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21 questions to kickstart your boarding school research – a child-centred approach

Over many years as an education consultant, I’ve met countless confused parents. Hours of internet research, school gate and dinner party banter, engaging school marketing brochures and websites can lead to a school search losing priority and focus over time. Creating a muddle, rather than a planned way forward is often the outcome.

If this is you, don’t panic. The questions in this three blog series are designed to help you to plan for your school search in a clear and logical way.

Use them as a step-by-step guide to drive discussion at home before you start your research. If you’ve already started your research, use them to check you have the right schools on your radar. Answering these key questions will enable you to come up with the right road map of what you are looking for in a boarding school. Starting with the needs of your child at the centre and adding all the other factors – the outcome will be a clearer strategic pathway for your boarding school research, once you know exactly what you are looking for in a school.

This blog has the first 7 questions to get you started with your child right at the centre. We’ve also included a helpful Checklist at the end of the blog so you can gather your thoughts for future reference and keep your boarding school research focused on the right factors for your child and family.

So, let’s get started with the first 7 questions to ask yourself – how to I choose the right boarding school for my child?


  1. Let’s start with the obvious, what academic level is right for your child? You want them to feel challenged, but not uncomfortably so. Your current school will give you an exceptionally good indicator of the right level to aim for. Some schools are highly competitive for entry with many applications per place. However, if your child will find this entry process an incredibly significant challenge, ask yourself whether it’s worth the anxiety this process might cause both your child and you. Always have a back-up by applying to a range of schools.

  2. What passions, interests or talents does your child already need to be developed by their new school? What coaching/teaching expertise is needed to do this? How does the school nurture this area and monitor progress? What facilities are needed to develop this talent? For example, if they have a passion for swimming, it’s no good choosing a UK boarding school without an indoor pool.

  3. Boarding school is all about being inspired to try new things and explore a broad range of opportunities. Does your child have anything particular in mind? Whether it be astronomy, chess, karate, or sailing, have a think about this now, so you can ensure the schools you research offer this opportunity.

  4. Does your child have any specific learning needs that will need additional support? Whether they are gifted in Maths or need help for dyslexia, choosing the right boarding school to offer support for these needs is crucial.

  5. Are there particular career aspirations to bear in mind. For example if your child is an aspiring doctor or astronaut, exploring the careers support programme at each school, asking how many alumni have successfully gone on to university in this area will reassure you the right expert guidance will be in place.

  6. What type of school best suits your child’s personality, self-esteem, and confidence? Competitive environments are right to challenge and inspire some children. Some achieve more within a nurturing approach. Evaluating your child’s personality and what type of boarding school will offer them the right environment in which to thrive is often over-looked as part of the school research process. Give this some careful thought and discussion. A happy child will thrive. An out-going competitive child needs challenge. A child who is shy or lacks confidence might need a more gentle, nurturing approach.

  7. At what age do you want your child to start boarding? Making sure the boarding schools you are researching take registrations for entry at your proposed entry year is key.

These questions, plus the ones to come in the rest of this 3 blog series, will help you to create a Mind Map of what the perfect school for your child and family looks like. There’s a lot to take in, so please do make use of our helpful Checklist to summarise.

Don’t forget, we are here to help. Get in touch and arrange a no obligation call with one of our boarding school experts, to find out how we will assist you in taking the pain and confusion out of this huge decision.

We look forward to talking to you very soon.


  1. Academic level

  2. Current interests/talents

  3. New opportunities

  4. Learning needs

  5. Career aspirations

  6. Competitive vs. nurture

  7. Starting age, year, and date

  8. Current school thoughts

  9. Type of boarding

  10. Saturday school or other weekly commitments

  11. Location criteria

  12. Transport access points

  13. Fees budget per year

  14. Scholarship application

  15. Bursary needed

  16. Single sex or co-educational

  17. Head’s philosophy

  18. Traditional or less formal.

  19. Feeds into which future schools?

  20. Subjects or exams offered

  21. Family and friends’ thoughts

Make sure you look out for future newsletters or follow us on social media to access the links to blogs 2 and 3 in this series. 21 questions in all, taking you step-by-step through your boarding school research process.

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