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Life at a UK boarding school

Boys' boarding house snooker table at St Bees School in Cumbria

What is the academic year?

Schools in the UK have three terms. Each school sets its own term dates so they can vary, but here is a general guide:

  • Autumn term: September until mid-December. The autumn half-term holiday is a week or two weeks at the end of October

  • Spring term: early January until Easter. The spring half-term holiday is a week in February

  • Summer term: after Easter until early July. The summer half-term holiday is a week at the end of May.

What happens during the school holidays?

For the long summer holidays (from early July until early September), and for the Christmas holidays (from mid-December until early January) most boarding schools close and pupils return home to their parents or guardians. Some schools do, however, run language courses during this period.

For the shorter half-term holidays, some schools stay open. Typically, you won’t have normal classes – it is your holiday after all! – but you will be supervised by staff and be able to take part in activities and events.

Meet your boarding school family

Most schools close at half-term. If you can’t return home, then you will need to stay with a guardian. This is a responsible adult in the UK who can look after you. Your boarding school can help to find a guardian.

What is the accommodation like?

At a boarding school, you live with other pupils in a boarding house – there might be several boarding houses in each school. Girls and boys stay in separate accommodation.

In each boarding house, there will be at least one house parent who lives on the premises. Their job is to look after you and care for your needs. They may also teach at the school too.

Young boarders will probably share a bedroom or dormitory with other children. Each pupil has their own area which can be personalised with photos, a lockable cupboard and wardrobe for possessions. Sharing in this way can be great fun – you might be tempted to stay up all night playing games and talking with your roommates, but don’t forget about your classes the next day!

Older boarders usually have their own private bedroom, or share a room with just one other pupil.  You might also have your own private bathroom or washing facilities.

Most boarding houses have comfortable communal areas where you can relax, socialise and watch television with your fellow pupils, or play indoor activities like table tennis, table football, pool or snooker. Many have a small kitchen area too, so you can make snacks.

What is the food like?

Good food is very important – for happiness as well as health. UK boarding schools tend to put a lot of effort into making their meals healthy and tasty.

For breakfast you might have a cooked meal, toast, cereal, porridge or fruit. For lunch, there is likely to be a very wide choice of excellent food, including hot meals, salads and vegetarian dishes, interesting desserts and fresh fruit. In the evenings, the food is likely to be just as good and plentiful, with similar choices.

Most schools cater well for vegetarian diets. If pupils need to eat halal or kosher food, or have any food allergies, speak to the school to see what they offer. See our Food and drink article for more details.

If you are visiting a school, ask the pupils what they think of the food – they will tell you the truth!