Beyond the School Gates – Your Guide to an Independent School Education in the UK

The reputation of the British Education system is well known on a global stage. Many people say that education is now Britain’s greatest export. I believe this to be true and want to outline how this system can be made accessible to British families taking up an expat lifestyle, those returning from a period overseas, families from other countries planning to spend a period in the UK and the increasing number of foreign families who see the value in the British Education system.  I will be publishing a series of articles on World of Expats, which will highlight key issues that should be considered before committing to sending your child to be educated in the UK.

Being a product of the system myself and having spent 13 years teaching at one of the top Independent Boarding Schools in the UK it was clear to me that the opportunities that are available to the students in this system outweigh any other.

However, understanding the system and how to access it requires a helping hand and advice on which school will suit your child’s needs the best is key to making a successful decision.

As part of a series of articles for World of Expats I will be writing articles on topics such as ‘Preparing Children for a Global World’ – ‘Single-Sex Education versus Co-education’ – ‘ Benefits of Smaller Class Sizes’ and the ‘Gift of Independent Thinking’ amongst other interesting and thought provoking topics surrounding the world of Independent School Education.

There are many benefits of choosing an independent education for your child. The top Independent Schools in the UK offer high academic standards for each stage of your child’s education. The ‘Preparatory Schools’ build the foundations for future success. Starting your child at the age of 10 in a leading Prep School will enable your child to have the opportunity to apply for any of the senior schools in the country. The registration and application processes starts when the child is 10 years old for a 13+ entry with many of the Senior Independent schools having their own assessment and application process. Coming from prep school enables them to prepare fully for these tests and have the best chance of securing a place at one of these coveted ‘Public Schools’.

The standard of pastoral care at independent boarding schools is outstanding and the students are very well catered for during the term time. Outside of term time the job of a guardian is very important, as they are not only a legal requirement but also integral to the success of a young boarders life when starting at school in the UK. If the student feels as though they have a good support network outside of the school they will feel more secure in their new environment.

Beyond the quality of the care the students receive the quality of the teaching is excellent. Specialist teachers with fantastic resources teach the students in small class sizes enabling the students to fully benefit from the lessons. Coupled with this most schools employ a ‘tutor system’ where each child will have a personal tutor who overseas the pastoral and academic progress of the students, setting personal goals and ensuring that they are met. This kind of close attention means that problems at school are highlighted at an early stage and are dealt with swiftly enabling students to continue making progress and to be happy with their lives both inside and outside of the classroom.

The broad curriculum that is on offer at Independent schools gives the students the opportunity to study a more varied and interesting range of topics. This gives the students more scope to plan, in conjunction with the school, their university courses and the institutions that they will chose to study at. Independent Schools in the UK have an enviable record of academic success in regards to gaining entry to the top universities in both UK itself and the USA. A quarter of the Russell Group universities intake are made up of students from UK Independent schools, which proves that the education received and the preparation for university entrance is superior in the Independent sector.

The facilities at these schools are outstanding and students are taught in specialised learning environments. These facilities are not just for the academic subjects but also include art studios, sports facilities, drama and performing arts centers and music schools that are built to professional specifications. Students become accustomed to learning and working in these environments and the standard of work they produce is of an incredibly high standard.

Beyond this students have the opportunity to travel to all parts of the world. Whether it is a hockey tour to South Africa or a History of Art tour to Florence students at Independent school have the opportunity to explore the wider world and put their learning to the test.

Many children grow up in large urban environments and have constraints of time, space and opportunities. Most independent boarding schools are set in healthy countryside where they have time to make the most of their opportunities, space to call their own and the opportunities to explore their interests and develop their dreams.

Parents are overwhelmed with choice and ultimately all schools are setting out to provide fantastic opportunities for their students but all schools are unique and have their own individual atmosphere that will suit some students better than others. It is all about personal preference and choosing the best school for your child.


Article submitted by Jim Hewer, Founder of Heritage Education.  Heritage Education act as a bridge between those who seek the best possible education for their children and the top independent schools in the UK.