Which UK Boarding School?

With over 100 boarding schools in the UK, considering which one to send your child to can be difficult. There are many factors in making this decision, so our advisors and private tutors in Hong Kong have compiled a quick guide to what you might like to consider.

There are some basic differences between British boarding schools:

  • Whether the school accepts day pupils or is boarding only
  • Whether the school is exclusive or co-ed (only boys, only girls, or both)
  • Which qualification types the school offers
  • What extracurriculars the school offers

Boarding or day pupils?

Some of the UK’s boarding schools will only accept boarders. This means that all pupils will stay at the school dormitories except on school holidays. Some will also accept a number of day pupils (those who do not stay at the school’s accommodations).

Examples of these schools include Winchester and Charterhouse. At Winchester, all of the pupils board ‘full time’. Charterhouse has the majority of pupils boarding, but also allows day pupils.

Why is this important? It has to do with the culture of the school. There can often be a bit of a divide between boarders and day pupils within the school, as they have different experiences. This is something to bear in mind when visiting the school.

Co-ed or Exclusive?

Whether the school is co-ed or not is also a large factor. Some parents prefer their child to study and live with other students of the same sex. On the other hand, growing up in a more diverse environment will benefit social skills and better prepare students for university life. While both points of view are understandable, it should be noted that the number of exclusive schools in the UK is in decline, with several schools becoming co-ed in recent years.


Probably the most important factor to consider is the types of qualifications offered by the school. The default for the UK education system is to offer GCSE qualifications in Years 10 & 11 and A-Level in Years 12 & 13. However, some schools will also offer the IB Diploma Programme or Cambridge Pre-U instead of the A-Level, and some schools prefer iGCSE. 

Looking into the pros and cons of the qualifications is very important. For example, if you are considering the USA for higher education after school, the IB route may be advisable as it is somewhat better recognised outside the UK and more closely mimics the American college courses.

A general tip is to select a school which offers the maximum possible options, especially if your child has no idea what to do after school.

Additionally, the number of qualifications offered is worth thinking about. For instance, at GCSE, some schools will go for quantity and allow students to take 11 or more GCSE subjects, whereas others will limit students to taking only 9 or 10 GCSEs in the hopes of better quality grades. This is down to personal preference and how well you think your child will perform at multitasking, so this is a good point to bring up in your research and on school visits.


The final point to consider would be extracurricular activities. Schools in the UK like Eton, Badminton, Westminster, and Rugby all pride themselves in the range of activities and sports offered. 

Look carefully into this, especially if your child has something they are passionate about or want to try. Some schools will not offer certain sports. If your child loves football, but instead finds himself at one that only offers Rugby, he’ll be disappointed. The range of activities, encouragement for musical learning, and eagerness regarding cadet forces changes significantly depending on the school. This is something that must also be looked into thoroughly. Viewing the school website and contacting admissions staff with questions is a good place to start.

This guide is not exhaustive. Before having your child tested for boarding schools, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a private tutor in Hong Kong to prepare and support your child’s transition to boarding school.

Have more questions about UK boarding schools? See our advisory services here, or contact us here. We have private GCSE and IB online tutors who offer a range of courses to help students improve in their academics.