All you need to know before applying to UK boarding schools…
Even though your kids have only just gone back to school, you may already be thinking about their next steps and plans for their future education. At British Tutors, we encounter many parents who hope to send their children to the top British boarding schools but don’t know how to begin the process, and it can be a confusing one! Here we aim to introduce the first stages of getting your child into their dream school.
How and when to choose the right UK boarding school?
All parents have aspirations for their children and this is absolutely the way it should be. It is great to aim high but also important to be realistic and think about the decision from all angles, not just the academic. It is important to understand that not all schools suit all children, it is far more important for a child to find a school where they will thrive and progress than to be forced into a school that might not suit them.
UK boarding schools begin the process of taking on new students early and, from a parent’s perspective, the application process needs to start in good time in order to give your child the chance of getting into the right school for them. If you are planning to send your child at age 13 (the usual entrance point for our students to UK schools) then the process needs to begin before they turn 9.
At this point, begin the debate at home by thinking about what type of school might suit you and your child’s needs:
- Would a single sex or co-educational environment be better?
- Do they take many international students?
- What is the ratio of boarders to day pupils?
- Does the school also need to suit their siblings?
- Should the school be near an airport, big city or family members in the UK?
- Will your child need extra pastoral support as an international student?
Once you have narrowed down a list of criteria, visit schools you think you may be interested in. It is a good idea to visit these alone at first and then take your children along at a later date. Many schools ask for formal registration before the applicant turns 10 so research registration deadlines and only register for schools you really like. It is generally wise to avoid blanket registrations as these are a waste of money, can give a confusing amount of options and are not helpful to the schools themselves. You should aim for a couple of schools at the higher end of your child’s ability and then one or two “safer bets”.
Once you’ve registered with schools, the formal process of testing and interviews begins with most schools meeting and testing candidates once they reach the age of 10-11.
What can you do at home to help prepare your child for UK boarding school?
- Help your child feel excited about the schools you have in mind for them. Take them to the UK to visit the schools before they get to the interview stage and look through the school brochure and website with them, highlighting things they will enjoy (e.g. particular sports, art labs, playing fields, dormitory life etc.). Ask them to talk to you about anything they are looking forward to and see which schools they respond to best.
- READ! Make sure your children are reading good books and can talk about them too. Try and keep their reading varied if possible, why not read some poetry together or even try some Shakespeare for children? There are lots of wonderful books about boarding school life, from Enid Blyton to Harry Potter, so encourage them to read and get excited about the adventures they will have there.
- Keep them up to date with current affairs and encourage mind-expanding excursions to museums, galleries and, better still, to places that expand their knowledge of British history and culture.
- Your child will need to be able to think on the spot both in interview and, later down the line, in the entrance exams. We see unsuccessful applicants who aren’t used to forming their own opinions and so we always advise our clients to engage their children in regular conversations about the books they are reading, activities they’ve done or experiences at school or home. Ask for their thoughts and ideas and help them to form their own opinions through practice.
- The best way for a child to feel motivated in the application process is for them to be excited about the idea of boarding school. Consider joining us at our UK residential summer school, The Summer Academy, as the perfect taster of the best of British school life combined with the academic challenge that entrance tests require.
Good luck, mamas!