Top of the class:10 of the best London boroughs to move to for good state schools

There are 10 times more applications for good state schools than places available in the capital. Begin your home search now to beat next year’s places bunfight…

Finding places at good schools is the major reason to move house for many parents in London.

The population of the capital is expected to grow by 12 per cent over the next four years, so the competition to live within the catchment area of a desirable state secondary school is intense.

Brexit has put an extra pressure on the system as better-off families, worried about job security and personal finance, decide to hunt out a good state school rather than an expensive private one.

According to the Good Schools Guide 2018 — the education handbook most recently published this week — there are 10 times more applications for good state schools than places available in the capital.

“Schooling and proximity to good schools is undoubtedly the number one consideration for families moving,” says Robin Chatwin of Savills. “Ten years ago a parent’s first concern might have been connectivity to work but children’s education definitely comes first now.”

TOP MARKS
New research by the Department for Education has revealed which boroughs have the highest proportion of good passes at GCSE in English and maths, based on state and grammar schools.

Kingston and Sutton come top of the class. More than two thirds of pupils in Kingston and Sutton finished year 11 with a grade between nine and five (the equivalent of A* to B) in the two subjects, followed by Barnet, Richmond and Kensington and Chelsea. The remainder of the top 10 consists of Redbridge, Westminster, Ealing, Wandsworth and Harrow.

“There is a real surge of activity in the market in spring and summer as people try to rush through a move ahead of the October deadline for secondary school applications,” says Peter Knowles of Hamptons International.

With that in mind, now’s the time to start the search.

WHY IT’S CHEAPER TO BUY NEAR A GRAMMAR SCHOOL

Selective grammar schools do not have catchment areas as such, so parents confident that their kids will pass the entrance exam with top marks may be able to buy a well-priced home a little further away. House prices shoot up within the tight qualifying catchment areas of Ofsted-rated “outstanding” state schools where the acceptance criteria is based on geography, not selection.

Recent research from Savills shows that the house price premium to live within the catchment of an “outstanding” state school is 20 per cent above the borough average, compared to two per cent for a selective, but non-fee paying, grammar school.

SOUTH LONDON’S STAR PERFORMERS

The top-performing boroughs still have traditional grammar schools. Kingston has Tiffin and Tiffin Girls’ School but is only the fifth most expensive borough in the ranking for house prices; the average according to Rightmove is £624,136.

Kingston’s high performance is not just based on its grammar schools. A new school called the Kingston Academy has received an “outstanding” rating from the Government’s schools watchdog for its first two years, while the Good Schools Guide names Coombe Girls and Richard Challoner all-boys state Catholic school among top-performing local state schools.

“For its density of schools, north Kingston tends to be particularly popular with families,” says Matt Aboud of Featherstone Leigh. “Homes in the area range from attractive two-bedroom cottages, which go for around the £550,000 mark, up to large detached four- and five-bedroom family homes priced over £1 million.”

The Thames-side town is also considered to be one of the most family-friendly districts in the capital and one of the safest, but it is cheaper than neighbouring Richmond.

“Kingston town centre has a lot of shops, restaurants and amenities, while the area also has excellent bus and rail links,” adds Aboud. Featherstone Leigh is selling a four-bedroom detached family house near Richmond Park for £935,000.

Next-door Sutton has a high proportion of grammar schools, too, including Nonsuch High, Sutton Grammar School and Wallington High School for Girls. There’s also Overton Grange, a state academy with a “good” Ofsted rating.

The town centre was dominated by ugly Seventies buildings but is changing, with new developments springing up and better retail. The average house price is considerably cheaper than Kingston at £429,359.

In Zone 5, Sutton is affordable and well connected with 25-minute trains to Victoria and 33-minute services to Blackfriars. Transport for London has also committed £70 million to an extension of the Croydon Tramlink network. The new branch will run from South Wimbledon through to Sutton.

Sutton Point, right next to the train station, is one of the key new projects and includes 332 flats, shops, a hotel and a fitness centre built around a new public square. Prices from £280,000 and Help to Buy is available. Call CNM Estates on 020 8004 9420.

NEW HOMES AND SCHOOLS IN BARNET

Planning permission has been granted by the local council to build a 1,200-pupil academy school on the site of Underhill Stadium, the former home of Barnet Football Club.

The people of Barnet will need it. Redrow is building Colindale Gardens — 6,000 new homes on a 47-acre site, part of a £1.2 billion regeneration of the area and just six-and-a-half miles from Queen Elizabeth’s School which recorded the third best GCSE results in the country last year. It’s also just over four miles away from highly rated Henrietta Barnett School.

The new development will also have a three-form entry primary school and prices start from £395,000 for a one-bedroom flat (redrow.co.uk). The average house price for the borough is £627,932.

NORTH-WEST LONDON HOME OF EDUCATION

Harrow is renowned for education due to Harrow School and famous alumni including Winston Churchill, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jawaharlal Nehru. The area also has one of the top 100 UK state schools, Whitmore High, with an “outstanding” Ofsted rating and a catchment stretching into West Harrow, Roxeth, Alexander Avenue and Greenhill.

The average Harrow house price is £484,293. “When the schools are coupled with the village feel of Harrow centre, the wealth of green space, abundance of travel links and the ability to reach central London within half an hour, it ticks a lot of boxes for those climbing the ladder with schooling in mind,” says eMoov’s Maz Shoib.

Harrow View West is a new complex of two-, three- and four-bedroom family homes by housebuilder Persimmon (persimmonhomes.com), priced from £345,000. A three-bedroom house is £595,000 via Hamptons International /Preston Bennett (020 8128 4500).

SCHOOLS GOVERNED WHEN IT CAME TO OUR MOVE

Education played a major part in the Hughes family’s move from Wandsworth to Hertford. “I grew up round here and knew there were great schools,” says mother-of-four and entrepreneur Joanna Hughes.

Her eldest child Megan, six, can stay at the Simon Balle All-through School, which has an “outstanding” Ofsted rating, until she takes A-levels. There are also two highly regarded single-sex schools — Richard Hale for boys and Presdales for girls, explains Joanna, the founder of personalised gifts retailer Dotty Doo.

“Hertford is a really vibrant town with lots of cafés, bars restaurants and shops. There’s a lovely library, theatre and parks. There’s a lot going on for families.”

House prices in Hertford rose eight per cent last year to £455,262.

MOVING OUT OF THE CITY WITH FUTURE SCHOOLS IN MIND

The allure of more space and good schooling tempts some families out of London and into the commuter belt. The Sinclairs started to think about the education of their three sons when the eldest was a baby. They made the move from Clapham South to North Chailey on the outskirts of Haywards Heath in West Sussex.

“We needed more outdoor space and wanted the kids to have more freedom,” says energy entrepreneur Neil Sinclair. He runs low-carbon technology firm Syzygy Consulting, advising major retailers and property companies on how to produce renewable energy.

“We couldn’t afford to send all three to private school and weren’t happy with our choices in Clapham,” he adds.

The catchment areas also seemed more generous in the countryside, says his wife, Bryony. She cites Chailey Secondary and Warden Park Secondary Academy in nearby Cuckfield as good, and says a new sixth form college is planned.

The average house price in Haywards Heath has stayed flat over the last year according to Rightmove,at £405,357.

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