Education is always a top priority for families who are considering a move. Parents want to give their children the best start, which means having excellent schooling options nearby. For many, this priority extends to paying for private education. While there are great independents across the UK, this article looks at the 10 best private schools in the UK for 2024, and the best places to live nearby.
Top of the League Tables
The following list comes from The Sunday Times Parent Power 2024 league tables. They have used A-level and GCSE past performance data to identify the top-achieving schools in the country. This covers both the state level and the best private schools in the UK.
What are the best private schools in the UK?
A-level A*-B: 97%
Overview: “Kindness, inclusivity and diversity are the lifeblood of this thriving school,” according to the Tatler Good School guide. Alongside its truly outstanding academic performance, pre and post-pandemic, St Paul’s Girls’ School also provides excellent personal and social skills development for its student population of nearly 800. Fees start from around £8,800 and girls aged 11-18 can attend.
Where to live: Hammersmith, West London
A-level A*-B: 98%
Overview: Guildford High School is a place where “curiosity thrives”. It has numerous top-level accolades for pastoral care and holistic education from The Times and various independent school guide publications. Fees start from £6,100 and nearly 1,000 girls (aged 4-18) attend Guildford High School each year.
Where to live: Guildford, Surrey
A-level A*-B: 97%
Note: St Paul’s School is ranked lower than Guildford High School despite its slightly higher A-level attainment, because Guildford High School achieved better GCSE results by a higher margin.
Overview: Set pleasantly within 45 acres of green open space arranged within a gentle curve of the River Thames, St Paul’s School is as well-resourced as it is well-placed. There are nearly 1,500 students here, all boys aged 7-18, and fees start from £8852 for day boys and £13,322 for boarders. Amazingly, the school has grown and evolved over a 500-year period, and today it offers its students the chance to equip themselves for a life beyond school filled with confidence and enticing options.
Where to live: Putney, South West London
A-level A/A*: 77%
Overview: Founded in 1850, this highly reputable girls’ day school caters for students aged four to 18. The school was originally located in Camden, but later moved to the borough of Harrow and its current position between Edgware and Stanmore. Fees total up to £23,982 per year, with the school offering bursaries and music scholarships for its senior school entrants.
Where to live: Edgware, North West London
A-level A*-B: 97%
Overview: City of London School for Girls wants its students to “find space to pioneer”. It enables this by providing the best in academic, sporting and arts-based resources and teaching. There is an outward-looking philosophy at the school, inspired by the global city that hosts it. Students are encouraged to look and think beyond their immediate educational environment when planning their future learning and life journey. This slightly smaller school teaches nearly 800 pupils annually and fees start at £6,888.
Where to live: City of London
A-level A*-B: 97%
Overview: The top-rated private school outside London, Tonbridge School is still within easy reach of the capital. Located in the leafy and historic commuter town of Tonbridge, the school boasts first-class educational and sporting facilities and caters to boys aged 13 to 18. Tonbridge School offers day and boarding packages, and has the highest fees of the schools in the top 10 list, up to £46,740 per year.
Where to live: Kent
A-level A/A*: 84%
Overview: Facing the Wimbledon Common itself, King’s College School is a bright, welcoming campus with teachers who aim to treat every student as an individual first. King’s was founded by royal charter in 1829 as the junior department of the now world-famous King’s College London university. It’s a co-educational school with nearly 1,200 pupils and its fees start from £6,930 for day pupils.
Where to live: Wimbledon, South West London
A-level A*-B: 97%
Overview: Located right in the heart of Oxford city centre, with the stunning Magdalen Bridge as its backdrop, Magdalen College School is a boys’ school (ages 7-18) with a mixed sixth form. The school draws inspiration from the world-renowned university it shares the city with. Students have every opportunity to thrive in the arts, sports and academic studies. They are also instructed with a strong sense of real-world skills and community spirit.
Where to live: Oxford
A-level A*-B: 95%
Overview: Located right in the heart of London, Westminster School is surrounded by the living history of England’s political and cultural landscape. The school itself provides dramatic historical architecture but with a wholly modernised approach to educating its boys (mixed sixth form). Its sports offering is particularly strong, as students have access to 25 different sporting activities, all resourced to the highest level. Fees start at just under £10,000 for day pupils, and £14,424 for boarders.
Where to live: Westminster, Central London
A-level A/A*: 58%
Overview: King Edwards VI High School for Girls earn the accolade of being the only school outside the South East of England to feature in the top 10. The third girls’ school in the list, the school is located in popular Edgbaston and caters for 650 pupils between the ages of 11 and 18. Fees reach a maximum of £17,046 per year.
Where to live: Birmingham
What makes a school ‘good’?
The best private schools in the UK, as ranked above, got their places based on examination results. For many parents, this is the single most important outcome of their children’s education, because it sets up their future opportunities in terms of higher education and career paths. However, it’s not the only consideration when choosing the right school for you.
When you’re visiting a school with a view to potentially sending your child there, keep the following questions in mind.
Does the school’s education philosophy fit your own?
Educational theory changes the lay of the land frequently. Schools are constantly trying new approaches to get the best response from their students. Take some time to understand what this school’s philosophy is. Do they focus on creativity-based learning? What is their approach to wellbeing? Do they give students opportunities to learn real-world skills? It’s worth a conversation to find out whether their educational priorities fit with yours.
Does the school feel safe?
All students, teachers and parents should feel safe and secure whenever they are in school. There doesn’t have to be masses of security features on display, but there must be a sense that it’s a place where children can learn in safety.
Is the school well resourced?
Even the best teachers in the world need the right resources to do their job. Look at the current state of the school’s buildings, its sports facilities, its classrooms, furniture and, crucially, the range and availability of educational tools. Is it an ed-tech paradise? Or does it barely cover the basics? The resources on hand say a lot about the school’s current and future capabilities.
Is the school close to your home?
This is an obvious consideration, since many parents will move to a given area to get access to a specific school or range of good schools. For state schools, you must live within the catchment area to apply for a place there. For private schools, this is not a requirement, but it’s still handy to live close by.
Does the school headteacher support their staff?
This is more difficult to tell during a quick visit to a school, but it is important. Headteachers are the ones who set the vision and strongly influence the daily culture of the school. They lead the other staff and play a major role in either bringing out the best in the school or wasting its potential. Take a moment to get a sense of what the headteacher is like and whether they are
Having the right schooling options nearby matters greatly when finding a new home to buy or rent. For more guidance on the best private schools in the UK across different regions, check out our guides section.
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