Catchment areas, league tables, ‘state vs private’ – finding the right school in a given area is hard. However, it’s a necessary consideration for millions of families across the UK. To help make the task a little bit easier, we present the top-10 best state schools in the UK for 2022.
Why are schools so important when looking to move?
If you’re planning to move homes, and you have children of school-going age, then good schools are a must. Along with an area’s overall safety, schooling options represent a top priority for families. In fact, the presence (or lack) of good schools can significantly affect the average house price of an area.
The number, concentration and overall quality of schools in a given area are important because schooling represents a crucial element of family life. Firstly, parents want their children to receive the best education possible. Secondly, more schooling options provide a greater chance of a ‘better fit’ for a specific family. Ideally, the chosen school will be as close as possible to the family home, and will follow an educational ethos that suits the wishes of the parent(s) and children.
Finally, some families may prefer to send their child to a faith-based school, or to a fee-paying private school.
Having all these options makes an area more suitable for a wider range of families. This is why all regions and specific areas across the country strive to make their schooling options as attractive as possible.
UK state schooling
For the majority of UK families with school-aged children, state-provided schooling will be their chosen option. In 2020, only 6.5% of UK schoolchildren were privately educated.
This means that well over 90% of schoolchildren attend state schools in the UK. Overall, UK state schooling is well regarded internationally. A new UCL study also shows that young adults and teenagers who went to state schools are as happy with their lives as those who attended private school.
However, as any teacher will tell you, the quality of education provided by state schools varies greatly from place to place. That’s why it’s important to have a firm grasp of the quality of schools in your home area.
Even though all state schools are free to attend (i.e.: there are no annual or termly fees) there are different types. For example, some are selective, such as grammar schools. This means that schoolchildren must pass an entry exam and interview process before being accepted.
10 best state schools in the UK
The following list comes from The Sunday Times Parent Power 2022 league tables. It uses A-level and GCSE past performance data to identify the 1,600 top-achieving schools in the country. These are the best state schools in the UK, including grammar and other selective schools.
*Please note that in 2021, students did not sit public examinations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Grades were awarded by teachers according to strictly controlled internal assessment criteria. However, the rankings below also consider pre-pandemic grades, for a more rounded picture.
A-level A*-B: 96.3%
GCSE (9-7): 91.5%
Overview: QE Barnet promises: “A state school experience like no other”. Founded in 1573 by royal charter, the school has gone from strength to strength in its centuries-long history to become the highest-performing state school in the UK. It reinforces its exceptional academic results with a sports offering that is comparable to the best-resourced private schools. There’s also the planned development of the Robert Dudley Studio, a 104-seater advanced theatre that will allow QE students to perfect their performance skills and build their overall confidence.
Where to live: Barnet, Hertfordshire
A-level A*-B: 93%
GCSE (9-7): 95.3%
Overview: Set just north of the leafy delights of Hampstead Heath, The Henrietta Barnett School (HBS) is a non-denominational grammar school for girls aged 11-18. HBS is consistently near the top of the league tables each year. It provides a wide range of extra-curricular and enrichment opportunities within an open, caring and supportive environment.
Where to live: Hampstead, North London
A-level A*-B: 96%
GCSE (9-7): 87.5%
Overview: Founded in 1615 by royal charter, Wilson’s School’s educational prowess extends well beyond the classroom. It has a strong focus on real-world experiences to help prepare its male students (aged 11-18) for their post-academic lives. As well as regular adventure sporting activities and educational trips abroad, the student body maintains three separate journalistic outlets.
Where to live: Sutton, Surrey
A-level A*-B: 92.1%
GCSE (9-7): 93.8%
Overview: London has many of the best state schools in the country, including The Tiffin Girls’ School. Boasting exceptional exam results and general progression every academic year, it also provides a highly creative learning environment. The school is a great incubator of artistic talent in its students, as well as sporting prowess.
Where to live: Kingston Upon Thames
A-level A*-B: 94%
GCSE (9-7): 88.6%
Overview: Kent is another county where grammar and other selective state schools thrive. St Olave’s Grammar School is the top-rated non-private school in the county. This is thanks to its winning combination of high-performing teachers, excellent resources and a focus on allowing its students to look beyond academics and develop wisdom, honesty and strength of character. It admits almost 1,100 students per year, boys aged 11-18, with a mixed sixth form.
Where to live: Orpington, Kent
A-level A*-B: 92.8%
GCSE (9-7): 86.5%
Overview: Pate’s Grammar School is another school admitting boys aged 11-18, with a mixed sixth form. Around 1,200 students attend here annually, aiming to have “excellence nurtured”. It is a two-time winner of the Sunday Times’ State Secondary School of the Year award. This is, according to its current headteacher, a ringing endorsement of the ‘Pate’s Way’, which puts challenge, fun and creative collaboration at the forefront of school life.
Where to live: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
7: The Reading School
A-level A*-B: 91.4%
GCSE (9-7): 86.3%
Overview: Don’t let the unimaginative name fool you, The Reading School is a heavyweight contender in the national education sector. It is a selective grammar school for boys aged 11-18. It provides a small proportion of boarding places (8% of the student population). Alongside the traditional range of academic pursuits, there is also an emphasis on developing leadership skills with an emphasis on integrity, teamwork and celebrating success.
Where to live: Reading, Berkshire
A-level A*-B: 91.3%
GCSE (9-7): 83.6%
Overview: AGGS is part of the Bright Futures Educational Trust. It’s also a leading school across various subjects, including mathematics, science, PSHE and modern foreign languages. It provides almost 1,400 places per year for girls aged 11-18.
Where to live: Altrincham, Greater Manchester
A-level A*-B: 91.3%
GCSE (9-7): 78.3%
Overview: Colchester Royal Grammar School has one of the longest and most intricate histories of any school in the country. It was founded in 1206 and granted two Royal Charters, by Henry VIII in 1539 and by Elizabeth I in 1584. Today, there is a firm focus on providing a family atmosphere, one where professionalism and the pursuit of excellence combine. It’s an 11-18 school for boys, but admits girls into its co-educational Sixth Form.
Where to live: Colchester, Essex
A-level A*-B: 87.1%
GCSE (9-7): 86%
Overview: Our final entrant in the top 10 is located in King’s Heath, in the southern portion of Birmingham. It prides itself on providing a “breath-taking array of opportunities, both in our traditional academic curriculum and across our extra-curricular and enrichment programme.”
Where to live: Birmingham
If you want to find out more about the best private and state schools in the UK, as well as specific areas, consult our growing range of school-focused guides below. We know how important it is to
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