The Impact of Brexit on State Boarding Schools

17 Sep 2019 | by Peter Neale

An unintended consequence of Brexit, whether with a deal or not, is the likely devastating impact it will have on state boarding schools.

Admission to state boarding schools in the UK is limited to children who are nationals of the UK and are eligible to hold a full UK passport, or those who are nationals of other European Union countries or those who have the right of residence in the UK.  My school is one of only 39 state boarding schools in England.

Over the years, state boarding schools have become popular amongst European families who find us an affordable option for boarding in the UK.  Parents will choose state boarding schools ahead of boarding in the independent sector as they see they can obtain the education and pastoral care they are seeking for a fraction of the cost. 

Parents pay only for boarding, and the government pays for education as it would at any other state school in England and Wales.  By selecting a state boarding school parents are choosing top quality boarding care, with staff who are absolutely committed to the well being of young people.

My school has several European boarders who often stay for a year or two to learn about our language and culture, once described as a ‘linguistic bath’ by my former Headteacher.  The loss of these young people will have a negative impact on our income and could affect whether it is commercially viable for us to continue to offer boarding at all.

A state boarding school offers priceless life lessons of self-reliance, respect and self-confidence, with many opportunities for young people to learn to depend on themselves under the watchful eyes of qualified and experienced staff. It’s a unique setting that promotes common experience, friendship, trust and honesty between young people and adults.

We celebrate diversity and are pleased to welcome students from a variety of cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds, and typically have thirty or more European boarders each year.  We are doing everything we can to recruit boarders to replace the EU pupils but, although Ofsted consider our boarding provision to be ‘outstanding’, we are unlikely to find a new market that will replace the numbers we would lose.

Alongside our professional bodies, the Boarding Schools Association and the State Boarding Forum, we have been lobbying MPs to try and mitigate any negative consequences of Brexit on this industry sector.  At this stage we have not received any meaningful reassurances.