London is home to some of the UK’s best private schools – preparatory including pre-preparatory (age 4 up to 13) and secondary (from age 11 up to 18).
We want to give you a head start in your school selection process. Here’s an overview of some of London’s top private schools in London. They’re independent preparatory and secondary day schools in family-friendly areas.
The best private schools in London
We have listed:
- website links
- admissions policies and fees
- useful information about the schools to help you choose, like:
- the school’s vision, mission and values
- their commitment to academia, extra-curricular life and the community
- their well-being and pastoral care programmes
The best private primary schools in London
1 St Philip’s School – Kensington
St Philip’s is a small Roman Catholic preparatory school for boys aged seven to thirteen. It was founded in 1934 and is located on its foundation site in the heart of Kensington.
The schools quotes that it is “well-known for a creating an atmosphere that is warm, welcoming and supportive” The school’s holistic outlook allows it to personally nurture pupils in the classroom whilst also ensuring they feel a valued member of the school community.
There’s a broad curriculum. It balances academic, moral, and religious learning with creative and sporting opportunities. Educational trips to museums, galleries and historic buildings are organised on a regular basis.
The school enjoys links with a range of prestigious senior schools. On leaving, the aim is for boys go to the school that best suits their individual needs.
2 Wandsworth Preparatory School – Wandsworth
This co-educational independent day school is for children aged 4 to 11. It’s based in South West London near Wandsworth Common and not far from the River Thames.
A key aim is to “inspire and challenge children to love learning” The school has small class sizes. It also quotes an excellent ratio of staff to children. Pupils receive a high level of individual support. They quickly build strong literary and numeracy skills. A creative curriculum is employed. This is supported by a broad range of extra-curricular activities
The school is keen that it has a fun and exciting learning environment. At the same time, preparing children for senior school entrance exams is foremost in the school’s mind. The school is “proud of its academic results with each child fulfilling their potential”. The school highlights that the pupils go on to the best secondary schools in the area.
3 Dallington School – Islington
This school in the heart of London describes itself as ‘a village school in the city’. It is family-owned and family-run. It quotes “We offer a child-centred, creative, holistic and ambitious experience, designed to develop the whole, unique child and to prepare them for their onward educational journey”
This is a creative co-educational North London private school for children aged 3 to 11 years old. It has been nurturing independent, curious, resilient learners for more than 40 years. Children in different year groups share open-plan spaces like in a modern working environment.
The school is determined to embrace new technologies, look for emerging opportunities and explore new horizons. This allows it to provide pupils with an outstanding and forward-thinking education. The school uses a ‘cross-curricular approach.’ Pupils get involved in project work across subjects. There is also an Outdoor Education Programme. Pupils will experience day and residential trips in London and beyond.
The school’s pupils have achieved places in a range of notable secondary schools.
4 James Allen’s Girls School – Dulwich
This school, or JAGS as it is known, has a 22-acre site in Dulwich, South London. It is the oldest independent girls’ school in Greater London. It was founded in 1741. Its vision is “A passion for life and learning” and its mission “a dynamic school community, nurturing self-assured and considerate individuals who thrive.” The junior school says, “it creates a sense of happiness, fun and warmth in which girls are motivated to work to the best of their abilities and learn through play.”
The prep school offers a bold and inclusive curriculum. It wants its pupils to be courageous, show commitment and respond to a constantly changing world in whatever way feels right to them.
There are plenty of sports options including football, athletics, hockey, netball and cricket. Music, Art and design technology are high on the agenda of co-curricular subjects. A wide spectrum of clubs is available like Cuisine Club. A programme of school trips to e.g. exhibitions and theatre performances are a regular feature.
There is a senior school for ages 11- 18.
5 Highgate School – Highgate
The co-educational school is located adjacent to Hampstead Heath and a short distance from central London. This is one of the notable North London private schools. The school was the winner of the Times Educational Supplement (TES) Independent School of the Year award in 2020. It is a registered charity. The school strives for “continual learning and improvement, particularly with regards to equality, inclusion, diversity and sustainability”
The junior school built and opened a new state of the art building in 2016. The Principal quotes “We want all pupils to believe that there are no glass ceilings to their learning and we aim that all strive to reach their full potential” There is a balanced curriculum covering core subjects. Pupils’ knowledge, curiosity and development are also encouraged across other areas. For example, pupils with a strong aptitude in literacy are offered writing workshops. Each term there’s a focus on different themes. These may include creativity, problem solving and kindness.
There are various co-curricular programmes including an Ornithology club and a Skateboarding Club! There are far-reaching sports facilities and a wide range of sports available to pupils.
There’s an interesting range of North London private schools. Highgate School junior and senior school is one of them.
The best private secondary schools in London
You’ve now seen a selection of private schools in London for primary education. Here’s a small selection of the best independent schools in London when considering secondary education:
1 St Paul’s School – Barnes
This is one of the renowned private schools in London. An independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It’s located on a 45-acre green open space right by the River Thames in Barnes, West London. It does also have a junior school age 7 -13. John Colet, the school’s founder in 1509, pledged to educate boys “from all nations and countries indifferently” regardless of race, creed, or social background. The school upholds and honours this commitment to this day.
The school quotes that “academic study is at the heart of St Paul’s”. It also states “Whilst examination success is important, for gifted pupils we feel it is a by-product of their broader intellectual development.”
For over 500 years it has been providing an outstanding intellectual, spiritual, and physical education. Today it prepares its pupils for their future by combining a rich tradition with the best of the present.
The school has a range of excellent on-site facilities including a boat club, art gallery and concert hall. The school has undergone a major refurbishment recently. There’s now a new Astro-turf pitch, a new Drama Centre/theatre and an award-winning Science Centre. The school offers a varied range of co-curricular activities.
Pupils’ excellent exam results lead them to top-ranking UK universities. The school also has strong links with US top universities like Berkeley, Harvard and Stanford. A percentage of pupils head to the US.
2 Godolphin and Latymer School – Hammersmith
This west London school for girls aged 11 to 18 provides access to quality teaching and learning, alongside a real emphasis on the personal development of every pupil.
Ambitious and innovative in its approach to education, the school is well-equipped to inspire its students to flourish in the outside world.
3 Emanuel School – Battersea
This independent, co-educational day school is in South West London. It has an illustrious history. It was founded in 1594 by Anne Sackville, Lady Dacre and Queen Elizabeth I. The school has a leafy 12-acre site near Clapham Junction railway station. It continues to provide pupils with a well-rounded education for over 400 years since first opening its doors.
It quotes “a long-established history of academic and co-curricular success.” Values include “we are an ambitious and kind school community.”
There’s a state-of-the-art theatre and professional film studio. There are well-resourced science laboratories. Outstanding sports facilities are available on site. There’s a large sports hall and fitness centre and an indoor swimming pool. There’s a broad and interesting mix of clubs and societies available.
Higher education destinations include Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. Bristol, Exeter, York and Manchester to name a few. Some students leave for prestigious creative and performing arts destinations. RADA, Trinity Laban Music Conservatoire and The Royal School of Drawing are popular. Some choose to study in the US, Italy and Holland.
4 Alleyn’s – Dulwich
Alleyn’s is another of the well-respected private schools in London. It’s over 400 years old and located in the heart of Dulwich, close to central London. It quotes ”Alleyn’s is one of the most successful co-educational schools in the country, delivering academic and co-curricular excellence in a welcoming and supportive atmosphere”.
There’s a varied and challenging curriculum. There’s a strong record of academic achievement. The school believes that “the best education transcends the classroom.” The school has extensive co-curricular options for pupils to get involved in. There are 60 weekly sports clubs including mixed cricket and football, water polo, lacrosse and gymnastics. Music, drama and dance are also options. Exciting and diverse activities outside the classroom include Film and Photography and Podcast Club.
Every year the vast majority of students go on to their first choice course at UK and overseas universities.
How to choose the right private school
Selecting a school can be a perplexing process and needs careful planning. There’s a wide assortment of excellent private schools in London to choose from, and they are geared to suit all abilities.
All-through school, or primary then secondary?
It’s easy to opt for private education for your child in London. It’s more difficult to decide what path they should take within the independent school system.
Will you combine their compulsory education by sending them to an all-through school? Or will you split it by sending them to separate preparatory (age 4 up to 13) and secondary (from age 11 up to 18) schools?
With such a wide selection of independent schools within both age brackets in London, this second option is a popular one.
Location and budget
The exceptional quality of private schools in London makes them highly attractive, and because they appeal to local and global parents alike, there are always more applicants than places for the best independent schools in London. T. Being in the vicinity of the school doesn’t mean an automatic place for your child.
Consider the location and your budget: remember that school fees tend to increase year on year.
Register interest early and keep following up
If you want your child to attend a top academic day school, plan the route early. You may need to register your child’s name at birth to have a chance of gaining a place. Build a good connection with the Admissions Office and keep in touch: the transient nature of London means places may become available when families relocate.
When choosing a school, use this sound strategy: have one ambitious goal, a realistic one and a back up.
If you are thinking of moving to London, schools may offer a ‘virtual’ tour if visiting in person isn’t possible.
This article has been updated in April 2022.