UK boarding schools are world-famous and StudyWorld is a great place to meet their representatives.
But how much do you know about boarding in the UK’s top schools? To get you ready for StudyWorld, we asked Caroline Nixon, General Secretary of boarding schools association BAISIS, to answer questions frequently asked by agents and parents.
There will be a BAISIS village at StudyWorld. Come along and meet a wide range of UK boarding schools, as well as ELT centres, universities and colleges.
Do students need to have guardians?
“It’s not a legal obligation for a child in boarding school to have a guardian at the moment, and there are no regulations around who can be a guardian at the moment, but in my opinion that isn’t going to last.
“At BAISIS we think it is best practice to have a guardian so there is someone as well as the school for the child when their parents are in another country and preferably the guardian should be AEGIS accredited.”
Do all agents work with their own guardians?
“Some agents either have an agency or a preferred guardian they work with or recommend – some have two or three. StudyWorld and BBSW always have guardianship agencies there as exhibitors, and sometimes schools which insist on guardians will have recommended ones if the agent doesn’t have their own.”
Do agents understand the UK regulations on safeguarding?
“I think they understand it in outline. Working in schools you quickly get to know who the good agents are, and one of the criteria would be their attitude to safeguarding. Another thing you look at is whether agents move children around schools to get more commission. Some of the not very good agents who used to be around ten or 20 years ago have gone because schools won’t work with them and the same thing will happen if people don’t comply with safeguarding.”
What is accommodation like in UK boarding schools?
“Big dormitories have mostly gone because parents don’t like them.
“A few years ago there was a fashion for single en-suite rooms but parents want their children making friends and joining in with activities, not sitting on their own, so there is a move towards twin rooms with en-suites so the child has to make friends and use their English.”
What is the nationality mix in UK boarding schools?
“All boarding schools try very hard to ensure a good mix, but some are more successful than others. In the international school where I was Principal, I wouldn’t take more than 10 per cent of any nationality. It took me ten years and a lot of work to get to that point. It makes sense for everyone to get a mix of nationalities – parents don’t want their children to come and just make friends with their own nationality, and teachers don’t want high numbers of one group because it makes it harder to teach.”
How many UK children are there in boarding schools?
“Many boarding schools are now 20 per cent international and 80 per cent UK students. It might be more like 50/50 in the boarding houses, or perhaps an even higher proportion of international students.”
What happens to international students in boarding school holidays?
“The school does not have to look after children in the holiday but if the children are from outside the EU, the school legally has to know where that child is.
“There is no legal responsibility for the child’s guardian to get them to and from school and look after them in the holidays if they aren’t going home. However, a good guardian would ensure that they are in suitable accommodation and not in a hotel.”
How are international students cared for in UK boarding schools?
“The children live in boarding houses with house parents. Each house is likely to have between 20 and 80 children in it. The house parents are sometimes a family, sometimes single people.
“Within the boarding house the children are divided into groups and there’s often an adult, often a tutor, who is specifically responsible for the child. They will meet them regularly to make sure everything is OK inside and outside lessons.”
What happens during the evenings and weekends in UK boarding schools?
“In the evenings there’s homework and some kind of low-key activity. There are often lessons on Saturday mornings, and sport in the afternoon. On Sundays there is often a trip.”
Should international students choose A Level or the IB in UK boarding schools?
“The IB is great but it’s not for everyone. With IB you do 6 subjects including two languages, a science and maths so you keep your options open. With A Levels you specialise in 3 or 4 subjects of your choice.
“When choosing, the most important thing is to do the qualification that is best suited to the individual. Either qualification will get them into university in the UK, the US or their home country.”
What English support do international students get in UK boarding schools?
“Some have separate international study centres. There they are taught intensive academic English and other subjects, and when their English is good enough they move to the main school. In other places, they’ll start in the main school with either support in lessons or they’ll be taken out of lessons for intensive academic English lessons.
“The teachers have lots of strategies such as pre-teaching the vocabulary which will be used in lessons. “
Why is a UK education so popular?
“Our education system is more wide-ranging than in most other countries, including art, music and drama. One reason European students come here is that they get all those other activities within the school day.”
“In lots of countries the UK system is seen as the gold standard. We have an exam system where you not only learn a lot of facts but must be prepared to think about them.
“Also, our pastoral care is seen as being excellent.”