Whether you are considering moving to the bustling north, leafy south, edgy east or wealthy west, we’ve handpicked some of the best state secondary schools in each corner of London. With non-selective state schools, your child’s place won’t be determined by an entrance exam at these educational institutions. This makes them easier to get into than grammar schools, which are selective at entrance.
Here’s a synopsis of eight non-selective state schools we have chosen. We’ve included their websites to give a broader insight into their mission, vision and values. There’s detailed information about the curriculum and extra-curricular activities. You’ll also find practical points about school terms, results and safeguarding.
The best state secondary schools in London
You may have already started to research secondary schools in London. If so, you’ll have seen that there is a wide range of both selective state schools and non-selective state schools.
You may not have moved to London as yet but are thinking about it, or have perhaps just arrived in this wonderful city. Either way, rest assured… apart from all the services we offer, our resources like the Knowledge Base are invaluable. We provide localised London information about the choices of non-selective state schools and selective state schools that are available.
When it comes to reviewing state secondary schools in London, there’s a vast landscape of educational institutions. These can have varying reputations and confusing application criteria.
As you know, every parent wants their child to get off on the right footing in their life. Finding the best school match is a key component in ‘the bigger picture’.
Our aim is to help parents make the most appropriate choices with state secondary schools. To do this, we explore some of the best non-selective state secondary schools across all four corners of London. Non-selective state schools accept students regardless of aptitude. A selective state school chooses students on the basis of academic ability
1. Wembley High Technology College – North Wembley
Wembley High Technology College’s (WHTC) vision is ‘Achievement for all’. The school believes that “every child should have the entitlement to an exceptional education, regardless of background.”
This non-selective state school is one of the top-performing co-educational schools in the country. Its Progress 8 score of +1.58* has been recognised as the 4th highest nationally. This score is also recognised as the highest in London by the Department of Education.
This aptitude for educational excellence makes it easy to see why it is ranked the second-best state-funded school in the land. Students’ academic education is supplemented by social, moral, and cultural education. There’s a wide range of extracurricular activities/groups for students to engage in and with. If you’re within reasonable travelling distance of this area, it’s a great choice amongst UK secondary schools.
*An accountability score used by the government
2. Fortismere School – Muswell Hill
This Ofsted rated ‘outstanding’ school is a mixed foundation secondary school in the heart of Muswell Hill. It is the highest-performing comprehensive school in the London Borough of Haringey. It’s an inclusive and well-liked comprehensive school. The school website shows that students have access to a broad curriculum. Traditional academic subjects are enhanced with an emphasis on creative arts. Students access the curriculum route that inspires them most. The school believes “there should be no barriers that exclude any child from accessing the best opportunities.”
The school is set in 20 acres of land offering a spacious site with a comprehensive set of facilities. The land is a bonus for such a centrally located London institution. A variety of extracurricular activities are available and designed to fit with the local community’s interests and ambitions.
UK secondary schools are wide-ranging in their goals, ambitions and aspirations. Fortismere’s website and results underline its dedication to raising the students’ achievements.
3. Sacred Heart Catholic School – Camberwell
Sacred Heart is a mixed Roman Catholic secondary school and sixth form in Camberwell. It’s in a leafy South London district with a multicultural neighbourhood. The area has elegant period properties and a vibrant creative, arts and cultural scene. Renowned educational institutions, Goldsmiths College and Camberwell College of Arts and Design are based there.
This non-selective state school prides itself on consistently achieving outstanding academic results. These are above local and national averages across all subject areas. The school’s vision is “to enable every child to achieve more than they think they are capable of achieving.” The key ambition of the curriculum is to “cater for the needs of all our pupils and enhance social mobility.” The school’s Progress 8 score places it as one of the top-performing UK secondary schools. Sixth form students regularly achieve places at top universities like Oxford, Cambridge, and other Russell Group universities. Students also achieve places at Ivy League universities in the USA
Alongside exceptional academic outcomes, the school recognises the importance of a comprehensive programme of moral and religious education.
4. Harris Academy Bermondsey – Bermondsey
Harris Academy Bermondsey was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted for the third time in a row in 2019. This is a girls’ school with drive and ambition in the heart of London. Making a difference to the young women’s lives is really important to the school. The school’s exam results aren’t bad either! 45% of students achieved grade 5 or above in English and maths. Nearly one girl in three achieves at least one grade 9, the highest possible grade. The school is “passionate about making a difference to the lives of our young women, ensuring that they have every opportunity to succeed by nurturing each one’s individual talents.”
There’s a broad choice of curricular subjects. Art and design, business enterprise and technology are all available. Extra-curricular clubs and activities like yoga are available. This non-selective state school is often asked why it is a ‘girls only’ school and their website clarifies why this is the case.
5. Mossbourne Community Academy – Lower Clapton
In the scheme of UK secondary schools, this was one of the country’s first academies when it opened its doors in 2004. In a borough with educational underachievement, it has re-imagined what inner-city non-selective co-education can be. Mossbourne’s success has been built on the idea that learning comes first. It has a clear plan from the way it recruits and trains staff to what it expects of students’ behaviour. It has become a high achieving school, by working to simple principles. As stated on the Academy’s website, “The highest of expectations, a focus on details, belief in the value of hard work, unity and no excuses.”
Music education is the school’s specialism. There are state of the art music suites, recording studios and a wide-ranging scholarship programme. This non-selective state school also has a Rowing Academy for students who demonstrate outstanding aptitude for the sport. The school website describes “Mossbournians as polite, hard-working, impeccably behaved and rightfully proud of their achievements and aspirations.”
6. Forest Gate Community School – Forest Gate
This top-performing state secondary school is in the London Borough of Newham. Its vision is ‘Fly, Grow, Connect, Strive.’ It has exceptional exam results to back up its Ofsted ‘outstanding’ rating. 64% of students achieved grade 9-5 in both English and maths. Four out of ten students achieve three or more GCSEs at grade 7-9. This is made possible through the school’s exceptional learning environment and strong community spirit.
This non-selective state school quotes a genuinely comprehensive intake. It works hard to accommodate the educational and pastoral needs of all its students. These range from those with exceptional talents and skills to those who might need extra support to succeed. The website quotes that its goal is “to see all students become highly skilled learners, achieving excellent standards and leading fulfilling and exciting lives.” The school has a comprehensive range of curricular subjects.
7. London Oratory School – Fulham
Known also as the Oratory, this is a Roman Catholic secondary school for boys aged 7–18 and girls aged 16 –18. It’s situated in the heart of West London, literally next door to Chelsea Football Club’s Stamford Bridge ground.
It was founded in 1863 by the Fathers of the Oratory. The school is one of England’s oldest and most distinguished Catholic state-funded boys’ schools in the country. The school has historically drawn pupils from all social backgrounds. It has a wide catchment area reaching throughout Greater London and beyond. It’s renowned for the quality of its choral and instrumental music. It offers specialist music education to boys aged 7-10 with a focus on choral liturgical music.
A wide range of sporting activities are offered. There’s rugby (a sport which the school has a long and illustrious history of), water polo, hockey, cricket, netball and athletics.The school quotes that sport is “primarily to provide a healthy, balanced, joyful context in which good character can be developed, and where sport can become a life-long part of a pupil’s life.”
8. Holland Park School – Holland Park
This co-educational secondary school is in the Holland Park area of west central London. It attained academy status in 2013. It has been rated three times as Ofsted ‘outstanding.’ The school’s exam results are consistently in the top 5% of schools nationally. The school knows a thing or two about achievement and success. It has the status of being a ‘Platinum Investor in People’ school. It is also included in The Good Schools’ Guide. These achievements enhance its reputation as a flagship for comprehensive education. The school’s website states “Our ambition is that people can capitalise on their individual potential: achievement is a relative term and success is found in a myriad of ways.”
The school has an innovative and personalised curriculum built around students’ needs. The school also has a 25metre swimming pool, dance studio and all-weather sports pitch. A wide assortment of competitive sports is offered to students.
The school’s location makes it in easy reach of the vast Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherds Bush. Areas like Notting Hill and Chiswick are close by. It is well placed for quick access into central London.
Understanding school catchment areas
Of course, before setting your heart on a London state school you will need to make sure you’re living in the required catchment area. We’ve written a great article to help you understand how catchment areas work: understanding state school catchment areas in the UK
If you’re searching for a rental property in a school catchment area, we offer free email alerts for lettings in school catchment areas. Register now. Cancel any time.
This article has been updated in April 2022 for accuracy purposes.