Fortunately, there are a large number of private preparatory schools in the UK. In most London postal areas, you should find from three to eight prep schools within a reasonable distance, such that you have a good selection to consider. As you move further away from London, there are fewer schools and you may need to travel further. Some counties like Surrey have an abundance of private schools whereas others like Essex have far fewer. You can use our search engine to find all the prep schools in an area, but note this is categorised by the name of the district (e.g. Wimbledon) rather than by the postcode.
In our experience, most parents would prefer to have their children attend a prep school within three miles of their home, not least because doing the ‘school run’ twice per day in the rush hour is a trying experience.
Private schools do not have catchment areas like state schools so their acceptance of your child is not governed by where you live. It is rather a matter of how far you are prepared to travel to take your child to school. Some schools with non-selective entry however, may use proximity to the school as a factor in determining places if they are oversubscribed.
Some private schools have their own bus services to and from school, although these are not always available for children in the youngest year groups and are mostly offered by larger schools.
If you are contemplating moving house from one part of the UK to another, then consider searching for the new school as soon as possible. The closer you are to Central London, the more likely you will find it can take a full year or more to get into a top school.
Boarding schools have different issues. Some parents are only seeking weekly boarding as opposed to full boarding; such that they are probably seeking a school within 30 miles of home. International parents will need full boarding facilities and the issue is usually one of being reasonably close to one of the London airports. Bear in mind, however, that the UK now has a lot of regional airports offering international flights.
When choosing your location it is important to consider your priorities. Central London may be very convenient for the commute to work, but land in the city comes at a premium and not only is accommodation expensive but schools are very limited on space. Most central London preps have very small playgrounds and need to bus the children to local parks for their sports lessons. Some schools do not have any outside space of their own at all. By choosing a location slightly further out of the city you will find schools with extensive playing fields and sports facilities.
Many parents approach us because they are relocating to the UK and want to find a good school first after which they will rent a house close by. As part of our bespoke school consultancy service we can give sound advice on choosing a good residential area, which is both safe and within an easy commuting distance of parents’ places of work. We can also direct parents towards housing agents and online property portals. For those parents needing more personalised advice, we work with the UK’s largest firm of relocation consultants and can put you in touch with an expert – just phone us on +44 (0)1622 813870 or complete our enquiry form.