Harefield Academy in Hillingdon becomes the first Academy to take boarders tomorrow with more than 40 students in its newly built boarding house.

The academy, which opened six years ago for boys and girls between 11 an 18, is a specialist sports college.

Among its first intake of boarders are talented young footballers, basketball players and gymnasts. Two of the footballers are sponsored by Watford Football Club.

Principal Lynn Gadd said: "We have been delighted by the interest shown in our boarding places.

" We have named the boarding house after Lord Adonis who, while Schools Minister in the last government, took no convincing of the value of boarding for many children, and who will be coming formally to open it later this year."

Two other Academies, Priory in Lincoln and Wellington in Tidworth, Wiltshire, have also declared an interest in opening to boarders. There are more than 30 state schools in the UK which have boarding accommodation and more than 4,000 pupils are boarding at these schools.

The education is free; boarding is paid for, at generally less than half the cost of independent schools.

In the last year, eight of the original state boarding schools have become Academies, but Harefield is the first school to travel in the other direction – starting as an academy and adding boarding.

Hilary Moriarty, National Director of the Boarding Schools Association, of which Harefield Academy is now a member, said: "The successful take up of places at Harefield, and the interest shown in boarding by the other two new Academies, is proof that boarding is on the increase.

"The ISC Census this year told us that boarding numbers in independent schools were rising. "It is good to see that this is also the case at state boarding schools.

"Harefield has the advantage of brilliant new boarding accommodation and an energetic Headmistress convinced of the value of boarding as part of what her school has to offer her pupils."