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There are currently around 2,500 independent private schools in the UK, providing education to over 615,000 pupils each year.
Independent schools are fee-levying schools which are directed by a board of elected governors. Parents pay a premium to get a top class education for their children, with the expectation of their child walking away with top grades.
But how much does it cost to go to one of the best performing private schools in the country – and is it really worth it?
We’ve compiled a list of the top 100 independent schools in the UK based on GCSE results in 2018, and revealed the price of attending each one.
Whether its a school fit for a royal or the school that the country’s prime minister attended – you can find the top-rated private schools below…
Top 100 independent private schools ranked by GCSE results and price to attend
|Rank||School Name||Day or Boarding School?||Gender||9 – 7 or A*- A %||Costings (from £)|
|1||St Paul’s Girls’ School||Day||Girls||99.26||24,891|
|2||Godolphin & Latymer School||Day||Girls||97.95||22,595|
|3||St Mary’s School – Ascot||Both||Girls||97.85||27,630|
|4||Guildford High School for Girls||Day||Girls||97.53||17,214|
|5||Westminster School||Both||Co-ed (Boys Only 7-16)||97.33||29,709|
|6||North London Collegiate School||Day||Girls||97.21||20,430|
|7||King’s College School – Wimbledon||Day||Boys (Co-ed 6th form)||96.4||22,335|
|8||St Paul’s School||Both||Boys||96.14||25,032|
|10||City of London School for Girls||Day||Girls||95.61||18,384|
|11||Wycombe Abbey School||Boarding||Girls||95.2||29,205|
|12||Magdalen College School||Day||Boys (Co-ed 6th form)||95.15||18,477|
|13||Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls||Day||Girls||94.31||18,393|
|14||Perse Upper School||Day||Co-ed||94.18||17,322|
|15||Wimbledon High School||Day||Girls||93.58||18,810|
|17||Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, Elstree||Day||Boys||93.54||20,346|
|18||King Edward VI High School for Girls||Day||Girls||92.75||12,888|
|19||Cheltenham Ladies’ College||Both||Girls||92.7||29,280|
|21||James Allen’s Girls’ School||Day||Girls||92.4||17,991|
|22||Putney High School||Day||Girls||92.18||18,900|
|23||Alleyn’s School, Dulwich||Day||Co-ed||92.02||19,851|
|24||Lady Eleanor Holles School||Day||Girls||92||20,196|
|26||Notting Hill and Ealing High School||Day||Girls||91.71||18,561|
|28||Manchester Grammar School||Day||Boys||90.93||12,570|
|29||City of London School for Boys||Day||Boys||90.8||17,901|
|31||Withington Girls School||Day||Girls||90.3||12,990|
|32||Oxford High School GDST||Day||Girls||89.75||15,546|
|33||South Hampstead High School||Day||Girls||89.56||18,654|
|34||Royal Grammar School – Guildford||Day||Boys||88.82||18,285|
|35||Trinity School – Croydon||Day||Boys (Co-ed 6th form)||88.64||17,448|
|36||University College School||Day||Boys (Co-ed 6th form)||88.01||20,328|
|37||Abbey School – Reading||Day||Girls||87.97||17,640|
|38||The School of St Helen and St Katharine||Day||Girls||87.89||16,470|
|42||Merchant Taylors’ School||Day||Boys||87.16||20,698|
|44||Royal Grammar School – Newcastle||Day||Co-ed||85.82||13,164|
|46||King Edward’s School – Birmingham||Day||Boys||84.92||13,692|
|47||St Catherine’s School – Guildford||Both||Girls||84.88||18,375|
|49||St Albans High School for Girls||Day||Girls||84.58||18,795|
|50||Eltham College||Day||Boys (Co-ed 6th form)||84.55||17,775|
|51||Downe House School||Both||Girls||84.55||27,495|
|53||Francis Holland School – Sloane Square||Day||Girls||84||20,910|
|56||Kingston Grammar School||Day||Co-ed||83.78||19,230|
|58||Ibstock Place School||Day||Co-ed||83.5||20,880|
|59||City of London Freemen’s School||Both||Co-ed||83.12||18,279|
|60||Sir William Perkins’s School||Day||Girls||82.22||15,915|
|61||St Albans School||Day||Boys (Co-ed 6th form)||82.18||18,600|
|64||Stephen Perse Foundation||Day||Co-ed (Diamond model 11 – 16)||81.13||17,490|
|65||St Swithun’s School||Both||Girls||80.88||20,565|
|66||Queen’s Gate – Kensington||Day||Girls||80.57||20,550|
|69||St Mary’s School – Calne||Both||Girls||80||29,025|
|70||Reigate Grammar School||Day||Co-ed||79.74||18,720|
|71||St Helen’s – Northwood||Day||Girls||79.67||17,448|
|72||Palmers Green High School||Day||Girls||79.47||16,260|
|73||Loughborough High School||Day||Girls||79.16||12,549|
|74||Surbiton High School||Day||Girls (Co-ed 4 – 11)||78.91||17,400|
|75||King Edward’s School – Bath||Day||Co-ed||78.79||14,475|
|79||Howell’s School Llandaff GDST||Day||Girls||76.87||14,070|
|80||Leicester Grammar School||Day||Co-ed||76.82||13,029|
|81||Forest School – London||Day||Co-ed||76.79||18,681|
|82||Croydon High School GDST||Day||Girls||76.6||16,656|
|84||St George’s College||Day||Co-ed||76.13||19,185|
|86||Bradford Grammar School||Day||Co-ed||75.71||12,669|
|89||Burgess Hill Girls||Both||Girls (Co-ed 2 – 4)||74.74||18,900|
|90||St John’s School – Leatherhead||Day||Co-ed||74.73||24,300|
|92||Francis Holland School – Regent’s Park||Day||Girls||73.98||20,040|
|93||Wolverhampton Grammar School||Day||Co-ed||73.72||13,662|
|95||King’s High School for Girls||Day||Girls||73.2||12,975|
|96||The King’s School – Worcester||Day||Co-ed||72.8||13,989|
|97||The Grange School||Day||Co-ed||72.8||11,850|
|99||King’s School – Canterbury||Both||Co-ed||72.28||27,495|
|100||King Edward VI School||Day||Co-ed||72.21||16,050|
This table lists the Top 100 independent schools in the UK based on 2018 GCSE and IGCSE results. Rankings are based on the percentage of GCSE/IGCSE entries awarded 9-7 or A* and A grades.
Our research shows that the average cost for private schooling is £14,102 per year for a day school and £32,259 per year for boarding school.
A day school is a non-residential school, where students are taught during the day and then return home afterwards. A boarding school provides education for pupils who live on the premises during term-time. Both types of schooling appear within our top 100 list – and both charge a pretty penny to attend.
Private schools significantly outperform state schools for the percentage of students achieving top grades
Faisal Nasim, Founder of Exam Papers Plus, said: “Despite the ever-increasing fees, competition for places at the UK’s top independent school is as fierce as ever. It’s clear that attending one of these schools is going to tip the odds in a student’s favour when it comes to examination results.”
He continued: “However, as a parent, it’s vital that you do your research and not rely solely on GCSE rankings and perceived prestige. It’s important to find a school that fits your child’s personality, somewhere they will thrive and flourish. It may well be that the school that’s perfect for your child is not on this list.”
The top 10 independent private schools in the country
St Paul’s Girls’ School is an independent day school which is currently ranked as the top independent school in the UK.
Established in 1904 by the Worshipful Company of Mercers, the school is exclusively for girls and is located in Brook Green, Hammersmith, a district of West London.
It’s consistently ranked as one of the best independent schools in the country for academic performance and always ranks highly in the school league tables. Over half of its students achieve straight A* grades, with 99% of students achieving at least one A* or A grade in 2018.
Notable previous pupils include comedian and screenwriter Jennifer Saunders, and physicist Rosalind Franklin.
The Godolphin and Latymer School is an independent day school for girls in Hammersmith, West London.
The school’s current building first opened its doors in 1861, serving as the Godolphin School for boys. Though initially successful, it closed in 1900, re-opening five years later as an independent day school for girls. The school then took on the name of the Godolphin and Latymer School due to its association with the Latymer Foundation.
The Good Schools Guide called the school a “very strong academic school with a friendly atmosphere, an outstanding head and a broad range of extra-curricular activities.” And the school’s GCSE exam results can support this, with over 97% of students achieving at least one A* or A grade in 2018.
Notable alumni include tv presenter Davina McCall, pop singer Sophie Ellis Bextor, and actress Kate Beckinsale.
St Mary’s School Ascot is a Roman Catholic independent day and boarding school for girls in Ascot, Berkshire, England. It is a member of the Girls’ Schools Association.
The school is renowned for its academic performance, continuously topping school league table rankings. As of 2019, St Mary’s has been placed 12th in the Top U.K. Boarding School Rankings based on their exam results.
According to GCSE results in 2018, 97% of students achieved at least one A* or A grade, making St Mary’s one of four schools to surpass 97% for the top grades, according to the Independent Schools Council (ISC).
Founded in 1888 by the United Church Schools Trust, Guildford High School is an independent day school exclusively for girls aged four to eighteen. It is one of the most successful independent schools in the country.
Located in Guildford, Surrey, Guildford High School comprises a Junior School, Secondary School and Sixth Form, and educates around 1,000 students.
The students at Guildford High consistently achieve exceptional exam results, enabling them to secure places at some of the most competitive universities in the world. In 2018, over 97% of students were awarded A*- A grades.
Westminster School is an independent day and boarding school located in the precincts of Westminster Abbey. It is the only ancient London school to occupy its original site.
Up until GCSEs, Westminster is a single-sex boys’ school; girls are admitted at age sixteen into the Sixth Form.
Known as one of the UK’s leading academic institutions, with 97% of current students achieving A grades in 2018, the school’s famous alumni include journalist and filmmaker Louis Theroux, politician Nick Clegg and actress Helena Bonham Carter.
North London Collegiate School (NLCS) is a top independent day school for girls. It is also a member of the Girls’ Schools Association.
Founded in Camden Town in 1850, the school is now located in Edgware, in the London Borough of Harrow.
Since then, generations of girls have received an ambitious academic education at NLCS, a school which continues to top league tables thanks to its outstanding academic performance.
In 2018, over 97% of students achieved A-A* grades – placing the school 6th in exam result rankings. Notable previous students include actress Rachel Weisz and journalist and editor, Dame Anna Wintour DBE.
King’s College School is a selective, independent day school for boys aged seven to eighteen, and girls aged sixteen to eighteen. It is located in Wimbledon, London.
Founded in 1829 by royal charter, King’s College School is one of the most prestigious and successful schools in the UK. It is a school whose exceptional academic standards have helped them reach the top of national league tables.
The school currently educates just under fifteen hundred students, of which 96% achieved A and A* grades in their GCSE exams in 2018.
St Paul’s School is a selective, independent day and boarding school for boys aged thirteen to eighteen. It is located on a 43-acre site by the River Thames, in Barnes, London.
Founded in 1509 by English churchman and pioneer, John Colet, the school originally takes its name from the St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Known for its unwavering academic performance, St Paul’s also has one of the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rates of any secondary school or college.
Over the last five years, more than 90% of St Paul’s students have achieved A and A* grades in their GCSE exams.
Eton College is an independent boarding school for boys, located in the parish of Eton, near Windsor in Berkshire, England.
The school was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI, and has educated generations of British and foreign aristocracy, including prime ministers, world leaders and Nobel laureates. The school has also educated members of the Royal family, including Prince William and his brother Prince Harry.
Eton is one of the leading independent schools in the UK and it continues to provide a stimulating all-round education, resulting in academic excellence. In 2018, over 96% of students at Eton College achieved A* and A grades.
Other notable ex-students include actors Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne, and ex-Prime Minister David Cameron.
The City of London School for Girls (CLSG) is an independent day school for girls aged seven to eighteen, based in the London Square Mile.
The school was founded in 1984, using a bequest by William Ward, a merchant of Brixton, to provide a broad and liberal education for girls.
In 2018, CLSG was rated by The Sunday Times as the second-best independent school in the UK, based on GCSE and A-Level results, with over 95% of students achieving grades A and above.
Thanks to its outstanding academic reputation and leading league table results, The Good Schools Guide described the school as an “academic and hard-working day school that currently produces good results, articulate and independent girls.”
*All figures correct as of 2018. Visit the Best Schools website for more information.
Primary School Application Deadline is Approaching
It’s that time of year again! Parents whose children are due to enter reception class in the coming September will be all too aware that the deadline for school applications is 15th January 2019 in England (with various dates throughout January depending upon council in Wales).
Submit late, and you risk your application only being considered once those submitted on time are allocated. This could leave you less likely to get your preferred choice.
But how many parents DO submit late?
Late Primary School Applications Statistics
We submitted a Freedom of Information request to over 200 councils at the beginning of December 2018 to find out:
- How many primary school applications they received in total last year (for children due to enter reception class in September 2018)
- How many were submitted late (after the official deadline had passed)
They didn’t all get back to us. We’re yet to hear from some, one council refused our request and several others told us they do not hold the information about the number submitted late.
But we did successfully hear back from 107 councils at the time of writing (outlined in more detail below).
From the 103 councils who completed our request for information, last year:
- They received a combined total of 417,248 applications
- 31,266 of those were received late
That means nationally (based on our sample of 107 councils) 7.6% of applications for primary school are received late.
The Best and Worst Areas for Late Applications
But it’s not consistent across the country. Some councils have hardly any or no late applications, while others have over a quarter of parents submitting late.
The worst offenders from the 107 councils who responded to our request:
- Merthyr Tydfil County Borough – 28% of applications received late last year
- Gwynedd County Council – 23% of applications received late last year
- Denbighshire County Council – 22% of all applications received late last year
- Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council – 21.04% of all applications received late last year
- Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council – 16% of all applications received late last year
At the other end of the scale:
- London City Council: 0% of its applications were received late last year (though the council only processed 34 in total)
- Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council: 0.2% of its applications were received late last year
- Middlesbrough Borough Council: 0.3% of its applications were received late last year
- Wokingham Borough Council: 0.4% of its applications were received late last year
- London Borough of Islington: 0.4% of its applications were received late last year
How your council performed
Want to know how your council area performed? All the data we received before publication on 9th January is summarised below and you can download a raw data spreadsheet with information about responses statuses of all councils from here.
If your council was one of the 107 who responded, you’ll find their late primary school application statistics in the table below:
Why are there so many late applications in some councils?
It’s impossible to say why so many parents in some council areas submit their applications late. Though one theory we’d suggest is s lack of advice in terms of how to go about it.
Stacey MacNaught’s son is due to start school in Oldham in September 2019. Last year, her council saw 16% of its applications received late.
We asked why she feels this might be the case and she comments:
“We are obviously acutely aware of the fact our son is due to go into Primary School this September. My husband and I have been talking about schools since before he was born and we looked up all the information about the application process ourselves.
We’ve received nothing at all from the council – nothing to say our son is in this year’s cohort, nothing to say the application should be direct to the council rather than the schools and nothing advising us about how to go about visiting prospective schools. And, crucially, nothing telling us when applications open and close. We’ve had absolutely no word from the council at all. And I’ve got friends in the area in a similar situation, so I don’t think we are the only people experiencing that.
It’s perfectly feasible that some parents aren’t even aware their child starts this September. After all, we talk about compulsory education from 5, but children just starting reception are actually 4. So I imagine it’s absolutely realistic for some parents to just assume it must be the September after.
And for others, the fact the process is all online and all direct to the council might be overwhelming.”
Should I Be Applying?
If your child was born between 1st September 2014 and 31st August 2015, you should be applying for a Primary School place.
Late Primary School Application Statistics – Does it Matter?
It could matter, yes. In many cases, those who submit their application after the deadline will not be considered until those who have submitted on time have been allocated a place.
This ultimately leaves you less likely in most parts of the country to get your first choice of school.