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The best boarding schools in the UK

By Atom | Jun 29, 2023, 8:04 AM

The best boarding schools in the UK

If you’re considering a boarding school in the United Kingdom for your child’s secondary education, you’ll be spoilt for choice with approximately 500 boarding schools to choose from.

Keep reading to find out more about boarding in the UK and which boarding schools topped the academic league table rankings for 2023.

What are the benefits of boarding schools?

While it’s well known that boarding schools have increased tuition fees, there are plenty of ways a boarding education can have a positive influence on a child’s life – and not just by offering a high-quality education.

Some of the many benefits of boarding schools include:

  • Developing independence: living away from home can help prepare children for life as young adults at university and beyond

  • Access to excellent facilities: children who board typically have more time and freedom to use the school’s facilities, with a range of opportunities in sports and the arts

  • All-inclusive lifestyle: while boarding schools can be considerably expensive, they cover everything your child will need to live and learn comfortably, including three meals a day, snacks, on-site medical care and wellbeing, laundry, extracurricular activities and more

  • Exposure to multiple cultures: most UK boarding schools are open to international students, as well as students from the UK. This can help children develop cultural awareness and gain a global perspective

  • Structured routines: boarding school provides children with structured living. There are usually set times for studying, meals and personal fulfilment, ensuring that children maintain healthy and balanced lifestyles

  • Social confidence: living and studying with other students can help children improve their social skills and build friendships faster

How to choose a UK boarding school for your child

Boarding schools require a big commitment from both parents and children. If you’re thinking about choosing a boarding school for your child’s education, you’ll want to make sure that it’s the right fit for your child and that they’ll be looked after and supported.

You may want to consider the following characteristics when choosing a boarding school:

  • Pupil demographics: is the school single-sex or co-educational (mixed)? Which do you think your child will be better suited to?

  • Environment: is the school in an urban or rural location? Would your child prefer access to the social and cultural opportunities of city life, or the open green space of the countryside?

  • Academic ethos: what is the school’s academic ethos and what are exam results like? Will your child be able to maintain the required standard of a highly academic school?

  • Size: what is the size of the school? Smaller schools tend to offer more personalised education and support, while larger schools often have a wider range of academic and co-curricular opportunities

  • Boarding provision: does the school offer flexi or weekly boarding, in addition to full boarding? Flexi boarding usually means a couple of nights per week, weekly boarding means that children return home from Friday night to Sunday night, while full boarders stay on-site 24/7 (returning home during the school holidays and for termly long weekends, referred to as exeats)

  • Integration: how well do pupils integrate depending on their boarding provision? Are there lots of opportunities for flexi and weekly boarders to mix and socialise with full boarders?

  • International support: if you’re applying to a school from outside the UK, check that the school supports international applications. You may also want to consider how broad the mix of nationalities is at the school, and whether there are specialist staff on-hand to support international students

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The 10 best boarding schools in the UK in 2023

The following 10 boarding schools had the highest exam results (A level or International Baccalaureate, and GCSE) in 2022.

1. St Paul’s School

St Paul's School


St Paul’s School is an academically-selective private school in South West London for boys aged 7 to 18. It was founded by John Colet in 1509, who was clear that education must be spiritual and holistic – not just academic. Throughout both the prep and senior schools, students are actively taught to develop the five core character traits of respect, kindness, humility, integrity, and resilience.

Although most boys are day pupils, there is a small and welcoming community of around 30 boarders. Children have structured daily prep and the independence and freedom to get involved in the school’s many activities on offer. Weekend trips are a regular occurrence, including cooking classes, meals out and tours in the city, and activities such as go-karting, indoor skydiving and paintballing.

In 2022, St Paul’s School was ranked the highest-performing boys’ school in the UK based on students’ grades at A level and GCSE. Each year, between a quarter and a third of Year 13 students accept offers from Oxford and Cambridge universities, with overseas destinations including top US colleges such as Berkeley, Harvard, MIT and Stanford.

St Paul's School 13+ guide

  • Location: South West London

  • Setting: suburban

  • Age range and gender: 13–18, boys only

  • Number of pupils: 1,500+

  • Main entry points: 13+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic and music

  • 2022 A level results: 98.8% A*–B

  • 2022 GCSE results: 98.9% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 2

2. Sevenoaks School

Sevenoaks School


Sevenoaks School is a private day and boarding school for boys and girls on a 100-acre campus in the Kent countryside. The school is conveniently located for national and international students, with Central London and Gatwick Airport both just half an hour by train. Sevenoaks School has won several accolades for its educational provision, including the ‘Sunday Times Co-educational Independent School of the Year 2023’, ‘Spear’s School of the Year 2022’ and the ‘Sunday Times Independent School of the Year’ in 2008 and 2018.

Around 350 boys and girls aged 13 to 18 board at Sevenoaks School in seven modern and family-friendly boarding houses. Younger pupils share rooms with other pupils to allow them to mix and settle quickly, while older students usually have single or double rooms to allow for more quiet and privacy. Boarding is fun, comfortable and busy, with daily evening prep work and a full programme of sporting, cultural and social activities taking place every weekend. All students who live abroad need to have a suitable guardian, aged 25 or over, who lives reasonably close to the school.

A new boarding house for girls will open at Sevenoaks School in September 2023, offering places for up to 12 girls to join as boarders in Year 10.

Sevenoaks School 11+ guide

  • Location: Kent (South East England)

  • Setting: rural

  • Age range and gender: 11–18, boys and girls

  • Number of pupils: 1,150+

  • Main entry points: 11+, 13+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic, art, drama, music and sport (no financial value)

  • 2022 IB results: 40.3 average diploma points

  • 2022 GCSE results: 96% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 6

3. Westminster School

Westminster School


Westminster School is a private day and boarding school for boys aged 13 to 18 and girls aged 16 to 18, situated directly next to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament in central London. The school is nearly 630 years old and boasts an impressive list of notable alumni, including the architect Christopher Wren, writers John Dryden and AA Milne, two Nobel Prize winners in physiology, and an extensive list of famous journalists, politicians and sportsmen.

There is a lively boarding community at Westminster School of around 180 boys and girls in six boarding houses (five mixed and one which is girls-only). Boarders have a strong pastoral network; each house is led by a housemaster, resident tutor, resident matron and a team of tutors. A head of international students oversees the care of children whose primary residence is outside of the UK. Boarders have a structured prep session every evening, with plenty of activities for fun and relaxation including a regular Sunday brunch, pizza-and-film nights, karaoke, salsa dancing, group sports and frequent outings to locations around the city.

Pupils at Westminster School consistently achieve exceptional exam results and secure places at the world’s top universities and colleges. In 2022, 36% of university offers were for Oxbridge, while just under 20% of the cohort went on to international universities including Stanford, Columbia, UPenn and Dartmouth.

How to apply to Westminster School

  • Location: City of Westminster

  • Setting: city

  • Age range and gender: boys 13–18, girls 16–18

  • Number of pupils: 750+

  • Main entry points: 13+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic and music

  • 2022 A level results: 97.5% A*–B

  • 2022 GCSE results: 98% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 7

4. Tonbridge School

Tonbridge School


Tonbridge School is a day and boarding school in Kent, located 40 minutes by train from London, for boys aged 13–18. The academic and co-curricular facilities at the school are outstanding and include an award-winning library, £20 million science centre, £11 million sports centre and 150 acres of playing fields, and a proscenium arch theatre seating up to 380. Tonbridge is an All Steinway School (over 90% of pianos are Steinway and Sons) and is recognised as a Microsoft Showcase School for its innovative use of technology.

Boys board at Tonbridge School in one of 12 houses, each of around 65 boys, with a housemaster, tutor team and matron assigned to each house. The house system is at the heart of life at Tonbridge, enabling each child to live and learn within a close-knit community. Students can get involved in a wide variety of house and inter-house activities, including general knowledge competitions, music, art, debating, sport, plays, and concerts.

Social responsibility is integral to a Tonbridge education. The school has strong partnerships with 10 local primary and secondary schools, while over 120 boys volunteer in primary and special schools each week. The school works closely with RefugEase Kent County Council’s Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children, who play football with Tonbridge pupils.

Tonbridge School 13+ guide

  • Location: Kent (South East England)

  • Setting: semi-rural

  • Age range and gender: boys 13–18

  • Number of pupils: approx. 800

  • Main entry points: 13+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic; art; drama; design, technology and engineering; music; and sport

  • 2022 A level results: 97.8% A*–B

  • 2022 GCSE results: 97.3% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 8

5. Brighton College

Brighton College


Brighton College is a private day and boarding school located in the southern coastal city of Brighton for boys and girls aged 11 to 18. While academic results are consistently exceptional, the school is well known for its primary focus on kindness and personal happiness, and celebrates every child’s individual uniqueness.

Boarding is increasingly popular at Brighton College, with the number of boarders trebling in ten years. Weekly and full boarders benefit from award-winning facilities; a team of leading interior designers, supported by pupil involvement, are always updating the facilities to ensure that they are a real home from home. All boarders have access to a full programme of evening activities after prep, including dance lessons, sports, mindfulness, film club and movie nights, and board games.

Brighton College was named the School of the Decade by The Sunday Times, Top School in Britain for STEM Subjects (The Week) and is currently the highest ranking co-educational school in the UK based on academic performance. In 2023, Brighton College will open a new prep school in Kensington, London for boys and girls aged 2 to 13.

Brighton College 11+ guide

  • Location: East Sussex (South East England)

  • Setting: city/coastal

  • Age range and gender: 11–18, boys and girls

  • Number of pupils: 1,100+

  • Main entry points: 11+, 13+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic, all-rounder, art, chess, choral, dance, drama, DT, music, and sports

  • 2022 A level results: 98.4% A*–B

  • 2022 GCSE results: 93.8% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 9

6. Wycombe Abbey

Wycombe Abbey


Wycombe Abbey is a private boarding school in Buckinghamshire for girls aged 11 to 18. The school is committed to academic excellence and embeds the five key qualities of risk-taking, resourcefulness, determination, reflection, and development within its approach to teaching and learning.

Girls joining at 11+ spend a year in the junior house, before moving into one of nine senior houses. Between the ages of 12 and 16, girls live in mixed-age bedrooms to facilitate friendships between different year groups. In their final year, girls move into a standalone boarding house which offers more independence in preparation for university life. There are plenty of activities and social events throughout the year, including house outings and dorm feasts, inter-house competitions, leisure opportunities on and off-site, socials with nearby linked schools (including Eton College, Winchester School, Harrow School and Radley College) and activities for the whole family, such as bonfire night, house dinners and summer BBQs.

Wycombe Abbey has a long tradition of academic success and is consistently rated as one of the UK’s top girls’ boarding schools. Girls gain places at high-ranking universities every year; approximately one-third of students secure Oxbridge offers, while an increasing number of girls are leaving for universities around the world (including Brown, Harvard, Stanford and Yale).

Wycombe Abbey 11+ guide

  • Location: Buckinghamshire (South East England)

  • Setting: rural

  • Age range and gender: 11–18, girls only

  • Number of pupils: 650+

  • Main entry points: 11+, 13+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic and music

  • 2022 A level results: 96.8% A*–B

  • 2022 GCSE results: 96.5% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 11

7. Cardiff Sixth Form College

Cardiff Sixth Form College


Cardiff Sixth Form College (CSFC) is a day and boarding school for GCSE and A level students in Cardiff, South Wales. It offers unrivalled academic results (the school is consistently the top in the UK for A level grades) and a global outlook, with an international student population of over 40 nationalities. Students at CSFC can expect to join a modern and agile culture, where the approach to teaching and learning combines the rigour and discipline of the East with the innovation and creativity of the West. The school occupies two campuses – one in Cardiff, South Wales, and a second in Cambridge, East England.

About 85% of CSFC students are full boarders. Students live in one of three different room types – cluster rooms (facilities shared by four to six students), apartments (facilities shared by two students) and studio flats, dedicated to individual use. The university-style accommodation is designed to facilitate quiet study and to help students develop the learning and study skills necessary for higher education. At the weekends, students enjoy a wide range of activities and cultural events, including team sports, supporting local charities, enrolling in work placements, and visiting the many sights of the city of Cardiff.

The school has won an impressive number of awards, including ‘Wales Independent Secondary School of the Year’ (The Sunday Times, 2020), ‘Best Wellbeing Initiative Award’ (Independent Schools of the Year, 2019), and ‘Top Private Co-educational Boarding School’ (Education Advisors league tables, 2010–2020).

How to apply to Cardiff Sixth Form College

  • Location: Cardiff (South Wales)

  • Setting: city

  • Age range and gender: 13–18, girls and boys

  • Number of pupils: 350+

  • Main entry points: GCSE (14+) and A level (16+)

  • Scholarships: academic

  • 2022 A level results: 99.2% A*–B

  • 2022 GCSE results: 88.8% A*/A/9/8/7 at GCSE

  • National league table rank: 16

8. Eton College

Eton College


Eton College is a world-renowned private boarding school in Windsor for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI to provide education for 70 poor boys (known as King’s Scholars) and has now grown to a student population of over 1,300. Eton is well known for its extensive list of notable alumni, including Prince William and Prince Harry, former Prime Ministers David Cameron and Boris Johnson, and writers George Orwell and Ian Fleming.

Boarding is at the heart of the Eton experience. Boys live in one of 25 boarding houses, each housing around 50 children in total (10 in each year group). There are no shared rooms; each student has his own bedroom to facilitate quiet study and enable skills such as organisation and self-discipline. Every child has a dedicated personal tutor, who helps him develop positive learning habits and who is on hand to discuss social and health issues, while all pupils are supported by a wider pastoral team including house masters and dames (domestic managers), doctors and nurses, chaplains, psychologists and an adolescent psychiatrist.

Eton offers high-quality support to students applying to universities around the world. In 2022, 39 boys received offers from top US universities, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Brown and Dartmouth. Other international destinations include Trinity College Dublin, the University of Hong Kong, and Bocconi University (Milan).

Eton College 13+ guide

  • Location: Berkshire (South East England)

  • Setting: town/semi-rural

  • Age range and gender: 13–18, boys only

  • Number of pupils: 1,300+

  • Main entry points: 13+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic, music and drama

  • 2022 A level results: 95.8% A*–B

  • 2022 GCSE results: 94.2% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 20

9. Dulwich College

Dulwich College


Dulwich College is a day and boarding school in South London for boys aged 7–18. The school is highly academically-selective and has an ethos of equity, excellence and service. It was founded in 1619 by actor and entrepreneur Edward Alleyn – who bought the vast 1,500-acre estate of Dulwich – with letters patent from King James I.

Around 140 students from the UK and around the world board at Dulwich College. Boys live in one of four boarding houses – Old Blew and The Orchard (for pupils in Years 9 to 13) or Blew House and Ivyholme (ensuite single rooms for students in years 12 and 13). Students are supported with round-the-clock pastoral care, with a team of staff including housemasters, matrons, and on-site medical and psychological care. In addition to a range of evening activities, boys experience regular boarding trips and events on campus and in the city, including escape rooms, Go-Ape, and visits to the Science Museum.

Dulwich College is particularly committed to community outreach and partnerships. In addition to mutually beneficial educational partnership activities, the school supports more than 200 bursary awards each year, with three-quarters of bursary holders supported with 75–100% of their school fees. In 2022, the school was named ‘Independent School of the Year for Contribution to Social Mobility’ (Independent School of the Year Awards).

Dulwich College 11+ guide

  • Location: South London

  • Setting: suburban

  • Age range and gender: 7–18, boys only

  • Number of pupils: 1,850+

  • Main entry points: 7+, 8+, 9+, 11+, 13+, 16+

  • Scholarships: academic, art, music and sport

  • 2022 A level results: 95.1% A*–B

  • 2022 GCSE results: 92.9% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 28

10. St Mary’s School Ascot

St Mary's School Ascot


St Mary’s School Ascot is a leading Roman Catholic boarding school, located in rural Berkshire, for girls aged between 11 and 18. The school’s vision is to provide a modern and holistic outstanding Catholic education to young women. All girls attend chapel and worship services, with spiritual and religious events including annual Confirmation ceremonies and spiritual retreats.

The majority of girls who attend St Mary’s board full-time. Girls share rooms in Years 7 to 10, allowing them to develop strong relationships with their peers, before having individual rooms to benefit from private study in Year 11 and above. St Mary’s is committed to ensuring that the school is a home from home for its pupils; residential staff are on hand to address queries or needs any time of the day or night, while girls are allowed to bring their own pets to school. Parents are essential members of the school community and are invited to several events, including Sunday Mass, the Inspirational Women series of talks, major calendar events and guided trips within the UK and beyond.

St Mary’s School Ascot has an extensive list of notable alumnae. Former pupils educated at the school include Ana Botín (executive chairman of the Santander Group), Dame Philippa Whipple (British high court judge and barrister), Louise Minchin (BBC journalist and news presenter) and several members of the Spanish, Greek, Danish and British royal families.

St Mary's School 11+ guide

  • Location: Berkshire (South East England)

  • Location: semi-rural

  • Age range and gender: 11–18, girls only

  • Number of pupils: approx. 400

  • Main entry points: 11+, 13+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic, all-rounder, art, music and sport

  • 2022 A level results: 93.3% A*–B

  • 2022 GCSE results: 92.9% A*/A/9/8/7 at GCSE

  • League table national rank: 31

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