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Common questions from international families

When is the right age to place your child in a UK boarding school?


The majority of international pupils join boarding schools in Year 9 (13+) and Year 12 / Sixth Form (16+). It is possible to join a boarding school at the start of Year 10, although not all schools offer such an opportunity. It is unusual for pupils to start at a new school in Year 11 or Year 13, as this would mean starting midway through a two-year examination course.

The vast majority of entrants start in September, at the beginning of the academic year. The younger the pupil, the more likely the possibility for a start in January, or on occasion, at the commencement of the summer term.

Boarding places are available for younger pupils, with the youngest aged 7 or 8. If parents are considering application to some of the most selective senior schools at 13+, two or three years of very good education at a quality Prep School will undoubtedly enhance applications.

The final decision depends upon the wishes of parents – only they will know when their child is emotionally ready to move from their home, their friends and, most importantly, their family.

What is the right timescale for application?


The earlier the better; as a general rule, applications for September will be encouraged at the start of the previous academic year with the more selective schools conducting entrance procedures, including tests and interviews, during October and November, with places confirmed by the end of January.


As might be expected, the later the application the more limited will be the choice of schools, although last minute applications are always possible, depending upon individual circumstances.

Is a co-educational or a single-sex education right for my child?


This depends entirely upon the child, their character and their style of learning – some boys and girls thrive when learning and growing with their own gender, whereas others need to be in a co-educational environment. There is no one school that suits every child, let alone one system.

Should I consider league tables when considering schools for my child?


The most academically selective schools will only consider applications from children who, in their view, will cope with the challenges of a highly focussed and academic education. These schools are consistently represented in the higher reaches of the various league tables, however it must be clarified that such schools are not right for all children, even if they are academically suited.

More and more good schools now consider ‘value-added’ data as being a far better indicator of a quality education. Value-adding academic provision exists where ethos, teaching styles, assessment and academic monitoring encourage all pupils to perform at levels above and beyond their baseline performance. Value-added feedback is a fair measure of the progress that students have made. Rather than relying solely on exam results, it takes account of where each student started from and the progress they made relative to other, similar students.

How much support will my child get with their written and spoken English?


A good school will only offer a place to a child if they are confident that each individual’s levels of written and spoken English meets the standards and demands of the school’s academic and pastoral provision. If the school feels that one-to-one or group EAL (English as an Additional Language) support is necessary to improve academic performance and to boost confidence and communication with peers, it will be put in place in consultation with parents.

Are the best schools more expensive?


No. School fees do not reflect the quality of the education offered. The majority of schools have broadly similar fees, with education becoming more expensive as children get older and move through the system. Boarding fees are on the whole inclusive, although there will always be additional costs depending upon individual needs – for some schools, extra English language support will be charged with the agreement of parents, whereas for others it will be included in the annual fee.

As with all selection criteria, fees are not to be considered as the sole reason for choosing a school – it is essential to look at as many factors as possible and then to decide upon the right school for the individual.

Should the chosen school be near London?


The UK is relatively small, and there are no schools out of reach of an international airport. All good boarding schools will ensure that travel can be easily arranged at the start and end of each term and with many regional airports now offering flights from many continents, it is certainly not essential to be educated in, or near London. Boarding pupils will live a full life at their school and will not need to look too far beyond their school campus during term-time.

What other support will we need?


If you live abroad, it will be a requirement of all schools that you appoint a Guardian. If you do not have a family member permanently resident in the UK, you will need to source an appropriate adult / guardianship company to act as guardian, to be an emergency contact and to help communicate with the school.


The English Education works with Cambridge Guardian Angels, a leading independent provider of guardianship services for international students attending or planning to attend UK schools. Based in Cambridge, they work with a network of carefully selected colleagues to cover all areas of the UK providing dedicated, professional and caring guardianship services and are delighted to partner with The English Education.

If international families require support with online tutor services, or advice and support with visa matters, The English Education works alongside Keystone Tutors and Select Visa Services, both organisations providing the highest quality service to our clients.


Contact us to find out more

We can answer all your questions and help you on every step of your pathway to a great UK boarding or day education. Contact us to ask us anything, or find out more on our Insight pages.

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