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Private schools in the UK

Private schools in the UK can be divided up into various categories. Terms such as independent, public, boarding, prep, are all names for schools which provide an alternative to the state school system.
Britisk herskapshus. Foto.
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The education system in the UK is not the same for the four individual countries within the UK. For example, Scotland has its own exam system. A distinctive feature of the education system in the UK is private, or independent, schools. Such schools have boards of governors and are funded by fees paid by the parents. Sometimes pupils live on site. Those schools are called boarding schools.

In the UK, private schools go back a long way, and some of them are ranked amongst the best in the world. Some believe private schools are better than state schools. However this is not necessarily the case. Both sides of the education system have good and bad aspects. One feature of private schools which is often viewed as being better than state schools is the amount of pupils in each class, where the number in private schools is less than in state schools. Another important element about private schools is that people pay money to attend them. The cost of attending such schools varies greatly, but a rule of thumb is that the more expensive a school, the more likely it is to have a better reputation.

Independent and Public Schools

Independent schools have the freedom to decide who can enter their school, but generally base their decisions of pupil entry by academic levels. These schools are private and fee-paying and do not necessarily follow the National Curriculum. Independent schools are often referred to as Public schools. Many confuse the term public and private; therefore, to keep things simple you should just refer to private and state schools when talking about education in the UK, since the names in the four individual countries are not the same.

Boarding schools

Boarding schools are schools where pupils stay full-time at school, as opposed to day schools. Only a small percentage of children attend boarding schools, and pupils even as young as seven years old can be sent away from home in order to get an education.


Prep-schools are another type of private school where pupils from ages 5-13 attend. These schools “prepare” their students for entry into other prestigious private schools. Children as young as seven may go through a number of tests in order to pass the entrance exam to their desired school.


A scholarship is when a pupil is awarded financial assistance to attend a school. Pupils attain scholarships for various reasons. Sometimes it is because of academic merit and other times it is due to the parents not having the finances necessary to pay for some of the top schools. Scholarships can be provided by the schools themselves, or by private individuals wishing to help children on their academic careers.

CC BY-SASkrevet av Elaine Fleischer.
Sist faglig oppdatert 04.06.2018


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