Close to the White Cliffs of Dover Duke of York's Royal Military School delivers a boarding school experience enriched with military traditions and some outstanding sports and STEM opportunities.
At a state boarding school, the education is free; the government funds the education as it would at any other state school in England. You pay for boarding (and day students may be charged a small annual fee for an extended day), which means paying around £5,345 a term for a full boarding experience.
It means that Duke of York's can offer many benefits of a private education without the cost. It is organised and run as a boarding school and day students can enjoy the benefits of boarding life while still living at home or paying boarding fees. They get access to the specialist teaching, sport and arts facilities found at an independent school, a broad extra-curricular programme, and the opportunity to stay at school for an extended day to complete prep/homework.
Duke of York's is a well-established state-funded school that was founded in 1803 for the children of military personnel; the school moved to a new site in Dover in 2010, when it became the first full state boarding academy. It remains proud of is military history and continues with several traditions; there are ceremonial parades when students wear their Dress Blues; a 90-strong Marching Band; and the Houses are named after famous military figures from the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
Students wear the cap badge of a family member who has served in the Armed Forces, known as the ‘heart badge’, which is a special celebration of their family’s own military heritage. The school’s own museum traces the 200-year history of the school, too. It all feels like a wonderful celebration of the school’s history and helps to create the close-knit community that is felt here.
As you’d expect, the school is a popular choice for military families from the UK. It’s easily accessible from several major Army and RAF bases across the South East, 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.
The school has seen many changes in the past decade, and a £24.9 million refurbishment has greatly improved the schools’ sports and arts offering with a new sports centre, boarding accommodation and performing arts centre. It looks and feels much more like an independent school than ever before.
Principal Alex Foreman joined the school in 2017, after being headteacher for three years at King’s School, a school for Service Children in Germany. He has the experience of working within a school with a large military community, and he still draws on his experience as a former PE teacher to coach the occasional sports lesson.
Duke of York’s is a non-selective school, and it has developed a structured curriculum that is designed to stretch and challenge students of all academic abilities. Students follow an enriched version of the National Curriculum for England, which is supported by excellent facilities, small class sizes and specialist teachers.
The school works to an independent school model; it has a six-day week with Saturday school where students study in the morning and then take part in sport, performance and activities in the afternoon. There’s plenty of academic rigour; students are encouraged to make significant progress by putting in the hours during daily supervised prep and Saturday morning lessons.
They are each given their own laptop which means every students has access to a technology-rich education. Also, the small class sizes of 15 (far smaller than a typical state classroom of up to 30 students) mean that students get more individual attention than they may at a normal state school; any need for extra support can be quickly identified and given.
The broad curriculum covered in Years 7-9 prepares students for the choices to be made at GCSE and then at Sixth Form, where they can choose between A Levels and the more vocational BTECs. Specialist teaching is supported by purpose-built teaching blocks with science labs, music suites with individual practise rooms, and a large engineering and design technology floor.
In Years 10 and 11 students take nine to 10 GCSE subjects including mathematics, English language and literature, one modern language and the sciences. GCSE options cover traditional and modern subjects, including Art, Business Studies, Computing, Dance, Drama, French, Geography, History, Media Studies, Music, Photography, PE, RS, Resistant Materials, Spanish and Textiles.
The school has a large Sixth Form of about 360 students, who benefit from having their own dedicated facilities and the support of their own Learning Mentor. Most students study three A Levels, and it is also possible to take an Extended Project Qualification.
In addition to the core subjects, A Level students can study business studies, classical civilisation, economics, government and politics, further mathematics, drama and theatre, and psychology. It's a broad choice of subjects, and its balance of academic and creative, old and new subjects means that students of all 'types' are catered for. Sixth Formers are offered plenty careers and university guidance through the school’s The Next Step Programme.
Sport is compulsory for all year groups up until Sixth Form, and you'll find the facilities and variety of sports on offer exceed what is offered at a typical state secondary school. The main sports are rugby, tennis, swimming, athletics and football; there’s also the more unusual horse riding, kickboxing, air rifle shooting, and Latin fusion dance aerobics.
Duke of York’s has both the space and facilities to support students, whether want to study PE through to GCSE and A Level, compete at national level, or simply play for fun. There are six high quality rugby pitches, a floodlit AstroTurf, three cricket squares, eight tennis courts, floodlit Olympic grade athletics track, indoor heated swimming pool, floodlit netball courts, a large fully equipped sports hall, climbing wall, fitness suite, gymnasium, dance studio, cross-country course, outdoor fitness trails, squash courts, and a sports pavilion.
The school really excels in hockey and rugby. It’s also one of only a few schools to be part of the Talented Athletes Scholarship Scheme (TASS), a Sports England funded project for 16-plus students that offers strength and conditioning training, nutrition advice and sport psychology to the school’s most elite athletes.
The school has a very active musical life, which starts in Year 7 with every student learning to play an instrument for the military band. There are also choirs, a concert band, big band and a rock and pop band. Drama and dance are also strong, and Drama and there are plenty of productions and plays to encourage students to take up the arts for GSCE and A Level. O
Boys and girls are kept busy, active (and happy) during lunchtimes and after school with a wide choice of sport, music and drama clubs, as well as the plenty of hobbies, CCF, community service, and charity fundraising activities.
The school has a very outdoorsy culture, and students will find there is plenty to do outside the classroom walls. As well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (every student takes the Bronze Award in Year 9) there is adventure training and the chance to go sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, raft building, tree climbing, gorge walking, mountain biking, climbing, abseiling and more.
The focus at Duke of York’s is less on the grades and more in the progress each student achieves. The school is in the top 2% of schools nationally for GCSE, and top 25% for A Level for value add. Grades are well above average too.
The majority of students, around 80%, go university, 10% join the military and 10% enter full time employment.
Duke of York’s is England’s only state full boarding school, and with annual fees of £16,305, it is significantly more affordable than independent boarding schools. As a full boarding school, every student here is a boarder, which really helps to build a very close-knit family.
The school has a real community feel that allows children to feel at home, and there is a real sense of belonging here. Students are affectionately known as Dukies and there are traditions such as High Table when senior staff sit with Dukies to eat dinner together (and perhaps keep an eye on those table manners!)
Sixth formers board in Centenary House where the focus is on encouraging independent living to prepare them for university and the world of work.
Duke of York’s has an enviable countryside location not far from the Dover coastline, which is well-located for outdoor activities such as camping, sailing and hiking – and there’s plenty of fresh air and greenery to promote positive wellbeing. During the school day, they move between beautiful Edwardian buildings, including a Hogwarts-style dining hall, and modern facilities that blend in well. It really is an impressive place to learn.
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 Kent County Council, 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).
With the exception of Sixth Form, the school is non-selective, but students do need to pass a boarding suitability interview and we apply for references from previous schools.
Day student places at non-selective state boarding schools such as Duke of York’s are made through the Common Application Form (CAF) to the local authority, and students must apply in Year 6 for a Year 7 place. 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.
Fees are only charged for boarders; in Years 9-11, it is £16,305.
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. Duke of York’s is one of many UK schools to offer special bursaries for students whose parents are in the armed forces.
Good for: A UK boarding education helps students to maintain friendships and can offer a strong support system to children whose parents are serving overseas, and Duke of York’s offers these advantages and more to both Forces families and overseas students.
As a non-selective school it offers some incredible learning opportunities to students of all abilities, not only the academically brightest. It really can bring out the potential in the academic, the sporty, the arty and many more, and as a state boarding school, it comes at a fraction of the cost of an independent school.
Not for: The military traditions and heritage may put some parents off – you don’t have to be from a military family to study here, but you definitely need to be willing to take part in and celebrate some of the military traditions.
There are no day student places here so it’s only for students who want to board, which is not for every student/family but is a great opportunity for the right 'fit'. The outdoorsy culture of the school may not suit every child and, with activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award being compulsory, the more academic child may prefer a less holistically focused school.
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