Best Private Schools In The UK – The Complete Guide For 2024

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the best private schools in the UK. When it comes to providing a top-notch education, these schools have established themselves as beacons of excellence and innovation. From nurturing academic prowess to fostering personal development and providing a wide range of extracurricular opportunities, the private schools in the UK have a reputation for delivering exceptional educational experiences. Whether you’re seeking a prestigious institution with a rich history or a hidden gem that excels in specific areas, this guide will help you navigate the diverse landscape of private schools in the UK and find the perfect fit for your child’s educational journey.

Private schools in UK

Table of Contents

What is a Private School?

Private schools, also known as independent schools, are educational institutions that are not funded or maintained by the government. Instead, they are privately funded and operated. Private schools in the UK often charge tuition fees for students to attend, and they have more autonomy over their curriculum, admissions policies, and overall management compared to state-funded schools.

Private schools in the UK are considered to offer high-quality education and often have a reputation for providing excellent facilities, resources, and dedicated teaching staff. They are typically seen as providing a more exclusive and tailored educational experience compared to state-funded schools, and they may have a specific educational philosophy or approach to teaching.

Parents who choose private schools for their children often do so based on factors such as academic reputation, individual attention, specialised programmes, and the belief that private education offers unique opportunities and advantages for their child’s development and future prospects.

UK Private School Fees

Annual school fees for UK private schools range from £3,600 to £57,690. So if you’re wondering, here’s what you’re paying for: 

  • Age: Private school fees typically increase as students get older. 
  • Academic success: Some private schools in the UK have a much higher demand due to their academic track record, and thus have the ability to increase their fees. 
  • Facilities: Private schools in the UK do pay attention to non-academic pursuits such as sports and other activities. These facilities require high capital investment and maintenance, leading to an increase in fees. 
  • Pastoral care: While expensive fees do not automatically translate to the best of pastoral care, this remains one of the top priorities for many parents. 
  • Geography: Some locations in the UK are more expensive, while some are extremely populated. Schools in these areas tend to charge higher fees solely because of their geographical location. 

Best Private Schools in the UK

1. Cardiff Sixth Form College Review

Cardiff Sixth Form College is simply the definition of academic excellence. In the 2023 A-Levels, 94.7% of students received A*-A grades with 100% of students achieving A*-B grades. It is no surprise that they are consistently in the leaderboards over the past years. But beyond the books, do check out the long list of events, clubs and societies the school has to offer!

2. Oxford International College Review

Oxford International College, located in the historic city of Oxford, is a leading educational institution renowned for its commitment to academic excellence and a global perspective. With the goal of providing an exceptional education experience, the college is situated in the heart of one of the world’s most prestigious academic communities. In 2023, 90.1% of the 138 A-Levels candidates achieved A*/A.  

3. The Cathedral School Llandaff Review

The Cathedral School, Llandaff, situated in the United Kingdom, is a distinguished educational institution known for its strong academic foundation and commitment to holistic student development. The school is near the historic Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, Wales, providing a unique setting that blends tradition with modern education.

Dating back to1880, The Cathedral School has a rich history of delivering high-quality education within a nurturing and inclusive environment. The school also has a close relationship with Llandaff Cathedral. This contributes to a distinctive atmosphere that encourages spiritual and personal growth alongside academic excellence.

4. Highgate School Review

Highgate School, located in North London, is a distinguished educational institution with a rich history and a commitment to academic excellence. Set within the vibrant community of Highgate, the school provides a nurturing environment where students can thrive academically, socially, and personally.

With a legacy dating back to its foundation in 1565, Highgate School has evolved into a modern and dynamic institution while maintaining a strong emphasis on tradition and values. In addition, the school’s dedicated faculty and staff are passionate about cultivating a love for learning and encouraging students to explore their intellectual curiosity.

5. Guildford High School Review

Presenting The Sunday Time’s Independent School of the Decade, Guildford High School! This school has an environment where the students can feel safe and secure, where there is trust and kindness. This is where you can see them lead happy and fulfilling lives, feeling positive about their gifts and abilities. Beyond this, the Friends of Guildford High School (FoGHS) programme brings together parents and staff to organise events and raise not only funds, but smiles throughout the community. 

6. Queen Ethelburga's College Review

Founded in the 1900s in Harrogate by the Woodard Trust, Queen Ethelburga’s College was acquired by the Martin family in 1991 and moved to their family home at Thorpe Underwood. Under their ownership, the school has seen significant growth and investment in facilities. While the school retains the charm of an old manor house, it has a modern ethos.

CEO Amy Martin, actively involved in day-to-day operations, resides on-site, reflecting a hands-on approach. Queen Ethelburga’s differs from typical independent schools, with many staff having no background in the independent sector. The curriculum combines tradition with vocational offerings, meeting diverse student needs. This unique blend sets Queen Ethelburga’s apart as a distinctive and refreshing educational choice.

7. City of London School for Girls Review

City of London School for Girls (CLSG) is an exceptional educational institution located in the heart of the Barbican Centre. Housed in a unique brutalist building, the school’s ‘City box’ is both a distinctive feature and a challenge due to its grade 4 listed status, limiting modifications. Founded in the late 1800s by William Ward, the school moved to its Barbican location in the late 60s. Since then, many big names have been gracing its halls, including Professor Sarah Hart and broadcaster Claudia Winkleman.

The diverse student body, representing various corners of London, contributes to a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere. The school’s unique identity is further shaped by the support it receives from livery companies, corporates, and individuals. In the concrete cube setting, CLSG not only excels academically but also encourages individuality. This allows students to express themselves freely and fostering a positive and inclusive environment.

8. James Allen's Girls' School Review

James Allen’s Girls’ School (JAGS), founded in 1741 by James Allen, stands as the oldest independent school for girls in London. A part of the foundation established by Edward Alleyn in 1619, along with Dulwich College and Alleyn’s, JAGS fosters collaboration and integration among the three schools at all levels. The school’s rich history also includes Dr Lilian Clarke’s pioneering botany teaching in the nineteenth century, with the Botany Gardens she established in 1896 still tended to by students. 

Moreover, JAGS is committed to ecological initiatives, aiming to become zero-carbon by 2030. They often participate in national campaigns like the Youth Climate summit and The Big Pedal. The school embraces diversity, with an ethos rooted in ethnic and socio-economic inclusivity, and carries its Christian foundation lightly, emphasising charitable work and community engagement. JAGS looks towards the future while remaining connected to its history, evident in its houses named after significant figures from the school’s past.

9. Westminster School Review

Westminster Schoolfounded formally by Elizabeth I in 1560, is a bastion of British public school tradition situated in the heart of London. With roots dating back to Benedictine monks educating boys in the 14th century, the school stands as an integral part of the city’s historical tapestry. Nestled in the precincts of Westminster Abbey, the campus is largely located on a World Heritage Site, creating a unique setting where students can walk directly to the Abbey for services and ceremonies through the exclusive ‘Dark Cloister.’

The school’s centuries-long history has seen it become intricately woven into the political fabric of the capital, with students confidently navigating through a maze of cultural and religious landmarks, including the iconic gothic abbey. Westminster’s dynamic and diverse nature is evident in its unique combination of day and boarding students, London and international attendees, and the coexistence of religious and secular values. The school’s traditions, such as the longstanding ‘Greaze’ event on Shrove Tuesday, and its commitment to service and community engagement through programmes like Platform, also contribute to the vibrant and multifaceted atmosphere that defines the Westminster School experience.

10. King's College School (KCS) Review

Established in 1829 as a junior branch of King’s College London, King’s College School (KCS) has evolved into a distinguished institution, initially housed in the basement of its prestigious forebear. The school made a significant move to Wimbledon in 1897, seeking expansion and competition with other London day schools relocating to the suburbs for spacious grounds and fresh air. The Junior School joined the same site in 1912, and over the years, KCS has embraced developments such as the admission of girls to the sixth form in 2010 and the initiation of the first Year 7 cohort at the senior school in 2016.

Set against the serene backdrop of Wimbledon Common, the school occupies a handsome Victorian red-brick building that beautifully reflects the KCS ethos of scholarship and innovation. The campus, more expansive than it initially appears, seamlessly combines modern and original architectural styles. It showcases wind turbines and solar panels alongside a charming Great Hall with an organ. The civilised and thoughtful atmosphere permeates the school, even amidst the vibrancy of activities. This emphasises KCS’s dedication to cultivating a nurturing and inspiring educational environment. The state-of-the-art sixth form centre, with its own reading room and fair trade café. As such, students have a conducive space for the development of confident and courteous young individuals.

11. Magdalen College School Review

Magdalen has more than 6 centuries of histories and they are not showing any signs of slowing down. Throughout the years, we have seen olympians, Nobel Prize laureates, film directors, and many other notable alumni from the school. While the academic team places a high priority on teaching, they focus on much more than that. It’s the quality of the daily conversations, the atmosphere students are in, and whatever it takes to cater to the needs of the student. This is a school where they inspire the students rigorously yet keep it relaxed. They somehow manage to push the students in a high-octane manner yet keep them down-to-earth. 

12. Brighton College Review

The recent Sunday Times Parent Power ranked Brighton College as the top co-ed school for A-levels in the UK again, and we can’t find a reason to disagree. According to the Sunday Times, the currency used around the school is not the British pound, but kindness. The school believes that students flourish when they are treated with love, kindness, and respect. Well, looking at the student performance, that seems to be the case. Whether your child is shy, outspoken, sporty or scholarly, there is indeed a high chance that they will flourish under the Brighton system. 

13. St Michael's School Review

St Michael’s is one of the best, if not the best, that Wales has to offer. The Sunday Times has St Michael as the Wales Independent School of the Decade! That has to say something about the school. In addition, they have also received The Telegraph’s Award, being the school with the best value for money in the UK. Awards aside, the school remains inclusive and committed to every single student. It’s really one of those schools where you have to go and see for yourselves to understand what makes them so valuable. 

14. King Edward VI High School for Girls Review

The school’s mission is to offer unrivalled education to the girls in and around Birmingham, and we must say they are fulfilling it quite well. The school appears to be a vibrant and forward-thinking institution dedicated to fostering a love for learning among its students. The emphasis on curiosity and insightful engagement within lessons reflects a stimulating academic environment. In the recent years, they have included new subjects such as Mandarin, Leadership, Enterprise, and GCSE Computer Science among others. Similar to the other schools on this exclusive list, KEHS equips its students with a solid foundation of skills and knowledge, preparing them for life beyond the classroom. 

15. The Perse School Review

As Cambridge’s oldest surviving secondary school, The Perse has continuously experimented and succeeded with their teaching methods. The Perse offers a holistic, three-dimensional education where all students and staff contribute to the school’s academic, pastoral and extra-curricular programmes. While academic results open many doors in the near future, it is through these opportunities where they develop life skills, character and perspective. 


UK Private Schools Ranking - League Table

RankSchool NameA*/ACandidatesFees (£)LocationBoarding Type
1Cardiff Sixth Form College94.7155£22,300CardiffBoarding
2Oxford International College90.1138£27,645OxfordshireBoarding
3The Cathedral School Llandaff86.462£15,924CardiffDay
4Highgate School86.1191£25,515Greater LondonDay
5Guildford High School84.993£20,847SurreyDay
6Queen Ethelburga's College83.875£19,695North YorkshireBoarding
7City of London School For Girls83.1100£23,778Greater LondonDay
8James Allen's Girls' School82.595£22,725Greater LondonDay
9Westminster School82.3199£34,389Greater LondonBoarding
10King's College School (KCS)82.3159£25,890Greater LondonDay
11Magdalen College School82.1155£21,777OxfordshireDay
12Brighton College80234£28,260East SussexBoarding
13St Michael's School79.147£14,490CarmarthenshireBoarding
14King Edward VI High School for Girls77.792£15,129West MidlandsDay
15The Perse School77.7213£21,183CambridgeshireDay
16Alleyn's School77.4156£25,020Greater LondonDay
17Reigate Grammar School75.6143£22,995SurreyDay
18Wycombe Abbey74.398£36,000BuckinghamshireBoarding
19Eltham College73.9113£22,230Greater LondonDay
20Withington Girls' School73.968£14,676Greater ManchesterDay
21Royal Grammar School Guildford73.7142£22,572SurreyDay
22Cheltenham Ladies' College71.7147£33,900GloucestershireBoarding
23Wimbledon High School GDST71.296£23,154Greater LondonDay
24The Manchester Grammar School71.2196£13,980Greater ManchesterDay
25South Hampstead High School GDST70.463£22,764Greater LondonDay
26Howell's School, Llandaff GDST69.673£16,302CardiffDay
27Royal Grammar School69.6187£16,521Tyne and WearDay
28The National Mathematics and Science College68.931£14,997WarwickshireBoarding
29Merchant Taylors' School68.3143£23,600HertfordshireDay
30Leicester Grammar School68.2108£15,918LeicestershireDay
31St John's College, Cardiff67.643£15,885CardiffDay
32Wellington College67.3117£32,940BerkshireBoarding
33Notting Hill and Ealing High School GDST66.569£20,868Greater LondonDay
34University College School, Hampstead66.2167£25,413Greater LondonDay
35Bancroft's School66.2123£22,770EssexBoarding
36Ruthin School65.835£16,540DenbighshireBoarding
37Canford School65.7141£34,941DorsetBoarding
38King Edward's School65121£17,250SomersetDay
39Dulwich College64.8227£24,693Greater LondonBoarding
40The Faculty of Queen Ethelburga's64.341£19,695North YorkshireBoarding
41Surbiton High School64132£21,531SurreyDay
42Trinity School63168£22,685SurreyDay
43Oundle School62.9202£27,075NorthamptonshireBoarding
44Redmaids' High School62.662£17,250BristolDay
45Sheffield High School for Girls60.790£14,985South YorkshireDay
46Exeter School60.7107£16,710DevonDay
47St Catherine's, Bramley59.479£20,925SurreyBoarding
48Leicester High School for Girls59.422£14,460LeicestershireDay
49The Grange School59.182£13,065CheshireDay
50St Albans School58.9148£21,282HertfordshireDay
51Whitgift School58.8140£24,462Greater LondonBoarding
52Nottingham High School58.7129£17,937NottinghamshireDay
53The Abbey School58.169£21,750BerkshireDay
54Epsom College57.7195£30,909SurreyBoarding
55Norwich High School GDST57.643£16,023NorfolkDay
56Churcher's College57.1155£18,735HampshireDay
57Burgess Hill Girls56.633£22,410West SussexBoarding
58Colfe's School56.5126£20,460Greater LondonDay
59St Dunstan's College56.368£21,321Greater LondonDay
60Ardingly College56.389£28,875West SussexBoarding
61Abbey College Cambridge55.4113£27,900CambridgeshireBoarding
62Roedean School55.291£24,660East SussexBoarding
63Walthamstow Hall54.857£22,065KentDay
64The Leys School54.5100£27,600CambridgeshireBoarding
65Ashbourne College54280£30,000Kensington & ChelseaDay
66Bradford Grammar School53.4132£14,811West YorkshireDay
67Birkenhead School53.446£14,865MerseysideDay
68Kingswood School53.3114£18,438SomersetBoarding
70St John's Preparatory and Senior School5332£16,500HertfordshireDay
71The King's School, Canterbury52.8213£30,900KentBoarding
72Bristol Grammar School52.6122£17,385BristolDay
73Babington House School52.28£18,030KentDay
74Yarm School52119£14,763North YorkshireDay
75The Grammar School at Leeds51.8174£16,389West YorkshireDay
76Ibstock Place School51.865£25,785Greater LondonDay
77Derby High School51.436£15,330DerbyshireDay
78Hurtwood House50.7164£32,388SurreyBoarding
79Talbot Heath School50.626£17,301DorsetBoarding
80Forest School50.4136£24,555Greater LondonDay
81Queen's College London50.352£23,985Greater LondonDay
82Solihull School50.2139£16,875West MidlandsDay
83The Royal School Dungannon50.276£9,150County TyroneBoarding
84Adcote School for Girls5018£14,838ShropshireBoarding
85RGS Worcester49.4125£16,794WorcestershireDay
86Woodbridge School49.454£20,538SuffolkBoarding
87The King's School, Chester49109£14,748CheshireDay
88Cheltenham College48.6148£32,580GloucestershireBoarding
89Badminton School48.561£19,410BristolBoarding
90Immanuel College48.467£22,509HertfordshireDay
91Ipswich School48.2146£19,704SuffolkBoarding
92St John's School48.2128£27,360SurreyBoarding
93The Maynard School48.253£16,542DevonDay
94Chigwell School48103£22,635EssexBoarding
95Clifton High School47.741£16,530BristolDay
96Farnborough Hill47.330£17,985HampshireDay
97Loughborough Grammar School47.1113£16,170LeicestershireBoarding
98Dame Allan's Senior Schools46.9112£14,997Tyne and WearDay
99St George's School, Edinburgh46.711£16,359MidlothianBoarding
100Norwich School46.5167£18,855NorfolkDay
101Nottingham Girls’ High School GDST46.468£17,937NottinghamshireDay
102Loughborough High School45.869£16,170LeicestershireDay
103Wolverhampton Grammar School45.159£15,600West MidlandsDay
104Bromley High School GDST44.968£20,562Greater LondonDay
105The King's School44.8123£17,295WorcestershireDay
106The King's School in Macclesfield44.8114£15,315CheshireDay
108CATS Cambridge43.827£18,990CambridgeshireBoarding
109Hill House School43.550£19,800South YorkshireDay
110Reading Blue Coat School43.4144£19,965BerkshireDay
111Bedford School42.9116£21,945BedfordshireBoarding
112Queen's Gate School42.939£25,326Greater LondonDay
113Gresham's School42.688£29,100NorfolkBoarding
114St Gabriel's School42.421£21,078BerkshireDay
115St Gerard's School Trust42.16£12,480GwyneddDay
116Queen Elizabeth's Hospital41.5109£17,085BristolDay
117Wellingborough School41.580£19,071NorthamptonshireDay
118Brentwood School41.4150£21,783EssexBoarding
119West Buckland School4183£18,420DevonBoarding
120AKS Lytham40.740£13,659LancashireDay
121Bablake School40.186£15,150West MidlandsDay
122Cheadle Hulme School40129£14,592CheshireDay
123St Benedict's School39.892£20,907Greater LondonDay
124Wetherby Senior School39.242£29,085Greater LondonDay
125Stafford Grammar School39.241£13,938StaffordshireDay
126Oldham Hulme Grammar School38.953£13,470Greater ManchesterDay
127Kimbolton School38.899£18,015CambridgeshireBoarding
128King Henry VIII School38.677£15,150West MidlandsDay
129Newcastle High School for Girls GDST3861£14,331Tyne and WearDay
130Jersey College for Girls37.9103£7,404Channel IslandsBoarding
131Bolton School Girls' Division37.8108£13,632Greater ManchesterDay
132Ryde School37.547£14,190Isle of WightBoarding
133Victoria College37.277£7,512Channel IslandsDay
134Claremont Fan Court School37.167£22,005SurreyDay
135Salesian College36.381£14,703HampshireDay
136The John Lyon School36.156£21,300Greater LondonDay
137Streatham and Clapham High School GDST35.858£21,003Greater LondonDay
138Brockwood Park School and Inwoods Small School35.714£24,400HampshireBoarding
139Old Palace of John Whitgift School35.745£19,350Greater LondonDay
140Mander Portman Woodward (MPW)35.6231£34,233Greater LondonDay
141The Mount School York35.520£20,910North YorkshireBoarding
142Stockport Grammar School35.2156£13,215CheshireDay
143The Ladies' College35.153£14,010Channel IslandsDay
144Saint Felix School34.823£19,305SuffolkBoarding
145Battle Abbey School34.350£19,782East SussexBoarding
146Durham High School for Girls33.323£14,952DurhamDay
147Lichfield Cathedral School33.328£15,588StaffordshireDay
148St Margaret's School33.328£19,269HertfordshireBoarding
149Stover School33.317£14,730DevonBoarding
150St Columba's College3370£19,338HertfordshireDay
151Lewes Old Grammar School32.531£16,182East SussexDay
152St Joseph's College31.948£18,063BerkshireBoarding
153Oakham School31.7141£26,100RutlandBoarding
154Ashford School31.660£20,358KentBoarding
155Hymers College31.692£13,032East YorkshireDay
156Wychwood School30.813£20,811OxfordshireBoarding
157Elizabeth College30.686£14,721Channel IslandsDay
158Sutton High School GDST30.634£20,313SurreyDay
159Denstone College and The Prep at Denstone College30.691£19,749StaffordshireBoarding
160Thetford Grammar School30.527£15,495NorfolkBoarding
161Christ College30.456£22,005PowysBoarding
162Loretto School30.281£25,155East LothianBoarding
163Read School308£14,289North YorkshireBoarding
164Shrewsbury High School GDST29.442£16,731ShropshireDay
165Durham Cathedral Schools Foundation29.162£16,794DurhamBoarding
166Royal Hospital School28.8110£22,239SuffolkBoarding
167Alderley Edge School for Girls28.728£15,165CheshireDay
169Leighton Park School28.264£28,230BerkshireBoarding
170Hampstead Fine Arts College27.994£26,160Greater LondonDay
171Kingham Hill School26.941£23,325OxfordshireBoarding
172St Edmund's School Canterbury25.548£24,360KentBoarding
173Plymouth College25.455£19,929DevonBoarding
174St Mary's College25.356£12,396MerseysideDay
175Westfield School2511£16,686Tyne and WearDay
176Box Hill School24.726£23,745SurreyBoarding
177Mander Portman Woodward Birmingham24.672£23,913West MidlandsDay
178Elmhurst Ballet School23.516£20,436West MidlandsBoarding
179Rochester Independent College23.5109£22,800KentBoarding
180Ealing Independent College22.226£18,495Greater LondonDay
181Rye St Antony School22.220£20,250OxfordshireBoarding
183Sackville School21.116£18,690KentDay
184Buckswood School20.929£16,350East SussexBoarding
185Tring Park School for the Performing Arts20.661£25,755HertfordshireBoarding
186Kensington Park School20.537£27,350Greater LondonBoarding
187More House School19.618£24,825Greater LondonDay
188Claires Court18.978£18,990BerkshireDay
189Sherrardswood School18.735£19,017HertfordshireDay
190Mount Kelly18.475£20,970DevonBoarding
191St Edward's Senior & Sixth Form15.626£18,915GloucestershireDay
192Glenalmond College14.173£25,275Perthshire and KinrossBoarding
193Highclare School1417£15,975West MidlandsDay
194St James Senior Boys' School12.935£22,905SurreyDay
195St Bede's College12.349£12,675Greater ManchesterDay
196St Dominic’s Grammar School, Brewood6.815£8,925StaffordshireDay
197Alton School01£14,985HampshireDay
198Padworth College04£18,645BerkshireBoarding

How are the Rankings Measured?

This ranking is based on the percentage of GCSE/IGCSE entries awarded 9-7 or A* and A grades. However, it is important to note that these information are not freely available, and some schools may decide not to publish their results. 

Frequently Asked Questions about UK Private Schools

Private schools in the UK are funded privately and operate independently, whereas state schools are funded and maintained by the government. Private schools often charge tuition fees, have more autonomy over their curriculum, and offer a wider range of extracurricular activities compared to state schools.

Private schools in the UK are often associated with high academic standards and a track record of excellent results. However, it is important to note that academic performance can vary between schools, and there are also many outstanding state schools in the UK.

Private school fees can vary significantly depending on the school, location, and age of the student. Tuition fees for private schools in the UK can range from several thousand pounds to tens of thousands of pounds per year.

Some private schools in the UK have religious affiliations, such as Church of England or Catholic schools. However, there are also many private schools that are non-denominational or follow different religious traditions, providing a diverse range of options for families.

Choosing the right private school involves considering factors such as academic reputation, location, facilities, extracurricular offerings, school culture, and personal fit for your child. It’s important to research and visit multiple schools, attend open days, and speak with staff and current students to make an informed decision.

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