Service parents guide to selecting a boarding school

What type of school would your child thrive in?

Does your child thrive in a busy or quiet environment? You might want to decide whether they’d be better suited to boarding at a large school with large boarding numbers or a smaller school with fewer children.

Think about how many children attend the school as full boarders in comparison to weekly boarders. If your child is one of only a few children in school at a weekend this might not be the school for you.

And where?

Where is the school? While most boarding schools are set in acres of land and space is rarely an issue, the physical geography of a school is extremely important to consider. Think about your child’s personality. Would a countryside/village location or a town/city location suit them best. Is it important for the school to have strong military connections or are you happy for your child to be at a school with no other military families. You may want to consider where in the country you chose your school.

If you’re FCDO or Military living overseas or are likely to move frequently around the country it may be wise to choose a school that is close to a family member or friend who can be on hand for your child if you cannot.


Contact Stacey

UK Forces Consultant Stacey Heartford

+44 203 633 3101

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Boarding Tasters available!

Uncertain that boarding school is right for your child? Tasters as well as Open Days are available.

What if your child isn’t academic?

Don’t worry if your child isn’t academic. To every academically selective school, there are a broad range of boarding schools which are not selective and do not have rigorous entrance exams. Whatever your child’s ability there is sure to be the right school to help them flourish.

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Curriculum and extracurricular considerations

Is your child confident and outgoing or quiet and shy? Do they play a specific sport, musical instrument, love drama or art? Do they have any SEN requirements? There are schools out there that are specialist in Sports, Arts, Music, Engineering, whatever your child’s interest or inclination there will be school that specialises in something that is “them”.

Make sure you let us know about your child’s strengths and interests so we can help guide you and help you choose a school with the level of support for their interests and pastoral needs.

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Types of School

Do you need a Prep, Senior or straight through school? Are you looking at an all girls or boys school?  Or maybe a school where the focus is military based. Each of these environments has something different to offer and varies from school to school.

Prep School

For junior age children, who usually board from age 8 – 12. Prep schools may act as a feeder school to a local Senior boarding school while others are stand alone. Prep schools can be a nurturing family environment where your younger child will not be in contact with older children over the age of 12. Boarding houses can be split into gender specific, age grouped or mixed houses depending on numbers.

Senior School

Usually boarding begins at age 11, although some start at age 13. Boarding is always split into gender specific houses. Some schools offer horizontal boarding where houses are split by year group. Most commonly Years 7 and 8 would be housed together, then Year groups 9, 10 and 11 and the sixth form will often have their own separate boarding house. Other schools offer vertical boarding where year groups 9 to 13 are together in a boarding house and the older students act as mentors to the younger students.

Straight through Schools

Some straight through schools may begin boarding at aged 8 although for some boarding starts at age 11 or even 13. Parents may choose this style of boarding school because a child who boards from age 8 will have total continuity of education from the day they arrive until the day they leave.

Military schools

Many UK boarding schools have a strong military ethos, and most of these offer CCF (Combined Cadet Force) as standard. Many of those schools offering the best military discounts boast larger numbers of MOD affiliated students and staff who are ex armed forces and FCDO. Maybe you’d like to send your child to a school where like-minded students and staff will understand the unique challenges military children may face.

Gender Specific

It is essential to consider what type of environment will encourage your child to thrive socially as well as academically. Would your child prefer to be in a co-educational school, would they enjoy a Girls or Boys only environment? Co-ed and single sex schools each have their own unique attributes and our Panoba team is made up of parents whose children have experienced both environments. If you’re unsure which would suit your child best, we are happy to talk you through the pros and cons of both types of school.

See also in Forces/FCDO section:

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