Top Affordable UK Day & Boarding Schools

Where are the UK’s most affordable independent day and boarding schools? We round up the prep and senior schools with boarding fees of less than £37,000 a year – significantly lower than the average cost of a private education.
Top Affordable UK Day & Boarding Schools
By Carli Allan
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While every parent understands the importance of investing in their child’s education, it can sometimes be a cost that’s hard to bear. According to the Independent Schools Council, the average annual cost for a day student to attend a UK private school is £15,655 a year, and for boarding schools the bill is £37,000 per year. 

Day school fees vary by region, and London is by far the most expensive; parents pay just under £6,250 per term for day schools in London compared to average termly fees of just under £4,500 in the North West. While the majority of day schools charge between £3,000 and £5,500 per term, there are schools across the country with average fees of less than that.

The reality may be that less expensive schools will usually have fewer facilities – but not always. You can't expect planetariums and Olympic-sized swimming pools if you don't want to pay for them. That said, you should expect outdoor play areas and sports facilities within any school.

So, be reasonable and decide what you can and can't live without. Do you think the bells and whistles of premium fee schools are vital for your child, or that a good value education focusing on the classroom is all that really matters?

WhichSchoolAdvisor rounds up some of the most affordable UK independent day and boarding schools which offer lower fees than most traditional schools without compromising on quality of your child’s education.

The majority of boarding schools with annual fees that are below the UK average of £37,000 are in the North, but there also a few in the South West and Home Counties.

Scarborough College

Scarborough College is a day and boarding school for boys and girls aged three to 18 years old in North East England, which offers students the safety net of a small, close-knit and international community.

The school offers the outdoor lifestyle that comes with being close to both the Yorkshire coast and the North York Moors (come rain or shine, we’re told!). And its non-selective entry means students do not have to cope with the pressures of a more academically focused setting. Instead, Scarborough is well suited to the all-rounder, the student who wants to get involved in sport, the arts and the broad enrichment and outdoor education programme on offer. As the school says, “We don’t think there’s a type of person at our school, but we do know that we all need a chance to perform.”

Annual day fees range from £8,250-£13,404 for Reception-Year 6; £14,970 for Years 7-11; and £16,680 for Years 12-13. 

Annual full boarding fees are £26,244 for Years 7-11 and £29,532 for Years 12-13.

Read our full review of Scarborough College here.

Sidcot School

Sidcot School is a non-selective co-ed day and boarding Quaker all-through school for ages three to 18 years. As well as offering an education based on Quaker values, Sidcot is one of only a few schools in the UK to offer a choice of three pathways in the sixth form (A Levels, IB and BTEC). It also has an outstanding equestrian centre.

Located within easy reach of Bath and Bristol, Sidcot’s beautiful 160-acre countryside campus is home to over 500 students, including around 160 international students from 30 countries worldwide. Describing itself as international boarding school at heart” (around 25% come from overseas) Sidcot has the experience, resources and course offerings to make international students feel supported and welcome (even part of the school website is translated into over 20 different languages).

Annual day fees range from £9,000-£13,470 for Reception-Year 6; £18,390-£19,050 for Years 7-11; and £20,220 for Years 12-13. 

Annual full boarding fees are £30,510-£32,280 for Years 7-11 and £36,510 for Years 12-13.

Read our full review of Sidcot School here.

Ashville School

Located in North Yorkshire, Ashville is a co-ed day and boarding that’s popular with both British and international students for delivering a fantastic education across the board – academically, in the arts, and on the sports pitch. With the motto of ‘Be the Best Version of Yourself’, this is a school that gives students the freedom to follow a variety of pathways and remains small enough to support children’s individual interests.

Describing itself as “unique”, Ashville has a choice of UK and US pathways – as well as offering a wide range of subject options at GCSE and over 20 A Level and BTEC courses in the Sixth Form, Ashville is one of only a few schools in the UK to offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. There’s also its strong boarding provision, which includes an excellent programme of trips and weekend activities.

Annual day fees range from £9,090-£12,870 for Reception-Year 6; and £16,080-£16,590 for Years 7-13.

Annual full boarding fees are £26,625 for Years 7-11 and £32,955 for Years 12-13.

Read our full review of Ashville School here.

St Catherine’s, Bramley

St Catherine’s, Bramley is in the heart of a Surrey neighbourhood populated with high-achieving private schools for girls and boys. Located in the pretty village of Bramley, close to Guildford, this all-girls, all-through school is close to girls’ schools Guildford High, Tormead and Prior’s Field' the boys-only Royal Grammar School, Guildford; and co-eds Cranleigh School and Charterhouse.

Located in Surrey, this traditional and selective school offers a very solid all-girls education; it has become a popular alternative to London day schools thanks to its proximity to the capital, weekly boarding options, and well-rounded curriculum. 

Annual day fees range from £10,350-£17,280 for Reception-Year 8; £20,925 for Years 9-13. 

Annual full boarding fees are £34,980 for Years 7-13.

Read our full review of St Catherine’s, Bramley here.

Stewart's Melville College, Edinburgh

Stewart's Melville College, Edinburgh (SMC) is offering a traditional education and Scottish curriculum to boys aged 12 - 18 in Edinburgh. This single-sex day and boarding school for around 750 students has a beautiful city campus in the Scottish capital, an excellent outdoor education programme, and ‘affordable’ boarding fees of 25,000 a year.

Students can benefit from a single sex education in the classroom while also having the opportunity to mix in co-curricular activities and on school trips. Parents may feel that this offers the best of both worlds, a single sex education for academic results and co-ed for a well-rounded education. It’s also one of Scotland’s more traditional schools, which parents may either love or hate.

One of the school’s strengths is its outdoor education programme too, which means your son can be kayaking on Loch Lomond, skiing in the Cairngorms and playing golf in St Andrews in between studying for his Highers.

Annual day fees range from £9,531-£10,938 for Nursery-Primary 7; and ££13,950 for Secondary.

Annual full boarding fees are £24,930-£24,981 for P6-P7 and £27,993 for Secondary.

Read our full review of Stewart's Melville College, Edinburgh here.

Bredon School

Bredon School is a co-ed day and boarding school which offers a dyslexia-friendly education with a very practical approach to learning, a choice of academic and vocational curricula, and an outstanding outdoor education programme.

Founded as a senior boarding school for boys, Bredon has grown into a co-ed day and boarding school open to girls and boys aged seven to 18 years. It’s a happy, relaxed and friendly school that offers outstanding specialist support for students with dyslexia. Bredon School is part of the Cavendish Education Group, a family of independent schools that support students with learning difficulties, autism and/or social, emotional and mental health needs.

Like other schools in the group, Bredon sits between mainstream and traditional special school education. Although there’s plenty of academic rigour and a requirement for hard work, the school describes itself as “a greenhouse not a hothouse”. 

Annual day fees range from £12,600-£19,110 for Years 3-9; and £25,050 for Years 10-13.

Annual full boarding fees are £27,660-£34,170 for Years 4-9 and £40,110 for Years 12-13.

Read our full review of Bredon School here.

Rishworth School

Rishworth is an all-through school taking children from Nursery to Year 13 (three to 18 years) that’s popular with families from the surrounding areas in Yorkshire and Lancashire. It is an all-rounder school which is academically strong but has many individual success stories in sport and the arts too.

Rishworth will appeal to families looking for a school that holds onto its traditional values, and its affordable fees are certainly appealing too. Its Yorkshire location at the top of the Pennines, with easy access to Leeds and Manchester to the west, offers the advantages of both city and country life. 

This is an excellent school for young rugby, cricket and badminton players. The school’s own Ford Rugby Academy offers an elite athlete pathway where students are coached by rugby professionals; there’s also a Cricket Academy and Badminton Academy (founded and run by former England player Helen Calverley).

Annual day fees range from £7,350-£10,560 for Reception to Year 6; £12,960 for Years 7-8; and £14,100 for Years 9-13.

Annual full boarding fees are £30,900-£34,170 for Years 7-8 and £33,300 for Years 9-13.

Read our full review of Rishworth School here.

Queen Mary's School, Thirsk

Queen Mary's School, Thirsk is a fabulous all-girls day and boarding school (ages four-16) in North Yorkshire. It’s an all-rounder that’s big on outdoor education and adventure and has a progressive and tailored approach to learning. The school has single-sex Prep and Senior schools, and a co-ed Pre-Prep for boys and girls aged four to eight years only. 

Founded in 1925, Queen Mary’s is proud to hold onto traditional Christian values of encouraging hard work, trustworthiness, public spirit and good manners. This values-based ethos runs throughout the school, with the focus as much on developing well-rounded girls who are confident in their own skin as it is on academic excellence.

Queen Mary’s is a non-selective academic school where students can access a broad curriculum regardless of their ability, and where students achieve well-above average grades at GCSE. The culture here is that “learning is both ‘cool’ and something to be enjoyed”, and its challenging curriculum is delivered within a small and nurturing learning environment that straddled the indoors and outdoors.

Annual day fees range from £9,480-£17,169 for Reception to Year 6; £18,615 for Years 7-8; and £21,120 for Years 9-13.

Annual full boarding fees are £24,771-£26,379 for Years 3-8 and £29,115 for Years 9-13.

Read our full review of Queen Mary's School, Thirsk here.

Lime House School

Located in the North of England, Lime House School is a small independent co-ed school with a large boarding community and annual fees of less than £14,000 for day students and £35,000 for boarders. With a countryside location and close proximity to the Lake District National Park, this day and boarding school has an inclusive ethos, an international student body, and a good track record of sending students to leading universities across the UK.

Size, cost and SEN support are three key strengths at this beautifully located school near Carlisle in Cumbria. There are just 160 students (around 70% are boarders) and the school consistently features in the top five independent smaller schools league tables.

Annual fees are far below the average for a UK independent boarding school, making an education here much more affordable to families. Lime House is also an accredited CReSTeD school, with expertise in teaching children with dyslexia.

Annual day fees range from £10,800 for Years 3-6; £13,800 for Years 7-13.

Annual full boarding fees are £31,500 for Years 5-6 and £34,500 for Years 7-13.

Read our full review of Lime House School here.

Kimbolton School, Cambridgeshire

This small day and boarding school in Cambridgeshire is one of those hidden gems offering a strong all-round education in a scenic location. It’s an all-through school with around 1,000 students aged four to 18. It’s popular with families living in Cambridge’s surrounding villages, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire, well as those who have made the move to London but want to continue with a rural education for their child.

A really strong choice for an all-round education in a rural setting, yet just a short distance from London. It’s frequently praised by parents for being friendly and family-focused, and its small size really is one of its strengths here.

Children coming here can benefit from all the different opportunities in sport and the arts, alongside a curriculum that is academically ambitious without being a hot house, and low teacher:student ratios to help every child achieve their best. 

Annual day fees range from £11,010-£14,715 for Lower and Upper Prep; £18,015 for Senior.

Annual full boarding fees are £29,970 for Senior School.

Read our full review of Kimbolton School, Cambridgeshire here.

Monmouth School for Girls 

There are several reasons why Monmouth School for Girls is such a popular all-girls school in Wales – it is an outward-looking senior school offering a single-sex education with a particular strength for science, sport and music.

There are some changes ahead, though. Currently an all-girls’ school for day and boarding students aged 11-16, Monmouth will become co-ed in all year groups from September 2024. The school is merging with its sister school, Monmouth School for Boys to become a fully co-ed school across two sites in the Welsh town of Monmouth.

Monmouth is for anyone looking for a forward-thinking school with great facilities, excellent academic results and a beautiful location. Its strong emphasis on sport means that your child will be exposed to a wide range of sports and plenty of opportunity to compete to the highest level. The school also has an excellent science programme, and it creates a very homely environment for the boarders, both local and international.

Annual day fees are £16,515 for Years 7-11 and £17,679 for Years 12-13.

Annual full boarding fees are £32,340 for Years 7-11 and £33,513 for Years 12-13.

Read our full review of Monmouth School for Girls here and Monmouth Schools Sixth Form here.

State boarding schools

State boarding schools feel like a well-kept secret. They can look and feel like an independent school that charges annual fees of £30,000 upwards.

While most state boarding schools are non-selective, several top the league tables for GCSE and A Level results and have high numbers of students receiving offers to Oxbridge. The cost for parents is £10,000-19,000 a year – a fraction of the cost for private schooling.

The good news is, there are around 40 state boarding schools across the UK, with places ranging from 50 up to 650. While competition for boarding (and day) places can be fierce at these schools, if you have a UK passport you qualify for admission. Note: If you are eligible to hold a full UK passport, or have the right of residence in the UK you can also apply. 

Click here for a table of UK state boarding schools, listed by location and annual fees.

* The fees listed are for 2022-23 for UK residents; fees for international students may be higher. Please visit the school's website for a complete listing of all fees.

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