“It’s brilliant, it’s so much fun, it’s like a gigantic sleepover with millions of friends and so much to do all the time: honestly, it’s been the best time ever.”

For many children British Boarding Schools conjure up images of a magical Hogwarts world, full of joy and laughter. For their parents something more austere may spring to mind: cold showers, Latin and Greek before breakfast and interminable cross country runs. Whatever your generation it seems that stereotypes abound. And yet, despite the challenges of 2020, British boarding schools, and in particular co-educational boarding schools, have never been more popular and continue to attract pupils from all round the world. At my school, Wellington College, we are lucky to have children from over 30 different countries on our roll, who in turn make up about 20% of our total school population of nearly 1100. So what characterises such schools these days, and what do they offer that make them such an attractive choice for overseas parents?

First and foremost, would be an internationally recognised world-class academic education with a wide range of syllabus choice. At Wellington we offer GCSEs , IGCSEs, A-levels and the IB Diploma: the excellence of the teaching and the work ethic inspired in the children ensuring that these qualifications are a natural springboard to both UK and USA universities. Small class sizes (typically 20 for GCSE, 10 –12 for A-level and IB) allow for careful and personalised teaching, and although these days rote learning is a thing of the past, independent discovery is carefully structured and monitored by subject-specialist teachers who see themselves very much as enablers.

The Pastoral welfare of children is excellent: at Wellington for example small ‘House’ sizes allow for pastoral year groups no bigger than 14, and with every child assigned a personal tutor as well as a House parent in overall charge, the needs of each individual are easily catered for.

Throw in House matrons and Housekeepers and the safety net of a professionally staffed 24/7 Health Centre and it’s easy to claim that children at UK boarding schools are probably better looked after than anywhere else in the world.

However, it is perhaps the co-curricular provision at UK boarding schools that is their most obvious attraction. Sport for all, but with the very best coaching and facilities for the elite athletes, and a dizzying range of sport (at Wellington over 40 sports are available, with golf, triathlon, real tennis and clay pigeon shooting backing up the more familiar offerings) ensure that there is literally something for everyone. Music, Art, Dance and Drama, with West End quality productions a feature of most schools, and enrichment activities such as pupil-run TV and Radio stations, MUN, Debating and Creative Writing clubs allow for the development of the whole child.

The UK’s Co-educational Boarding Schools are preparing young adults to take their place in the world, and it is quite clearly a co-educational world that they will be entering. The lessons that boys and girls learn about working alongside each other at school are really important, because they learn to respect and embrace the different qualities that men and women can often bring to the table. Perhaps even more importantly they can see that these qualities do not always need to be mutually exclusive, do not always need to be divided into male and female. It is perhaps true that girls can teach boys to work harder for longer, to take things more seriously, to care (in every sense of the word) a little more – but it is also true that by working alongside boys, girls can learn to be more adventurous, to take more risks, to challenge received opinion. I am sure that it is because they are doing all this in such a natural and normal coeducational environment that they are also learning to be properly and uniquely themselves, which to me is the most important thing any child can learn.

And I haven’t yet mentioned how much fun the children have away at boarding school, so perhaps I ought to leave the last words to

a couple of Year 9 pupils: when I asked them what they had liked best about their first few months, their reactions was immediate: “it’s brilliant, it’s so much fun, it’s like a gigantic sleepover with millions of friends and so much to do all the time: honestly, it’s been the best time ever.”

Maybe, just maybe, UK boarding schools are magic after all!

Tim Head,

Deputy Director of Admissions & Marketing

Wellington College