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A guide to London independent schools

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A guide to London independent schools

Looking for information on independent schools in Greater London? Discover everything you need to know about the capital's senior private schools and take a look at our parents’ guides for more information about individual admissions processes and entrance exams.

What are independent schools?

Independent schools, also known as private schools, are fee-paying. State schools (including academies, grammar and comprehensive schools) are funded by the government and are free for children to attend.

Unlike state schools, teachers at private schools do not need to follow the national curriculum, although many subjects will still include the same topics on their curriculum. Pupils attending private schools in England will still take GCSE exams at the age of 15–16, and if the school incorporates a sixth form (ages 16–18), most pupils will take A level exams. Some schools may teach the International Baccalaureate (IB) alongside or instead of A levels.

Many of the top private schools in the country are located in London. Find out more about the best private schools in England based on rankings in the 2021 GCSE and A level league tables.

How much do private schools cost in London?

Tuition costs can vary between schools, but the average fee for a private day school in London is normally just over £6,000 per term (this is more for particularly prestigious schools or those in central London). The fees for boarding pupils (if the school has boarding facilities) are typically 50–100% more than the day fees.

Fees always include the cost of teaching and often include the cost of textbooks, materials, and most co-curricular activities. Some schools may include the cost of lunch into their fees, while some charge this separately (normally around £200–300 per term, per child). If you are registering your child for entry to an independent school, make sure to check the school website and admissions policy carefully to find out what is included in the school fees.

Do private schools in London offer help with fees?

Many private schools are able to offer financial assistance to students who meet their entrance criteria. The two main types of financial assistance are:

  • Bursaries: means-tested financial assistance to widen access for pupils whose families would not otherwise be able to afford their education. Bursaries are generally offered on a 'sliding scale' (i.e. students from households with a lower annual income are eligible for more funding than those with a higher annual income). If you are applying for a bursary, you will need to provide detailed financial evidence and you may receive a home visit from a professional appointed by the school.

  • Scholarships: talent-based financial assistance for pupils who excel in a particular discipline. The types of scholarships vary between schools, but the most common are academic, art, drama, music and sport. The percentage of fee remission is normally small (usually about 10%, although some schools may offer up to 50%). An increasing number of schools are removing the financial reward of their scholarship provision and making them ‘honour-based’ instead. This is a strategic move to funnel available funding to bursaries, allowing more pupils with genuine financial need to attend the school.

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What are co-ed schools?

Co-educational (co-ed) schools educate both boys and girls together in mixed-sex classes.

While the majority of London private schools are still boys' or girls' only, an increasing number are welcoming students of the opposite sex from the ages of 16 to 18 to create a co-educational sixth form. The reason for this is normally to create a real-life environment for students as they end their formal education and progress to universities and careers.

11 of the private girls' schools in London belong to the Girls' Day School Trust (GDST) – a well-established network of 25 girls’ schools across the country.

What do the entrance exams involve for private schools in London?

Every independent school is different and has its own unique admissions process. Some create their own entrance exams, some use an exam board and others may use both to shortlist candidates from one stage to the next. These are some of the common entrance tests used by private schools:

  • ISEB (Independent Schools Examination Board): an online adaptive test where candidates are assessed in English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.

  • London 11+ Consortium: these independent girls' senior schools use the same online test, which includes adaptive and non-adaptive tests in English, maths, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and problem-solving.

  • CEM Select (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring): an online non-adaptive test where candidates are assessed in English comprehension, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.

  • CAT4 (Cognitive Abilities Test): an online non-adaptive test where children are tested in numerical reasoning (maths), verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and spatial ability.

How can my child prepare for entry to a London independent school?

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  • Access to unlimited online mock tests including the ISEB, CAT4 and school-specific tests

  • Daily live lessons and revision programmes with Atom's engaging teachers to help your child master key topics and prepare for exams

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List of private schools in London

Central London

City of London:

City of Westminster:


North London

London Borough of Barnet:

London Borough of Enfield:

London Borough of Haringey:

London Borough of Islington:


North East London

London Borough of Redbridge:

London Borough of Waltham Forest:


North West London

London Borough of Camden:

London Borough of Harrow:


South London

London Borough of Croydon:

London Borough of Lambeth:

London Borough of Southwark:


South East London

London Borough of Bromley:

Royal Borough of Greenwich:

London Borough of Lewisham:


South West London

Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames:

London Borough of Merton:

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames:

London Borough of Sutton:

London Borough of Wandsworth:


West London

London Borough of Ealing:

London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham:

London Borough of Hillingdon:

London Borough of Hounslow:

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea:


Give your child a head start with all the tools they need to get into an independent school in London. Start your 5-day free trial of Atom Nucleus today and access over 90,000 practice questions, unlimited online mock tests and more.

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