Prep Boarding Schools

There are a reasonable number of schools for younger children in the UK that offer boarding facilities. Boarding prep schools generally only offer accommodation for children from age seven or eight. It is very unusual for boarding to be available for younger children.  Boarding can be either ‘full’, with children staying at school seven days a week, ‘weekly’ whereby children board from Monday to Friday and go home at the weekend, or ‘flexi’, when children may stay at school for one or more nights each week. Most boarding prep schools are located in the countryside, affording the opportunity of extensive grounds where pupils can enjoy plenty of fresh air and space to explore.

Why choose a Prep Boarding School?

The reasons for families to choose prep boarding schools are changing. Whilst it used to be the case that they were a necessity for children of the armed forces and a natural choice for families intending their children to go on to one of the elite senior boarding schools, there are now a whole range of reasons why prep boarding is becoming more commonplace.

Elite Academics and Heritage

Parents may choose a highly academic prep boarding school as preparation for entry to a heritage public boarding school, such as Eton, Harrow, Wycombe Abbey or Cheltenham Ladies' College. These are the schools that commonly appear in our league table of top academic prep schools. These schools tend to have a higher proportion of boarders, and usually at least 50% children are full boarders.

All-through Boarding

Other parents may want a less intensive boarding school with a more family feel. If they are still seeking progression to a senior boarding school, then in some cases an “all through boarding school” may be more appropriate.  These take children from age 4 or 7 (although they won't start as boarders at that age, that is usually from about 10 or 11 years old), all the way through to age 18. The progression from prep to senior sections is not guaranteed but is usually smooth unless there are specific reasons why a different senior school may be more suitable for the child.

Weekly boarding – the best of both worlds?

Many parents are looking for an opportunity for their children to be kept busy with a range of extra-curricular activities and supervised homework sessions during the week when they are busy, and then have the children home with them at the weekend. This is an increasingly popular choice for London parents who will be interested in prep schools offering weekly boarding in the Home Counties.

There is an increasing demand for boarding now from families that work long hours in the city and would prefer their child to enjoy the stability of boarding, rather than long hours at breakfast and afterschool clubs, or at home with a nanny. There are several excellent schools within a 1-2 hour radius of London that will collect children from the major London train stations on a Sunday evening, and escort them back on a Friday evening.

For families that work long hours, flexi or weekly boarding gives the peace of mind that their child can take part in clubs after school, as well as complete their homework, and eat a home cooked meal. Knowing their child has showered and read their book before bed every night in a secure, caring and unhurried environment can take the pressure off working parents.

A UK boarding school experience

International parents often send their children to UK boarding schools to improve their English, in which case one needs to be sure that the school has a strong English learning support department. 

What are the different types of boarding?

Full boarding is seven days a week. Full boarding schools often have Saturday school, and a comprehensive range of activities and excursions throughout the weekend. Boarding rooms are normally organised by year group; some rooms can be small, catering for three or four children, others can be much larger. Schools normally close for one weekend in every half term, requiring children to go home or to a guardian for the weekend.

Weekly boarding can be for four or five nights per week. Children normally come to school on Sunday evening or Monday morning and stay until Friday evening, or in some cases Saturday afternoon if the school has Saturday school. Children will normally have their own bed at the school so they stay in the same room with the same room mates each week.

Flexi-boarding can be fixed or ad-hoc. Many schools require families to fix which nights of the week a child will board. For example, this might be every Thursday night after concert practice, or every Monday and Wednesday as parents work late these nights.  Other schools offer an ad-hoc arrangement where parents can call at any stage in the day and ask for their child to sleep the night. In this case, the child may not have a fixed bed and may be in a room with children in different year groups. Whilst this hotel type service is convenient for parents, most schools recommend setting a routine for each child. 

How do I choose the right type of school?

Whatever type of prep boarding school you are seeking, it is vital to consider the school’s pastoral care and how they ensure young children are not homesick. In most cases it is a good idea to ask for your child to have taster days in your target schools.

There is a huge difference in ethos and culture between one prep boarding school and another. So, tell us your aspirations and requirements and our bespoke placement service will guide you to the best fitting school for your child. Complete our enquiry form or call us on +44 (0)1622 813870 for a free initial consultation.


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