"Don't believe everything you hear about our boarding schools (Beat) Don't
dis-believe everything you hear either."
The misadventures of students at "public schools" (British term for private schools, which are commonly boarding schools) were once a staple of children's literature, but fell out of fashion in the sixties. Starting in the late 1990s, however, the Harry Potter
series, a Heroic Fantasy
taking place in a wizarding
boarding school, revived many of its tropes (although significantly breaking from the tradition by making the school mixed instead of single-sex).
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.
- Houses within the school, with fierce competition (note these can be found in The Good Old British Comp too, although in self-consciously modern schools, they're probably called "teams").
- School sports taken seriously.
- A spoilt student.
- A perfect and kind student.
- The class struggles between the clique of rich kids and the poorer "scholarship" students.
- Fagging, the (mostly obsolete) practice of younger students acting as servants for the elder ones. Has nothing to do with either homosexuality or cigarettes (usually).
- The term derives from the fact that they used to have to chop and haul firewood (faggots) for the upperclassmen.
- Situational Sexuality, either Played for Laughs or Played for Drama.
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.
The USA has a few schools like this, generally old and expensive and in the USA's 'New England' region, and boarding schools for families of all (above-average) incomes abound in The Commonwealth. They make occasional appearances in non-British movies and TV and use pretty much the same tropes as in the British model. Modern-day, and non-American, boarding school settings tend to place more emphasis on getting into good universities; outside the USA, one can no longer get into a good university without good grades.
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.
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Anime & Manga
- The three schools in Strawberry Panic!.
- 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.
- Saint Paul's Private School in Candy Candy, which is a mixed gender academy with separate dormitories for boys and girls. There Candy meets up with her Second Love Terry (whom she actually met during her journey to England), befriends Patty, is bullied by Eliza and her Girl Posse, finds Annie and Albert again, etc.; all of this has a HUGE influence in her Character Development.
- The yuri manga Tokimeki Mononoke Jogakkou 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.
- Fuuka Academy in Mai-HiME and 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.
- Koko Wa 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 school attended by the main characters of Princess Princess is similar to the above example on this regard. There's also the option of living in the dorms during summer vacation albeit the number of students who choose to do so aren't enough to justify keeping the air-conditioner on.
- The main characters of Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru attend an all-girls boarding school. In fact, Mizuho's dead grandfather states in his will that if Mizuho wants to properly become his heir, he must disguise himself as a girl and attend said school without being discovered. Said boarding school also was the alma mater of Mizuho's Missing Mom... and her dead roommate who had a massive crush on her returns as a ghost....
- The Suimei University of the Arts High School in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, and one that is not elaborate at all. The story happens in the Sakura Hall, a dormitory for trouble students kicked out of the school's normal dorms.
- The Weston College from the public school arc in Black Butler is quite a fancy example of this. Complete with pranks and hazing, school houses, school sports, a spoilt student who went too far, Ciel posing as a perfect and kind student, fagging, and one minor antagonist abusing the Situational Sexuality.
- In The Prince of Tennis, St. Rudolph is not just a Catholic school but also one of these. This is a huge plot point in the Saint Rudolph's arc since Fuji's younger brother Yuuta, in his quest for his own identity, chose SR as his school because among other things, it had a dorm and thus he could move out of home. He stays there even after his Character Development in said arc.
- One of the cases in Tantei Gakuen Q happens in a boarding school. Megu and Ryu are asked to pose as New Transfer Students to find out the truth about a missing School Idol, and have to deal with the overbearing Student Council President and the well-intentioned but very nosy members of the Broadcasting Club. The Student Council President is messily murdered. And things go From Bad to Worse from then on.
- In the Haunted Junction manga, Haruto and Kazumi are tasked with infiltrating an all-boys boarding school where the boys are attacked by the sexy female ghost who haunts the bathrooms. She is the Blue Spot Girl, Red Mantle's long-lost and antagonistic younger sister.
- Makai Ouji: the protagonist, Wiliam Twining, goes to an all-male boarding school in Victorian London which has a church on campus. Angels and demons regularly pose as students and faculty/staff.
- Sunshine Academy from Jewelpet Sunshine. It's co-ed with seperate dormitories for boys and girls.
- X-Men: The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, which is a separate 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 Francisco).
- The St. Trinian's school for girls, as shown in Ronald Searle's wonderful comics.
- Morning Glory Academy
- The Winker Watson strip in The Dandy was set in a boarding school named Grey Towers.
- For a while it was generally assumed by the Glee fandom that Dalton Academy was a boarding school, for a few different reasons: because Dalton fit the image of a boarding school, because it's far enough between Lima (where Kurt lives) and Westerville (where Dalton is) that a daily commute seemed improbable, and because the idea of an all boys boarding school existing within canon greatly appealed to many fans. It was Jossed eventually, when Kurt mentioned in passing that he still lived at home, but many fanfic writers still hold onto the idea, either by explaining away or outright ignoring Kurt's comment, or by having Dalton be a boarding school that also has day students.
- In the Discworld continuum, author A.A. Pessimal has taken Terry Pratchett's concept of the boarding school - Pratchett famously said he took a typical British boarding school and turned all the knobs Up to Eleven - especially the one labelled "violence" - and elaborated on it still further, adding more detail and new ideas, especially about the new tensions caused by the A.G. school going co-educational. Pessimal has written a few stories revolving round events at this singular school. A typical one might be Fresh Pair of Eyes, or The Graduation Class, or Murder Most 'Orrible.
- Alongside the aforementioned case of the Saint Rudolph School, a pretty persistent fanon in The Prince of Tennis dictates that Hyotei Gakuen might be a boarding school for rich kids, based on how one of their top players is from outside Tokyo (more exactly, from the Kansai area). It has neither been confirmed nor Jossed in canon.
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 happens in a French boarding school during WWII
- 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 Mc Carthy
- Private School, starring Phoebe Cates and Matthew Modine
- In The Sound of Music the Baroness jokes about sending the children off to boarding school when Max laughs at the idea of her being a mother to seven children. At least we think she was joking...
- Tom Browns Schooldays, by Thomas Hughes, is the genre-founder, published in 1858. It is set at the real Rugby School, which Hughes attended.
- The other Trope Maker is Eric, or Little By Little, by Frederic W Farrar, also first published in 1858. Farrar was a master at Marlborough College, although the novel is set at the fictional Roslyn School. Its reputation compared to Hughes' novel has suffered from its extremely melodramatic tone, overt religious fervour, and Downer Ending.
- The Trope Codifier of the British boys' boarding school story, however, is the Greyfriars stories by Frank Richards (real name Charles Hamilton), known for their Breakout Character, Billy Bunter.
- The Trope Codifier for the girls' boarding school story is the work (over fifty novels) of Angela Brazil. 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 Seinfeld Is Unfunny as a result.
- 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.
- 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 P. G. Wodehouse's books, including Mike, which introduces the character Psmith.
- Jennings is the Trope Codifier for the comedy boarding school subgenre, concentrating on pranking and Zany Schemes.
- 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.
- Harry Potter is set in one of these. J. K. Rowling's great achievement is not so much the fantasy fiction element of the Potter novels, but that she reinvented and breathed new life into what was by the start of the 21st Century a moribund cliché'd genre - the boarding school novel.
- Discworld:- The other British author who has re-written the boarding school novel is Sir Terry Pratchett. In Pyramids, he introduces the Assassins' Guild School as a parody of the boarding school novel - Pratchett has said that to visualise the School for Assassins, he took a typical British boarding school and turned all the knobs Up to Eleven - especially the one labelled "violence".
- Elsewhere in the Discworld there are other examples, including the Quirm College for Young Ladies, Hugglestones, the Fools' Guild school, and the Assassins' Guild School. In particular, the opening section of the novel Soul Music covers most of the stereotypes of the genre at the Quirm College for Young Ladies.
- 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 epidemic exacerbated by the insufficient food and heating breaks out and several students die.
- 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 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.
- Miss Minchin's boarding school in A Little Princess.
- Easton Academy in Private, as well as Atherton-Pryce in the Spin-Off Privilege.
- Ariadnio in Greek Ninja is a school in Greece, with students coming from all over Europe to study in.
- In Edgar Allan Poe's short story William Wilson, the narrator attended one of these in his youth.
- Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar novels have elements of this, particularly those set at the Collegia in Haven.
- Bethel Woods Orphanage from Hours is actually more of a boarding school for gifted geniuses. Who also happen to be orphans.
- Paul Murray's Skippy Dies (set in Dublin).
- Evelyn Waugh's first novel, Decline and Fall, is largely set at one of these, though it concerns one of the tutors rather than the students themselves.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets begins with Don Harvey attending one for several years on Earth while his parents are busy with archaeological digs on Mars. Aside from academics it is also a dude ranch with each boy being assigned a horse to care for.
- The House of Night.
Live Action TV
- Parodied and subverted to hell and back in Tompkinson's Schooldays, the first episode of Ripping Yarns. Actually, Greybridge itself (the school in the story) probably counts as more of a Boarding School Of Horrors, but it's intended as a parody of this trope.
- Friends: Chandler reveals he attended boarding school. The details aren't revealed, (apart from being all boys), but he doesn't make it sound like fun and its hinted he was bullied.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch put Libby on a bus in season 4 and explained that her parents had sent her away to boarding school.
- Medenham Hall in Hex. That is, until Malachi burns it down...
- The forgotten teen sitcom Running The Halls was Saved by the Bell IN A BOARDING SCHOOL!
- USA High, a '90s series from the same people who brought you Saved by the Bell and Running the Halls, was basically SAVED BY THE BELL IN PARIS!
- The Facts of Life
- "The Worst Witch" is set in a boarding school for young witches.
- Tower Prep is set in a boarding school, which none of the students know where it is, or why they're there.
- House of Anubis, where all the action takes place in a British Boarding School that was built originally as a real house for a famous archaeologist. Despite it's appearance and charm, it's more of a boarding school of horrors.
- The Argentinian Soap Opera Perla Negra starts in a boarding school for rich girls located in the Argentinian countryside. Two former students, Eva and the titular Perla, are involved in a car accident: Eva dies, Perla survives but is mistaken as Eva, and she decides to mantain the masquerade to protect Eva's baby son Charlie, whom she loves as if he was her own son, from Eva's Big Screwed-Up Family. What Perla doesn't know is that she was dropped off at the school when she was a baby, with 21 authentic black pearls to pay for her education, and that she'll eventually learn who did this to her and wby...
- Main setting of Mana Khemia Alchemists Of Alrevis 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.
- The Gardens in Final Fantasy VIII.
- 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.
- Little Busters! takes place in a co-ed boarding school.
- Gunnerkrigg Court. Except so far the Houses seem to exist not to compete with each other, 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.
- 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.
- Lovelace One Two takes place at Brooks-Carillon Academy, a fictional New England boarding school; the protagonist, Andi Gannett-Moore, has been going to boarding schools since first grade.