Leaving London and looking for a new school

by Grace Moody-Stuart director of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants

So you have decided that the London life is no longer for you and that you want to move your family out of the capital. It’s something we have heard a lot over the last year. As people and organisations battled to adapt to the chaos of the pandemic, along came new attitudes and technology to aid and abet working from home.

Suddenly the costs of London living, hitherto endured on account of the need to commute to work with relative ease, were thrown into sharp relief and appeared unnecessary. A cursory glance at a property website will show you that there are very few places outside of London where you wouldn’t get more square footage for your money and that’s only one of the potential gains. Elbowroom for your family may be the priority but the other bonuses such as cleaner air, clearer roads, greener spaces and broader skies give a move even greater appeal.

But if you have school-age children, you are probably wondering what leaving London might mean for their education. London is arguably the most competitive education market in the world, where the best schools, both state and independent, are heavily oversubscribed. In moving out, will you also be eliminating the stress and panic which comes with finding a school? Well, yes and no. The best schools are hard to get into where ever you are. They might not demand you register your child at birth (as some London independents do) and you might not be one of 2000 applicants vying for 150 places (as with London’s top secondary state schools) but there is still competition and you still need to make sure you prepare your child and plan carefully.

So what can you do to set yourself on the path to finding the right school for your child? We like to start by asking some simple practical questions which will help define the type of school, and maybe the kind of area, you’re looking for. Are you willing to pay school fees? Is it important for the school to have a religious ethos? Are you looking for a single-sex or mixed school?

You also have to give some serious consideration to the type of child you have. Unless they are very young (or not yet born) you will have some idea as to what your child is like and the kind of school that might work for them. Are they bright as a button? Would they happily spend all day running around outside? Is music, art, dance or drama likely to feature strongly in their school life? What do you see your child doing once they leave school?

Here are some things you might like to put on your ‘to-think-about’ list:

  • Bright child? Look at grammar school areas. The best are in demand so property in catchment is expensive but selling up in London is likely to help with that. Remember, though, that not all grammar schools were created equal so do your homework first.
  • If the price of your Victorian terraced house equates to your dream home a stone’s throw from a high performing comprehensive, take a look at https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/ to get the low down on all the facts and figures
  • Get your timing right. Remember that you can’t apply to any state school until you have an address in the area.
  • If you can afford to pay private school fees, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the different admissions procedures as soon as you exit the boundary of the M25. Remember to consider the school commute, though. Public transport may not be quite so ubiquitous in your new location as in London so are you prepared to run the taxi service to and from school every day?

Finding the right school for your child can be an exhausting experience but eminently worthwhile when you see the results. Don’t forget to check our Good Schools Guide school reviews and helpful articles published online and in books to assist you with your school search.

Alternatively, Good Schools Guide Education Consultants loves helping families move schools! We do it all the time. If you’re coming into an area you don’t know at all and where you have no friends to ask, then it can be tough to know where to start. And if you are also managing the family, holding down a job and dealing with estate agents and solicitors, navigating local authority websites or school prospectuses can be just a little more pressure than you want. We know that it’s not just a question of a list of schools but of a manageable family life in terms of location, commuting and not going in three directions at once. Our team of consultants – based all over the country – know all the schools and can find you as close as possible what you want for your children. You may want them all in the same schools or they may need different schools. We listen and we find a solution that will enable a workable family life and have each child in the best school for them.

What makes The Good Schools Guide unique? – by Melanie Sanderson, managing editor.

The Good Schools Guide reviews 1,300 of the best schools across the United Kingdom. Our experienced writers visit state and independent schools up and down the country, interview their staff, parents and pupils and write up their conclusions. It’s how we’ve been doing it for thirty-five years. Schools cannot pay to be included and have no influence over what we write. Our reputation is built on this independence; parents value our expertise and trust us to tell the truth.

Our reviews are published in a range of books and online via our website -www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk – a subscription for which will give you full access to all the latest reviews and updates. A special 20% discount is available to Hamptons Virtual Roadshow attendees wishing to purchase a 1 year subscription. Please enter the discount code Hamptons 20% before completing the purchase.

In my webinar for the Hamptons Virtual Roadshow, I will be running through my top tips for finding a school as part of moving out London and also answering your questions. I very much hope you can join me for the session.

Thinking about moving out of London?

Our Virtual Roadshow is an online event that helps to answer most of those questions about moving further out. And, Melanie from the Goods Schools Guide will be hosting one of our webinars. Sign up today.