Thinking of sending your kids to the UK for a British education? Unlike in America, Britain calls their private schools "public", whereas non-fee paying institutions are referred to as "state schools" or "comprehensives". Check them out!
Photo: Courtesy of Benenden School
Registration: Three to four years before entry
No. of Pupils: 551
Admissions: School’s own exam, plus interview and previous school reports; ISEB Common Entrance at age 13.
Curriculum: GCSE and A-Levels, with a highly innovative, inquiry-based approach to learning. Benenden’s Professional Skills Programme, launched in 2016, teaches Sixth Formers essential business, financial and life skills, while the Benenden Diploma is a two-year bespoke curriculum for the Fourth and Upper Fourth. The curriculum is complemented by high-pro le speakers and workshops held by expert guests.
Campus and facilities: Benenden occupies 100 hectares of beautiful parkland in the middle of Kent. Some of the impressive facilities include a state-of-the-art Science Centre, a 300-seat theatre, and a new all-weather sports pitch and pavilion.
Noteworthy: Benenden was founded in 1923 and is regarded as one of the top all-girls’ schools in the country.
New: Making the most of its environment, the school has created a trim trail—a route around the site of outdoor exercise stations—as well as a re pit in the woods. A group of Sixth Formers established an eco-garden and orchard by creating raised beds out of recycled products, and also launched their first major science research project in collaboration with the Chemistry Department at University College London.
Term fees: £12,250
Benenden, Cranbrook, Kent, benenden.kent.sch.uk
Registration: By August of the year before entry
No. of Pupils: 818
Admissions: Candidates will be interviewed in September at the Top Schools Event held in Hong Kong, and then sit the entrance tests in Hong Kong in November. Offers of places will be made in December.
Curriculum: Under School: (I)GCSEs. Sixth Form: Pre-U, A-Levels or IB.
Campus and facilities: More than 400 years old, a sense of history pervades. The school features outstanding sports facilities including a golf course, tennis courts, hockey pitches and more.
Noteworthy: In 2017, 93 per cent of the Cambridge Pre-U examinations taken by its Sixth Form students were given top grades.
New: Primarily a single-sex boys’ school, Charterhouse also accepts girls in the sixth form. However the school is moving to full co-education from the age of 13, building on the success of its co-educational Sixth Form, where girls have flourished since 1971. The first Year 9 girls will be welcomed into the school in September 2021, and there will be girls in every year group from September 2023. The school roll will grow over the next decade from 818 today to around 1,000, with the increase representing additional places for girls. Alex Peterken was appointed headmaster at Charterhouse in January 2018, having previously been the headmaster at Cheltenham College. The school has also announced plans for new state-of-the-art centres for biology and chemistry, and an outstanding new sports centre, scheduled to open in 2020.
Term fees: £12,687 (boarding)
Godalming, Surrey, charterhouse.org.uk
Photo: Courtesy of Eton Coolege
Registration: By age 10
No. of Pupils: 1,300
Admissions: A challenging Eton pre-test, plus interview and previous school reports; Common Entrance at age 13.
Curriculum: GCSE, A-Levels, and Pre-U examinations
Campus and facilities: School buildings are periodically modernised according to the school’s development programme. The flagship new facility, The Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning, is dedicated to increased research into neuroscience, new apps and changing technologies. When it comes to sports, a number of pitches accommodate cricket, football, hockey and more, while a gymnasium features sports halls, rooms for weight training, fencing and martial arts, a climbing wall, and a 25m swimming pool.
Noteworthy: One of the most famous all-boys’ English public schools in the world, Eton College was founded in 1440 by Henry VI. Its alumni include Prince William and Prince Harry, as well as 19 British prime ministers. Eton is one of four remaining single-sex boys’ schools in Britain and emphasises high academic standards, with the success rate for entry into Oxbridge and other top UK universities astonishingly high.
New: The student body boasts a number of impressive wins across sports to other extracurricular activities, from placing first at the Oxford Union Schools Debating Competition—the largest secondary-level debating event in the country—to being selected for international hockey matches.
Term fees: £12,910
Eton, Berkshire (near Windsor), etoncollege.com
Ages: 13-18 for Senior School; 6-12 for Junior School
Registration: No deadline
No. of Pupils: 450 (Senior School); 115 (Junior School)
Admissions: School’s own exam, plus interview and previous school reports.
Curriculum: GCSE and A-Levels. A Year 11 one-year GCSE programme launched in 2017, designed for students aged 15 or 16 who are not already in the English academic system. For those who wish to continue their education in the English system, this year will provide an excellent foundation for A-Levels in the Sixth Form.
Campus and facilities: Set within a safe and beautiful 80-hectare wooded campus, the school is within easy reach of international airports at Inverness and Aberdeen.
Noteworthy: This boarding school is known for its rigorously high standards and tough outdoor education programme. Prince Philip and Prince Charles were both educated here.
New: In 2017, Lisa Kerr became Gordonstoun’s first female principal and the first non- teacher to lead a Scottish independent school. Two new services—Combined Outdoor Service and Sports Service—have also been introduced. The former offers sailing, canoeing, kayaking, summer and winter climbing, orienteering, indoor climbing, and year- round hillwalking and mountaineering. The latter aims to support younger students from the local community with a training programme to improve their skills and abilities.
Term fees: £4,787-9,455 (day); £7.786-12,785 (boarding)
Elgin, Moray, Scotland, gordonstoun.org.uk
Registration: Year 9: by the end of Year 5 or by May 1 of Year 6. Year 12: September or October of Year 11. Late applicants: May 1 of Year 7.
No. of Pupils: 820
Admissions: Year 9: ISEB (Independent Schools Education Board) tests, Common Entrance exam and school’s own test plus interview and references. Year 12: tests in two of four chosen A-Levels during autumn term of Year 11, a subject test, reference, and school reports.
Curriculum: (I)GCSE and A-Level. The Shell year (Year 9) is a foundation year in which every boy studies a wide variety of subjects, as well as a choice of two languages.
Campus and facilities: Founded in in 1572, this all-boys, full-boarding school is one of the world’s most renowned. The school grounds cover 300 acres and include conservation areas, a golf course and a working farm.
Noteworthy: A whopping 70 per cent of grades across all subjects were A*-A in 2017 and almost three quarters of the students took up offers at Oxbridge, Ivy League and Russell Group universities.
New: The Elective programme, which was introduced in 2017, has been extended in 2018 into the Fifth Form. Alongside their preparations for (I)GCSE, boys in that year group have been taking courses to raise political awareness, to introduce them to the principles of economics and develop skills of critical thinking through the analysis of current affairs.
Term fees: £12,850
Harrow on the Hill, Harrow, London, harrowschool.org.uk
The King's School, Canterbury
Registration: Two years before entry
No. of Pupils: 830
Admissions: School’s own exam, plus interview and previous school reports; Common Entrance at age 13.
Curriculum: GCSE and A-Levels
Campus and facilities: The school is set across two main sites (the Precincts of Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine’s) with 13 boarding houses and three day houses spread throughout. A new Science Centre—including seven new physics laboratories, a dedicated science research space, an auditorium, and refurbished biology and chemistry laboratories—is set to open by 2020.
Noteworthy: The school was founded in 597 CE and aims “to anchor a 21st-century education within the illustrious history of the oldest school in the country.” Each school year culminates in the traditional King’s Week, a festival of music, drama, art, and sporting events.
New: The recently acquired Malthouse building, located close to the main school campus, is being transformed into a Performing Arts Centre that will feature a 350-seat theatre with an orchestra pit, dance and drama studios, and dining facilities. In addition, a new International College is being constructed and will open in September 2018. Part of The King’s Family of Schools, it will educate international students aged 11-16, preparing them to enter a senior school in Years 9, 10 or 12.
Term fees: £9,165 (day); £12,120 (boarding)
The Precincts, Canterbury, Kent, kings-school.co.uk
Ages: 13-18 (boys only from 13-16; co-ed from 16-18)
Registration: Four years before entry at age 13; between June and the beginning of September the year before at age 16.
No. of Pupils: 740
Admissions: ISEB tests; Common Entrance exam or school’s own exam plus interview at age 13. The school’s own exam plus interview at age 16.
Curriculum: (I)GCSE, Pre-U, A-Levels
Campus and facilities: The school is situated in the heart of London in the precincts of Westminster Abbey, next to the Houses of Parliament and the Supreme Court. Facilities include a new Sports Hall, a newly renovated science centre, design and technology studios, a purpose-built theatre, and a music centre.
Noteworthy: One of the top-ranked schools for boys from 13 and girls from 16 in the UK, Westminster has the highest Oxbridge acceptance rates of any secondary school or college in the world. In 2017, for the eighth successive year, Westminster pupils secured more than half their A-Level grades at A* or D1/D2 equivalent.
New: The Hooke Science Centre has been redeveloped to include new state-of-the- art laboratories, a computer science lab and an observatory. Westminster students are competing in the 2018 Mathematics, Chemistry, Linguistics and Informatics UK Olympiad teams. They also represented the UK in the final of the International Space Design Competition at NASA, Florida and won the World Universities Debating Final 2017.
Term fees: £8,710 (day); £9,522 (day, Sixth Form); £12,580 (boarding)
Little Dean’s Yard, Great Smith Street, Westminster, London, westminster.org.uk
Registration: After age 8
No. of Pupils: 700
Admissions: School’s own exam in Year 8 or via interview in Year 6; does not use Common Entrance.
Curriculum: In 2008, Winchester abandoned the A-Level system to adopt the Cambridge Pre-U. All boys sit (I)GCSEs in at least two or three sciences, maths, English, Latin, French or German and usually three or four other subjects.
Campus and facilities: This all-boys school has more than 80 listed buildings—representing more than six centuries of continuous development— many of which are of national importance and all are in current use. There are extensive grounds of approximately 100 hectares, including 20 acres of playing fields and four acres of formal gardens. The school has an 18-hole golf course, and students are able to enjoy rowing on the River Itchen.
Noteworthy: The school’s origins can be traced back to 1382. It has existed in its present location for more than 600 years, the longest unbroken history of any school in England.
New: A newly renovated state-of-the-art Sports Centre will be open for use in early 2022.
Term fees: £12,700 (boarding); £11,615 (day)
College Street, Winchester, Hampshire, winchestercollege.org
Registration: 15 months years before entry
No. of Pupils: 611
Admissions: Assessment Day and Common Entrance at ages 11 and 13; Assessment Day and school’s own exam at age 16.
Curriculum: GCSE and A-Levels
Campus and facilities: Wycombe Abbey is set on 170 acres of conservation-listed grounds. Modern, state-of-the-art facilities include the Sports Centre with a 25m indoor pool, the Performing Arts Centre with theatre and recital hall, dance and fitness studios, and extensive sports pitches. Last year, the school opened a new cafe, The Courtyard, catering to students and visitors.
Noteworthy: Wycombe Abbey was ranked as the top girls’ boarding school and second overall nationally by The Sunday Times Parent Power supplement based on 2017 A-Level and GCSE results. Results are consistently impressive, with 85.6 per cent A*-A at A-Levels and around a third of the girls receiving Oxbridge offers. In 2016, Wycombe Abbey opened the first of its international schools in China: Wycombe Abbey International School Changzhou, a co-educational school with more than 840 students. Construction is underway on the second international school located in Hangzhou, due for completion in September 2020.
New: Two new boarding houses opened in September 2017 as part of wider site development plan, which also includes a new STEM Centre, Sports Pavilion and China Centre, as well as the refurbishment of the remaining boarding houses.
Term fees: £9,450 (day); £12,600 (boarding)
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, wycombeabbey.com
St. Paul's School
Photo: Courtesy of St. Paul's School
Registration: Registration closes in early October the year before entry; boys are often registered at age 4.
No. of Pupils: 950
Admissions: ISEB tests; school’s own exams plus interview; references and recommendations for Year 6 and above.
Curriculum: (I)GCSE, Pre-U, A-Levels
Campus and facilities: St Paul’s occupies more than 17 hectares of Thames-side property. The campus is unique among London schools for the on-site facilities it offers, ranging from boat club to theatre, darkroom to cricket pitch and recital hall to design technology workshop.
Noteworthy: St Paul’s is a boys’ school that was founded in 1509. The original school, which stood in St Paul’s Churchyard, was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and has since been rebuilt twice. Lessons are an intense 35 minutes to t in a two-hour lunch break, allowing pupils time to enjoy extracurricular activities. Almost a third of the school’s pupils go on to Oxbridge, and stellar exam results are a hallmark of the school.
New: The school is currently being rebuilt and expanded as part of a £150 million project, known as the Masterplan. Beginning in 2011, the work is scheduled to be carried out in phases over a period of 30 years. Its state-of-the-art science wing was opened in 2013 and the new Drama Centre and Samuel Pepys Theatre were completed in 2014.
Term fees: £6,470-8,344 (day); £12,537 (boarding)
Lonsdale Road, Barnes, London, stpaulsschool.org.uk