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 2022, and the best places to live nearby.
Top of the League Tables
The following list comes from The Sunday Times Parent Power 2022 league tables. They have used A-level and GCSE past performance data to identify the 1,600 top-achieving schools in the country. This covers both the state level and the best private schools in the UK.
*Please note that in 2021, students did not sit public examinations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers awarded their grades according to strictly controlled internal assessment criteria. However, the rankings below also consider pre-pandemic grades, for a more rounded picture.
What are the best private schools in the UK?
A-level A*-B: 97.8%
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: 96.9%
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: 96.7%
Overview: Wycombe Abbey School positions itself as a world leader in girls’ boarding education. It claims to be a place where academic excellence, empathy and integrity thrive, and it boasts a 125-year history of educating young women.
Where to live: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
A-level A*-B: 96.6%
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: 95.3%
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: 95.4%
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*-B: 94.1%
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
Joint 8/9: Brighton College
A-level A*-B: 97.4%
Overview: Awarded the prestigious title of ‘School of the Decade’ by The Sunday Times, Brighton College is consistently at the top of the league tables year after year. The school’s leadership says that the heart of its success is the creation of a ‘culture of kindness’, where the personal happiness of the student comes first. Brighton College is a co-educational school with around 1,200 students aged between 3-18. Fees start at £6,120 for day pupils and £12,220 for boarders.
Where to live: Brighton, East Sussex
Joint 8/9: City of London School for Girls
A-level A*-B: 95.1%
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
10: Sevenoaks School
A-level A*-B: 95.8%
Note: Sevenoaks achieved the 7th best A-level results in the country, but only 16th best at GCCSE. This gives it the 10th ranking overall.
Overview: Sevenoaks is a prime London commuter belt town in Kent, but with many charms and advantages of its own. Sevenoaks School is one of them, as this beautiful 100-acre campus co-educational school maintains a reputation for consistent excellence across the board.
Where to live: Sevenoaks, Kent
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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