In the prime London markets buyers are prepared to pay over the odds to be within walking distance or the catchment area of the capital’s most highly regarded schools. Buyers pay an average of £685,000 to live within 500m of the best primary schools – some £93,000 more than the average for a property that’s close to a ‘Good’ school and £196,000 for a school that ‘Requires Improvement’.
In 2018, more than one in seven primary-school applicants in the capital didn’t get into their first choice of school and 4% weren’t offered a place at any of their top three preferred schools. That’s why parents should look to areas with a high concentration of excellent schools, instead of pinning their hopes on just one institution. Across London, Ofsted rates 28% of primary schools as outstanding, but this figure varies by borough from 54% in Kensington and Chelsea to 10% in Barking and Dagenham. Meanwhile, all primaries in Camden and Tower Hamlets are currently rated good or above, so living there could be a sensible option for anyone who wants to settle in an inner London neighbourhood and has schooling as a priority.
If you want to be in a catchment area for the top schools, where are the best places to live?
“London is spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a top school and there are many and varied areas to choose from. The borough with the most impressive schools is by far Kensington & Chelsea, making it a very desirable area for families to live in. With great transport links, royal parks and superb property on offer, living in South Kensington has always been in high demand by families wanting that neighbourhood lifestyle. The advantage of an area like South Kensington is that within easy striking distance there is arguably the largest selection of highly regarded schools in London to choose from.” – Andrew Weir, CEO of London Central Portfolio
“There are many places in London with good family housing stock, excellent commutes, great local parks and, of course, highly rated schools. If you look at boroughs like Richmond upon Thames, you’ve got a considerable proportion of primary schools rated outstanding (50%) and a significant number of pupils are offered their first-choice school (88%). There’s Richmond itself, but other popular neighbourhoods in the borough include Barnes, Twickenham and Teddington, which have the properties, facilities and amenities that many families want in a place to live. Lambeth and Wandsworth are popular south London choices for similar reasons. If you look further east, somewhere like Hackney has over 50 primary schools rated good or outstanding and has many of the lifestyle offerings you get living south-west, plus it could offer better value.” – Liza-Jane Kelly, Director of Residential Regional Management at Savills
How far in advance of a child starting school should parents be looking to buy in their chosen area?
“Applying to schools at the birth of a child is not unheard of. We are seeing an increasing number of young professionals viewing properties with more of a long-term view in mind. Covid-19 has resulted in buyers now looking at houses differently – there is a much stronger focus on the wellbeing of their family as a whole and the different requirements a house is now required to function as – office, gym, school etc. On that basis, the best time to buy is when you find the right house for you. With the extension of the stamp duty holiday, buyers should look to buy the right home for their lifestyle needs rather than buy something suboptimal to achieve the saving. If you buy the ‘wrong’ house, you are likely to end up having to move a second time and therefore any perceived saving is lost. Future proofing your house move is as much about good financial planning as anything else these days.” – Andrew Weir
“It’s never too early to be thinking about schools. Increasingly we see young couples who have a long-term mindset: they may not have a family yet but are planning for their future. Ultimately if a couple’s budget means they can afford to buy a house, large flat or sizeable maisonette where they can raise a family, it’s a really sensible idea to do so. Although that life stage might be a little way off people definitely ask about local schools and are often pretty clued-up about the ones that are highly rated. The fact people are getting on the ladder later, along with the fact we are now living in our homes for longer, means many buyers are making decisions that maybe ten or so years ago wouldn’t have been a consideration. Ultimately, if time is on your side, then thinking ahead is a wise thing to do, but there are also lots of buyers who will begin their search once their children are nearing school age and will still be moved in before their child starts school.” – Liza-Jane Kelly
Is it a good or bad idea to move house between primary and secondary school?
“Some families are willing to travel further for the right senior school – many children travel right across London on a daily basis. With excellent transport links across the capital, commuting across London should never take more than 45 minutes to an hour. This should avoid the need to move as London has such a broad selection of different schools. However, this is not always possible, and some families do uproot themselves in order to make the new daily school commute more manageable.” – Andrew Weir
“This very much depends on personal circumstance. Some families choose to make the move out of London ready for their eldest to start senior school but, ultimately, this completely rests on someone’s lifestyle and other family factors and work commitments. In all London boroughs there are strong performing seniors – some of them grammar schools – and you tend to find at senior level a school’s intake will have a bigger catchment area. Beyond catchment areas or academic performance, some schools have specific admissions criteria; this is true of faith schools and those which have feeder primary schools. What you do tend to see is that, for senior school, pupils will travel further across town if they need to.” – Liza-Jane Kelly
KENSINGTON & CHELSEA
Proportion of outstanding schools: 54%
Best state primary schools: Bousfield Primary School in The Boltons; Fox Primary School in Kensington Place; St Mary Abbotts Church of England Primary in Kensington.
Andrew Weir, CEO of London Central Portfolio
“South Kensington is made up of a network of garden squares. These are highly desirable as they have uninterrupted views over acres of well-maintained gardens in an urban setting. Those with direct access to the gardens are most sought after. Apartment living is also popular as, in this area, lateral space is at a premium. Throughout South Kensington the defining architecture is stucco-fronted Victorian buildings, although there are also very beautiful brick-fronted mansion buildings that are distinctive, well designed and elegant. The average price for a family house is around £2.5-5m, while prices for an apartment start around £1.5m.”
RICHMOND UPON THAMES
Proportion of outstanding schools: 50%
Best state primary schools: The Vineyard School in Richmond; Marshgate Primary School in Richmond.
Abi Gibbs, Savills Richmond
“Both The Vineyard and Marshgate in Richmond are rated outstanding by Ofsted and have a high percentage of acceptance, which makes them very desirable. They’re also both in the Richmond Hill Triangle, which is one of the nicest areas to live in. Richmond is so popular as it’s really close to central London, but has the park and the river. There are also fantastic links into London, via the Tube and trains. The average four-bed family home starts at around £1m, but lots of parents like to rent first, to get to know the area and make sure their child gets into their school of choice before they buy. Three-bed rental properties cost an average of £3,500 per month.”
Proportion of outstanding schools: 44%
Best state primary schools: Telferscot Primary School in Streatham; Henry Cavendish in Streatham; St Mary’s Catholic School in Clapham; Macaulay C of E Primary School in Clapham.
Helen MacBrayne, Savills Clapham
“Clapham, and Clapham Old Town in particular, attracts a real mixture of buyers. It’s a trendy area with lovely architecture, a nice atmosphere and lots of great restaurants and bars that spill out onto the pavements. Many of the parents we come across work really long hours, so the area’s proximity to the centre of London is another plus. Young families also move to Lambeth as there are lots of other families already here – there’s a real community feel, plenty of green spaces and lots of great nurseries as well as primary schools. Family flats in the area tend to go for around £900,000-£1m, while four-bedroom houses start at around £1.4m.”
Proportion of outstanding schools: 41%
Best state primary schools: St Paul’s in Primrose Hill; Primrose Hill Primary in Primrose Hill; Fitzjohn’s Primary School in Hampstead; Abacus in Belsize Park.
Alicia Lindsay, Savills Primrose Hill/Savills St John’s Wood
“St Paul’s, Primrose Hill Primary and Fitzjohn’s are all old, established primary schools with great reputations and then at senior level you have the Camden School for Girls comprehensive secondary school which has excellent facilities and a great reputation. Given that it’s a central borough, lots of schools in Camden have high-profile parents. Some families opt to rent and will want to be as close to these schools as they can, as they are viewed to be just as good as the private schools in the area. Not all families whose children attend these schools will live in houses – which can cost around £4m – but three-bedroom family flats instead. The schools aren’t the only draw to the area for parents: Primrose Hill Park, Regents Park and Hampstead Heath are among the best green spaces in London and, although it’s close to central London, the area feels like the suburbs. Primrose Hill in particular has a lovely village-y feel. The area is also well-connected via the Northern line.”
HAMMERSMITH & FULHAM
Proportion of outstanding schools: 39%
Best state primary school: Holy Cross in Eel Brook Common.
Phillippa Dalby-Welsh, Savills Prime Central London
“Lady Margaret’s seconday girls’ school is extremely well located and a significant draw to the area. Families also love Holy Cross in Eel Brook Common as it’s very accessible – parents love being able to walk their children to school. There’s a real sense of community in the borough: people actually live here, it’s not second-home territory. Hammersmith & Fulham is very leafy. Lots of families have dogs and there are plenty of green spaces to walk them, plus the transport links are great, as the District and Piccadilly lines run through the borough. In central Fulham you’re looking at £1.7m-£4m for a family home, while in prime Parsons Green and Eel Brook Common, it’s more like £2m-£4m.”
Proportion of outstanding schools: 39%
Best state primary schools: Ravenstone Primary School in Balham; Rutherford House in Balham; Henry Cavendish in Balham; Honeywell Junior School in Battersea; All Farthing Primary School in Wandsworth; Floreat Wandsworth in Earlsfield; Beatrix Potter Primary School in Earlsfield.
Helen MacBrayne, Savills Clapham
“Wandsworth is a very domestic market. We’re finding that while people aren’t moving house quite so often these days, they are buying bigger, long-term properties earlier – often way before they have children. While there are many great private schools in the area, the many outstanding state schools mean there’s an element of, ‘Why would we pay if we don’t have to?’ Away from great schools, another draw for families is the abundance of green spaces – such as Wandsworth Common and Clapham Common – and the great transport links into central London via the Northern and Victoria lines. The average house price for a four-bed detached property is £1.2m-£1.5m.”