What provision do state boarding schools make for the needs of children from Service families?


by Helen Barton, Headmistress of St George’s School

State boarding is said to be one of the best kept secrets in education. I am happy to say it provides a viable, cost-effective and worthy alternative to boarding in the independent sector. At the moment there are 38 maintained or state-funded boarding schools which offer a diverse range of high quality educational experiences.  


The state boarding system is unique in that you only pay for the boarding element of school life with the only criteria being that you must be eligible for a British state-funded education. Boarding in a state boarding school is highly
cost-effective, with parents paying between £10,000  and  £17,000 a year for a state boarding school place with the average being £12,000. In addition, members of the Armed Forces can apply for a number of allowances to support their children in education. One of these is the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) supported by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).     

Prime locations

As well as affordability, many Service parents want to take advantage of the prime locations many state boarding schools occupy. You may want proximity to guardians or other family members or to be near major transport hubs. You may want a school that shares the ethos and values that you have as a family. Perhaps most importantly, you will want your child to experience an environment that is either close to Service establishment or has a deep knowledge and understanding of the unique demands placed on, and experienced by, Forces families. In this kind of environment a child from a Service family can feel comfortable, supported, happy and ultimately thrive. Whatever your needs as a family, the one thing guaranteed with a boarding education is stability and for many Service families this is one of the most significant aspects of boarding. 

Many state boarding schools are among the highest-performing schools in the country judging by the raw score of GCSE and A-level results, Average Point Scores and even the percentage of pupils achieving the English Baccalaureate. These are important measures but state boarding offers so much more than excellent academic results. The very nature of boarding creates an environment where young people are encouraged to grow into independence, have the opportunity to experience activities beyond the classroom and develop social and mental resilience that will allow them to not only survive in the world but to thrive. At St George’s we offer an exceptional level of pastoral care – a wide range of diverse activities and facilities as well as good quality accommodation. 

Perfect fit

I am sure that within our family of state boarding schools you will find one that is the perfect fit for your needs. We do not see ourselves as being in competition with each other and in fact, if we believe your child would be better served by another state boarding school, we may be bold enough to say so! Our aim is not to fill our own beds at any cost, but to ensure we provide a bespoke service to Forces and other families in finding the right school for your child at the right time. I am happy to say there is no ‘catch’ when it comes to state boarding!

The opportunity to take advantage of excellent facilities, great accommodation and the experience of great teaching and learning has always meant that demand for places at state boarding schools has been high. In order to meet that need the state boarding sector has been experiencing expansion in recent years. New schools have been established and existing schools have expanded the number of places they can offer. The diversity of choice within the sector has increased with schools representing single-sex education, grammar schools, mixed comprehensives, specialist schools for rural studies, as well as the largest mixed boarding school in Europe. We have school locations that suit those looking for an urban setting, those who prefer semi-rural small town living, and those who like to experience a more rural location. We are confident you will find a school to suit your needs.  

Boarding offers a unique experience for young people. It enables them to learn to live with and work alongside others.  We aim to engender a common ethos of respect, personal responsibility and care for others. We may not be able to match the facilities that many boarding schools in the independent sector can boast, but what we lack in state-of-the-art buildings we make up for in the high level of individual care, stability and encouragement that we provide for pupils. We consider these to be essential ingredients in allowing young people to grow, mature and be equipped for the adult world ahead.  

This article may be your first contact with the idea of state boarding and I am hoping I will have piqued your interest to find out more. You can find details of all state boarding schools at the BSA State Boarding Forum (SBF) website at www.stateboarding.org.uk Here you will find a wealth of information about our individual family members and contact details for each school. I encourage you to visit – you may be very pleasantly surprised by what you find. We look forward to welcoming you in the near future. 

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