Best UK Boarding Schools for Forces Families

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com rounds up some of the best UK independent day and boarding schools offering bursaries to support military families throughout their education.
Best UK Boarding Schools for Forces Families
By Carli Allan
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Moving can be an inevitable part of military life. Many families move every two to three years, which means children may be changing schools three or four times throughout their education. UK independent schools can offer families in the Forces the stability of an uninterrupted boarding education, as well as subsidised tuition fees.

A UK boarding education helps students to maintain friendships, and can offer a strong support system to children whose parents serving overseas. The government offers boarding school allowances for the children of Army, Navy and RAF employees through a scheme called the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA).

The CEA is available for children aged eight years and over and can be used in boarding and day schools; it is paid directly to servicemen and women towards their school fees. Some UK independent schools also offer special bursaries for students whose parents are in the armed forces.

In this article WhichSchoolAdvisor.com rounds up eight of the best UK boarding schools for children from military families, those which understand the specific needs of Forces families, offer special bursaries, and also offer the popular CCF programme.

Wycliffe

Wycliffe College

With its small class sizes, a nurturing ethos, and an inclusive school community, this all-through school in the Cotswolds is committed to helping students of all abilities meet their potential.

Wycliffe is a popular choice for military families from the UK; the school is easily accessible from several major Army and RAF bases across the South West, and families in receipt of the CEA only ever pay 10% of the academic and boarding school fees. There's also a high percentage of staff here who have served in the Armed Forces.
 
There are 65 boarders from Years 3 to 8, mostly coming from HM Forces families and around 15 from overseas. In the senior school, there are 220 boarders, with a high percentage of coming from Forces Families from Year 3 through to Year 13 (33%).

Read our reviews of Wycliffe Prep and Wycliffe Senior.
 
Good for
• Military families  
• Small, family-style learning environment
• Students with learning needs
• Wide choice of A Levels and GCSEs

Not for
• Oxbridge-focused academics
• Students wanting to take the Common Entrance exam

Taunton School

Taunton School has a long history of supporting military families. Located in Somerset this is a caring, unpretentious all-through school with a close-knit community of international and UK learners, a high-quality sports offering, and a broad curriculum that plays to both vocational and academic strengths.

It’s a non-selective school that doesn’t appear to have the academic snobbery of some public schools. Instead, it offers a broad curriculum that acknowledges the need for alternative routes to university; students have the choice of taking A Levels, following the IB Diploma Programme route, or pursuing a more vocational BTEC pathway.

It’s compulsory for all Year 10 - 11 students to join the Combined Cadet Force, with many then choosing to volunteer to stay on as Senior Cadets during their sixth form year; many more students also sign up for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. Forces families with children aged seven to 18 years who receive the CEA pay no more than 10% of boarding fees at Taunton Prep and Senior School.

Read our reviews of Taunton School and Taunton International School.
 
Good for
• Military families  
• Facilities and choice of sport and arts programmes
• Wide choice of pathways at sixth form
• Non-selective admissions

Not for
• Students looking for a city campus
• Those wanting a highly rigorous academic environment

Bromsgrove School

Located in the Midlands, this day and boarding school for high academic achievers offers a choice of Sixth Form pathways. Led by a passionate headmaster, it delivers a a broad education that is built on growing investment in sport and the arts. It is a large school with 1,660 boarding and day students and a 50:50 ratio of local day pupils to boarders and of boys to girls.

The school embraces both vocational and academic courses in its curriculum by offering A Level, IB and BTEC courses in the Sixth Form, and its Headmaster Peter Clague is a strong advocate of the IB programme.

The school has a long and outstanding tradition of military service and five Bromsgrovians were awarded the Victoria Cross medal. Its CCF is very strong here, compulsory in Year 10, and accessible to all. Forces families with children aged seven to 18 years who receive the CEA pay no more than 10% of tuition and boarding fees.

Read our review of Bromgrove School.

Good for
 • A broad, inclusive education for day students and boarders
 • A fully co-educational education
 • The IB
 • A strong international student body
 • Excellent sports

Not for
• Single sex education
• A full boarding experience with compulsory weekend school

Clayesmore School

Based in North Dorset, Clayesmore is a rural day and boarding school with a Prep, Senior and Sixth Form. It offers a very wide choice of both A Levels and BTECS, and leavers here are just as likely to study less traditional courses such as textiles, global sustainability and real estate as they are engineering, medicine and mathematics.

It’s a school with plenty of wide-open space, which is used extensively to offer an holistic education that is delivered in the fresh air as much as in the classroom. Clayesmore is a dynamic, forward-thinking school that keeps learning fresh and relevant. In the last few years, it has introduced a huge selection of BTECs and replaced the traditional Saturday school with an innovative programme covering the Great Outdoors; Arts, Creativity and Culture; Enterprise/Employability; Academic Extension; and Service/Leadership. 

The school offers an additional 22% (Prep) and 15% (Senior) discount off the full boarding fees for those in receipt of CEA. Students can board from Year 3 at Clayesmore. 

Read our review of Clayesmore School.

Good for
• A broad, inclusive education for day students and boarders
• Boarding from Year 3 upwards
• Wide choice of pathways at sixth form
• Outdoor education
• Excellent sports

Not for
• Single sex education
• Rigorous academic learning environment

Fettes College

Fettes is one of Scotland’s leading day and boarding schools. It has international appeal (it offers the choice of A Levels or the IB at Sixth Form) and an excellent reputation for academia, sport and drama.

Working hard is part of the school’s DNA, and there are opportunities here for students to achieve great grades and scores in exams, on the sports pitch, and on stage. It’s a school that is focused on developing academic potential, as well as a lifelong love of sport, and allocating both time and specialist teachers to music, drama and art.

It’s a mid-size school with around 750 students aged seven to 18 years; 70% of students are boarders in Fettes College and 24% in Fettes Prep so there's no mass exodus of students at the weekend. The school offers a 12.5% remission on fees for Armed Forces' families.

Read our reviews of Fettes College and Fettes Prep.

Good for
• Full, traditional boarding education
• Choice of A Levels or IB at sixth form
• Outdoor education
• Excellent sports facilities and investment in the arts

Not for
• Single sex education
• No options for flexi or weekly boarding
• No option to take Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) exams

King's Ely

As well as being steeped in history, this co-ed day and boarding school is an excellent all-rounder school that has an excellent outdoor education scheme, an outstanding music and drama department, and an ambitious modern languages programme.

It’s a large all-through school with 1,000 girls and boys, and around 80% are day students. As a non-selective school, Ely is not focused solely on academic achievement (although GCSE and A Levels results are well-above average); it’s as much about finding your child’s individual strengths and supporting children with a broad range of abilities to achieve their very best. 

Students eligible for CEA receive an allowance so that the parental contribution is limited to 10% of the boarding fees.

Read our review of King's Ely.

Good for
• Full, weekly and flexi boarding options
• An excellent all-rounder school, but particularly strong in music and the arts
• Choice of international programmes for junior and senior students wanting to access a UK education

Not for
• Single sex education
• Academic hothouse
• No option to study the IB
• No timetabled lessons on Saturdays

Mount Kelly

This all-through, co-ed West Devon school has one of the UK’s strongest student swim programmes, an enviable reputation for its outdoor education programme, and a track record helping students of all abilities to thrive and achieve high results.

With just over 600 students, it is smaller than many public all-through schools, which helps to create a close-knit community on campus; this, coupled with small class sizes, means that students can expect a high degree of personalised learning. Far from having the limitations of a small school though, Mount Kelly has a sweeping campus with some seriously impressive sporting and outdoor facilities.

For students who have a parent serving in HM Forces, a 10% award is given from Years 3 to 13. The award is increased to 20% for pupils in Years 9 to 13 who are full boarders.

Read our review of Mount Kelly.

Best for
• Elite swim programme and strong choir
• Outdoor activities
• Boarding
• Non-selective admission

Not for
• Those seeking a single sex education
• An examination hot house education
• Anyone looking for a city-based/urban education

Queen’s College, Taunton

A leading school for the performing arts in the South West, Queen’s College Taunton is a co-ed day and boarding for 0-18 year-olds. A city school on the outskirts of Taunton, this all-through, non-selective school has a reputation for excellent GCSE and A Level results, outdoor education, and an excellent performing arts department.

Outdoor education is huge here, with everything from clay pigeon shooting and horse-riding to canoeing and sailing; there’s also an adventure club for the younger pupils. This a school that embraces all the outdoors has to offer and takes full advantage of its glorious location within easy reach of the coast, mountains, rivers and woodland.

The school offers a Service Family Package to run alongside the CEA, which means that families currently pay a maximum termly fee of £871.89 (Senior) and £677.33 (Prep) per child.

Read our review of Queen’s College, Taunton.

Good for
• A supportive family boarding environment for 7-18 years
• Outdoor activities
• Excellent sport, music, creative and performing arts facilities
• Non-selective admission

Not for
• Those seeking a single sex education
• An examination hot house education
• Anyone looking for a city-based/urban education

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