Back to blog

Private schools in London

By Atom | Dec 21, 2023, 5:12 PM

A guide to London independent schools

Are you considering a private senior school in London for your child? Find out everything you need to know about independent secondary education in the capital. Learn about fee-assistance, entrance exams, and find your closest private schools.

What are private schools?

A private school (independent school) charges fees. This is the opposite of a state school (such as an academy, grammar or comprehensive school), which is funded by the government. Private schools tend to have smaller class sizes, more pastoral care, and a wider range of extracurricular activities.

Unlike state schools, private schools don't need to follow the national curriculum. However, many still teach the same subjects at the same level. Children attending private schools usually take the same exams as children at state schools.

Many of the country's top private schools are in London. Find out more about the top private schools in the UK.

How much do private schools cost in London?

London private schools are more expensive than the national average. Many private day schools in London cost over £7,000 per term. Boarding schools can be 50–100% more than day fees.

Fees always include the cost of teaching, and some include textbooks and co-curricular activities. Lunch might be included in the termly fee or charged separately. If you are registering your child for a private school, make sure to check the fees carefully first to find out what's included.

Do private schools in London offer help with fees?

Most private schools offer financial assistance to children who meet certain criteria. The most common type of financial assistance is a means-tested bursary. These are for children who meet the school's entrance criteria but whose families cannot afford the school fees. Bursaries are generally offered on a 'sliding scale', where children from lower-income households receive more than children from higher-income households.

If you think your child would be eligible for a bursary, you will need to complete a separate bursary application form when you register. You will also need to provide detailed financial evidence, and you might have a home visit from the school bursary team.

Many private schools also offer scholarships. These are not usually means-tested but based on talent in a particular subject. Common scholarships include academic, art, drama, music, and sport. If the scholarship comes with a financial reward, this is usually expressed as a fee discount.

Lots of private schools are now removing the financial rewards from their scholarships. This is to funnel funding to bursaries to help widen access to their school.

What are co-ed schools?

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

Many London private schools are single-sex. However, an increasing number are making their sixth forms co-educational. This is to create an environment that's reflective of the experience students will have in higher education and the professional world.

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

How can my child get a place at a London private school?

Every school is different and has its own unique admissions process. If you're considering an academically selective school, your child will take an entrance exam. Many schools also interview children to find out more about them beyond their academic performance.

Some schools create their own entrance exams. Many use tests created by specific exam providers. Some of the most common entrance exams include:

  • Atom Assessments: an online test with an adaptive section and a non-adaptive section. The adaptive section tests English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. The non-adaptive section involves creative comprehension and puzzles and problem-solving.

  • CAT4: an online non-adaptive test provided by GL Asssessments. It assesses natural reasoning ability with verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and spatial reasoning.

  • CEM Select: an online non-adaptive test from the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring. This tests English comprehension, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

  • The ISEB Common Pre-Test: an online adaptive test. The subjects assessed are English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

Atom Learning

School offers – easy with Atom.

Over 86% of children using Atom get an offer from their top-choice school. Find out why parents and children love using Atom to prepare for entrance exams and get started for free today.

Discover Atom
Example of the Atom Nucleus platform

Private schools in London

Atom Learning Ltd. is registered and incorporated in England and Wales. Company Registration Number: 10867907 VAT number: 316903508 Copyright Atom Learning Ltd. All rights reserved.