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Navigating UK Boarding Schools: A Guide for American Parents

Choosing a British boarding school as an American can offer a unique educational experience, characterised by academic rigor, a high university acceptance rate, and opportunities for personal growth through a variety of extracurricular activities. This article explains some of the factors parents might need to consider when navigating UK boarding school options.


Navigating UK Boarding Schools: A Guide for American Parents

Over the past two years, I've been delighted to consult with an increasing number of parents who live in the USA but are considering choosing a boarding school in the UK.


Boarding schools in the USA have an exceptionally good reputation for delivering high-quality education. So why are families who live in the US considering British boarding schools?


Extensive British Boarding School Options Across the UK

My thoughts are that perhaps choice is the main driver. There are more than 500 boarding schools across the UK. It’s why so many families choose to work with an education consultant, guiding them to choose the right school for their child and family. There are academic schools that challenge the very brightest children, those that nurture sporting talents in:

·      soccer

·      golf

·      equestrian

·      rowing

·      swimming

·      tennis

·      cricket

·      athletics


As well as schools specialising in supporting student talents in areas such as:

·      music

·      singing

·      drama

·      performing arts


Some British boarding schools feature zoos or farms for aspiring veterinary surgeons, some with sea views where surfing and sailing are a feature, schools close to airports for easy access to an overseas home, as well as those specialising in nurturing children who thrive when they are a big fish in a small pond.


The choice is extensive, and every family we work with starts the boarding school choice process with the child at the centre. What are their ambitions and goals, and hence which is the right school for them?


Tailored Academic and Extracurricular Offerings

All parents, wherever they live in the world, are looking to open doors to boarding school choices where their children will be happy, safe, and achieve their true potential. This is achieved by challenging academic opportunities at a level that is appropriate for them, inspiring teaching, as well as building confidence via access to an extensive range of sports, innovation, activities, and opportunities to learn and nurture talents outside the classroom. The subsequent confidence this builds sets the scene for every child to be inspired to become the best version of themselves.


Holistic Development and Inclusivity

In British boarding schools, children are firstly recognised for their talents, interests and ambitions, rather than labels or learning needs that should not define them as people. Yes, neurodiversity is recognised, and individual education plans put in place to support those children who need them however, admissions conversations do not start with labels, they start with assessing the positive contribution which each child has to offer to the school community.


Boarding school library in the UK

Personalised Admission Process

British boarding schools consider the whole child as part of the entry assessment process. As well as academic potential and other tests, the interview process, where a child meets key senior staff at the school is just as important in securing a place at even the very best boarding schools in the UK. Investment in conversation and confidence-building ahead of interviews, is far more important than extensive tutoring for admissions tests. This is an area where British and US boarding schools differ. Schools are evaluating what contribution each child who applies for a place will make both academically, and to the wider school community, as part of the admissions process. Hence a child who has academic potential as well as a desire to get fully involved in the busy seven-day-a-week life of a boarding school is more likely to gain a place at even the top-ranked boarding schools.


Navigating the Application Process

On the flip side, applying to British boarding schools is confusing. Each has its own applications forms, process, and assessment tests. Dates and deadlines for application, tests and offers are all different. This lack of consistency makes it crucial parents work with an expert education consultant to help navigate the tricky waters of choosing where and how to apply, as well as managing tests and acceptance of offers.


British boarding school advise

Global Exposure and Career Pathways

British boarding schools are diverse and inclusive, with a school community of students and parents who live in many countries all over the world, as well as the UK. Despite a commitment to ensuring that pupils within the school community learn how to live alongside other cultures, making friends and connections from all over the world that will last a lifetime. British boarding schools and their teachers will always be largely British in nationality. This is where they differ from international schools, where the curriculum may be British, but the pupil community is mostly international.


Offering a rigorous curriculum of GCSE, A Levels, IB, or BTEC, the British curriculum has options for each child to shine, depending on their academic level, subject strengths, and learning needs or style. Choosing a British boarding school affords choice within the curriculum where each child can steer their own path towards the best grades and qualifications for them. This puts them on great pathways for College in the USA, Canada or University in Europe or the UK. Choosing a British boarding school enables each child to navigate an academic pathway to suit their aspirations, career goals, and strengths.



With it looking like a new government may be sitting in number 10 Downing Street by the end of the year, there is much talk of a change in approach regarding value-added tax (VAT) on boarding school fees. Since most British boarding school fees are currently lower than those generally charged by boarding schools in the USA, choosing a British boarding school could well remain a very cost-competitive decision for families, despite the anticipated changes in taxation rules.


Final Thoughts

If this piece on Navigating UK Boarding Schools: A Guide for American Parents, has made you think considering British boarding schools could be the right option for your child, we offer a complimentary call for all families so we can explore this discussion further on an individual family basis. During the call we will ask you about your child, and your ambitions for their education. Then, we discuss how we are best to help you navigate the often-confusing waters of choosing, applying and securing an offer of a place to join the best British boarding school for your child and family.



Education Consultant

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