United Kingdom (UK)

The British school year

A school year in England consists of three terms (trimesters). The beginning of the school year is always in September, whereby each school has its own term dates. The schools generally begin their lessons in the first two weeks of September. After half the teaching period, ie. after approximately 6 weeks, pupils have their first holiday, which is referred to as “half term“. During this time the school is closed, and the children generally go home, or stay with their guardian. If there is no private contact for the child in UK, the school is usually prepared to provide assistance and arrange a personal contact, eg. a guest family.

It is often the case that children can also be invited by their English classmates to spend the holidays with them. The first term continues until mid-December. Then the children travel home to spend the winter holidays with their families (approx. 3 weeks).

The second term then starts at the beginning of January and finishes at the end of March. There is a one-week half-term holiday in February.

After three weeks of holidays, the third and final period of the school year begins in the middle of April. This ends at the end of June or the beginning of July. After that the children have their summer holidays during the months of July and August.

School uniform

Nearly all pupils at British boarding schools wear a school uniform, right through from the first class of the junior school to the senior forms.

Boys usually wear a shirt and tie along with a blazer; the girls wear a white blouse, sometimes also a tie, and a skirt. With increasing age the regulations are relaxed and there is only a “dress code“. Only a few English schools require no school uniform at all.

Types of boarding schools

College-Preparatory Boarding Schools
College-Preparatory Boarding Schools prepare motivated pupils for the academic hardships of college life. Some of them offer programmes for pupils with learning difficulties.

Girls’ Schools, Boys’ Schools
Schools for girls or boys only.

Military Schools
Military boarding schools offer military type discipline in addition to the general school curriculum.

Pre-Professional Arts Schools
Pre-Professional Arts Schools teach artistic subjects such as music, painting, theatre, ballet and creative writing. Pupils are also prepared for entry into traditional colleges or specialist schools such as musical conservatories.

Religious Schools
Denominational religious schools emphasise specific religions or spiritual development.

Junior Boarding Schools
These boarding schools take in pupils up to the 8th grade.

Therapeutic Boarding Schools
These boarding schools take in pupils who have learning difficulties in traditional schools. The staff work with programmes which deal with behavioural problems, emotional problems, drug misuse or serious learning difficulties.

Length of Stay

For boarding school stays abroad, various periods of time come into question:
  • Two school years – with the right choice of subjects, obtaining this school certificate enables study worldwide.
  • One school year – with a one-year stay at a boarding school, language skills are perfected. In addition distance from familiar surroundings promotes personal development. With the right choice of subjects, returning to school in the home country is problem-free.
  • One Term (3 Months) – with a three-month visit to a boarding school, boarding school life can be sampled and knowledge of English improved. An effortless reintegration into school in the home country is then made.


The curriculum that the pupils have to complete in their first year is usually explained in detail in the school’s prospectus. One must make sure that the grading of the child into a class is made on the grounds of his/her knowledge and abilities, which, however, does not mean that the grading in all subjects is dependent on general knowledge or the performance of the child in one particular subject. The results and performance reports in mathematics and the natural science subjects decide which performance group the child is graded into for these subjects; grading for English, French, German and geography is determined by separate criteria. In this way your child, who, for example, may be weak in French, can be in the highest grade for mathematics and in third grade for French.

Pupils who are interested in a longer stay (1 year or more), are usually invited by the schools for a personal interview.

Admission and Language Abilities

As a prerequisite for entry to boarding schools, various standardised tests are required. The admissions office of the schools can inform you about special language admission tests. Depending on the boarding school, the “Secondary School Admission Test“ (SSAT) or the “Independent School Entrance Examination“ (ISEE) is required. International pupils must prove their English abilities either with the “Secondary Level English Proficiency Test“ (SLEP) or the “Test of English as a Foreign Language“ (TOEFL).


At almost all British schools, a plentiful breakfast is offered. Pupils can choose whether they would like a typical English cooked breakfast or simply toast with marmalade or muesli. Pupils can also choose between a vegetarian meal and another meal, eg pork, chicken or fish at lunch. In addition there is always a salad buffet as well as other side-dishes and a dessert.

Many boarding houses also supply a kitchen, where the pupils can make themselves something to eat at any time, or drink tea or have a snack between meals.


The housemaster has the largest responsibility for the general well-being of your child. During the whole time at the boarding school the housemaster or housemistress stays in close contact both with the child and with the parents.

The housemaster and the personal tutor are responsible equally for both school and leisure activities. They meet with the individual pupils at regular intervals to talk with them about their work, their life in the community and their problems, or to find out if they are taking advantage of the opportunities the school has to offer for their personal development.


On Saturday mornings there are normally lessons, and in the afternoon a full programme of sport and other free-time activities is provided. Sundays are exclusively for relaxation. Art rooms, computer rooms and sports facilities are generally open on Sundays. Many houses offer Sunday activities for their boarding school pupils – eg excursions or competitions, and many school groups hold their meetings on Sundays.

The offer of leisure-time activities is large, although there is no obligation to take part.

Registration & Costs

The registration of your child at a school is carried out via an application form. This form must be filled out completely and sent, together with the registration fee, directly to the school.

Generally the fees are paid before the beginning of the term. All three terms have the same fee, despite different durations. It is also important to know that, depending on the school, a deposit of varying size is required for foreign pupils, as a kind of security, which is paid back at the end of term.

Further information on boarding schools in Great Britain can be obtained from the British organisation BSA:

The Boarding Schools Association
Grosvenor Gardens House
35-37, Grosvenor Gardens
London SW1W 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel : +44 (0) 20 7798 1580
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7798 1581
E-Mail: bsa@boarding.org.uk

Via our Search Function you will find a selection of more than 3000 boarding schools worldwide. There you will have the opportunity to search for boarding schools in Great Britain.