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Education in LONDON

Perhaps no city on Earth offers as much educational variety as London. World-renowned independent schools, international schools offering a variety of curricula, a thriving state sector - the city caters for just about anything parents could want. Winter's explores this dynamic, complex scene...


Independent schools

The independent school sector is enormously diverse, with schools to suit every taste and budget. At one end of the scale are the boarding schools charging upwards of £30,000 a year in fees, while it is perfectly possible to have a private school education for under £10,000 a year.

There is a similar - and often corresponding - variety in facilities, from the well-established schools with extensive grounds and enviable sports pitches and music studios and the like, to those based in converted, albeit sometimes large, houses.

But London’s independent school sector as a whole is in good health, experiencing the highest growth of any part of the UK over the last 12 months, according to the Independent Schools Council’s annual census.

Abercorn School

Abercorn School

At the last count there were 86,252 pupils at 221 ISC-affiliated schools across the city. There were an additional 144,841 students at 379 schools in the surrounding south-east region, easily accessible from London, and vice versa.


"London’s independent school sector as a whole is in good health, experiencing the highest growth of any part of the UK over the last 12 months..."

Although London and the surrounding area is home to some of the world’s most prestigious boarding schools, a comparatively small number of pupils, just three per cent, are boarders, partly as a result of the city’s excellent transport links. About one in five pupils are boarders in the wider south-east region.

But just as London house prices carry a premium, school fees in London are higher than in the rest of the country. Average termly fees in London are £11,940 for boarders and £5,299 for day pupils, compared with national averages of £10,317 and £4,445 respectively.

Independent schools take children from as young as two. The more competitive have waiting lists, some of which require names to be put down from birth. Entry may also be by interview, while older children can expect to have to sit an exam to get into the most sought-after schools.

Knightsbridge School

Knightsbridge School

Most follow the English national curriculum, which covers ages five to 18 and is divided into five key stages. Pupils are normally entered for external examinations at 16 and 18, GCSEs and A-levels respectively, although a significant number of schools offer the International Baccalaureate diploma, either instead of A-levels or alongside them.

International schools

London is home to a significant number of expatriates and international schools comprise a substantial subset within independent schools. 

These follow a non-UK curriculum, although this may be combined with some elements of the English curriculum, and students may be entered for GCSE and A-level examinations. They usually offer a bilingual education.

Portland Place School

Portland Place School

International schools range from those managed and funded by national governments to those that are entirely private. Some will also have, or be working towards, accreditation from their home country’s education department, making it easier for students to transfer to international schools elsewhere following the same curriculum.

The number and availability of schools is largely dependant on the number of expatriates from each country. Parents looking for a French curriculum school, for example, are likely to have more choice than those looking for a Japanese school.

State-funded schools

London also has a thriving state-funded education sector. As recently as a decade ago, results at London’s state-funded schools were among the worst in the country, but recent years have seen a remarkable transformation, variously ascribed to government initiatives and an influx of immigrants, among other factors. London’s schools now boast the best results in the country.

But competition to get into the best schools is fierce. Admission is largely on the basis of proximity to the school, and one consequence is inflated house prices near the most desirable schools.

State schools invariably follow the English national curriculum, although some may offer the IB alongside A-levels.

"London state-funded schools now boast the best results in the country."

And finally...

It's also worth noting that entry points differ between the state and independent sectors. State schools tend to be divided into primary, taking children from five to 11, and secondary, which cater for 11 to 16 or 18-year-olds, with sixth form colleges teaching students from 16 to 18.

While some independent schools follow this template, others fit a different model, where pupils go to preparatory (prep) schools from eight to 13 and senior schools from 13 to 18. Pre-prep schools take children under eight.

St. Nicholas Preparatory School

St. Nicholas Preparatory School

Some pre-prep and prep schools are ‘feeder’ schools for prep and senior schools respectively. Although this does not guarantee entry, close links between the two schools may make it more likely that children will be awarded a place.


Top image courtesy of St Paul's School

Other images courtesy of the following Winter's schools located in London:

Abercorn School

Knightsbridge School

Portland Place School

St. Nicholas Preparatory School

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