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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

Considering a boarding school in the UK? You're spoilt for choice – there's around 500 boarding schools to choose from.

Keep reading to find out more about boarding in the UK and learn which schools top the league tables for 2024.

What are the benefits of boarding schools?

Boarding schools have higher fees, but they 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 at university and beyond.

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

  • An all-inclusive lifestyle. While boarding schools are more expensive, they cover everything your child will need to live and learn comfortably. This includes three meals a day, on-site 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 set times for studying, meals and personal fulfilment.

  • Social confidence. Living with other children helps boost social skills and allows children to 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, you’ll want to make sure that it’s the right fit for your child.

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 the social and cultural opportunities of city life or the open 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 might offer more personalised support, while larger schools often have a wider range of co-curricular opportunities

  • Boarding provision: does the school offer flexi or weekly boarding? Flexi boarding usually means a couple of nights per week, while weekly boarding means that children return home from Friday night to Sunday night. Full boarders stay on-site 24/7 and only return home during the school holidays and for long weekends.

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

  • International support: if you’re applying to a school from overseas, check that the school supports international applications. Are there lots of other international students, and does the school have specialist staff to support these children?

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The 10 best boarding schools in the UK in 2024

The following 10 boarding schools had the highest exam results (A level or International Baccalaureate, and GCSE) in 2023.

1. St Paul’s School

St Paul's School

© St Paul’s School is an selective private school in South West London for boys aged 7 to 18. John Colet founded the school in 1509 with the belief that education must be both holistic and academic. Students at St Paul's develop five core character traits: 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 daily prep and the freedom to get involved in the school’s many activities on offer. Typical activities include go-karting, indoor skydiving and paintballing. Boarders also have regular weekend trips with experiences such as cooking classes, meals out, and tours of London.

St Paul's is the highest-performing boys' school in the UK based on exam results. Every year, at least 25% of students accept offers from Oxford and Cambridge universities. Many students also leave for universities overseas, including Berkeley, Harvard, MIT and Stanford.

How to apply to St Paul's School

  • 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

  • 2023 A level results: 96.6% A*–B

  • 2023 GCSE results: 96% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 3

2. 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. Facilities include an award-winning library, £20 million science centre, and an £11 million sports centre. Over 90% of the school's pianos come from Steinway & Sons, making it an All Steinway School. The school is also recognised as a Microsoft Showcase School for its innovative use of technology.

Boys board at Tonbridge in one of 12 houses. There are around 65 boys in each house, led by a housemaster, tutor team and matron. The house system is central to life at Tonbridge and provides a close-knit community. Students can get involved in house and inter-house activities, including competitions, music, art, debating, sports and drama.

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

How to apply to Tonbridge School

  • Location: Kent (South East England)

  • Setting: semi-rural

  • Age range and gender: boys 13–18

  • Number of pupils: 800+

  • Main entry points: 13+ and 16+

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

  • 2023 A level results: 97.3% A*–B

  • 2023 GCSE results: 93.5% 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, with a mixed sixth form. It benefits from a central London location next to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. The school is nearly 630 years old and has an impressive list of famous alumni, including architect Christopher Wren, writer AA Milne, and Nobel Prize winners.

Around 180 boys and girls board at Westminster in six boarding houses. Boarders are looked after by a housemaster, resident matron, and a team of tutors. A head of international students supports children who come to board from overseas. Boarders have structured prep every evening and lots of opportunities for fun and relaxation. Activities include Sunday brunch, pizza and film nights, karaoke, group sports, and city trips.

Students at Westminster consistently achieve excellent exam results. University destinations include Oxford, Cambridge, 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

  • 2023 A level results: 95.6% A*–B

  • 2023 GCSE results: 96.3% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 9

4. Brighton College

Brighton College


Brighton College is a private day and boarding school for boys and girls aged 11–18. It's located by the coast in the southern city of Brighton. Academic results are consisently high, but the school is well known for its strong focus on kindness and happiness.

Boarding has become more popular at Brighton, with the number of boarders trebling in ten years. The school's boarding facilities are award-winning, designed by leading interior designers. Boarders have a full programme of evening activities after prep, including dance lessons, sport, mindfulness, films and board games.

Brighton College has been awarded the title 'School of the Decade' by The Sunday Times. It was also named the top school in Britain for STEM subjects by The Week. The school has now opened a new prep school in Kensington, London for children aged 2–13.

How to apply to Brighton College

  • Location: East Sussex (South East England)

  • Setting: city/coastal

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

  • Number of pupils: 1,200+

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

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

  • 2023 A level results: 97% A*–B

  • 2023 GCSE results: 92.6% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 11

5. Cardiff Sixth Form College

Cardiff Sixth Form College


Cardiff Sixth Form College (CSFC) is a day and boarding school for children aged 14–18. The school has a global outlook, with students representing over 40 nationalities. There are two campuses – one in Cardiff, South Wales, and a second in Cambridge, East England.

About 85% of CSFC students board full-time. Boarders live in studio flats, apartments (shared by two students) or cluster rooms (shared by up to six students). The university-style accommodation supports quiet study and helps children adapt to life as young adults. There are plenty of activities and events at the weekend, including team sports, outreach, work placements, and city visits.

Cardiff Sixth Form College is consistently high-achieving. It's ranked first in the UK for all schools based on students' A level grades. It was also named 'Wales Independent Secondary School of the Year' by The Sunday Times in 2020, and won the Independent Schools' of the Year 'Best Wellbeing Initiative Award' in 2019.

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

  • 2023 A level results: 99.5% A*–B

  • 2023 GCSE results: 84.1% A*/A/9/8/7 at GCSE

  • National league table rank: 13

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 has a long tradition of success. It embodies five key academic qualities: risk-taking, resourcefulness, determination, reflection, and development.

Girls joining at 11+ spend a year in the junior house, before moving into one of nine senior houses. They live in mixed-age bedrooms between the ages of 12–16, making friends with girls in other years. Final year students live in a separate boarding house to develop independence before university. Activities include house outings, dorm feasts, competitions and leisure opportunities. Some socials are shared with boys at Eton College, Winchester College, Radley College and Harrow School. Parents and siblings are also invited to activities including bonfire nights, house dinners and summer BBQs.

Wycombe Abbey is consistently ranked as one of the UK's top girls' boarding schools. Students are offered places at the world's top universities, with around a third going to Oxbridge each year. An increasing number of girls are also offered places at North American universities such as Brown, Harvard, Stanford and Yale.

How to apply to Wycombe Abbey

  • 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

  • 2023 A level results: 92% A*–B

  • 2023 GCSE results: 97.5% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 17

7. Queen Ethelburga's, York

Queen Ethelburga's, York


Queen Ethelburga's (QE) is a private day and boarding school in York for children from nursery to age 18. There are two senior schools for Years 10–13 – the Faculty and the College. The curriculum at both schools covers GCSEs and A levels, with BTEC courses on offer at the Faculty.

Children at QE live on a campus that occupies more than 220 acres of Yorkshire countryside. Facilities are modern, with air-conditioned bedrooms and private en-suite bedrooms. Sixth formers also have their own cooking and washing facilities to support independence. The food is award-winning (the catering team won an award in 2019) and there are many student cooking clubs. There's also an extensive enrichment programme, with activities including the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, CCF, sports, arts, music and drama.

Exam results at Queen Ethelburga's are consistently high and students go on to top UK universities. The Sunday Times has named QE the North Independent School of the Year for Academic Performance 2024.

How to apply to Queen Ethelburga's

  • Location: North Yorkshire

  • Setting: rural

  • Age range and gender: 0–18, boys and girls

  • Number of pupils: 1,300+

  • Main entry points: 4+ 10+, 14+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic, sports, music and drama

  • 2023 A level results: 98.8% A*–B

  • 2023 GCSE results: 83.2% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 18

8. Sevenoaks School

Sevenoaks School


Sevenoaks School is a private day and boarding school in Kent for boys and girls aged 11–18. It occupies a 100-acre campus in the countryside, just half an hour by train from Gatwick Airport and Central London. The school is award-winning and was named 'Co-educational Independent School of the Year' by the Sunday Times in 2023.

Around 350 children board at Sevenoaks in one of seven boarding houses. Younger pupils share rooms to help them settle quickly and make friendships. Older students usually haveg single or double rooms to allow for privacy and quiet study. Boarding is fun, comfortable and busy. There's evening prep every day, and a full programme of sports, cultural and social events at the weekend. International students are welcome but need to have an adult guardian living close to the school.

The extracurricular programme at Sevenoaks is vast. The school has 200 sports teams, with 87% of students representing the school in at least one sport. The music department is thriving, with 700 weekly instrumental lessons and 50 annual concerts. Students also benefit from overseas trips, with residential visits to 18 countries every year.

How to apply to Sevenoaks School

  • Location: Kent (South East England)

  • Setting: semi-rural

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

  • Number of pupils: 1,200+

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

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

  • 2023 IB results: 39.0 average diploma points

  • 2023 GCSE results: 86.1% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 21

9. Wellington College

Wellington College


Wellington College is a private day and boarding school in Berkshire for boys and girls aged 13–18. It's set in 400 acres of parkland and blends traditional architecture with state-of-the-art facilities. In 2023, the school won the BSA's award for Best Community Work in recognition of its support of refugee and asylum-seeking children.

There are 17 boarding houses at Wellington and each has its distinct character. Children are looked after by a housemaster/housemistress, assistant HM and a team of tutors. New pupils are assigned a 'buddy' in the year above to help them settle in. Wellington was also the first school in the UK to introduce wellbeing to the curriculum. Students learn about physical health, relationships, perspective, purpose, and the world around them.

Students leave Wellington for the best universities and colleges in the UK and overseas. Around 20 students go to Ivy League and US universities every year. Students are supported with their applications by specialist advisors and an annual SAT and ACT preparation course.

How to apply to Wellington College

  • Location: Berkshire (South East England)

  • Setting: rural

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

  • Number of pupils: 1,100+

  • Main entry points: 13+, 14+ and 16+

  • Scholarships: academic, art, dance, drama, music and sport

  • 2023 A level results: 94.7% A*–B

  • 2023 GCSE results: 86.4% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 27

10. St Michael's School, Llanelli

St Michael's School Llanelli


St Michael's School (also known as St Mike's) is a private boarding school in Llanelli, South Wales, for children aged 11–18. St Mike's is committed to being a 'family school', with family-style values permeating every aspect of school life. In 2021, The Sunday Times named St Michael's 'Wales Independent Secondary School of the Decade'.

St Michael's provides weekly and full boarding and stays open during half-term holidays. A programme of leisure activities is scheduled to try and meet most students' interests throughout the year. There's plenty of sport on offer, and badminton, basketball and soccer are popular evening choices. Clubs in art, music, choir, chess and more are updated every term to reflect student demand.

  • Location: South Wales

  • Setting: semi-rural/coastal

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

  • Number of pupils: 400+

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

  • Scholarships: academic

  • 2023 A level results: 94.3% A*–B

  • 2023 GCSE results: 87% A*/A/9/8/7

  • National league table rank: 28

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