Many students and parents currently obtain educational information from the study abroad experiences of relatives and friends, as well as readily available information on the internet. However, everyone's situation is different, and the educational paths of others may not be applicable to each individual student. Amidst a wealth of information, it's not guaranteed that one can find information tailored to their own needs. This guide to education is written for parents who intend to have their children study in British boarding schools or private day schools over the course of three years. Through text, data, and images, parents can gain a comprehensive understanding of the schools' features and, from various perspectives, recognise both the strengths and weaknesses of the schools, ultimately finding the most suitable educational institution for their children.
1. Eight Key Factors for Selecting British Boarding Schools
Condensing the school selection strategies of professional educational consultants, this guide helps parents start with these "eight" points to learn how to choose a suitable school for their children's enrollment.
- First Point: Entry Grade for British Boarding Secondary Schools
- Second Point: School Size
- Third Point: Proportion of International Students
- Fourth Point: Proportion of Boarding Students
- Fifth Point: Admission Procedures, Types of Entrance Examinations, and Deadlines for British Boarding Secondary Schools
- Sixth Point: Value-Added Activities and Facilities at British Boarding Secondary Schools
- Seventh Point: Other Valuable Reference Information
- Eighth Point: Budget for Tuition Fees at British Boarding Secondary Schools
2. Introduction to Popular Schooling Regions
- Oxford / Cambridge
- Bath Bath / Bristol Bristol
- Leeds / York
3. Preparations After Confirming Enrollment
- Selecting a Guardian
- Student Visa
- Student Airfare
- Pre-Departure Packing List
Eight Key Factors for Choosing a UK Boarding School
First Point: Entry Year in UK Boarding Schools
Parents should first understand the differences between the education systems in Thailand and the UK and be aware of the main entry years in the UK. This way, parents can plan the best time to send their children to the UK for education.
- Understanding the UK Education System – Feeling Like "Skipping Grades"?
The UK education system consists of seven years of secondary school and three years of university. Parents should take special note that the entry age in the UK is one year ahead of Thai. British students start primary school a year earlier, and by the age of 11, they are already in Year 7. So, when students transition from the Thai system to the UK system, they might feel like they are "skipping grades." However, parents need not worry about their children's ability to adapt to the new system because Thai's education standards are generally more advanced than the UK's at the primary and junior secondary levels. Therefore, most Thai students are well-equipped to handle the UK curriculum when transitioning.
- Calculating the Child's Age at Entry
After comparing the grade levels in the UK and Thai, parents should calculate their child's age on September 1st, the start of the school year. If the child is already 13 years old on that date, they should enrol in Year 9.
- Main Entry Grades for Schools
The primary entry grades for UK boarding and private day schools are Year 7, Year 9, Year 10, and Year 12. Some more traditional schools only accept applications for Year 7, Year 9, and Year 12 and do not admit Year 10 students. Therefore, when parents plan to send their children to the UK for education, they must pay close attention to the main entry grades of their preferred schools and plan accordingly.
- Child's English Proficiency
Parents should also be cautious about Year 10, which is the first year of the UK General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) program. If a student chooses to enter Year 10, they need to quickly adjust to the UK's learning style to avoid affecting their performance in future public exams. When selecting the entry grade, parents should also consider whether their child's English proficiency can meet the requirements of the UK curriculum. Some Thai students who attended Thai schools and wished to enter Year 12 in the UK were denied admission and were instead advised to join the one-year GCSE program (Year 11) to build a strong foundation in English before advancing to Year 12. After all, Year 12 is the first year of A-Levels, and the results of this year are crucial for future university admissions. So, spending an extra year to build a solid foundation can benefit students. Of course, parents should also check whether their preferred schools have strict age requirements for admission.
UK Entry Year Analysis
- Age 11 - Completing Prathom 5 in Thailand
Students who complete Prathom 5 in Thailand are generally 11 years old, and most of them enroll in Year 7 in the UK. They start their secondary school journey alongside British students. Choosing Year 7 can make it easier for students to adapt to the new environment and make new friends. Year 7 is also one of the primary entry years in the UK, with many available slots. If a child is not yet 11 years old at the start of the school year in September, parents can choose Year 6. However, there are two points to consider: first, after completing Year 6, the student may need to pass the Common Entrance Exam (CEE) to move on to the next grade. Based on experience, we do not recommend students to prepare for CEE in just one year because most schools typically prepare students over two years. Second, if a student joins Year 6, it may initially be challenging to integrate into the social circle of classmates who already know each other, which can be a significant challenge for 10 or 11-year-old students.
- Age 12 - Completing Prathom 6 in Thailand
Most parents prefer to apply for Year 8 for their children, but it's essential to check if schools have available slots for transfer students. Some schools may have already reached full capacity in Year 7, and when students from the same school move on to Year 8, there may not be any extra slots available for transfer students. We recommend that parents prepare early and notify their preferred schools about their interest in applying for Year 8. Some parents choose to have their children enter Year 7. Students choosing Year 7 will start their secondary school journey alongside British students, making it easier to adapt to the new environment and make new friends. However, students will be one year older than their classmates. Therefore, parents choosing Year 7 should also consider whether the school will accept overaged students.
- Age 13 - Completing Matthayom 1 in Thailand
This stage is the most common inquiry from parents. When students in Hong Kong complete Matthayom 1, they are generally 13 years old, and they can enter Year 9 in the UK. Year 9 is also one of the primary entry years for most UK schools and offers more slots for international students, increasing the chances of admission to prestigious schools. Therefore, Year 9 is one of the most popular entry points. Year 9 is also when students start to engage with GCSE courses, experiencing the format of public examinations. Students must choose their elective subjects and take mock exams based on their performance. The top-performing students are placed in Set 1, and so on.
- Age 14 - Completing Matthayom 2 in Thailand
Students who complete Matthayom 2 and are mostly 14 years old choose to enter Year 10. UK schools begin teaching the GCSE curriculum in Year 10. Parents should be aware that students will start a rigorous schedule of public exams as soon as they join Year 10. Therefore, the entrance exam for Year 10 may be more challenging, and students should prepare adequately. We recommend that students start tutoring during the summer before entering Year 10 to quickly adapt to the UK's teaching style. If parents intend for their children to enter Year 9, they should check whether the school can accept older students into Year 9, as students in this age group generally have their requirements. We have encountered cases where students did not want to be in the same grade as younger students or felt like they were repeating a grade because all their Thai classmates were entering Year 10. Therefore, parents should communicate with their children, explain the situation regarding grade advancement, and help them make the right choice between Year 9 and Year 10.
- Age 15 - Completing Matthayom 3 in Thailand
Students who complete Matthayom 3 and are mostly 15 years old have two options: Year 10 (a two-year GCSE course) or Year 11 (a one-year GCSE course). Opting for Year 10 allows students to start the GCSE curriculum from the beginning, but it requires an additional year of study and budget. Choosing Year 11 (a one-year GCSE course) can save a year but can be challenging for students with weaker English skills. The one-year GCSE course is less common for international students, but some schools offer it. Generally, students who enroll in Year 11 must complete the coursework for two years in just one year, which requires significant effort and time management skills. Students should take mock exams during the summer before entering Year 11 and prepare well in advance to adapt to the new learning environment. Schools may have higher entry requirements for Year 11, and students should ensure they meet these standards to avoid any issues during the application process.
- Age 16 - Completing Matthayom 4 in Thailand
Students who complete Matthayom 4 in Thailand are generally 16 years old and have several options: Year 11 (a one-year GCSE course), Year 12 (A-Levels), or Year 13 (A-Levels). The Year 11 option is suitable for students who want to complete the GCSE curriculum in one year, while the Year 12 and Year 13 options are for students who plan to take A-Levels. It's crucial to communicate with students about their preferences and goals. Students who enter Year 11 can choose to study at schools that offer the one-year GCSE program, but they must be prepared to work diligently to cover the curriculum. Students aiming for Year 12 or Year 13 should select schools that accept transfer students for A-Levels. These schools often have a larger number of international students. If students plan to join Year 12 or Year 13, they must prepare early for A-Levels, as this level of study is academically demanding. Additionally, A-Levels are the main qualification for university admission in the UK, so students must excel in their studies.
Eight Key Factors for Selecting British Boarding Schools
Second Point: School Size at British Boarding Secondary Schools
In the UK, both large and small schools have their own unique characteristics that cater to the different personalities and learning styles of students. Unlike the relatively uniform sizes of schools in Hong Kong, students may have the opportunity to choose between "large" and "small" schools. When considering boarding or private day schools in the UK, it's important to understand the differences between larger and smaller institutions. To grasp this distinction, it's recommended to focus on four categories: class size, integration, extracurricular activities, and subject choices.
- Class size
British schools have always followed the small class teaching system, with a class size of about 10 to 20 students. The UK will group students according to their abilities and generally allocate them to different "sets." Set 1 has the best performance, Set 2 is slightly lower than Set 1, and so on. The class size of "large schools" and "small schools" is not significantly different, and parents need not worry about excessive class sizes in larger schools. Some "small schools" may even adopt a policy of no more than 7 students per class, and there are schools that provide targeted teaching in a 1-to-3 ratio. If parents feel that their children need to learn in an even smaller class model, they should pay more attention to "small schools" with fewer students.
Students in smaller schools find it easier to integrate into campus life, and teachers can also remember each student's name more easily. On the other hand, larger schools are relatively suitable for students with strong social skills. Parents should also pay attention to the proportion of international students in the school. Many believe that fewer international students are better, as it provides more opportunities for children to interact with local British students. However, this might not be suitable for every student. Sometimes, Hong Kong students might encounter the challenge of "fitting into British circles." Just imagine that upon arriving in a foreign country, students with weaker English skills might be hesitant even to speak English, so how can they actively integrate into British social circles? Therefore, some "like-minded" Hong Kong students at the school might more easily assist others in integrating into campus life. We suggest that parents first assess their children's English communication skills and social abilities before deciding whether to choose a "large school" or a "small school."
- Extracurricular activities
Schools with a higher number of students naturally have an advantage in arranging extracurricular activities. "Large schools" offer more diverse options and packages compared to "small schools." Schools with a larger student population also tend to excel in sports competitions. For parents who prefer "small schools," it's important to consider whether the school offers activities that align with their children's interests. For instance, if a student enjoys music, they might want to check if the school has a choir or orchestra. Although "small schools" might not always perform as well as "large schools" in national extracurricular competitions, this is precisely why students have more opportunities to participate in school team competitions.
Furthermore, a child's personality is also something parents should carefully understand. If a student is willing to try new things, we recommend selecting a "large school," as it provides more diversified activity options. Through extracurricular activities, students can showcase their strengths and bond with peers from different backgrounds. On the contrary, we suggest that more reserved students opt for a "small school." The environment of a "small school" is more likely to encourage students to step out of their comfort zones. Moreover, the threshold for joining school teams or extracurricular activities is lower, providing students with more chances to explore new experiences. Teachers in "small schools" are more likely to notice students' situations and guide passive students to participate in activities, thereby boosting their self-confidence.
- Subject choices
British secondary schools offer more flexibility and diversity in subject choices. In recent years, many students have opted for niche subjects like psychology, political science, computer science, etc. However, not all schools offer these subjects. Therefore, parents should pay attention to whether the school provides the subjects their children want to study. "Large schools" generally offer a wider range of subject choices compared to "small schools."
Taking A-Levels as an example, schools provide several "block structures" for students to choose from. Each block has fixed subjects, and students can choose only one subject from each block. Naturally, "large schools" tend to offer more flexible subject combinations to students compared to "small schools." Nevertheless, since the number of subjects a student studies won't increase just because a school offers more choices, parents only need to ensure that the school offers the subjects their children are interested in.
We recommend that students communicate with the school early to confirm their intended subjects. This information will be taken into account when the school designs the timetable. There have been cases where students confirmed their subject choices later, but the school had already designed the blocks. Unfortunately, some students ended up with both of their desired subjects in the same block, preventing them from studying both subjects they were interested in simultaneously.
Eight Key Factors for Selecting British Boarding Schools
Third Point: International Student Ratio in British Boarding Schools
The ratio of international students reflects the school's tradition and admission strategy. Selecting an appropriate ratio of international students can have a positive impact on students of different ages and personalities. This ratio can be divided into three categories:
|0 - 15％
|Highly traditional and historic British boarding schools that strictly control the number of international students. In general, within the same year level or even the same dormitory, there are usually no more than five students of the same nationality. These schools tend to have a high proportion of boarders, indicating that British local students also reside in the school.
|16 - 35％
|Most British boarding schools fall into this category. These schools have appropriate limits on the number of international students, and typically Hong Kong students do not exceed 30% of the total international student population in the school. Boarding ratios vary between schools. If you wish your child to adapt to the new environment more easily, you may want to prioritise considering schools in this category.
|A small portion of British boarding schools fall into this category, with more than 35% having international students. These schools are often British private colleges or sixth-form colleges, offering courses tailored to the needs of international students, such as one-year GCSE courses and foundation programmes for university entry. The teaching methods in these schools are also geared towards the habits of international students. It is recommended to consider this category for students over the age of 14.
Which type of school with an international student ratio is suitable for children?
Younger students have greater adaptability, so the range of choices is larger. If children are introverted, parents can avoid schools with extremely low international student ratios. After all, unfamiliar environments can be challenging, and having other international students as companions can make it easier for children to integrate into the school. For older high school students, parents should consider whether their children's personalities and learning backgrounds are suitable for schools with fewer international students. Senior students have consistent learning methods and friend circles, making it potentially more challenging for them to integrate into a school with fewer international students as compared to younger students.
International students studying in the UK often face issues such as difficulty adapting to classes, lifestyle habits, and homesickness. Students with independent, adaptable, and strong social skills are more likely to adapt to new environments and can opt for schools with a larger range of international students. Schools with less experience taking care of international students might find it harder to understand the difficulties these students face. Therefore, when parents choose a school, they can understand how the school takes care of international students before deciding whether it's suitable for their children.
- Educational Background
If students have attended international schools in Thailand and are already accustomed to Western learning methods, they can choose schools with fewer international students. These students are also more likely to integrate into British circles due to shared topics and similar English language abilities. Conversely, if students have been studying in local schools in Hong Kong, it's advisable to choose schools with extensive experience in educating international students. The faculty and staff will better understand the challenges international students face, enabling them to detect and address problems promptly.
Consider students' study goals. Some schools with higher ratios of international students might be popular among parents due to their reputation, such as rankings or exam results, particularly among Asian parents. When evaluating the international student ratio of schools, it's essential to take into account the study goals of students heading to the UK and then make a school choice. Many schools with higher international student ratios remain popular, like sixth-form colleges renowned for their academic achievements. These schools often have over 80% international students, but they continue to attract Thai students and parents because they thoroughly understand Asian students' learning patterns and needs, helping many students secure spots in the top five British universities each year.
Eight Key Factors for Selecting British Boarding Schools
Fourth point: Boarding Schools in the UK
International students studying in the UK largely reside in the school's boarding facilities, but local British students do not necessarily choose to board at the school. Therefore, the ratio of boarding students becomes a crucial consideration. It can be categorised into three main types:
- Primarily Day School
In schools where most students are day students, the ratio of boarding students generally does not exceed 10% of the total student population. Most of the boarding students in these schools are international students. Such schools require careful consideration, as the dormitories are predominantly occupied by international students. While this environment allows children to integrate into dormitory life more easily, it may lack British cultural exposure. These schools are suitable for senior students, as they can benefit from the international student-dominated boarding environment, where learning methods are similar and mutual communication is facilitated. Moreover, in an environment with fewer boarding students, dormitory mates are more likely to form strong bonds, becoming lifelong friends even after graduation.
Examples of schools primarily for day students:
Schools where boarding students make up around 20% to 60% of the total student population are referred to as "semi-boarding schools." This category is the most common, and the support for boarding in these schools is ideal. A small number of schools might even arrange for teachers to provide additional support for boarding students on weekends. Overall, the facilities are well-rounded. This choice is generally suitable for various types of students. When selecting such a school, parents should pay attention to the number of international students boarding there and whether the school provides the necessary support and activities for their child.
Examples of semi-boarding schools:
- Full Boarding
Schools where boarding students account for over 60% of the total student population are labelled "full boarding schools." These schools are often steeped in history and tradition and offer comprehensive support for boarding students. For instance, having classes on Saturdays (Saturday School) is one of their advantages. The ratio of international students in "full boarding schools" is generally tightly controlled. Parents opting for this category should be cautious, as it shouldn't be assumed that children will automatically thrive in a full-boarding environment. Some Hong Kong students have expressed difficulty adapting to full-boarding environments or have found it takes longer to adjust due to the differing lifestyles of their foreign peers. We recommend students with a strong English foundation or those who have attended international schools in Hong Kong consider these schools, as "full boarding schools" emphasise student initiative and are suitable for those with strong adaptability.
Examples of full-boarding schools:
- Sedbergh School
- Benenden School
- Christ's Hospital School
- Millfield School
- Sherborne School
- Uppingham School
Eight Key Factors for Choosing a UK Boarding School
Fifth Point: Admission Procedures, Types of Entrance Exams, and Deadlines for UK Boarding Schools
Each school follows its own established set of admission procedures. Generally, the first step involves a "preliminary screening." Afterward, students are scheduled for entrance exams through LINKEDU. If the exam results meet the criteria, the school will invite students for in-person or video interviews. Finally, if the student's performance meets the school's requirements, the headmaster will issue an acceptance letter to the student. This process typically takes anywhere from two weeks to six months, depending on the school's admission timeline.
- Preliminary Screening
After confirming the preferred school, we will submit the student's most recent two years of academic transcripts and extracurricular activity certificates to the school. Once the school reviews the student's profile and believes they have the potential to meet the school's requirements, the student is allowed to formally submit the application. As each school charges an application fee, this "preliminary screening" step ensures that parents do not waste application fees. During this step, we describe the student's various strengths to the school. Therefore, before submitting documents, we must ensure we are familiar with the student's background and needs.
- Entrance Exams
They mainly fall into three categories:
|Lower Years (Years 7–11)
|Students generally need to take English and Mathematics papers. Admission to lower years is relatively easy, but students should not underestimate the exams. Additionally, parents should be cautious, as some demanding schools may also require students to take a Science paper. Generally, for lower years, if students have a good English proficiency level and participate in various extracurricular activities, their chances of being admitted to their preferred school will significantly increase.
|Upper Years (Year 12)
|Most schools require students to take entrance exams for the elective subjects they plan to study in addition to English and Mathematics. There are a few schools where entrance exams for upper years may not require students to take elective subject papers. Students can inquire about the specific details of each school's exams from us before making a decision.
|Some schools require students to submit UKISET reports or take similar logical reasoning tests. The UKISET exam consists of three parts: verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, and English. Strong reasoning skills can greatly enhance a student's chances of being admitted to their preferred school if they take this test. Therefore, if parents are aware of the testing methods and subjects required by their preferred schools, they can consider which schools to apply to based on their child's abilities, thus increasing their chances of acceptance. Some students might find the UKISET exam unfamiliar. Students can request practise questions from LINKEDU consultants before taking the test.
- Admission Interviews (Online Video or Face-to-Face)
Finally, students will have an interview with school teachers or principals, either face-to-face or through a video call. At this stage, the school already knows about the student's academic abilities, and they want to further assess the student's English communication skills and understand why the student choose their school. Students should not be shy during the interview, as providing only one- or two-word answers makes it difficult for the teachers to judge whether you will be capable of communicating with them once you're in the UK and whether you can adapt to boarding school life. The most important thing is for students to be familiar with the school's teaching and support systems beforehand. If the interviewer asks you, "Do you have any questions for me?" at the end of the interview and your answer is "No," it indicates that you haven't delved deeply into understanding their school, which can reduce your chances of acceptance. Of course, before each interview, LINKEDU consultants will assist you in preparing interview materials and questions.
- Pay Attention to Deadlines
The application deadlines for UK schools are usually set between August and October of the year before the intended year of enrollment. For certain highly competitive schools, the deadlines can even be set 2 to 3 years before the intended year of enrollment. Parents can find the application deadlines for a specific school on the school's website. However, due to variations in enrollment situations and available spaces at each school, it's advisable to inquire about availability with us first. It's worth noting that different year levels within the same school might have different deadlines, so be cautious.
Some schools do not have specific deadlines. There are two main reasons for this: first, the school has enough available spaces, and second, the school aims to attract the very top students to apply.
Schools typically start sending out acceptance letters in December of the year before enrollment. Students usually have a week to a month to consider whether to accept the offer. Therefore, even students who start considering applications after Christmas still have a chance to apply to schools that might have had earlier application deadlines. This is because some students who applied early might decline their offers, freeing up spaces. Some schools also have rolling admissions throughout the year, so if you miss the prime application period, don't worry; you can inquire with us and plan accordingly.
We recommend that parents start preparing for their students at least two years in advance. If you plan to apply to highly competitive and prestigious schools, it's best to start planning and registering as early as three years in advance.
Eight Key Factors for Selecting British Boarding Schools
Sixth Point: Value-Added Activities and Facilities in British Boarding Schools
For international students, the educational support and facilities provided by the school are crucial. This is because the goals of British local students and students from Hong Kong often differ. To exaggerate a bit, local students might not necessarily prioritise university education as their learning goal. Therefore, it's important for us to clearly understand the support offered to Hong Kong students by the school or the school's strengths.
To illustrate, many Hong Kong students aspire to study physiotherapy at the university level due to the thriving physiotherapy market in Hong Kong. Students who wish to pursue physiotherapy often need relevant observational experiences, even during their high school years. Therefore, when studying in the UK, finding a school that provides relevant support can significantly enhance their preparation.
British schools emphasise holistic education, which is one of the reasons why Hong Kong parents are fond of the UK education system. They hope their children can develop various strengths and cultivate soft skills. This aspect is particularly suitable for students who start studying in the UK at a younger age (such as in Years 7–9). However, for students who arrive in the UK at a later stage, especially in Year 12, they often have established their own lifestyle and interests. Trying to cultivate traditional activities like rugby and hockey during the A-Level stage might not significantly aid their university admission goals in two years' time.
Therefore, we encourage parents to invest more time in research when selecting a school. Apart from the resources provided in classrooms and extracurricular activities, it's essential to consider whether the school offers value-added activities relevant to the university subjects that their child intends to pursue in the future.
Here are some common examples of value-added activities:
|Designed for students interested in applying to Oxford or Cambridge University, these extracurricular preparatory classes teach students the entrance exam and interview skills required for admission to these universities. Schools also provide instruction in writing personal statements and offer subject selection analysis to students. Schools that offer "Oxbridge preparatory classes" generally have a dedicated department responsible for "Oxbridge" applications, which ensures the accuracy of students' applications.
|Subjects Admission Preparation
|For subjects like Medicine, Dentistry, and Law, admission exams are required. Schools provide specialised training to enhance students' exam skills, offer guidance in writing personal statements, and invite current students in these fields to share their interview experiences and insights. In addition to the mentioned subjects, health science disciplines like Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy have gained popularity in recent years. Schools also provide internship opportunities and interview training for these fields.
|UK schools prioritise students' holistic development and strongly encourage their participation in both academic and recreational extracurricular activities. Schools offer various societies and academic activities tailored to subjects students may be interested in pursuing in the future, such as Psychology, Biology, Law, or Business. Through engaging in these societies, students can gain early insights into university subjects. Schools also regularly invite guest speakers or university tutors to share insights, host events, and encourage participation in various competitions such as debates and mathematics Olympiads, providing students with additional experiences.
|Musical Training Programme
|Schools provide various music-related activities for students to participate in, such as instrument training classes, choirs, and vocal and conducting groups. Additionally, schools arrange different types of music competitions or performances and even organise touring performances across various locations within the UK or other countries, enriching students' portfolios.
|Art Portfolio Training Programme
|Students interested in studying art or architecture are typically required to provide a personal portfolio when applying to universities. To ensure that students have a substantial collection of work or a solid foundation, schools offer various workshops, art exhibitions, visits to art galleries, and other activities for students to participate in.
|Elite Athletes Programme
|For students aspiring to become full-time athletes or those wishing to study sports-related disciplines at the university level, schools often provide specialised training in specific sports programmes. They may even establish their own sports academies or collaborate with local sports clubs to nurture young athletes.
Eight Key Factors for Choosing a UK Boarding School
Seventh Point: Other Valuable Information to Consider
Parents can find a lot of "treasures" on the school's website. Imagine a team designing a website for a company, and the website showcases the company's best services or products. Schools are no different; they will definitely present their proudest information to parents. Of course, we need to strategically filter the information. Below is a list of highly valuable information to consider.
- School Video
It's like a "magic wand" for both parents and students. Even from thousands of miles away, you can experience the school's atmosphere and understand its facilities. Watching videos not only provides insight into the school environment but also allows parents to pay attention to conversations between teachers and students. From these interactions, parents can gauge the support and resources provided by the school or gain insights into the daily lives of students. This information can be valuable when making the final decision. Additionally, after the pandemic, many UK schools have been hosting virtual open days online. We strongly encourage parents and students to participate in these events.
- Headmaster's Welcome
"The Headmaster's Message" can be considered the most representative element as it provides insights into a school's history and educational philosophy. As consultants, we often begin our assessment of a school by watching videos where the principal shares their thoughts. This allows us to gain valuable information about the school's values and direction.
Royal Russell School Headmaster Chris Hutchinson's words:
“We value the things which make each of us distinctively brilliant.
Concord College Headmaster Dr. Michael Truss's words:
“Our academic standards are unashamedly high : Concord students love to learn and are ambitious for their futures."
- Independent Schools Inspectorate （ISI）
A supplementary source of information for parents is the ISI Report. This report can be accessed to view third-party investigations approved by the UK Department for Education. The report covers various aspects, including school basic information, overall student academic performance, teaching philosophy, campus health and safety measures, suitability of staff and facilities, procedures for handling complaints, and the quality of the school's leadership team. The investigators involved in the process conduct comprehensive assessments, including classroom observations, conversations with current students, discussions with management personnel, and surveys with parents and students. The findings are then compiled to form conclusions.
- Subjects Performance
Some schools provide a report that includes the public examination results of A-Level students in each subject. This report outlines the grades achieved in each subject, ranging from A to U. In addition to individual subject grades, parents can also assess the proportion of international students in the school. Generally, Asian students tend to study science subjects, while European students might opt for humanities subjects like history or geography. Moreover, some schools highlight exceptional performance in specific subject areas, providing parents with additional data to aid their final decision in choosing a school.
Eight Key Factors for Choosing a UK Boarding School
Eighth Point: Budgeting for Boarding School Fees in the UK
Traditional boarding schools typically calculate fees on a per-term basis, with a school year consisting of three terms. The tuition fees for each term can range from £10,000 to £15,000, resulting in an annual tuition fee total of approximately £30,000 to £45,000 (converted to approximately HKD 300,000 to HKD 450,000 at a 1:10 exchange rate). On the other hand, UK public schools or day schools, as they do not provide boarding facilities, have lower tuition fees as accommodation costs are not included.
For example, for day schools, the annual tuition fee is around £20,000, roughly equivalent to HKD 200,000. While accommodation costs are not included in the tuition fees, parents still need to arrange for host family accommodations, which can cost around £8,000. Whether you choose a traditional boarding school or a day school, you should budget around HKD 350,000 to HKD 400,000 per year for tuition fees. In addition to tuition fees, parents should also consider application fees and miscellaneous expenses that may arise after confirming enrollment. Each application to a boarding school typically incurs a registration fee, ranging from £75 to £300.
2. Introduction to Popular Regional Schools
When parents choose a school, the location is often a significant factor to consider. Here, we will provide an overview of eight frequently asked-about regions:
- Oxford / Cambridge
- Bath / Bristol
- Leeds / York
The City of London Freemen’s School is a highly prestigious traditional day school with boarding facilities. The proportion of boarding students accounts for 7% of the entire school. The admission requirements for this school are very high. Since the announcement of the BN (O) visa policy, the application difficulty has increased even further. Additionally, registration requires taking the UKiset exam. Students who are interested must prepare early.
Dulwich College has outstanding academic achievements and is a member of the Eton Group of schools. Alongside well-known schools such as Tonbridge School, Westminster School, and Eton College, Dulwich is also part of this alliance. As an alliance member, Dulwich maintains a high standard of education. Each year, 10%–15% of its graduates gain admission to prestigious universities like Oxford, Cambridge, and Ivy League institutions in the United States.
The school is of substantial size and offers a plethora of enriching activities for students. Dulwich is also a suitable choice for families considering settling in London. Due to its proximity to the city centre, most British students opt for day schooling, with only 7% being boarders. Nevertheless, the boarding environment at the school is cosy, and senior students' rooms even come with private bathrooms.
Finding a traditional boarding school in London is definitely not easy, but Mill Hill is a traditional boarding school located in London that offers a high-quality education. Situated in the prestigious Barnet area, the school boasts a lush campus spanning over 100 acres. While many students come from London, the school also attracts students from various nationalities and those who intend to pursue university education in London.
The Leys School is the top choice for many Hong Kong parents due to its convenient location, excellent academic performance, and conducive study environment. However, parents should be aware that the school has very strict admission requirements. It is recommended that parents adequately prepare their children for the entrance exam. The Leys starts arranging entrance exams for international students in January, which is later compared to other schools. Therefore, if parents consider The Leys their first choice, they may need to give up offers from other schools.
Within Cambridge, there are many elite schools ranked in the Top 100, and St. Mary’s School, Cambridge, stands out as a representative of traditional girls' schools. The school embodies the qualities of British girls' schools that emphasise academic excellence, particularly in teaching art and design subjects. It also focuses on students' development in STEM fields and sports. Although the campus is relatively small, specialised teaching buildings have been constructed for art students and pre-college students, catering to different academic needs. In other words, it's a case of "small but complete."
d’Overbroeck’s College is often mistaken by parents as a tutorial-type school, but in reality, it combines the advantages of a traditional boarding school and a pre-college academy. Unlike similar institutions, d’Overbroeck’s is skilled at breaking down barriers between teachers and students. Students can wear casual clothes to school and address teachers by their names, creating a relaxed learning atmosphere that encourages active communication between students and teachers. Compared to traditional boarding schools, d’Overbroeck’s may be more suitable for students who dislike rigid conformity.
Awards such as "2013 IB School of the Year," "2014 Best Independent School," "2020 East Anglia Independent Secondary School of the Decade," and being among the ISI's top 5% of "Exceptional" schools owe their existence to the Stephen Perse Foundation's forward-thinking educational measures. Even a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stephen Perse Foundation had already started utilising technology in teaching by uploading classroom processes online, allowing students to review lessons anytime, anywhere. The school's remarkable achievements make it suitable for students aiming to enter top universities like Oxford and Cambridge.
Oundle School, one of the most renowned boarding schools in the UK, is well-known among Hong Kong parents. In addition to its excellent public exam results and full-boarding environment, Oundle is famous for nurturing numerous notable individuals who have excelled in various fields. Due to its high standards, Oundle requires international students to sit the same exams as local British students, making their English proficiency requirement very high. Furthermore, each international student must submit a UKiset report before applying, and admission is subject to the school's approval. Therefore, it is recommended for parents and students to prepare for the application process two to three years in advance.
With over 400 years of history, Uppingham is one of the first 24 public schools in the UK and a member of the Rugby Group of schools. Uppingham is one of the most traditional boarding schools, with over 90% of its students being boarders. This means that Hong Kong students have more opportunities to interact with local British students and immerse themselves in the local culture. Uppingham emphasises holistic education, training students in critical thinking, fostering curiosity, and nurturing creativity. This ensures that students excel not only academically but also in various other aspects. Notably, Uppingham's music and arts programmes are outstanding as well. The school introduced "Music Nights'' every Friday in 2020, providing students the chance to perform alongside teachers.
Located in the Midlands, Oakham School is a large and traditional institution with over 1000 students. It combines the qualities Hong Kong parents appreciate: a traditional boarding environment, excellent academic results, and a good reputation. Oakham boasts comprehensive facilities, including boarding amenities that cater to the needs of younger students. Academically, they provide ample support for senior students, such as a wide range of subject choices. Thus, Oakham is a high-quality school suitable for students of all ages, offering great compatibility.
Loughborough Grammar School (LGS) upholds the traditional British boys' school style: a passion for sports, excellence in science, and encouragement for students to explore the world. Its history and reputation can be compared to those of another famous boys' school, Dulwich College. However, LGS's tuition is more than £10,000 cheaper than Dulwich, making it suitable for boys who enjoy outdoor activities and sports. It's worth noting that the school's international student ratio accounts for only 6% of the total population. The collective activities for boarding students mainly involve outdoor visits and sports, providing a more authentic British lifestyle experience.
Bath / Bristol
Clifton College has nurtured multiple Nobel Prize winners, and the school's contribution to students' academic development in economics and science cannot be underestimated. As one of the most traditional elite schools in the UK, Clifton College is a member of the Rugby Group, along with well-known schools like Rugby School and Wellington College that Hong Kong parents are familiar with. The school maintains strict admission standards and places high importance on students' well-rounded development. Given the traditional emphasis of public schools on student involvement in music and sports, students with potential in these areas will be given priority consideration.
Downside School, deeply rooted in the Catholic tradition and with a history of 400 years, boasts a grand chapel, classic interior decor, oil paintings on the walls, and photographs of alumni that make students aspire to become a part of the school's history. Downside School is indeed an ancient and traditional institution that, through years of cultivation, has garnered a flourishing reputation. Its distinguished status has attracted aristocratic families to enrol their children there for centuries. This school receives excellent feedback from both parents and students.
If you aspire to be an all-around intellectual lady proficient in both the arts and sciences, Badminton School can be considered a top choice. Amongst British girls' schools, Badminton stands out with its unique combination of preserving a traditional atmosphere of arts and literature while also striving for progressive scientific education. The school's STEM teaching allows girls interested in science to explore and learn. This blend of old and new teaching methods enables them to excel, achieving excellent results in public examinations. Furthermore, the school places importance on students' character development, and their poised and gracious demeanour in social interactions leaves a lasting impression. Moreover, the school's unpretentious and down-to-earth atmosphere is also highly favored by many parents.
Sidcot School is truly a happy school in every sense, as it doesn't excessively pressure its students. Instead, the school encourages students to develop in various aspects, nurturing curiosity and an exploratory spirit. After classes, students have the opportunity to participate in "Exploration Activities," such as cave exploration and the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme. The school understands the importance of good mental well-being for each student, so it mandates that all staff and students, including the headmaster, engage in 20 minutes of reflective meditation every week, allowing students to recharge their spirits. Students are required to report their well-being to the headmaster and teachers each week, ensuring that they grow in a joyful and harmonious learning environment.
Traditional boarding schools in the UK aim for students to have genuine interest in their pursuits, leading them to actively learn, set goals, and even hold themselves to high standards. Kingswood School embodies the standard philosophy of British boarding schools, moulding students from a young age. The school has a lower proportion of boarding and international students, with the majority being local British students. Students with a strong grasp of the English language are likely to adapt well to Kingswood's learning environment.
The combination of Royal High School (RHS) and the city of Bath is a perfect match for parents and students aspiring to attend a traditional British girls' school. The former is an elite boarding girls' school known for its excellent academic achievements, while the latter is a historic and academically vibrant British city. The fusion of these two elements results in students who excel not only in public examination results but also showcase various talents. This blend perfectly reflects the tradition of British girls' schools, which emphasise strong performances in both academics and talent. In contrast to the typical focus on art and design in girls' schools, RHS places an emphasis on music and sports development, making it stand out among many British girls' schools.
As one of the oldest and affiliated with the Sacred Heart tradition, Woldingham School has been a popular choice among Hong Kong students for many years. It is a preferred British girls' school for students from schools like La Salle, Sacred Heart, and Maryknoll. Apart from academic excellence, the school also aims to cultivate students' personal integrity and character, guided by the benevolent teachings of the Catholic and Sacred Heart traditions. Additionally, being located near London, the school is favoured by many parents who have an affinity for the city. With a train station nearby providing direct access to London, students can explore the city during the weekends while enjoying a peaceful and undisturbed learning environment on campus.
Tonbridge School is a top-tier private boys' school that combines a rich cultural history with modern educational standards. While it might not be among the nine major public schools, it is held in the same regard. Its outstanding academic achievements have produced many graduates who have grown into societal elites, making it highly sought-after by local British parents. In 2019, Tonbridge was named "Best Independent Boys' School of the Year" by the UK's Independent Schools Parent magazine. Due to its high reputation, the competition for admission is fierce each year, and prospective students generally need to apply three years in advance. If parents are considering enrolling their sons, early planning is essential to ensure they don't miss the optimal application window.
Caterham School has consistently achieved top-tier academic results over the years and is one of the renowned schools located near London, making it highly popular among Hong Kong parents. As a result, the school also has a relatively significant number of Hong Kong students. Caterham School places a strong emphasis on discipline while maintaining a modern teaching approach. The school also assigns senior students as mentors to junior students, allowing the older students to share their experiences and academic knowledge. In 2020, over 90% of the students were admitted to prestigious institutions such as the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and the Russell Group, reflecting the school's successful teaching philosophy through the outstanding performance of its students in public exams.
Royal Russell is an HMC school located in the outskirts of London, featuring a serene and unpretentious campus environment. The school boasts traditional British architectural design, a strong academic ranking, and modern boarding facilities that keep up with the progress of the times. These factors have attracted many Hong Kong students and parents to apply. Although the proportion of boarding students is relatively low, the A-Level results of boarding students are consistently 8% higher than those of day students. The school does not neglect the support provided to its boarding students despite their smaller numbers.
From its inception, Royal Russell has received royal patronage, with the British monarch serving as its patron and having visited the school four times to participate in the opening ceremonies of new facilities. The school has produced notable alumni, including Tom Wright, the renowned British architect who designed the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai.
Leeds / York
Harrogate Ladies' College (HLC) is located in the quaint town of Harrogate, near a national park. Compared to other urban schools, Harrogate's tranquillity makes it particularly suitable for introverted girls. Additionally, the school's strong sense of community allows even reserved girls to naturally integrate into the environment. The school is dedicated to inspiring students' potential, emphasising joyful teaching and personal development ("I am me''). In addition to traditional subjects, the school offers courses in photography, textiles, drama, and cooking, among others.
Compared to other British boarding schools, Queen's Ethelburga's Collegiate (QE) can be considered a "rising star". With just over a century of history, the school has already achieved a top ten ranking in terms of academic performance and campus environment, thanks to generous resource allocation. The unique high school curriculum structure with "houses" and "departments" in parallel allows students to choose an exam system based on their strengths and aspirations for further education. This approach has consistently led QE to excel in public exam results. Many parents who visit the campus are reassured by the five-star dormitory facilities, which ensure their children's well-being in terms of clothing, food, accommodation, and transportation. Students often describe their time at QE as a five-star learning experience.
Queen Margaret’s School is situated away from the city and is an esteemed aristocratic girls' school in the York region. It has a remarkable reputation and has been attended by notable individuals such as the Duchess of Kent, the Duke of Rutland's three daughters, and even the daughter of the gambling tycoon Sir Stanley Ho, Pansy Ho. With only 270 students in total, over half of them are boarders. The A-Level classes have an average of five students, resulting in outstanding academic performance. Around 70% of the female students achieve A* to B grades. This environment is well-suited for students who appreciate small class sizes and more personalised attention from teachers.
St. Peter’s School, York, is the fourth oldest private school in the world, and even today, it continues to uphold the advantages of traditional British education. St. Peter’s places a significant emphasis on students' experiences within the school, creating an encouraging environment in classrooms, extracurricular activities, and the overall atmosphere. The school values holistic education, yet its public exam results are on par with those of institutions that prioritise academic achievements, reflecting a positive learning atmosphere. Admission to this school is highly competitive, particularly in terms of English proficiency. International students are required to meet the same English language standards as local students. Therefore, students considering applying to St. Peter’s need to have an exceptionally high level of English proficiency.
Mayfield School is indeed a favoured choice among Hong Kong parents seeking a British boarding school, mainly due to its impressive exam results and traditional values. As a Catholic girls' school with a strong emphasis on academics and character development, Mayfield School nurtures well-rounded students from a young age. When you step onto the campus of Mayfield, you'll immediately sense the friendly, courteous, and diligent atmosphere among the students. The school's annual exam results reflect the effectiveness of their teaching methods, which have garnered the attention of many Hong Kong parents who appreciate the qualities of a traditional British girls' school.
Reeds School has an interesting history. It was initially established to provide education for underprivileged children. Over time, it has transformed into a traditional boarding school. The school boasts strong academic performance and benefits from its proximity to London. However, due to relatively limited promotion in Asia and other regions, the international student population at Reeds School remains modest. If parents are interested in an environment with fewer international students, Reeds School is certainly worth considering. Beyond academic knowledge, the school offers students diverse opportunities for development, aiming to encourage excellence in their individual interests. Additionally, being a member of the HMC (Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference) underscores the school's reputation within the education sector.
Queen Anne's School is known for its emphasis on music and art development, with dedicated investment in these areas to provide top-notch facilities in line with the school's holistic development policy. At the same time, the school maintains a commendable academic record, achieving a balance between academic and artistic pursuits. The school offers scholarships in music, art, and sports, attracting many talented and versatile students to apply each year. As the only traditional boarding girls' school in the Reading area, the school has 450 students, with about half of them being boarders. The dormitory atmosphere is very warm, and the relationships between students are also very harmonious. The school's strong sense of community allows quiet and introspective girls to naturally integrate into the environment.
Leighton Park's commitment to its founding principles is evident in its focus on moral and ethical education for its students. The school places great importance on the individual worth of each student, believing in the cultivation of holistic development over mere academic scores. As a result, the school doesn't blindly pursue top rankings among private schools in the UK secondary education league tables. Instead, it emphasises the integration of "teaching" and "education." Its forward-thinking STEAM education allows students to explore personal interests in areas such as mathematics, science, computer science, engineering, and the arts, ensuring their future success. Many parents also praise the school for providing ample space for their children's independent growth and allowing hidden talents to flourish. When it comes to recommending the best private schools in Reading, Leighton Park is undoubtedly a top choice.
Bethany School places a strong emphasis on addressing the unique needs of each student by providing a nurturing learning environment that promotes their physical and mental well-being. It truly lives up to its reputation as a "happy school." In addition to academic cultivation, the school offers a variety of extracurricular activities for students to participate in, such as the Young Enterprise Programme and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme.
Furthermore, Bethany School carefully manages the proportion of international students, with only around 11% being international students. This means that Hong Kong students have more opportunities to interact with local students, enhancing their English language skills and allowing them to better understand and integrate into British cultural life.
Canterbury has consistently been a popular choice among Hong Kong parents due to its strong academic atmosphere, good safety record, and convenient transportation. As a result, many parents inquire about boarding schools in the city each year. However, there is no need for parents to worry about an overwhelming presence of students from Hong Kong and mainland China at St Edmund’s School Canterbury. According to information shared by the school with LINKEDU, there are only 6 students from Hong Kong and 10 students from mainland China at the school, ensuring an English-language teaching and living environment.
3. Preparations After Confirming Your Degree
a. Choose a guardian
Before departing for the UK, students and parents have many preparations to handle, such as arranging a guardian, applying for a visa, purchasing student plane tickets, preparing a pre-departure packing list, and organising holiday plans.
According to UK law, all international students under the age of 16 who receive more than 12 weeks of education in the UK must have a qualified UK resident as their guardian. Many boarding schools also require students under 18 to have a guardian. Guardians have different roles and responsibilities in various situations, including arranging accommodation for students during weekends or short breaks, acting as a liaison between students, parents, and the school in daily life, monitoring students' academic progress and social development, handling emergencies and accidents on behalf of parents, such as illness, medical care, suspension, or expulsion from school, providing daily and academic support, and maintaining communication with the school and parents during short breaks or when the student is away from school.
If parents do not have friends or relatives with British passports to act as guardians for their children, they can choose the fee-based services provided by guardian companies. British guardian companies have rigorous screening standards and assist students in identifying qualified guardians. The recommended guardians and their family members have no criminal records.
b. Student Visa
For students studying in the UK for more than six months, it is necessary to apply for a Student Visa. In order to help parents and students better understand the visa requirements, I will provide a brief explanation of the key points for applying for a visa.
Firstly, before beginning any procedures, students must prepare:
- Tuberculosis (TB) Test Report
- Financial evidence
c.Pre-departure Packing List
For students who are going abroad for the first time, parents often prepare many everyday items for their children in advance to ensure they have what they need upon arrival in the UK. However, based on my years of experience in the UK, I have prepared the following list of documents and items that students need when they first come to the UK for schooling.
Parents often ask about how to order school uniforms and how students can collect their clothes after the school has laundered them. In reality, schools typically have uniform shops where students can purchase their uniforms upon arrival on campus. Some schools might also require students to pre-order uniforms from online suppliers, which will then be mailed directly to the school. Once the students arrive, they can simply wear the uniforms they have received.
Regarding laundry, boarding schools usually handle the collective laundry of all dormitory students. To make it easier for students to identify their clothes, it's recommended to attach name labels to each item of clothing.
As for the number of daily necessities to bring, most items that international students will need can be easily purchased in the UK. Schools generally require students to purchase these items once they arrive, and students can also order items online if needed. So, parents don't need to worry too much about their children running out of daily necessities at school.
|Important Documents (Carry-On Bag, Do Not Check-In)
|Passport, Hong Kong Identity Card (Original and Copies), BRP Collection Letter (UKVI Decision Letter), Parental Consent Letter for Under 18 Students (if applicable), School Admission Letter, Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies Letter (CAS Letter), Guardian's Contact Information and Address Proof, Name and Contact Information of the Person Picking You Up, Prepaid UK Phone SIM Card, Medical History and Vaccination Records (Include English medical history certificate and medication instructions if applicable), Approximately £500-800 in Cash (Hand over to the school upon arrival), Recent Passport-sized Photos (6-12), UK Bank Cards and Bank Letters, IELTS Score Sheet (Original and Copies), Insurance Policy Documents (* Depending on individual and course requirements).
|Clothing (All items must be labelled with your name for school staff identification)
|Athletic shoes, leather shoes and shoe polish, slippers, clothing and underwear, pyjamas, socks, short-sleeve and long-sleeve T-shirts, cold-resistant clothing (down jackets, sweaters, hoodies, overcoats, scarves, beanies, gloves, HEATTECH), suits **depending on individual and course requirements.
|Essential Everyday Items
|Face towels, large towels, umbrella, branded name tag, calculator (CASIO fx-85gt plus), basic stationery (ballpoint pens, pencils, highlighters, correction fluid, etc.), glasses or contact lenses, **two-week supply of personal care items (toothpaste, toothbrush, body wash, shampoo, cup), bed sheets and covers/pillowcases, **personal hygiene products (for females), emergency medication (with English instructions), long-term medication (if applicable), **depending on individual and course requirements.
|Laptop and related accessories (Microsoft Office software, charger, mouse, etc.); mobile phone and related accessories (earphones, charger, etc.); power strip; USB drive; thumb drive; SIM card ejector pin (in case you need to replace the SIM card upon arrival).