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What is life like at boarding school?

What is life like at boarding school?

A boarding school is a residential school for pupils to live and learn in. Pastoral staff, such as House Parents, live alongside pupils and support them academically and individually to optimise learning and personal development. Boarding life maximises academic output and ensures fun downtime.

At weekends, lessons are off, and pupils can relax and unwind with various leisure activities for different age groups. Pupils of all ages return home during the longer school holidays and can stay on-site during half terms to be with friends. Schools with exeat weekends require pupils to leave the premises to give pastoral staff a much-needed break and to be with their family.

Study time at boarding schools is optimised through dedicated study periods and locations. Pupils benefit from supported or supervised study. Peers are also a great source of study support during Prep Time and other times of the day.

A typical day in boarding school follows a schedule, with pupils simultaneously beginning and ending their school day. After school, pupils can enjoy free time or activities of their choosing before eating supper together and studying in the boarding houses or their rooms during Prep Time.

In England, boarding schools follow similar rules. Pupils recognise the need for structure and appreciate the support they are given.

What are the weekends like at boarding school?

Some schools run classes on Saturday mornings, followed by activities that are compulsory to attend. Full-time boarding pupils at Stonar, however, spend their weekends socialising, playing sports, or studying. Boarding schools offer a busy programme of optional leisure activities to keep life exciting and varied, such as on and offsite events, including sports fixtures, shopping, and karting.

Because Stonar weekends are about leisure, there are no lessons. Young boarding pupils have a defined weekend timetable and participate in supervised activities or pre-arranged trips. Senior pupils and Sixth Formers determine their own activities and schedule. 

The school schedule for meals is more relaxed on weekends, with brunch served at 11 a.m. for an hour instead of an early midweek breakfast. Main meals also vary from the midweek offer, with ‘Takeaway Saturdays’ providing American or pizza-themed food. Sunday dinner is a traditional Sunday roast. 

What happens on holidays at a boarding school?

Boarding schools close entirely for the long summer and Christmas holidays. When schools close, all pupils who are UK nationals return home to their parents or guardians. International pupils can return home, stay with friends or pre-vetted host parents in the UK during the holidays.

For the short breaks and longer half-term holidays, boarding schools stay open. UK nationals and international pupils who stay on-site won’t have regular classes but will be supervised by staff and be offered a range of activities. Each school will have a seasonal events calendar available for pupils to choose from.

At Easter, which falls between mid-April to early May, international pupils often return home, however at the stage where pupils are studying for exams, many will stay at school to take advantage of revision classes.

What is an exeat weekend and how does it work?

An exeat weekend could also be called a ‘leave weekend.’ An exeat is when there is a holiday at the weekend. Full boarding schools remain open over exeat weekends, whilst other boarding schools close entirely, and it is usually compulsory to leave the premises.  

UK pupils usually go home on exeat weekends, with international pupils usually staying with friends or host parents. Staff, such as houseparents, are available for pupils 24/7 but exeat weekends provide a break and a chance to be with family.

Even though exeat breaks from school are short, they provide pupils with the perfect time to catch up with family and recharge before returning to school. It is worth checking with the boarding school in advance if it has compulsory exeat weekends.

What is it like to study at a boarding school?

Boarding school offers an optimal study environment. Each school will have set times and suitable locations for quality study. With access to teaching support and peer-to-peer learning, pupils need never struggle with schoolwork. 

Is there homework in boarding school? Yes, there is homework in boarding schools and ‘Prep Time’, or ‘Prep’ in the evenings is when homework is done. Prep lasts around an hour and includes supervised, supported or self-study, with teaching staff members on hand to help.
Prep takes place for all pupils after supper. Younger pupils complete their Prep in designated areas of the boarding house. Seniors and Sixth Formers can work in their bedrooms, which are set up for individual study. Study bedrooms have the right equipment and provide a quiet space for homework and revision. Prep is part of a high-quality education and a vital activity for pupils studying for exams to achieve top grades. 

What does a typical day at boarding school look like?

The schedule for a typical day at boarding school starts at 07.00, and lessons end at 16.00. Pupils can enjoy clubs or free time after school. Suppertime is 17.30 for one hour. Evening routines vary slightly by age.

Day routines for all pupils begin at 07.00. By 07.45, pupils eat breakfast together in the dining room. After breakfast, pupils head to tutor and are in their first lesson by 08.50. There is a break in the morning, and then everyone stops for lunch at 13.05. Classes resume after lunch at 14.15 and end at 16.00. After lessons, pupils can study, relax or go to clubs. Supper is served for all pupils at 17.30. After suppertime, Prep takes place for an hour from 18.45, after which pupils’ evening routines vary by age.

Evenings for girls and boys in Years 5-10 include supervised reading, activities, music, and relaxing time. The bedtime routine begins at 20.15 for younger pupils, with older children afforded more time to relax before getting ready for bed.

Lights-out is earlier mid-week and slightly later at weekends, subject to good behaviour. Bedtimes for all year groups are in the table below.

Pupil’s Year Group

Lights Out:
Sunday – Thursday

Lights Out:
Friday & Saturday

5 & 6


21.00 - 21.30
















12 & 13



What is it like inside boarding school houses?

Boarding school accommodation is split into houses catering to different ages and genders. Girls and boys will stay in separate areas. Inside, houses offer a warm, home-from-home environment, with dedicated, live-in House Parents ensuring a cosy, familial atmosphere and living conditions. Pupils live in boarding school dorm rooms and share these with a small number of others. Personal photos and accessories can help pupils to create a personal touch. Boarding houses also offer communal areas in which to study and socialise.

Boarding houses have a strong sense of community and tend to suit sociable pupils, but they also offer privacy and personal space! Houses are roomy and have well-appointed communal areas, a large dining table for everyone to sit or study around, plenty of seating, and good kitchen facilities. Pupils will often sit together to watch TV or play games. They also engage in activities organised by House Parents.

House Parents are responsible for creating a good atmosphere in their house, suiting a diverse community from all over the world. They usually live on-site with their immediate family and pets, contributing to the homely feel of boarding houses. House Parents cater for a huge range of interests and are experts in assisting pupils to become independent and successful as individuals and in their studies.

Studying is part of the boarding experience. Pupils benefit from being surrounded by peers who can encourage them to study more and help and support them. Dedicated study areas and periods also help to embed a studying mindset.

What is the food like at a boarding school?

Food at boarding school is high quality, and meals are included in school fees. Dishes are cooked from scratch and on the premises to ensure consistent high quality. Menus rotate to provide a high-quality dining experience, including variety and good nutrition, also allowing for local sourcing wherever possible. Pupils with specific diets and allergies are catered for in line with the boarding school’s food policy.

The food policy is important as it covers the rules around boarding school food and drinks. There is usually a committee or team responsible for menus, sourcing, policies etc. - not only for the prepared meals but also tuck items and individual responsibility for adhering to rules, such as if the school is nut-free.

Parents of pupils who require a nut-free or other specific diet to cater to allergies must flag their child’s needs at admission. Generally, schools will offer dairy-free and gluten-free options, plus a vegetarian option as a main each day. Occasional vegan options also appear on menus.

Boarding school menus are reviewed regularly to keep options interesting and ensure pupils are getting the right nutrition. Menu rotation also means chefs can take advantage of seasonality and special offers from suppliers. At weekends, catering staff offer specials, such as ‘fakeaways’, and Sundays offer a traditional roast dinner. Special food events, such as parties and festivities, are a highlight for pupils.

What are the fun activities at a boarding school?

There are a lot of fun activities at boarding school to keep pupils entertained! Day-to-day, schools offer downtime after lessons to participate in clubs and groups. This helps pupils relax, learn a new skill or make new friends. Weekends provide further opportunities for enjoyment, with a busy schedule of optional activities, including sports, leisure time, and trips to explore the local area or further afield. 

Degrees of freedom to explore locally vary depending on age. Younger pupils can enjoy organised trips to the cinema or bowling. Older pupils enjoy heading out unsupervised into their local town for a spot of shopping or lunch - but are given instructions about times, the locations they are permitted to visit, and when they are to return to school. 

Pupils who stay on the premises might participate in on-site sports, such as rugby or horse riding if their school offers equestrian facilities. They may also join a games or movie night in their boarding house.  

What is the admission process for a boarding school?

Once a family has set their sights on a boarding school, the application process follows several steps, with an in-person (or online) visit as the first one. Visits are arranged by calling the school or completing an online enquiry form on the school’s website. Parents can organise a personalised visit or join a school open day if there is one in the near future. 

Visiting a school allows families to get a feel for the atmosphere, as well as meeting the team and asking any questions to admissions. An online or offline application form is completed after the visit to register interest. Boarding school admissions will vary, but most schools will require a registration fee at this stage.

Once the application form is completed and received, pupils are invited in for an entrance assessment. The age of the child determines the test they take. Each pupil will have an interview with the Head Teacher. The assessment and interview will take place online for international students. Following assessments, the school will evaluate all applicants, consider fee support applications, such as scholarships and bursaries, and issue decision letters to parents with an offer and a start date for successful candidates. It is up to the parents to formally accept a place.

Start dates can vary, as can availability. Some boarding schools have specific intake rules, but some operate on a rolling intake basis, with the whole admissions process completed within a matter of weeks. It is important to establish the process and timelines at your school of choice.