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Private schools versus state schools: myths and reality

Should you send your child to a private or state school in London? This decision might not be as clear cut as you think.

Are private schools better than state schools in London?

The answer to this question might seem obvious due to a big advantage private schools have over their state contemporaries: financial resources. But money is not everything.

Let’s compare both strands of the education system, so you can make an informed decision about your child’s schooling in the UK capital.

Private schools in London

London is the capital of private schools – seven of the UK’s top 10 private education institutions are located there: City of London School for Boys, King’s College School (Wimbledon), Godolphin and Latymer School (Hammersmith), North London Collegiate School (Edgware), St Paul’s School (Barnes), Westminster School, St Paul’s Girls’ School (Hammersmith).

According to the Independent Schools Council, a private education is nearly 50% more expensive than a decade ago. Average fees for day pupils in the UK are now nearly £4,800 per term, or just over £14,000 a year. Costs in the southeast and London are the highest in the country, where boarding school fees now average more than £13,000 a term – almost £40,000 per year.

The cost of sending a child to an independent school might have risen well above the rate of inflation, but this has not diluted their popularity – the number of pupils in private education in the UK has never been higher. The reason? Over £1bn a year of financial assistance is available to parents, allowing one in three students to benefit from reduced or even waived school fees. Scholarships and bursaries facilitate this access and affordability – although parents are often unaware of how much help is available.

Are the fees worth it if you will be paying full whack? It’s these financial resources – and the selective entry process for some institutions – that sets private schools apart from the state system. From first-class facilities and mission-driven education to small class sizes and table-topping exam results, these fee-paying institutions aim to give pupils the best possible start in life.

State schools in London

Did you know that 92% of state-funded schools in London have been ranked good or outstanding by the government’s Office for Standards in Education? There are 342 ‘outstanding’, state-funded primary schools in the capital – more than any other region in the UK.

London is home to the UK’s best secondary state schools – six of the country’s top 10 state-funded institutions for children aged 12-16 are in the capital: Mossbourne Community Academy (Lower Clapton), Woodford County High School (Woodford Green), Wallington County Grammar School (Wallington), Queen Elizabeth’s School (Barnet), Wilson’s School (Wallington), Wembley High Technology College (North Wembley).

Good quality primary state schools are also to be found in large numbers in London. In fact, an astonishing 94% of them are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

There’s another state school option that allows the brightest students to study at excellent schools, regardless of their background: Grammars. These are state secondary schools for students between the ages of 11 and 16, with one difference: entry is based on academic performance in the 11-Plus exam. There are currently 19 Grammar schools in London.

Get help from the experts (optional)

We won’t just help you to identify good schools in London (private or state!); we will help you secure a place for your child as well.

We can take the hassle out of your school search, in addition to our home search and settling-in services with our School search service – an in-depth, bespoke service that’s tailored to your family’s requirements.

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Guide to State and Private Schools in London

A practical guide to state and private schools in London: where the best schools are in London; school years and curriculum; applications process and timelines; application requirements; Special Education Needs, glossary of school terms.

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Guide to State Schools in London

All the information you need to find the right London State School for your child, and apply successfully: top state schools; when and how to apply; catchment areas; admission criteria; waiting lists; appeals; application websites for all London Boroughs.

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Guide to Private Schools in London

All the information you need to find the right London Private school for your child, and apply successfully: top private schools, cheapest private schools, boarding schools, international schools, British schools, school fees, bursaries, how and when to apply.

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