While many London parents nowadays prefer their children to go to London Day schools, there are many circumstances that might make the option of full boarding or at least weekly boarding (Monday – Friday) more practical: the parents may have very long working hours or unpredictable travel commitments and business trips overseas, or they might prefer their children to enjoy fresh air and the outdoors much more than they can at Central London prep schools with little outside space. Pastoral care will be of extremely high importance if your child is going to be in the care of someone else during the week or longer, of course. The following is a list of the most popular and prominent boarding prep schools in England. Many of these are family run to offer the children a “home away from home” while also producing excellent academic results:
Mixed Boarding Preps
- Cheam School (pictured above) is a co-educational day and boarding preparatory school for pupils between the ages of 3 and 13. Founded in 1645 in Cheam, Surrey, it occupies a 103-acre site in Berkshire. Many leavers go on to the co-educational boarding school Marlborough, but the school does send pupils to Eton, St Edward’s, Wellington and others (full leavers destinations here).
- Cottesmore School is a co-educational boarding preparatory school for boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 13, an hour from Central London. Since 1894, it has been preparing for Public School and continues to send pupils to, among other schools, Eton, Benenden, Downe House, Harrow, Wellington and Winchester annually.
- Dragon School, Oxford is one of the most notorious and successful co-educational prep schools in the UK. It covers ages 4 – 13 and offers day and boarding provision. The school educates 800 boys and girls. Leavers go on to around 30 senior schools including Eton, St, Edward’s, Headington, Marlborough, Wellington and Rugby. The school sends around 15 boys per year to Eton College and is one of the main feeder schools of Eton College as a result.
- S. Anselm’s in Derbyshire is a leading co-educational boarding school for 250 boys and girls from nursery age to 13. Despite being non-selective, just about half of pupils win scholarships at their senior destination schools. According to the school, “we strive to create children who are good citizens, pupils who are kind and respectful and who are known for their friendliness and self-confidence“. Popular senior school destinations are Cheltenham Ladies’, Downe House, Eton, Harrow and St Edward’s Oxford and Wycombe Abbey.
- Sandroyd is a small boarding prep in Wiltshire for 180 children between 3 – 13. Many children move on to co-ed boarding schools Marlborough, Bryanston and Sherborne, but there is also a considerable number of boys moving to Eton and Harrow. The school offers one 100% bursary per year from Year 7 for candidates who would not otherwise be able to attend a private prep school!
- Vinehall School in Sussex is an outstanding nursery, pre-prep and prep school for children aged 2 to 13 (boarding from Year 3 onwards). Three quarters of boarders are local children. The school regularly sends leavers to Brighton College, Charterhouse, Eton, King’s Canterbury and Winchester.
- Windlesham House School is an outstanding co-educational boarding and day prep school in Sussex, educating 300 boys and girls from 4 to 13. The school is non-selective and children are admitted following an interview with the headmaster. Senior school destinations include Bedales, Benenden, Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow and Sevenoaks.
Boys’ Boarding Preps
- Caldicott is located only 20 miles from London and is a leading boarding prep school for boys aged 7 to 13. Most boys move on to leading public schools such as Eton, Harrow or Wellington (full list here).
- Cothill House, set in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside, just outside Oxford, has been providing an inspirational all-round boarding education for boys aged 8-13 for 150 years. It is one of the main feeders for Eton College but also sends a large number of boys to other top public schools such as Harrow, Radley, Marlborough, Stowe, and Sherborne, among others.
- Elstree is a co-educational nursery and pre-prep and an all boys’ prep in West Berkshire. It is an eco school which houses the pre-prep in a converted “Home Farm”. Most boys move on to Eton, Harrow, Bradfield and Radley (see leavers’ destinations). The Governors of Elstree School have recently appointed Sid Inglis, previously Joint Headmaster of Ludgrove, to be the new Headmaster of Elstree School from September 2013.
- Horris Hill is located in Berkshire and is a feeder school for Eton College and Radley. Following the boys at Eton, Horris Hill boarders recently performed their very own Gangnam Style Horris Hill video, which will give you a good feel for the boys and the surroundings of the school!
- Ludgrove was founded in 1892 and is located in Berkshire. Prince Harry famously attended this school. It average class size is 12. The school is known as a main feeder into Eton College.
- Papplewick is a day and boarding prep school for 200 boys aged 6 to 13. Papplewick operates two daily return services from London, one from Chiswick and the other from Brook Green, Hammersmith. But from the Summer Term of Year 6, all boys board either as weekly or full-time boarders. The most common destination schools are Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse, Winchester and Wellington.
- Summerfields near Oxford is known as one of the top boys’ preps with an excellent record of getting boys into Eton and Harrow. It was founded in 1864 and takes boys from the age of 8 to 13. The list of extracurriculars is impressive. Summerfields boys won 15 places at Eton, 5 places at Winchester and 8 places at Harrow in 2016.
- Sunningdale – this boarding prep school gained a lot of publicity a few years back when the documentary “Britain’s Youngest Boarders” was aired on BBC 1. It’s a documentary of Sunningdale school and profiles several 7 year old boys in their first months at the boarding prep school. It certainly looks like a lovely school with excellent results. As a result of the TV programme, they have probably become inundated with applications!
Girls’ Boarding Preps
- Godstowe is one of the leading preparatory school for girls aged 7 to 13 located in Buckinghamshire. It also has a Pre-Prep and Nursery for girls and boys aged 3 to 7. Most girls move on to top boarding schools such as Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Downe House, Sevenoaks and Wycombe Abbey (details here).
- Hanford is a preparatory boarding and day school for some 100 girls aged 7 to 13, set in 45 acres of Dorset countryside. Extracurriculars include horse riding and camping. The school states that “we are not a hothouse and do not seek to make children conform to any particular pattern, but over the same period, academic, art, and music scholarships have been awarded to Badminton, Bryanston, Downe House, Godolphin, St Mary’s Calne, St Mary’s Shaftesbury, Sherborne Girls, Talbot Heath and Tudor Hall.“