Boarding in the UK
10th Aug 2022
Total for attending a UK Boarding School per year: Dhs149,936
(Based on year 12 costs at Cheltenham Prep School)
UK independent schools are perceived by many overseas as the best on the planet. The numbers of overseas students choosing a British education is rising. According to Independent Schools Council they’ve seen a 5% increase in the past 3 years alone.
While school fees across the UK vary wildly, broadly speaking, boarding is less expensive in the north and more costly in the south and around London.
Average fees in the UK are 18,000 GBP (101,500 AED) per year for younger children rising to over 27,000 GBP (152,500 AED) for those in sixth form. Fees in UK boarding schools have been rising around 5% per year, therefore those considering boarding in the UK as an option, it’s not just about if affording it today, but long term too. Estimates currently state that parents should expect to spend around 200,000GBP (1,134,496 AED) for each child’s UK tuition fees from start to finish.
In the UK overseas account holders are often expected to provide a deposit of one term’s fees before the child can start school. Although there are numerous payment options available from cash to monthly direct debit, remember removing a child from school requires at least one term’s notice or parents are expected to pay an additional term too!
Independent schools are not obliged to follow the national curriculum, although most do work within its broad framework. The majority offer GCSEs and A levels, although there are opportunities to take IGCSEs and the International Baccalaureate Diploma too. Independent schools are not inspected by OFSTED, however, most choose to belong to the Independent Schools Council and are inspected regularly by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
So what do I get for my money?
Nothing says a good education in adult life, like a British ‘public’ school education. Yes, it is confusing; the British call private boarding schools ‘public.’ And, it’s not just the name, it’s almost like there’s a whole separate language associated with public schooling in the UK, and if you speak it, doors open.
With approximately 500 independent schools in the UK, there’s certainly a lot of choice, from the big brand names to those offering a more affordable education. For girls the best are: Wycombe Abbey School, St Mary's School – Ascot and St Swithun's School – Winchester. For boys it has to be: Winchester College, St Pauls School- London or Eaton College. For co-ed: Cardiff Sixth Form College, Queen Ethelburga's College – York and Concord College – Shrewsbury.
Many British schools have hundreds of years of history behind them and alumni spanning generations of significant ‘players’ both in the UK and abroad.
While the ‘old-school’ days of corporal punishment, dreadful food and insidious bullying might be behind them, today schools employ a pastoral team which is experienced and knowledgeable in both teen development and angst.
They say, ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and never it’s this more true than with teenagers. Many of today’s teens actually want to go away to school, thanks to movies like Harry Potter they crave the companionship of those the same age, usually making friendships which last for life.
UK boarding school teachers DO NOT have to hold a relevant teaching degree however, a recognised teaching qualification is usually requested. Boarding schools have a high percentage of teachers with advanced degrees in their chosen subject and extensive experience.
UK student visas cost 310 GBP for the duration of study (1,736 AED)
Comprehensive health, travel and accident insurance are essential for any parents planning boarding school. Many schools offer in-house plans or have deals with companies, so always ask who they recommend before buying.
From friendless weekends and illness to home-sickness and exam stress, kids away from home need a comforting shoulder to cry on. Guardianship costs 450 GBP per term and fulfils the role of support and care-giver should any issues arise.
UK2Learn Guardianship cost:
1350 GBP per child per year (7,600 AED)
Facilities and Activities
One of the big benefits of boarding schools is the investment in and availability of high-quality extra-curricular activities. With kids living on site, the schedule is packed with all manner of team and individual sports, hobbies and activities to take part in. While most offer many more than an average ‘day’ school others specialise in outdoor, equestrianism, winter sports or others.
Most schools include activities in fees, however, some do charge for certain sports - for example, if you want your son or daughter to have professional tennis coaching.
Every country is different and certainly each school differs in what you get for your money. Before you decide on a school find out exactly what you are paying for and what additional costs you will be expected to pay.
Pocket money, materials, weekend travel expenses and other costs can add between 15 and 20 percent in extra expenditure to the monthly boarding school costs.
Cheltenham College Preparatory School, approximately 2,100 GBP (11,800 AED).
Whichever way you look at it, if you choose a boarding school in the UK you can expect to rack-up some significant air-miles. Flight costs differ throughout the year but factor in a minimum of three return flights per academic year all at peak ‘school-holiday rates. (Note - this is a minumum - think about half terms, and whether you will want to see your children through the year outside of holidays...).
Average round trip prices with Emirates Airline to London is 3,500 AED plus (for the unaccompanied minor service for children between 5 and 12 years old, fares are full price). Cost: 3,500 AED x3 = 10,500 AED.
Most schools would cover ESL costs. However for above and beyond tuition, the cost of a private tutor will be around 50 GBP/hour.
The first year will be the most expensive as you buy everything. From this point on, it does get cheaper - but there is still a substantial annual cost. First year (very approximately): Thereafter:
Well known UK boarding school options to consider
Prep School - Girls
Age 7 +
16,500GBP to 21,000 per year Dhs92,900 to Dhs118,300
Cheltenham College Preparatory School is set on a 15 acre estate boasting top-of-the-range sports complex, art center, music rooms, heated pool, pitches for every conceivable sport - and more.
What they say:
“Each evening and at weekends in particular, once school, prep and sport have concluded, the fun begins in earnest. There is an array of activities, clubs, trips and films to enjoy, as well as common rooms for the boys and girls to relax in.”
Ages 8 +
21,000 to 30,900 per year Dhs118,300 to Dhs174,000
This famous Scottish school’s alumni are noted for their academic achievements, and their love of outdoor pursuits, with a significant number of accomplished explorers in their midst. Housed in a vast stately pile in the Highlands of Scotland, Gordonstun is renowned for its emphasis on outdoor activities and sports.
What they say:
“It is the comprehensive and compelling nature of our distinctiveness, influencing all Gordonstoun students, which make it unique.”
Near Winsor England
Approximately 34,500 GBP, 194,500 AED
The quintessentially English boarding school, Eton, is surely the most famous boarding school in the UK, if not the world. Just check Wikipedia list of ‘old Etonians’ to discover almost every top politician, king, magnate and Shakespearean actor worth his salt has walked the hallowed halls at one time or another.
What they say:
“All boys are allowed home for Long Leave every half and for Short Leave twice in the Michaelmas and once in the Lent and summer halves. Boys can also go home after formal commitments have finished on a Saturday for one other weekend each half.”
See more UK boarding school options here