Boarding School

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Don't believe everything you hear about our boarding schools (Beat) Don't dis-believe everything you hear either."

The misadventures of students at British public schools (boarding schools to American readers[1]) were once a staple of children's literature, but fell out of fashion in the sixties. Recently though, the Harry Potter series, a Boarding School/Heroic Fantasy fusion, revived many of its tropes.

Mostly, the boarding schools depicted were for the aspiring middle classes, so did not have particularly elaborate facilities. The biggest educational difference from other schools was the syllabus, which led to a few jokes about Latin, but the classrooms were typically much like any other, because that wasn't where the story was.

The story was in the fact that they were boarding schools; the children lived in the premises, sharing dorm rooms. The Boarding School genre revolves around the impact of this—children, separated from their parents, growing up together. All the advantages of having a story about orphans sans the tragedy of dead parents.

Quite often, the school buildings would be in fairly bad shape - leaking roofs, faulty heating—leading to stories where the children attempted to raise enough money to save their school.

Common elements in the Boarding School genre include

  • Children/teenagers as the main protagonists.
  • The nice teacher and the nasty one.
  • Midnight feasts.
  • Pranks.
  • Houses within the school, with fierce competition (note these can be found in The Good Old British Comp too, although in selfconsciously modern schools, they're probably called "teams").
  • School sports taken seriously.
  • A spoilt student.
  • A perfect and kind student.
  • Fagging for the upperclassmen

Hell, it's amazing they ever get any work done.

The Good Old British Comp is the other UK school trope. Contrast Off to Boarding School. Contrast this with the Elaborate University High; many genres may be set in that setting, but in this genre, the setting is the point. The Boarding School of Horrors is perhaps the worst example of this kind of setting.

There are American schools fitting this description, mostly expensive, old private schools in the New England area. They make occasional appearances in American movies and (to a lesser extent) TV. Most of the same tropes are present as in the British model, with the addition of an obsession with college, specifically the Ivy League.

In Japan, the boarding school idea shows up a few times, though not in the more realistic anime, because boarding schools are a foreign idea in Japan and its only real boarding schools are exclusively for international students.

Examples of Boarding School include:

Anime & Manga

  • The deceptively gorgeous Ohtori Academy in Revolutionary Girl Utena. No wonder there's so much Scenery Porn.
  • Duel Academia in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.
  • Kinkan Academy in Princess Tutu (translated as "Gold Crown Academy" for the dub).
  • Mahora Academy in Negima (a big one, too).
  • Ashford Academy in Code Geass.
  • The school in Princess Princess.
  • Saint Paul's Private School in Candy Candy.
  • The yuri manga Heart Throbbing Excitement At Mononoke Girls Academy takes place in one of these.
  • The setting for the anime adaptation of Enid Blyton's "St. Clare's" series, Ochame na Futago Clare Gakuin Monogatari It was adapted into German, Spanish, Italian, French and Arabic, but never into English.
  • Cross Academy in Vampire Knight
  • Kaze to Ki no Uta and The Heart of Thomas take place in boarding schools which were inspired by the French film Les amities particulieres.
  • None of the main characters live in the dorms, but the fancier school in Aoi Hana is boarding-optional.
  • Garderobe Academy in Mai-Otome.
  • Silver Spoon mixes things up a little and makes it a rural agricultural school.
  • Eyeshield 21: Shinryuuji is revealed to be a boarding school.
  • Here Is Greenwood: is set in the "boarding dorm" of a prestigious high-school. Most of the students live at home, but none of those are in the central cast. Two of the central cast could live at home but choose not to.


  • The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, which is a seperate place from, and should not be confused with Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. That's right, the X-men had TWO boarding schools(before they moved to San Franscico).
  • The St. Trinian's school for girls, as shown in Ronald Searle's wonderful comics.
  • Morning Glory Academy

Films -- Live Action

  • Dead Poets Society
  • Cry Wolf is set in one of these, but does not really use its tropes.
  • School Ties
  • Toy Soldiers takes place a boarding school full of kids who've been kicked out of other boarding schools. A ragtag group of misfits, if you will. And then the terrorists come...
  • The St Trinian's series. This series is most notable for creating the "sexy female school uniform" trope. A new film recently came out. Too late for the EMP, then.
  • The cult British film If.... deconstructs this viciously. Most famous for launching Malcolm McDowell.
  • The Young Sherlock Holmes movie.
  • John Dugian's Flirting is set in one of these, or rather a pair of them (one for each gender) set across a lake from each other.
  • Scent of a Woman is about a poor boy who has a scholarship at an expensive American boarding school which prides itself on producing good future Officers for the Army, as he takes extra-curricular job looking after a blind ex-officer who teaches him to stop being so driven and to enjoy the finer, simpler things in life (i.e. the scent of a woman).
    • His school only becomes a main part of the film towards the climax.
  • The Emperors Club is about an American private school. This one's from the point of view of a teacher, the school is a good place, and it's all thoroughly in the tradition of molding boys into men, etc. There's still some of the "overbearing rich parent damages adolescent son" trope, but that's treated as more of a sad fact of life than an indictment of the whole system.
  • Au revoir les enfants
  • The Hairy Bird, a.k.a All I Wanna Do
  • Almost Angels takes place (and was filmed) in the Real Life Palais Augarten, a former Imperial palace used by the Vienna Boys Choir as a boarding school.
  • Class, starring Rob Lowe & Andrew McCarthy
  • Private School, starring Phoebe Cates and Matthew Modine


  • Madeline takes place in a French one. (It's an orphanage in some of the adaptations, but in the original books it's a boarding school; in one of the books we see Madeline's parents.)
  • Spence in the Gemma Doyle trilogy.
  • C.S Lewis' first autobiography goes into great detail about his rather traumatic experiences at two different boarding schools in his childhood.
    • Roald Dahl's autobiographical 'Boy' isn't full of happy moments either.
    • Neither is George Orwell's essay 'Such, Such Were The Days'.
  • The Great Brain at the Academy by John Dennis Fitzgerald. It's mentioned in every book that anyone wanting more than a sixth grade education has to go boarding school in Provo or Salt Lake City, until some parents get together and build a seventh and eighth grade "academy".
  • A Separate Peace
  • Is That You Miss Blue by M.E. Kerr.
  • Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld.
  • Tom Brown's Schooldays, the genre-founder.
  • Stalky by Rudyard Kipling: Stalky in "Land and Sea Tales" and then whole Stalky & Co book; with little sequels A Deal in Cotton (in "Actions and Reactions") and The Honours of War (in "A Diversity of Creatures"). Only both the school and protagonist are... rather unusual.
  • Most of the first decade's worth of PG Wodehouse's books, including Mike, which introduces the character Psmith.
  • Billy Bunter
  • Jennings
  • Enid Blyton's had three series centred around this, all of them pretty similar (although the Naughtiest Girl novels were unusually not set in a One-Gender School) - St. Clare's, Malory Towers and The Naughtiest Girl in the School. Most of her other series' protagonists - e.g. those of the Famous Five books - are mentioned as attending these as well.
  • Likewise, nearly every one of the over fifty novels of Angela Brazil, who had pretty much the exact same content but for girls of one or two generations earlier. They were the original source of most of the tropes that came to be regarded as boarding school cliches in later years, and suffered badly from Seinfield Is Unfunny as a result.
  • Harry Potter is set in one of these.
  • Brazilian realism novel O Ateneu by Raul Pompéia. In the very first page of the book Sérgio narrates his arrival to the boarding school: "Thou shalt meet the world, told me my father, at the doorsteps of the Ateneu. Have courage for the fight! I later experienced the truth of that warning, which undressed me, in one gesture, of the illusions of a child educated exotically in the greenhouse of tenderness which is the regime of domestic love, different from what is found outside, so different, that it makes the poem of the maternal love seem to be a sentimental artifice, with the only advantage of making the creature more sensitive to the rude impression of the first teaching, burning search for vitality under the influence of a harsh new weather."
  • The beginning of Jane Eyre, though this predates the genre proper. Subverted in that the school tries to pretend that it is for wealthy girls when it's really the exact opposite: Lowood is a textbook Boarding School of Horrors and the girls there are horribly mistreated by orders of the Holier Than Thou owner, despite the opposition of a more reasonable governess. Until an epidemy unleashes there and several students die.
  • The Discworld has a number of these, including the Quirm College for Young Ladies, Hugglestones, the Fools' Guild school, and the Assassins' Guild School. In particular, the opening sections of the novels Pyramids and Soul Music cover most of the stereotypes of the genre at the Assassins' Guild and Quirm College respectively.
  • The Chalet School books by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer.
  • The Dimsie books and the Springdale books by Dorita Fairlie Bruce.
  • Garnet goes off to a boarding school towards the end of Jacqueline Wilson's Double Act; when she writes home, she says it's nothing like what Enid Blyton portrayed.
  • The Agatha Christie novel Cat Among The Pigeons.
  • Les Disparus de Saint-Agil
  • The Bruno and Boots book series by Gordon Korman, set at Macdonald Hall, which is near the fictional town of Chutney, Ontario, a relatively short distance from Toronto. Also featured in the series is Miss Scrimmage's Finishing School for Young Ladies.
  • The story of Rachel Klein's novel The Moth Diaries unfolds in a boarding school.
  • The Catcher in The Rye—boarding school doesn't work out for Holden.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novel Cain's Last Stand features the titular now-retired commissar as a teacher at a Schola Progenium, a sort of state-run boarding school for orphans specifically devoted to educating future members of the Ecclesiarchy and the Commissariat. This being the Warhammer 40,000 universe and Cain being a Hero of the Imperium, not much time is devoted to actually developing much beyond Cain's class and work associates before the action starts. However, from the innumerable references to Cain's own experiences in a similar body, its clear that the Scholae Progenia are essentially British boarding schools In Space!
  • Coates Academy in the Gone (novel) series is a boarding school specifically for "difficult" kids.
  • Mordantly documented by Nigel Molesworth (with Ronald Searle doing the illustrations) in Down with Skool! and its sequels.
  • Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women in I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You.
  • Alabaster Prep in The Disreputable History Of Frankie Landau Banks.
  • A Separate Peace is a rare American example.
  • Gordon Korman's Bruno & Boots Series is a rare Canadian example.
  • Miss Minchin's boarding school in A Little Princess.
  • Easton Academy in Private, as well as Atherton-Pryce in the Spin-Off Privilege.

Live Action TV

Video Games

  • Main setting of Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis and its sequel.
  • Main setting of Luminous Arc 3, although the students are only shown in class twice and even then they're barely learning.
  • Bully plays with a lot of these tropes, though the game is set in New England. Some of the Preppies even affect upper-class English accents to suit—which they tend to drop when angered.
  • In Persona 3, Gekkoukan High seems to have both day students and student dorms. However, the main characters live in a boarding house some distance away from the actual campus.
  • Warnings at Waverly Academy.
  • St. Frost Academy in Wasted Youth.

Visual Novels

  • Kanenone Gakuen ("Sound of the Bell Academy"), the school in Green Green, which is an isolated all-boys school at the start, but is invaded by girls, making it co-ed.
  • Katawa Shoujo takes place in one for the disabled

Web Comics

  • Gunnerkrigg Court. Except so far Houses seems not compete, but give a measure of separation keeping some minimal sanity and safety for everyone involved, given that the students evidently include borderline Mad Scientists, reincarnated Fairies and really unusual cases.
  • Early chapters of Drowtales.

Web Original

  • The Whateley Universe stories mostly take place at Whateley Academy, a boarding school in New Hampshire.
    • And the classic British boarding school is the backstory for Beltane. When she manifested as a mutant and got her powers over ectoplasm, she pranked the entire school, creating what appeared to be the worst haunting in British history.
  • Shows up a few times in Survival of the Fittest. Version one had students abducted from schools all over the world, a few of which were boarding schools, while version three's Dorian Sanders briefly spent time at one that may have been a Boarding School of Horrors.
  • Ariadnio in Greek Ninja is a school in Greece, with students coming from all over Europe to study in.

Western Animation

  1. At least historically. A British public school is a private school. Some still have boarders, but they will be outnumbered by kids who live at home.