One of the oldest schools in the UK, Dallam combines a broad secondary education for students of all abilities with the outdoor lifestyle of the Lake District – as well as offering students a boarding education for less than £14,000 a year.
It is a mid-sized and inclusive secondary school with around 1,000 students coming from 50-plus primary schools across the north of England (and several overseas students as boarders). With a history that dates back to 1613, Dallam is grounded in traditional values but remains forward-thinking in its approach to education. Life here is outdoorsy too; this is a school where you’ll find students canoeing on lakes, paddle-boarding along mountain streams, and hiking through the Lake District.
Dallam is one of around 40 state boarding schools in the UK; modelled on an independent boarding school it can offer many benefits of a private education without the cost. At a state boarding school, the education is free as the government funds the education as it would at any other state school in England. You only pay for boarding (and day students may be charged a small annual fee for an extended day), which means paying around £4,000 a term for a full boarding experience.
Headteacher Rachael Williams joined the school in 2021.
Like all state boarding schools, Dallam follows the National Curriculum for England. Teaching here focuses on offering a variety of opportunities and choices to help students of all abilities to meet or exceeds their potential. Dallam offers a wide choice of GCSE, A Level and BTEC subjects and courses covering the academic and the creative, which pairs perfectly with the varying abilities and interests of its students.
In the Sixth Form students are guided towards making the right decision with their choice of 21 different subject. While students have the freedom to select any combination of subjects, Dallam offers ‘subject and career packages’ of three A Levels or BTECs to help students who need it. It’s great to see a broad spectrum of subjects, including art, product design, criminology, healthcare, business/economics, PE, psychology, and travel and tourism, alongside academic subjects.
In the Sixth Form, students can also broaden their horizons further with the Extended Project Qualification, a Core Maths Level 3 qualification, a languages for business course, or a sports leadership award.
One of the school’s strengths is its location, and Dallam makes use of its beautiful location with plenty of outward-bound activities; these include rock climbing, caving, ghyll scrambling, mountain biking, kayaking and gorge walking, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Dallam offers plenty of other creative and sporting clubs in its extra-curricular programme; it covers music, singing, drama, rugby, football (girls and boys), cricket, athletics, gymnastics, charity and volunteering work, and student leadership committees.
Several state boarding schools are high achieving and regularly outperform other state schools, with many topping academic league tables in the UK. Dallam has a track record of strong results, particularly for a non-selective school.
Students go on to a variety of universities, including Russell Group universities.
The school has a range of boarding options: weekly, part-weekly, and an extended day for breakfast and after-school hours. There is a small boarding community of around 130 students, many are UK or EU passport holders coming from Europe, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Mexico, Chile and the US.
Boarding is in houses in the nearby village of Heversham, a short walk away. The main boarding house, a modernised Victorian building has individual and shared room; Whitbarrow Hall has 50 individual university-style bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and private study areas.
Admission to state boarding schools in the UK is limited to children who are nationals of the UK and are eligible to hold a full UK passport, or those who have the right of residence in the UK. Since January 2021, they are no longer open to EU passport holders and nationals of other European countries.
Children can be living overseas when they apply, but they will need to provide a copy of their UK passport or right of residency in the UK. Families with British National (Overseas) status can apply for the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa. If the visa application is successful, families who move to the UK can apply for their child to attend a UK state boarding school. All boarders from overseas must have a guardian in the UK when they arrive. In several state boarding schools, around 10-20% of boarders have an international background.
Applications are made to the Local Authority, not the school. Students applying for a boarding place will be invited for a boarding interview, when the school will assess their suitability to board; places are offered shortly after the interview. This will typically take place in September and/or January in the academic year preceding entry.
The oversubscription criterion for boarders includes children who are looked after by a Local Authority, UK Armed Forces children, having a “boarding need” which could be that parents are living abroad, and having a sibling at the school (unless they are in Year 13).
Day student places at non-selective state boarding schools such as Dallam are made through the Common Application Form (CAF) to the local authority, and students must apply in Year 6 for a Year 7 place. Students comes from across South Cumbria including Lancaster, Morecambe and the Lune Valley.
The deadline to submit the application is October 31 in the year preceding entry. There is often a high demand for day places at these schools, which are awarded according to the Local Authority criteria of looked-after children, siblings and distance from school. You’ll often need to be living less than two miles of the school to stand a chance of getting a place.
You will find out if you have been offered a place on National Offer Day, which is March 1 every year.
Annual fees for full boarders are £12,405-13,821; weekly boarding costs £9,825-10,869.
Good for: The flexible boarding options will appeal to working and travelling families, and the low boarding fees (when compared to many independent schools) can make the idea of a boarding education much more affordable for many families. There's plenty to attract parents to the school – its choice of academic and vocational pathways, stunning location, and outdoor education in particular. It's a constantly improving school that is turning out not just academically strong but well-rounded students who are thriving in an informal and friendly environment.
Not for: Families looking for a traditional single sex education or an IB school should rule out Dallam. This is a state school, not a independent or grammar school, so the admissions process is non-selective and very reliant on where you live. It may not feel academically rigorous enough for some, and students who prefer the classroom to the great outdoors may find the school too outdoorsy.
If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.
Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information