The MOD’s Directorate Children and Young People asked you for your opinions and experiences of State Boarding Schools (SBS) to help it understand your decision-making process. If you’re an Army family looking into SBS for your children, AFF’s Education & Childcare Specialist, Lucy Scott, helps you make an informed choice…

STATEBOARDING1THE vast majority of SBS are in England, with two in Wales. A tiny percentage offer boarding for primary. Some are selective and academic, and some are themed academies or tech colleges.

I found lots were graded outstanding by Ofsted but investment in boarding facilities varies. Your child will need to hold a full British or EU passport to attend.

How do I apply for a place?

The main application round is in October and   you will hear about places on National Offer Day in March.

It’s important to speak to the school directly about their admissions policy as some SBSs won’t offer a place before this date, whereas an independent school may offer a place immediately. So you could face a tricky decision and March is quite late to start looking at alternatives – make sure you have a plan B.

Other options

Bear in mind that your child will need to pass an exam for entry into a grammar SBS. If you’re looking for year nine places at the end of prep school then contact the school. Information is often published on schools’ websites; I have found there to be as few as four places available in one school.

Thinking ahead?

If your circumstances are due to change as your soldier leaves the Army or you settle in your own home, it’s important to check that you can swap from a boarding place to day pupil, as some SBS specify that this is not possible.

Weekends and holidays

SBS often have no formal school at weekends, although activities and sports are offered by most.Holidays are shorter than independent schools so bear in mind travel times if you’re posted abroad.

The cost

As the teaching is free, you will only pay for the boarding part – a minimum 10 per cent contribution. If you claim the full amount of Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA), it’s not possible to claim for any further costs including exam fees and books. Take a look at for an interactive map and further information and check the AFF website for the full report on the SBS survey. If you have any questions, contact me at

Your experiences

I have two boys – one who is deaf – so completely different children with different needs. The SBS that we chose encompasses everything and is pulling out all the stops to support them. I want our children to know the real world out there and state boarding ticks all the boxes. Both the LA and CEA support my SEN son; that’s what really drove us to choose a state school. [It] suits every shape and size of child.”

Claire Finn

“One of the hidden benefits of an SBS is the cost saving when only paying boarding fees. This allows us to pay for far more ‘extras’ than we might otherwise have been able to do. All three of our children travel abroad at least twice a year on educational trips. The school also has no compulsory exeat weekends which is a strong plus point now that we are posted to India.”

Simon Thomsett


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