excellence which these schools take great pride in. Many of these schools do allow students to return home for a limited time at weekends if they want as well, after Saturday classes and activities are completed.
However, there are also some weekends when students will be released from school on a Friday afternoon (or sometimes morning) and will be allowed to return home for the rest of Friday and all of Saturday and Sunday. These are known as ‘exeat’ or ‘leave’ weekends. Such occasions demonstrate the necessity for international students to have a guardian in the UK whom they are comfortable staying with, since the students must leave the school for the exeat weekend, but would likely not have time to return to their home country just for the weekend.
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