The rise of new independent schools in central London

Diana Morant
November 5th 2019

In the run-up to yet another General Election, independent education has been highlighted by some political parties, with everything from the threat of schools losing their charitable status and tax exemptions to outright abolition. Whilst the more extreme ideas seem to be receding, the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit means we could be forgiven for thinking the future of independent education is uncertain.  

If there are concerns for some more remote independent schools, as a whole, numbers of international pupils continue to increase, including a rise in numbers from EEA countries in the last academic year.  Central London appears to be mirroring these statistics, seeing no slow down in demand.  

Over the last few months I have been to see or discussed five new senior schools in London, the oldest having opened only two years ago. A possibly daunting amount of spaces to fill for those in charge of marketing the schools, but for educational consultants and their clients, welcome additions to the central London offer.

With independent education very much in the spotlight, what is driving this expansion?  Firstly the need for more co-educational schools in the centre of London. Many families arriving in London are not used to a single sex education and prefer their children to be educated together.  The number of traditional single sex schools far outnumber co-ed schools in the centre but this is now being addressed with schools opening in Fulham, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Mayfair, and Maida Vale.

Secondly, the desire for an all-through education from many families.  Schools such as Eaton Square, Fulham, Knightsbridge and Maida Vale have well established prep schools. They realise that many families want to stay at the same school or in the same ‘family’.  The very competitive nature of the 11+ and 13+ entrance exams to London senior schools puts huge amounts of stress on children and their families. For many, the opportunity to stay within a school ‘family’ that they know and appreciate, is a real positive, as well as taking away from the exam frenzy.

Thirdly, all of these schools stress the all round education they offer.  Whilst still competitive they are not ‘exam factories’ and are keen to promote the broad range of experiences and interests.  Knightsbridge School, which is extending to age sixteen in the next academic year, says: “At the centre of Knightsbridge School is the long held belief that children have a better quality of educational experience, and life, when they can retain a broad range of experiences and interests. As a result, a strong focus will be retained on Life Skills and Perspectives and our careers and guest speaker’s programmes will be extended.”  The new Maida Vale School, opening in September 2020, also places firm emphasis on the individual and a holistic approach, with close parental involvement encouraged and expected. 

Whilst there will clearly always be room for London’s most selective academic schools, the all-through more family-orientated senior school is currently on the rise. For those of us who work to place children in schools that are suited to them, this new range of schools means a broader selection of excellent schools for the right pupils and their families.

Diana Morant is Head of Schools and University Consultancy at William Clarence Education, one of the UK’s leading education advisers.