These UK boarding schools mould all-rounded graduates for university and beyond 

boarding schools
Outside the classroom, many schools complement their academics with an extensive extracurricular programme. Source: Strathallan School

Boarding schools often serve as a stepping stone for future success. Many boast of stellar academic programmes with high exam success rates, which prepares students for the academic rigours of university. Their benefits extend beyond grades — students will develop important life skills, including independence, self-reliance, adaptability, effective communication, and more. 

Outside the classroom, many schools complement their academics with an extensive extracurricular programme, which develops students’ skills and unique passions and supports the development of transferable skills such as teamwork, relationship building, and resilience.

Day and boarding schools often boast smaller classrooms to ensure students enjoy individual attention, increased participation, and better connections with their teachers. Students also receive excellent pastoral care, adopt a sense of independence at an early age, and improve their social skills, which serve as excellent preparation for life after school.  

While there are many types of boarding schools to choose from — from prep academies to military or religious schools — it’s clear there’s no one-size-fits-all model. Here’s a list of four boarding schools that are pioneering the standards of education today:

Strathallan School

boarding schools

Strathallan is where passion for teaching meets love for learning. Source: Strathallan School

Do you want to attend a school that will help you realise your academic potential and offer opportunities to excel across a wide range of sports within an environment that boasts of a real sense of family and community? These are just some of the hallmarks of Strathallan School that attract throngs of students — including international students from over 28 countries from age 7 to 18 — to its campus each year.

Here, teaching is built around you to ensure you achieve the best grades and skills needed to succeed on your chosen path. Strathallan also serves as a springboard to attend some of the best universities in the world. “Our aim is to send our pupils out into the world with strong friendships already forged and the ability to make new ones, with the knowledge and skills to succeed at university and beyond,” says headmaster D M Lauder.  

In 2020, more than 40% of Strathallan’s sixth form leavers took up places at top 10 universities and over 70% at selective universities both in the UK and abroad. From professional sportspeople to entrepreneurs, Strathallians graduate into impressive, ambitious roles. 

Strathallan is the first Scottish school to offer pathways that include full GCSE and A Level offerings alongside full Highers, Advanced Highers and Extended Project Qualification programmes. Last year, 58% of the school’s A Level students achieved straight A*/A grades, with 20% of pupils overall achieving A* across the board. For GCSEs, 52% of GCSE results awarded to Strathallan students were graded seven to nine, previously (A and A*).

It’s not all work and no play at Strathallan. The school’s sports programme is exceptional — at least 10% of pupils play at a national or international level each year. You’ll also get to choose from an exciting selection of activities such as golf, skiing, canoeing, equestrian disciplines, and clay target shooting, among others.

Cardiff Sixth Form College

boarding schools

At Cardiff Sixth Form College, students are engaged in a comprehensive, challenging curriculum. Source: Cardiff Sixth Form College

Excellent teaching, one-to-one support, stellar academics, and rigorous co-curricular programmes — these are the features that make for a well-rounded Cardiff Sixth Form College student. Here, students are engaged in a comprehensive, challenging curriculum where they are nurtured to excel. They don’t merely learn how to prepare for exams but are inspired and supported in their studies to pursue big ideas and answer tough questions relevant to the real world.

Cardiff combines their strong academic offerings with tailored career guidance, an award-winning pastoral care system, and opportunities for students to develop their communication, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, research and leadership skills. This helps them seamlessly progress to university with confidence.

Many Cardiff students study at top universities in the world, including in the US, Hong Kong, Australia and Europe. Students have successfully enrolled in Oxbridge, Imperial College, London School of Economics, and University College London within the UK. 

There are also many clubs, House activities, annual celebrations, and social events for students to engage in their passions or develop new skills and interests. Some of these activities are led by staff, while others are run by the students themselves. Students can also start new clubs if they have a particular passion or interest.

Blackrock College

Set in 56 acres of rolling parkland on the broad sweep of Dublin Bay, Ireland, the Blackrock College is a day and boarding school for boys. The College is built on seven core values: Openness to the Spirit; Commitment to Service; Global Vision; Sense of Community; Personal Development; Option for the Poor; and High Educational Standards. 

At Blackrock, education is about much more than the transfer of knowledge. “Our boys are encouraged to be aware and curious, humble and honest, to think morally, open-mindedly and accurately, care about one another and be willing to stand up and be counted,” says principal Alan MacGinty.

In their fourth year, students undergo a Transition Year. Throughout this period, they develop their knowledge and skills in a range of areas, including community awareness, entrepreneurship, environmental awareness, social interaction, languages, computer skills, to name a few. Students are prepared to be the best that they can be when they leave Blackrock — instilled in them a strong sense of justice, a desire for a more caring and compassionate society, independence of mind, and respect for the dignity of all.

Blackrock places great emphasis on the extracurricular development of each student. There’s something for every student, from badminton, basketball, cross country and cricket to golf, swimming, rugby, and soccer. 

Campbell College

boarding schools

Campbell is home to over 1,200 boys aged three to 18. Source: Campbell College

Campbell College, located in the vibrant city of Belfast in Northern Ireland, is an HMC day and boarding school for boys aged three to 18. The school has the vision to inspire individuals to be the best they can be; contribute to the world around them, and grow into men of character.

Campbell’s academic programmes, whether studying three or four subjects to A level, three BTEC Level 3 qualifications, or combining the study of A levels with BTEC qualifications, offer excellent pathways into study at university or into higher education or training.

Campbell is home to over 1,200 boys aged three to 18. Here, students benefit from personalised and effective support, both academically and socially. The school’s small size ensures pupils are in a secure and close-knit community where everyone knows one another.

“We believe education is a holistic experience that should celebrate the creative, physical and spiritual as well as the intellectual,” says headmaster Robert Robinson. Campbell is committed to providing an education that enables each boy to fulfil his potential — whether in the classroom, on the stage or the sports field.

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