London offers some of the very best schools in the UK. Schools in the city outperform schools in the rest of the UK year after year and are considered to be among the best in the world. Whatever your child’s educational needs, the city will have an independent school to meet them. Here are some of the things to consider before you begin your search for the perfect school in the capital.
The path from primary to secondary
If you’re at the very beginning of your child’s educational journey, you might want to consider whether a school takes them right through from foundation stage to senior years. Avoiding school changes, where possible, can be beneficial.
Choosing a school that goes from pre-prep and prep years to senior years will provide your child with consistency in so many ways – from the way they are taught to their friendship groups. As long as your child is happy at their school, a stable environment can make them feel secure.
Is position in the league tables important?
If your child is academic, position in the league tables might be an important factor when selecting a private school. Have a look at grades awarded in previous years, including GCSE grades, A Level results, as well as International Baccalaureate and Cambridge Pre-U – if this applies.
Grades might not be the most important thing to look at though if your child is not headed for Oxbridge. Independent schools often offer so much more, so make sure you take the school as a whole into consideration. The extracurricular activities available at the school, the atmosphere, the people, and the ethos can all be just as important as guaranteed good grades.
Are traditional schools better than an informal approach?
Choosing an educational approach will very much depend on the unique needs of your child. Some children flourish in a competitive environment, whereas others do best in a more nurturing school setting.
The traditional approach to learning follows the philosophy that everybody should be engaged in the same activity at the same time. This often suits pupils who respond best to structure and enjoy following rules.
The informal or non-traditional approaches to learning often allow students more flexibility to work on their own and at their own pace. The benefit of sending your child to private school is that you will be able to select a school with an approach that best suits them.
How do I choose the best school ethos and atmosphere for my child?
The best thing about independent schools is that they are all so unique. A visit to a school’s campus before you make your decision can help you determine if the environment is right for your child. If the students seem happy, then it’s a good sign! For example, Knightsbridge School prides itself on providing an exciting and fun environment for their pupils to learn and grow. The private school believes that achievement and success follow when students learn in an ecosystem of happiness.
Are co-ed or single sex schools better?
Academic success is often touted as the main advantage of single sex education for both boys and girls. It is often thought that the opportunity to learn without distraction or gender biases may help boys and girls achieve better grades.
However, the social effects of educating boys and girls together are important to consider. Single-sex boys schools can have a reputation for breeding hyper-masculinity and it can be argued that a school for girls makes the most sense when girls are not expected to work. However, co-ed schools and their teachers are usually very conscious of equality in education. Choosing a co-ed school can help to prepare your child for university and the world of work.
Look at all of the options and ask your child what they would prefer. If you do decide on the single sex route, a school with a co-ed sixth form could be something to consider for boys and for girls.
Should you choose a day school or a boarding school?
London offers lots of choice when it comes to day schools and boarding schools and there are advantages to both. Boarding schools offer an immersive educational experience. Homework is done with access to teachers and there is plenty of time for extracurricular activities without the distractions of family life.
However, day school is less expensive than boarding school and you’ll get to tuck your child in at night. Ultimately you will instinctively know which school environment will suit your child best.
The importance of extra curricular school activities and sports
The best school for your child will offer extra curricular activities and sports that are matched to their talents and interests. State schools don’t usually have same the breadth of choice on offer as private schools. For example, Knightsbridge School offers over 70 extra curricular activities including languages, cooking, sports such as Parkour and lacrosse, performing arts, dance, choir and yoga.
Taking part in extracurricular school activities can help your child build long lasting friendships, boost their confidence, as well as gain transferable skills such as communication, time-management, and organisation. Universities also consider extra curricular activities in their student application process, so it’s important to take them into consideration when choosing the best private school for your child.
Should you take location into account when choosing a London school?
Choosing a school that’s easy for your child to travel to is, of course, one of the most important things to take into account. However, schools in London benefit from access to great public transport links. With private schools, you won’t need to worry about catchment areas so you’ll have a lot more choice when it comes to location.
If you’ll be moving house or finding accommodation for your child close to your chosen school, you might want to look at the best London boroughs for families to live in. For example, the central London borough of Kensington and Chelsea is in the heart of the city and is easy to travel to. The area is known for its royal status with lots for families to see and do – from palaces, to great shopping, food and culture. It’s also the home of affluent areas such as Knightsbridge, Notting Hill, Kensington, South Kensington and Chelsea.
Why is pastoral care in schools so important?
A really exceptional school will have excellent pastoral care to support its pupils. The best independent schools will be happy to share the resources they have in place for their students, so make sure you ask when you visit.
Knightsbridge School in central London has timetabled wellbeing and personal reflection sessions each week to help pupils understand who they are and what they need to achieve. They also have a pupil wellbeing lead and a well being prefect, and are the first private day school to have Place2Be as their in-house counselling service for pupils, staff, and parents.
Pastoral care provides a vital support network for students, helping them feel supported and achieve success throughout their school life.
A note on student bursaries and funding
Some independent schools in London offer bursaries and funding, so do your research if this is required. For example, Knightsbridge School works closely with registered charity Knighstbridge School Education Foundation to provide two 100% bursaries a year for local students who cannot afford school fees.
The school’s parents (50%) and Directors (50%) fund this through donations, dinners and fundraisers and these pupils are funded from 11 until they leave their future senior school at 18. So far, 21 children have been nominated from their local community.
Ask the schools you are considering for more information if you are interested in bursaries and funding.
What else makes a good independent London school?
The best UK private schools will have initiatives that make them stand out from the crowd. Knightsbridge School, for example, has an active eco-committee focused on reducing their carbon footprint and increasing sustainable practice. The school also supports various charities including the Teenage Cancer Trust, which was chosen by their pupils.
Search for detailed reviews and check resources such as the Good Schools Guide and the Sunday Times School Guide, to help you form a well rounded view of a school and find out more about what their unique selling points are.
As their parent, you know what your child needs and there will be a London school to suit them.