Building character and success: The UK’s best boarding schools for international students

Schools in the UK
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The world loves and respects a British education. British boarding schools are considered to be some of the most prestigious in the world, capturing the attention of parents all over the world on the lookout for a quality education for their young ones. “It is for the grades,” says Hilary Moriarty, national director of the UK Boarding Schools’ Association. “They want the best education you can get.”

These schools are known to offer stability, continuity and some of the best offerings that create a well-rounded learner. There’s more to it than just academic success –– higher education and professional development are taken into consideration and integrated into curricula early on. Many domestic and international families view British schools as the ideal pathway for a prestigious UK university. 

Schools in the UK draw on centuries of teaching experience, topping league tables consistently. What’s more, they help students gain an excellent set of examination results while they reach greater heights in a range of extracurricular activities such as sports, music, technology, and early entrepreneurship. For parents who are finding it difficult to pick among the many, here are four boarding schools in the UK with a track record of building character and success:

Christ College Brecon

Not many schools can boast a campus set within the stunning scenery of a national park — Christ College Brecon can. Situated on a picturesque site on the outskirts of the historic market town of Brecon, Wales, Christ College Brecon is a boarding and day independent school for boys and girls between the ages of seven and 18. 

Schools in the UK

Source: Christ College Brecon

“There has never been a more important time to get away from screens and get outdoors. We are fortunate to be based in such a beautiful area with so many opportunities for young people to develop their moral compass for life,” shares Gareth Pearson, head of Christ College Brecon. Those opportunities include an outdoor education programme where pupils gain more than physical prowess — they harness leadership skills, self-confidence and teamwork experience too. Prodigies can join their high-performance athlete programme, which includes partnerships with professional organisations such as Cardiff Blues and Hockey Wales.

The school’s motto is “They achieve because they believe they can.” Here, every pupil strives for academic and artistic excellence, guided by a robust support system and dedicated teachers. Each week, hundreds of instrumental and vocal lessons take place. Two out of five pupils in the school learn at least one instrument. One out of three take part in at least one choir or ensemble. In its auditorium, pupils perform ambitious productions of Scrooge the Musical, Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast, mentored by professionals. 

Rigorous academics, a rich balance of extra-curricular activities, an enviable location, supportive pastoral care and wellbeing system — at Christ College Brecon, it’s an environment that spurs today’s young talents into tomorrow’s well-rounded leaders. Learn more about this leading institution steeped in history (it was founded in 1541 by Henry VIII) is using its years of experience to nurture the bright minds of the next generation here.

Glenalmond College

Located in the heart of the Perthshire countryside is an expansive campus (300 acres, to be exact) which around 400 young men and women, between the ages of 12 to 18, are proud to call their school.

Schools in the UK

Source: Glenalmond College

Founded in 1847, Glenalmond College is the most extraordinary school. It offers the very best academic education, enriching sports and extracurricular activities, stunning surroundings free from the distractions of the city and the happy, community environment kindles lifelong friendships.

A report published by HM Inspectors in December 2019 describes its ethos as: “welcoming, friendly and supportive”. This “promotes a sense of respect and kindness across the school community … young people speak very proudly about their school and their many achievements.”

These achievements include: around a third of pupils score all nines and eights in their GCSEs; the same portion score achieve an A* or A on their A Levels; 98% of leavers go on to university or higher education; and every year, an impressive number of pupils win places at Oxbridge and the Russell Group universities.

A contributing factor to this academic success is the school’s small class sizes and wide range of subjects — 17 at  GCSE, 26 at A Levels and 13 at Scottish Higher level along with its successful tutoring programme.  English is also taught as an additional language, with international pupils making up 25% of the total number, representing 16 different nationalities

Pursuits beyond the classroom are just as valuable and memorable. Taking place on its amazing grounds — complete with nine-hole golf course and Golf Hub, a swimming pool and Olympic standard astro pitches  — and set against the unique Highland backdrop, are many sport and outdoor activities, such as cricket, hockey, lacrosse, rugby and tennis, amongst many others.

These activities promote skills which are useful in learning and for life. A wide range of curricular clubs enhances this further and the school has its own Theatre. Whether it’s Mandarin club or Model United Nations, all Glenalmond pupils, 75% of which are boarders, are empowered to become the best they can be. Learn more about the school’s extensive offerings here.

Please enjoy a Virtual Visit to Glenalmond and register to join the school’s next Online Open Day on May 8th.

King’s Rochester

History dating back to 604AD. Graduates who progress to Oxbridge, Russell Group universities, conservatoires, top drama colleges, agricultural colleges and engineering apprenticeships. Innovative facilities. A Christian spirit. A huge range of co-curricular activities, from Combined Cadet Force to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. A family-like community. These are just some of the features that explain why King’s Rochester is a very special place to be.

Schools in the UK

Source: King’s School Rochester

Located in the Cathedral precinct of historic Rochester, the school welcomes all students between the ages of three to 18 looking to gain academic excellence and the broader skills of communication, teamwork and leadership. The aims and ethos of the school is to support the strong bonds between pupils, parents and staff, a fundamental feature of life at King’s. Here, all are cared for as individuals and where links between home and school are a real strength.

This is a strategy that works, with students continuously achieving above and beyond in results. In 2020 and against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis and cancelled examinations, pupils here achieved outstanding GCSE results: 31% of all grades being in the top 9-8 (A*) bracket and 50% at 9-7 (A*-A). A Level results are just as excellent: 13% at A*, 34% at A*-A & 59% of grades at A*-B. Pupils progressed to a range of exciting and prestigious destinations including UCL, Warwick, Exeter and Newcastle.

Alongside a broad and balanced academic curriculum tailor-made for each age group, King’s keeps students engaged with a wide array of clubs and activities. Students in the Senior School take part in ICT clubs, Combined Cadet Force, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme as well as pre-season and after-school training sessions for rugby, rowing, hockey, netball, cricket and tennis. “King’s is a community that enables individuals to flourish. In every respect it is a school for life,” says Ben Charles, King’s principal and headmaster of the Senior School. To find out more about the world’s second oldest school and its clear vision of education for the 21st century, click here.

Bishopstrow College

Established in 2006, Bishopstrow College focuses on providing students with a British education that lays a solid foundation. Over the years, the school has developed an excellent reputation as a pathway to over 125 leading boarding schools in the UK and around the world. This track record attracts over 80 international students, usually representing around 20 nationalities, each term. Alongside their peers, they come to Bishopstrow to learn everything there is to know about the UK’s robust culture and share insights of their own cultures in the process.

Schools in the UK

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This year-round fully residential “International Study Centre” welcomes students between the ages of seven to 17. The college operates a flexible four-term academic year where students are quickly caught up to obtain entry into mainstream boarding schools. The One Year IGCSE Programme offers a wide range of subjects that lead up to examination, ideal for international pupils looking to enter a UK school or college at sixth form level to take the A Levels or the IB examinations.

Outside the classroom, a suite of extracurricular programmes include daily sports as well as morning and evening clubs –– designed to foster team spirit and build confidence before students step out of Bishopstrow and into their next academic destination. Student clubs include the Crazy Scientist Club, zumba, chess, debating, astronomy, bird watching, army skills, darts, board games, craft, singing and art.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International