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State Boarding Schools Guide
There are countless benefits to boarding – but for many families, the high fees can be a key barrier to entry. This doesn't necessarily mean that a place at a boarding school is unobtainable – instead, a state boarding school may well be the answer.

What are state boarding schools?

Forget any preconceptions about boarding schools being the preserve of the privileged. At a state boarding school, the education is free, meaning families only need to pay the cost of boarding. As a result, many more families can access the benefits of a boarding school education – from a broad co-curricular programme to an extended school day and knockout facilities – at a fraction of the cost. Most state boarding schools are academies, some are known as free schools and others are run by the local authorities. Use our search filters below to find the perfect state boarding school for your child. 




How many state boarding schools are there in the UK?
There are approximately 40 UK state boarding schools at present, with more than 5,000 places available. Whilst the majority are England-based, there is one in Wales, two in Scotland, a handful in Northern Ireland, and one in the Scilly Isles. Most are senior boarding schools offering full boarding, whilst others follow a flexi-boarding model, where children can come and go as they need, or weekly boarding where children head home for the weekend.

How much does state boarding cost?
State boarding schools are a fraction of the cost of traditional private schools. According to the Boarding School Association and the Independent Schools Council, the average annual cost of boarding at a state-funded boarding school is around £13,800, whilst an independent institution averages out at a more expensive £36,000. It isn’t easy planning for private school fees and a £20,000 reduction allows many more parents to send their children to boarding school.
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Alphabetical
Distance from London
All-through
Mixed


Beechen Cliff School
Bath
Brymore Academy
Bridgwater
Burford School
Burford
Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS)
Colchester
Cranbrook School
Cranbrook
Dallam School
Milnthorpe
Exeter Mathematics School
Exeter
Five Islands Academy
St Mary's
Gordon’s School
Surrey Heath
Haberdashers' Adams
Newport
Hockerill Anglo-European College
Bishop's Stortford
Holyport College
Holyport
Keswick School
Keswick
Lancaster Royal Grammar School
Lancaster
Liverpool College
Liverpool
Oban High School
Oban
Old Swinford Hospital (OSH)
Stourbridge
Peter Symonds College
Winchester
Queen Victoria School
Dunblane
Reading School
Reading
RGS High Wycombe
High Wycombe
Richard Huish College
Taunton
Ripon Grammar School
Ripon
Royal Alexandra & Albert School
Reigate
Royal Alexandra & Albert School Junior
Reigate
Royal School Dungannon (RSD)
Dungannon
Sexey's School
Bruton
Shaftesbury School
Shaftesbury
Skegness Grammar School (SGS)
Skegness
St George's School, Harpenden
Harpenden
Steyning Grammar School
Steyning
The Duke of York's Royal Military School
Dover
The Royal School - Senior School
Wolverhampton
The Thomas Adams School
Wem
The Wellington Academy
Tidworth
Wymondham College
Wymondham
Wymondham College Prep School
Wymondham


Royal Alexandra & Albert School
Reigate
Royal Alexandra & Albert School Junior
Reigate
St George's School, Harpenden
Harpenden
Gordon’s School
Surrey Heath
Holyport College
Holyport
RGS High Wycombe
High Wycombe
Cranbrook School
Cranbrook
Reading School
Reading
Steyning Grammar School
Steyning
Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS)
Colchester
The Duke of York's Royal Military School
Dover
Peter Symonds College
Winchester
The Wellington Academy
Tidworth
Burford School
Burford
Wymondham College
Wymondham
Wymondham College Prep School
Wymondham
Shaftesbury School
Shaftesbury
Beechen Cliff School
Bath
Sexey's School
Bruton
Old Swinford Hospital (OSH)
Stourbridge
Skegness Grammar School (SGS)
Skegness
The Royal School - Senior School
Wolverhampton
Brymore Academy
Bridgwater
Haberdashers' Adams
Newport
Richard Huish College
Taunton
The Thomas Adams School
Wem
Exeter Mathematics School
Exeter
Liverpool College
Liverpool
Ripon Grammar School
Ripon
Lancaster Royal Grammar School
Lancaster
Dallam School
Milnthorpe
Keswick School
Keswick
Five Islands Academy
St Mary's
Royal School Dungannon (RSD)
Dungannon
Queen Victoria School
Dunblane
Oban High School
Oban
Hockerill Anglo-European College
Bishop's Stortford


Five Islands Academy
St Mary's
The Royal School - Senior School
Wolverhampton


Burford School
Burford
Cranbrook School
Cranbrook
Dallam School
Milnthorpe
Exeter Mathematics School
Exeter
Five Islands Academy
St Mary's
Gordon’s School
Surrey Heath
Hockerill Anglo-European College
Bishop's Stortford
Holyport College
Holyport
Keswick School
Keswick
Liverpool College
Liverpool
Oban High School
Oban
Old Swinford Hospital (OSH)
Stourbridge
Peter Symonds College
Winchester
Queen Victoria School
Dunblane
Richard Huish College
Taunton
Ripon Grammar School
Ripon
Royal Alexandra & Albert School
Reigate
Royal Alexandra & Albert School Junior
Reigate
Royal School Dungannon (RSD)
Dungannon
Sexey's School
Bruton
Shaftesbury School
Shaftesbury
Skegness Grammar School (SGS)
Skegness
St George's School, Harpenden
Harpenden
Steyning Grammar School
Steyning
The Duke of York's Royal Military School
Dover
The Royal School - Senior School
Wolverhampton
The Thomas Adams School
Wem
The Wellington Academy
Tidworth
Wymondham College
Wymondham
Wymondham College Prep School
Wymondham


Why choose a state boarding school?
State boarding schools in the UK often have the feel of a traditional (and costly) boarding school, whilst fees amount to around a third less than such institutions. Like full fee-paying boarding schools, state boarding schools allow parents to prioritise their children’s education, giving them access to world-class teaching, sporting opportunities, and extensive co-curricular.

Much like independent boarding schools, state boarding schools have a longer school day than state day schools, with students taking part in various sports, clubs, and extra-curricular activities – in turn allowing children more time to connect with their peers and learn new skills. For parents, the option of their children being able to board (even if just during the week) means long working hours are no longer an issue, and they do not have to worry about overseeing homework, music practice, and prepping a packed lunch.

The quality of education is a clear benefit of state boarding schools, with the State Boarding Schools Association finding that over 80% of parents choose state boarding because of the high academic quality. Whilst the education side of things is funded by the government, the structure of how classes are taught is very different to state day schools. Curriculums followed are the same, however, class sizes are smaller, specialist academics come from across the country (and sometimes the world) to teach there and the variety of subjects available tends to be greater.

Who can apply to a state boarding school?
As of January 2021, UK state boarding schools are no longer accepting applicants from EU Nationals. Places are limited to children with a full UK passport, or those with the right of residence in the UK. International students are still able to apply whilst living outside of the UK on the premise that they hold a UK passport or residence permit. Most will also require a guardian to be living in the UK for exeat weekends, bank holidays, and half-terms, when there is not enough time to fly back home.

What to consider when choosing a state boarding school?
When choosing the best UK state boarding school for your child, several key factors warrant consideration to ensure the best fitt education.

  • Academics and extra-curricular. Not every boarding school offers the same educational experience. Factors such as extracurricular activities offered and facilities available can significantly enrich your child’s experience and holistic development in education.
  • Community and environment. You should also look at the boarding environment and its suitability for your child's personality and preferences. Factors such as boarding house accommodation, pastoral care, SEND facilities, and the overall community atmosphere can foster a supportive and nurturing environment.
  • Parent travel distance. Considering the distance you're willing to travel for events such as concerts, parent meetings, sports matches, and weekend pickups is crucial when selecting a school. 
If you have any questions about state boarding, our expert advisory team is here to help. We can assist you in finding the perfect school that fits your child’s needs and guide you through the application process.

Frequently Asked Questions
At what age can my child attend state boarding?
The age a student can start UK state boarding varies between different schools. While some schools can offer full boarding from Year 3 (age 7), most boarding starts at senior school age (ages 11-16 or 18).

How are state boarding schools regulated?
Every three years, Ofsted conducts a thorough inspection of state school boarding facilities, pastoral care, and teaching standards. These reports showcase the continued school improvements to parents.