Cranbrook State Boarding School – A Unique School in the UK

June 5, 2024 | Blog, Education

Cranbrook School is a unique co-educational grammar school with a fascinating 500-year history, set in a beautiful campus in the Kent countryside.

One of just a handful of state boarding schools in the UK, Cranbrook now welcomes 250 boarders alongside day pupils. We spoke with the school to learn more about their distinctive offering and what daily life is like at a state boarding school. 

Cranbrook Day & Boarding School

What sets Cranbrook apart from other schools?

Cranbrook School is over 500 years old and one of a select number of state day and boarding schools in the country – because of our excellent boarding facilities, students can gain access to a Grammar school education from outside of the catchment area. We are also a fully co-educational grammar school, which is quite rare


Cranbrook State Boarding School Building


We have a spacious 75 acre campus set within the glorious Wealden countryside and are just a short (1 hour) commute to London and its accompanying airports. Additionally we have outstanding academic outcomes. Students gain places at leading Universities such as Oxbridge, LSE, Kings College London, UCL, Manchester, Edinburgh, Exeter, Warwick and Leeds Universities, as well specialist institutions such as University of Arts London and Central Saint Martins.

Can you tell us about the unique history of the school and how it came to be founded? 

Cranbrook School was founded in 1518 by John Blubery when he bequeathed funds for a ‘frescole howse for all the pour children of the towne’. The school received a charter from Queen Elizabeth I in 1574.

As a state boarding school, do parents pay fees?

As we are a state-funded school, there are no tuition fees. This ensures boarding fees are approximately one-third of those that might be charged at a private school. Our boarding fees are comparable to most Independent day fees. Our boarding provision therefore offers outstanding value for money.

What kinds of facilities does Cranbrook School offer?

The co-curriculum at Cranbrook School is extensive and there are numerous opportunities to partake in a variety of sports, adventures, clubs, societies and trips. The School also boasts a thriving Performing Arts Centre, which not only develops talent on stage and backstage, but also is home to our fantastic music and drama departments. The school has its own theatre, astro, swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, multiple sports pitches for rugby and football and an observatory!


Cranbrook School playing fields


Can you tell us about your admissions process? What does the application involve?

As Cranbrook School is a selective Grammar School, all candidates have to undergo testing. This consists of an entrance exam and a suitability interview. More details can be found on our website.


Some of the Cranbrook State Boarding School staff and students


What is the school’s academic philosophy and approach?

Cranbrook School has three simple aims:

  • To provide an outstanding all-round education with academic fulfilment at its heart. Whilst academic outcomes are important we also seek to develop the whole student. We do this by balancing a rigorous academic curriculum with a broad co-curriculum of sports, drama, music, clubs and activities.
  • To develop curious, resilient and empathic young adults, who are confident to follow their own paths. 
  • To add value to our local community and provide exceptional boarding for those outside it.


Music at Cranbrook State School


The values that infuse all that we do are Kindness, Integrity, Curiosity, Aspiration and Individuality.

What is the mix of day pupils vs boarders and how do the two groups balance together? 

Boarders typically make up around a quarter of the school population. The two balance seamlessly due to our House system and the breadth of opportunities within the school week. Friendships across Houses and year-groups are the norm. 


Studying at Cranbrook School


What does a typical routine look like for boarders?

Boarding at Cranbrook is fun, busy and happy and days are always varied. After a hearty breakfast, the School starts at 8.30 am and finishes at 3.35. The evenings during the week revolve around clubs, enjoying hobbies, free time and of course prep! 

What kinds of extracurricular activities do you offer?

There are numerous extracurricular opportunities including over 40 clubs and societies, ranging from Eco Schools to Warhammer – all run by students. Sport, Music and Drama are big at Cranbrook, as are CCF (Combined Cadet Force) and DofE (Duke of Edinburgh).


Team building at Cranbrook school


How do boarding pupils spend their weekends and free time? 

The weekends at Cranbrook are always varied and busy and many choose to stay to play in sports fixtures and participate in the extensive range of organised activities. The Houses are like a home from home, so there are lots of opportunities within each House to relax and enjoy whatever free time is available. Each weekend is enriched by house activities such as games nights, sports, house BBQs or external trips to visit the theatre in London, kayaking on Bewl water, or to the cinema. 


Evening time for boarders


Cranbrook has an observatory that was opened by a NASA astronaut! Can you share the background story?

Dr. Piers Sellers OBE (Old Cranbrookian), the climate scientist and Nasa astronaut opened the Observatory in the Cornwallis Garden in May 2005. The observatory houses a 60cm reflecting telescope and is enjoyed by our astronomy club.


School science experiments


Do many of your pupils typically come from abroad?  

Approximately 40% of our boarders come from abroad, many of whom are from expat families. As a state school, we welcome boarders with British nationality, passports or residency and are proud to celebrate and promote the heritages of all of them.


Cranbrook classroom


What kinds of extra support do you offer for students’ wellbeing, especially when staying away from home? 

Pastoral care at Cranbrook School is outstanding. Houses are small, with up to 45 students in each: everyone is known, valued and carefully supported by the resident Head of House and Deputy, two matrons and a team of tutors.

How involved are parents in the school community? 

The school has a very active, involved and supportive parent’s association called the CSPA. There are numerous events organised throughout the year.

What would you say to families considering boarding for the first time?

Do it! It’s a very happy and vibrant boarding community here at Cranbrook School. The location is also fabulous and there are opportunities galore!



Rugby matches


Describe Cranbrook School in 3 words: 

Unique, Happy, Supportive.

Find out more about Cranbrook School, including tuition fees and admissions criteria on their website.

See more leading schools in the MumAbroad Education section.

Contact Details:

Cranbrook School, Waterloo Road, Cranbrook, Kent, TN17 3JD
+44 1580 711800

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