Boarding schools are known to be great environments for teenage students, with rigorous preparation for their university life and beyond. Offering a well-rounded, personalised education, with excellent exam success rates, they pave the way for students to enter into higher education institutions with confidence.
In addition to academic excellence, what makes some boarding schools in the UK stand out amongst the many options available to parents is the comprehensive pastoral care they offer, in addition to a stellar education. It is common for these schools to invest in dedicated and qualified teams to care for the physical and emotional welfare of their pupils. It’s an important feature that helps students evolve into independent, empathetic adults, with finely tuned social skills.
For international students, having the opportunity to study at a British boarding school will allow for them to immerse themselves not just in the English language — there will be a lot of that as they chat daily to teachers and peers — but it will also be a chance to get insights into British culture and ready them for their future university life. By the time they graduate, the world will be their oyster, and they will have gained the know-how to connect with a diverse range of cultures and personalities, and navigate through them with ease.
As lockdowns are relaxing around the world, the most forward thinking boarding schools have already made plans and adapted to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. In the UK, schools are strictly adhering to government protocols and closely following their advice for the safety and wellbeing of students and staff.
Here are four boarding schools in the UK with the best of both worlds — academic success, supportive community — as well as a strict commitment to health and safety:
Located in Kent, in a town rich with heritage and a flourishing contemporary arts scene, is Rochester Independent College (RIC). Just an hour from central London, it’s the ideal setting for international students to experience the distinct RIC advantage: academic rigour with a creative buzz. In small classes, averaging just eight pupils, students are the focus of their teachers. They aren’t required to wear uniforms, and most often refer to teachers and staff by their first names.
RIC is consistently ranked as a top UK boarding school and one of the top UK sixth form colleges. In 2020, 72% of students scored between A* to B in their A Levels; 42% of RIC students scored A* to A. Many have progressed to top universities, with nine RIC graduates winning spots at medical schools last year
While RIC was originally established with a focus on mathematics and science, learners more inclined towards the arts are not left out. RIC offers superb creative, film, music technology, and performing arts teaching too.
Moving schools (and sometimes, countries) can be difficult, especially for teenage students. RIC has worked hard to turn this challenging experience into one that is enjoyable for students and leads to their success.
A key reason for this is RIC’s dedicated pastoral team, committed to ensuring that pupils are happy, healthy, safe and well-fed. As for the facilities? They are comfortable and top-notch: all boarders have their own private room, with either en suite or shared bathrooms.
RIC graduate Eric, from Dubai, tells us of his experience: “Having come from a large school in Dubai where the teaching — for the most part — felt very impersonal and uncaring, the teaching at RIC has been fantastic. The small class sizes and first name basis between students and teachers make the classes seem much more personal and it is much easier to address any problems we have with the course content.”
RIC is now open to students and boarders, adopting the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) “Covid-Safe Charter”. This means the college will follow all government guidance and rules with regards to student safety and welfare. These include regular deep-cleans of school environments, up to date testing procedures, dedicated isolation areas, and clear advice and communication to parents and agents about school policies on contact sports, trips, and provision of boarding during holidays.
New and returning students who need to quarantine can do so in the comfort of RIC’s campus. Staff will arrange their arrival date and time on an individual basis, as well as care for them throughout the quarantine period. As the Good Schools Guide reviewed, RIC is a place where students are “a strikingly nice bunch and there’s a lovely air of tolerance and warmth.” Find out for yourself — take a virtual tour here.
Overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of Bath is Prior Park College (PPC), one of the UK’s largest, co-educational schools for 11-18-year-olds. Here, a diverse cohort of British and international students receive an outstanding, well-rounded education and can choose from a large number of co-curricular activities.
An external report by the Independent Schools Inspectorate — which focused on the quality of academic achievements and personal development of the College’s pupils — ranked the College in the highest category “excellent” in both areas.
International students can look forward to achieving this level of success in their studies at PPC. If they need extra support, they can sign up for PPC’s English as an Additional Language (EAL) curriculum, which includes coaching for the Cambridge First Certificate (FCE) exam, IGCSE English as a Second Language and International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
The journey towards adulthood is more than just a journey to achieve high exam scores — it’s a search for identity too, according to headmaster Ben Horan. “Every child is searching for a sense of who they are and the sort of adult they want to become. Schools play a role on this journey,” Horan says. Hence why PPC ensures each student receives guidance, mentorship and support in and out of classrooms — a community spirit that makes learning and boarding at PPC an enjoyable and successful endeavour.
Kingswood School (KS) is situated on a magnificent 200-acre site in Lansdown, Bath. Pupils get to explore the surrounding Somerset and Wiltshire countryside, walk its meadows, moorlands and coastline. The best part? Doing so with peers and friends who come from all corners of the globe.
If they face any troubles, Kingswood pupils can rely on its house system for help. Kingswood’s house system, the heart of the school’s pastoral care system, has an experienced housemaster with a team of tutors and staff. If pupils face any learning difficulties, they will not be alone, but will receive help according to their individual needs. Regardless of their starting point, Kingswood’s comprehensive approach to education ensures every pupil gets to reach their full potential.
With these, and programmes that arm them with the tools to navigate the future confidently and independently, the Kingswood graduate is one who is set for success in university and beyond. To deal with challenges brought by the coronavirus crisis, Kingswood is putting the health and safety of its students and staff as its top priority. Read their full COVID-19 Safeguarding Policy here. For a virtual tour of their campus, click here.
Situated in Edinburgh, Scotland, Fettes College (FC) is located in a prime location with the best of city and rural life. Students here get to learn in what architectural experts agree is undeniably one of Scotland’s greatest buildings too.
More than just a building with a grandiose design, FC is where pupils get to grow up in a community that treats each other like family. That does not mean diversity and individuality are not welcome — both are, and embraced with open arms.
New pupils can expect exceptional teaching, a quality of education that goes above and beyond accomplishing impressive academic results at GCSE, A Levels and IB.
Head of FC Helen Harrison says, “We offer each of our students the opportunity to make the most of their talents and gain a wealth of new experiences in a happy, encouraging environment. We maximise their potential by affording them all the opportunities that a boarding education can offer whilst ensuring the highest levels of care.”
Like most boarding schools in the UK, Fettes has implemented a strict Health and Safety policy in response to the pandemic. Parents can be assured that the pastoral care and overall safeguarding of each and every student is taken very seriously here. FC is a signatory of the BSA Covid-Safe Charter, as well as another charter to adhere to guidance from the Scottish government. To enquire more on their admissions and set up a visit, contact them here.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International