UK Schools in close up

UK SCHOOLS IN CLOSE-UP – Week 2: Brockenhurst College and Chase Grammar School

For Vietnamese translation of this article, click here.

At first sight, these 2 schools would appear to have nothing in common. Brockenhurst is a  large public college situated in the New Forest National Park, close to the south coast, and Chase is a small to medium sized  boarding school near Birmingham, in central England. When both schools come to market in Vietnam at the same time, and students receive offers from them, the price range is very similar after scholarship and so students and their parents may be confused about the differences between them.

If you are new to this series you may wish to read the first article before this one, to learn more about boarding schools.

  Brockenhurst College Chase Grammar
Location New Forest National Park, Hampshire. Between Bournemouth and Southampton. 90 mins from London.


Cannock, Staffordshire. 30 mins from Birmingham, 90 mins from London.
Type of school State College of Further and Higher Education Boarding School and International Study Centre
Age range 16+ 2-19 (UK)

10-19 (International)

% of international 5% (approx. 150) 40% (approx. 120)
Size 3,000 students aged 16-19 300
Programmes offered Pre-A level, A Level (38 subjects), BTEC Diploma (4 areas), International Foundation Year, Art & Design Foundation Diploma, English language, vocational courses. (I)GCSE, A Levels (23 subjects), Pre-GCSE/A Level with English language, International Foundation Year
Academics 2017: 97% A Level pass rate across all subjects

93% of international students who went to university in the UK went to top 50 ranked institutions.

Partner universities (priority admissions): Reading, Kingston Bournemouth and Southampton.

2017:  A Levels: 100% pass. 75% A*-B grades


Class size 15-22 8 – 14
Cost A Levels £9,000 per year + £9,000 living costs = £18,000 per year.

Scholarships available up to 30% of tuition fees.

£30,000 per year including Guardianship. Scholarships available up to 50% of this amount.
What They say Brockenhurst College allowed meto develop my interest as well as providing supportive guidelinesfor me as an international student. Lecturers are really attentive to every student, they will give the most support to us to fulfil our study goals.”Natalie Ng, Hong Kong, A Level This is a multi-cultural school where boarding and day pupils respect each other and work together harmoniously“

”Pupils’ personal development is good at all stages of the school. Pupils are happy, confident individuals who learn to be responsible for their own decisions

Independent Schools Inspectorate Report 2017




Is Size Important?

At first view, Chase Grammar School looks to be one tenth the size of the Sixth Form (students aged 16-19) at Brock (Brockenhurst College) but both schools have a similar number of international students. While Chase is a tightly-knit community where the students get to know each other very well through boarding together, and sharing classes, Brock is a much bigger institution, yet all international students are monitored and supported by the International Office and get to know each other and home students though a wide range of social and enrichment activities.  Both types of school have advantages for Vietnamese students, but it depends very much on the student as to how well they will progress in their chosen school environment.

Vietnamese students and parents tend to think of smaller schools as offering a narrower range of opportunities to students than larger schools, but this is too simplistic. The UK is very  different from Vietnam, and many other things need to be considered to find the best match for the student. See my article  here and this article from The Guardian for more insights into types of school and especially smaller schools.

Boarding or Homestay?

Boarding can be a great experience for students who want to feel part of an extended family, and who enjoy having their time managed for them. On the other hand, more independent students may find the boarding experience restrictive, and may wish to explore a wider range of experiences and activities. Age is an important factor here: students under the age of 16 are obliged by law to attend private schools, many of which offer boarding, but from 16 -18 they can attend public colleges like Brock and live with a host family, travelling each day (by bus, train, bicycle or on foot) to College and being responsible for managing their own time outside of classes.

Most students enjoy the host family experience – often they are made part of the family and the relationship may continue even when they leave College to go to University. Students have their own room in the family home and eat breakfast and dinner with the family during the week and also lunch at weekends. Host families do not necessarily supervise students very much- they are expected to manage their own leisure and study time- but they make sure that they come home every day, go to bed at a reasonable hour and are generally happy and healthy, but they also give them privacy and treat them as adults, not children. This allows students to choose from a wide range of activities in their free time and to pursue their own interests. Students aged 16-18 who live with a host family require permission from their parents to choose this option (as a guardian is not required).

Boarding is much more of an integrated experience, where school and social life are mixed. When students go out of school during the term, it is usually with supervision and accompanied by other students. Life as a boarder is fun but there are rules that everyone has to follow, and a schedule that is similar for all students, though students aged 16+ have more freedom than younger students.   Chase Grammar School also acts as guardian for students, which means it takes legal responsibility for their welfare all the time that students are in school.

For parents, the key questions for their over -16’s choosing between a boarding school and a public college with host family accommodation are whether their son/daughter is mature enough to manage their time effectively. For example, young people who, unsupervised, would stay up all night surfing the internet or watching TV would study more effectively in a boarding house where the internet and lights were switched off at a certain time. Young people who are not motivated to study but easily distracted could also struggle at a state college where there is less strict monitoring of their individual progress. However, mature young people who can study without constant supervision and are motivated to learn and willing to socialise could make very rapid progress in the dynamic and less rigid environment of a state college which they attend as day students.

Academic concerns

Both schools support and encourage students’ academic achievements. The small classes at Chase Grammar, contact with the personal tutor and other teachers and evening/weekend support of boarding staff mean that students are in the best possible study environment with many people they can go to for help when they have questions or problems. The more learner-centred study methods employed in the UK also mean that students learn how to cooperate with others by working in groups and understanding the dynamics of team work and cross-cultural bonding. The goal of Chase Grammar (like most boarding schools) is to foster self-confidence and development of the individual, not just academic achievement, so while most students progress to top UK and global universities, they also transition from school to university through a constant process of self-development and concern for others in their community.

At Brock, a similar process takes place, but the difference is that students are treated from the outset as adults, not children, and are prepared for university in an environment which is more similar to what they will experience later. All international students receive tremendous support at Brock and, like at Chase, there are many people they can go to for help with their studies, with their accommodation and their personal welfare. However, at College, the onus is on them to ask for help- it is not so easy for staff to notice if students seem too quiet or if they are cutting classes or missing the submission dates for their assignments until it has been happening for a while. Students with a strong sense of personal responsibility can easily excel in their studies at Brock and progress to top universities, like students at Chase, but it is up to them how much effort they make. Everything is there if they know how to use it.

In terms of choice of course, Chase has the added advantage of an International Study Centre where international students can take a 1 year fast track GCSE year (after Grade 9 in Vietnam) with English language and study skills support before progressing to A Levels.  Chase also offers flexible entry to A Levels for students from grades 10 and 11 in Vietnam- in addition to a September start (6 term course) it offers a 5 -term course with a January start, and there is also a 1 year International Foundation programme for students who have completed Year 11 or 12 in Vietnam.

Brock is only open to students who are already 16 years of age but offers a choice of 1 or 2 year A Levels, 2 year BTEC (A Level equivalent) and 1 year International Foundation Year as well as English language programmes.

Both schools are well ranked in terms of academic achievement and provide an excellent environment for study, although Brock, being much larger, has a wider range of subjects, enrichment activities and specialist sports and study facilities.

Relative Cost and Value for Money

The biggest question for Vietnamese families is how they can get the best value from UK education for the money they spend. The answer is that there are several ways of approaching the question.

Firstly, if parents want the safe, secure and carefully supervised environment of a boarding school for their children, plus the guarantee of small classes, personal attention from teachers and a strong academic track record, then a boarding school like Chase is a great choice. At £30,000 (VND 930m per year, however, the price tag is quite high. The big advantage of Chase Grammar is that it offers scholarships up to 50% of total fees to Vietnamese students, which means in effect that it is possible to get a very high-quality UK private education for a very reasonable price- £15,000 (VND 465m). This also includes guardianship which can often be a significant extra cost in other schools. There are additional costs for uniform, insurance and exam fees and students’ pocket money.   Boarding school fees can be paid every term (3 times per year), which helps families to manage their finances.

The public sector offers much lower fees generally and Brock is one of the best colleges in the UK. With outstanding facilities, including a brand new £13 million STEM Centre, the Brock campus is a truly fabulous experience. The full cost of A Levels and 1 year’s living costs is £18,000 (558m VND), and Brock offers all Vietnamese students an automatic 10% discount on tuition fees, or scholarships up to 30% of tuition fees. This means that the total cost of A Levels with a maximum scholarship is around £15,300 (VND474) per year with no compulsory extras and no uniform.

These 2 schools are a similar price when maximum discounts are applied and both offer excellent value for money with world class university progression. Parents should decide between them on the basis of their children’s personalities and the type of study environment  they best fit into.

Boarding Schools similar to Chase Grammar Public Colleges similar to Brockenhurst College
Lime House School Westminster Kingsway College London
Tettenhall College  Hartpury College   *has boarding for international students
Padworth College Llandrillo Menai College

For Vietnamese translation of this article, click here.

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