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What is Boarding?


Boarding is the ability for pupils in a school to stay overnight on the campus. Once lessons and after school clubs are finished, boarding pupils relax in their house, watch TV, play games, eat with their friends, study and sleep. Residential staff take the role of parents, ensuring the boarders are safe, happy and developing strong community values. Boarding enables those from across the world to have access to the very best UK schools, such as Freemen’s.

Sometimes, those who do not know about boarding express concern that boarding replaces a home life or family unit. This is absolutely not the case; boarding works alongside family life, supporting children and parents to get the very best out of their education with the minimum amount of stress. In our experience, many of those who try boarding for a short period of time eventually convert to weekly or full boarding having experienced the benefits for children and families first hand. In fact, a lot of boarders (and their parents) tell us that they enjoy their time at home more now when they return than before. Having a child who is a boarder doesn’t replace home life, it works with your family, or as one of our boarders put it: “I never thought leaving my parents would be so easy”.   


Anyone. It is a misconception that boarding houses across the UK are filled with overseas pupils. According to the ISC Census 2018, only 40% of current boarders in ISC schools are non-British whose parents live overseas. Whilst boarding is popular with overseas pupils, we also have boarders from further afield in the UK, and even some who are very local but for whom boarding makes sense. In my career, I have known pupils to board for a huge variety of reasons, including:

  • Living far away from school
  • Engaging in activities at school which finish late in the evening or start early in the morning
  • Study better under supervision
  • Study better in a collaborative environment with friends
  • Wish to join weekend or evening activities
  • Parents work away from home regularly
  • Parents work late, or leave early, so children are home alone for periods of time
  • Long or difficult commute
  • It’s fun to be with friends 24-7
  • Too many siblings at home, making it hard to concentrate
  • No siblings at home so can feel isolated
  • Difficult or inconsistent home life
  • Desire for greater independence


Full Boarding is for those who wish to stay in school every night of the week and at weekends. It often suits those whose parents live abroad, or long distances away in the UK. However, often pupils who live near enough to go home at weekends actively chose to full board, because of the opportunities available for trips, activities and spending more time with their friends. Full Boarders return home at half term and end of term holidays, and are also able to arrange weekends away with family or friends if they wish. Full Boarders are allocated a room for the year which they can make their own with personal items.

Weekly Boarding is available for those who wish to stay in school during the school week, and return home at weekends. It often suits those who live a little too far from school to make a daily commute manageable, those who find themselves very busy in school and perhaps have co-curricular activities in the evenings or early in the mornings, or those who find they are able to study better in a supervised environment. It also suits those whose parents work until late in the evening during the working week. Weekly boarders can go home after their school commitments finish on a Friday afternoon, and can either return on Sunday evening or in time for school on Monday morning. Weekly Boarders, like Full Boarders are allocated a room for the year which they can make their own with personal items.

Flexi Boarding is available for those who wish to stay in school for a day or a few days each week, but not for the full week. This might suit someone who has early morning swimming training one day of the week so wishes to stay in the night before, or someone whose parents are regularly working late one or more nights of the week. Flexi Boarders may not be guaranteed the same room each time they stay in the house, but where possible, this will be arranged.

Ad Hoc boarding is available for those who may wish to stay over in school for the occasional night. This might be because parents are away, or because of a late night commitment in school such as a concert or dinner. Ad Hoc boarding is subject to availability.


A major advantage of the boarding system is that the education never stops. Once lessons are over, boarders are engaged in a host of activities, as well as completing their homework in a supportive and supervised environment. They are constantly learning skills of independence and resilience, learning how to adapt their behaviour to different social settings and learning from the different cultures and backgrounds to which they are exposed in a boarding environment. As the boarders progress through the school they will have access to kitchen and laundry facilities, and will be encouraged to prepare themselves for university and adult life. Boarders have a degree of freedom after school and at weekends, encouraging them to think and behave responsibly and develop the skills to look after themselves and others when away from the school campus.