Great Britain

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Boarding Schools & International Schools

While most students attend state schools in the UK, a significant minority are educated at private institutions. Some new state schools also have more independence from the government. Still, independent schools in the UK are a class of their own. We introduce you to private, public, and international schools.
Expat kids often benefit most from a truly international education.

Expensive Education: Public Schools and Boarding Schools

Ironically enough, the most exclusive independent schools in the UK often started out as public schools. This is why famous institutions like Eton, Winchester, or Harrow are still known under this designation, although they are now private schools run on a fee-paying model. Historically speaking, they used to accept poor male scholars as well, i.e. boys regardless of birthplace, social status, or wealth.

The public school model rose to particular importance in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Victorian boarding school for boys was supposed to produce the social élite of the British Empire. In modern Britain, public schools still have something of an elitist reputation. For example, Prince William, Prince Harry, and the current Prime Minister David Cameron are all alumni of the boarding school at Eton College.

You can find an overview of most independent schools in the UK on this website. It lists famous public schools, as well as lesser known private schools, day schools, and boarding schools. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if the individual contact details are all up-to-date. You can always double check information with the UK Independent Schools’ Directory.

Expats parents interested in sending their kids to a boarding school should also look into state boarding schools in the UK. There are 38 of them across Great Britain and Northern Ireland. While not as exclusive as independent boarding schools, they are obviously a lot cheaper. A year at a state boarding school costs “only” an average of £10,000 or less.

If you want to send your kid to a boarding school in the UK, but don’t live there yourself, check with the Border Agency if your kid needs a UK visa or residence permit for going to a British school.

Reducing Culture Shock: International Schools

For expat kids, independent schools in the UK can be a great alternative to state schools. If a family relocates during the academic year, they may not be able to meet the deadline for applying to the local school of their choice. Moreover, even if they do obtain a place at a state school in their catchment area, the teaching staff may not always be prepared to deal with children suffering from culture shock and the language barrier.

International schools, which frequently address the specific needs of expat children, also belong to the category of independent schools in the UK. They are not required to follow the National Curriculum set by the Department of Education and offer different diplomas as well, especially the IGCSE and the International Baccalaureate. In addition to truly international schools, with their international curriculum and certificates, there are several third-country schools in the UK, too. They normally cater to students of particular nationalities, who may return to their home country soon.

Selected International Schools in the UK



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