Moving in on Britain’s top state schools

WITH the standards of living rising and employment ever more insecure, committing your child to private education has become a risky business. Parents who have children edging towards that crucial eleventh year will no doubt be trying to unpick the admissions policies to the best state schools. They are also likely to have entertained the idea of moving house for this very reason. Particularly considering the fact that many schools – such as Latymer School featured below – require you to live within a certain distance. While this is not always the case, some parents will want to live close to their child’s school to put their mind at ease and make it easier for them to participate in school activities.

The Sunday Times’ Good School Guide has just been released and fortunately for Londoners, eight of the top 10 state schools are either in or within commuting distance of London.

Competition for places at these schools is tough. All of the top five we cover below require the prospective student to take an entrance exam. If you believe your child has what it takes, you might need to move closer to the school. We have investigated the areas around five of the best schools in Britain below.

HENRIETTA BARNETT SCHOOL, HAMPSTEAD (GIRLS)

School: Henrietta Barnett School, Hampstead, has been ranked the best school in the country by the Sunday Times Schools Guide this year. It scored 97.9 per cent A*-Bs for A-level and 92.7 per cent A*/A grades for GCSE.

Selection: The school is a selective girls grammar school. Entry is based on academic ability. Applicants are invited to sit entrance exams in November. The highest scoring 500 applicants will then be invited back to sit another set of examinations in January.

Transport: Tubes include Golders Green, East Finchley and Highgate. They are all on the Northern line and the nearest overland trains are Hendon, Cricklewood, Finchley Road and West Hampstead stations.

Area: Nobody needs to be convinced to move to leafy Hampstead. The area is very close to central London yet feels more like the Home Counties. The Henrietta Barnett School is based in the super exclusive Hampstead Garden Suburb. Built between 1905-07 the area was initially designed to be a quiet, tree-lined area and was built in the Arts and Crafts style. Nowadays, the area is the preserve of the uber-wealthy. Homes on this mile stretch cost between £800,000-£11m. Prices become more reasonable as you move across to Golders Green -- dropping to £450,000-£650,000 for an average semi-detached home.

QUEEN ELIZABETH SCHOOL, BARNET (BOYS)

School: Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet, was ranked as the second best school in the country by the Sunday Times Schools Guide this year. It scored 95.7 per cent A*-Bs for A-level and 89.2 per cent A*/A grades for GCSE.

Selection: The school is a selective boys school. Entrance is determined on competitive examination. Applications for students wishing to join at age 11 or 12 (year 7) are required in October. The first entrance exam is sat in December.

Transport: High Barnet tube is on the Northern line and Oakwood overland station is nearby.

Average price: £410,827 for a three-bedroom house.

Area: Barnet offers a slice of country living to those who can’t pull themselves too far from away from the centre of London. On the edge of Hertfordshire’s green belt, Barnet offers woods and common grounds for kids to play in. Justin Godfrey of Savills Barnet says that “Hampstead types” have moved into the area bringing their fancy restaurants with them. But they are not the only ones moving in. Barnet’s proximity to the Arsenal and Tottenham football grounds has brought a whole host of footballing celebs to the area.

THE LATYMER SCHOOL, EDMONTON (BOYS AND GIRLS)

School: The Latymer School, Edmonton, was ranked the third best school in the country by the Sunday Times Schools Guide this year. It scored 92.4 per cent A*-Bs for A-level and 91.1 per cent A*/A grades for GCSE.

Selection: The school is a co-educational. Entrance is determined by competitive examination although there are 20 places reserved for those with exceptional musical talent. Candidates must live within one hour of the school by public transport. But if pupils are interested in joining in the sixth form (ages 16 or 17) they will need six A grade GCSEs (or equivalent) and will also be required to undergo an interview.

Transport: Edmonton Green and Silver Street overland stations are nearby.

Average price: £246,496 for a three-bedroom house

Area: Edmonton in the London Borough of Enfield is just north of the North Circular road and close to the Lee Valley. This area’s proximity to the Olympic Park means it is well-positioned for regeneration in the next few years.

READING: READING SCHOOL (BOYS) AND KENDRICK SCHOOL (GIRLS)

School: Reading School was ranked fifth best school in the country by the Sunday Times Schools Guide this year. It scored 94.5 per cent A*-Bs for A-level and 84.4 per cent A*/A grades for GCSE.

Selection: The school is a selective boys grammar school with foundation status. This means that the school offers optional weekly boarding but the education remains entirely free. There are 112 places available in total each year including 12 boarders. Entrance is by competitive examination in English, maths and verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Students are required to hold a full British passport or have right of residence in the UK.

School: Kendrick School was ranked seventh best in the country by the Sunday Times Schools Guide this year. It scored 89.2 per cent A*-Bs for A-level and 91.4 per cent A*/A grades for GCSE.

Selection: The school is a selective girls grammar school. Entrance is by competitive examination and consists of verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests. There are 96 places available. Applications are required in October and the examinations are sat in November.

Transport: Reading to central London takes 40 minutes by car and 30 minutes by train from Reading Station to London Paddington.

Average price: £252,733 for a three-bedroom house.

Area: Reading is famed for its music festival. But the great schools, lower cost of housing, the proximity to the Berkshire countryside, good rail connections and the M4 corridor are the area’s real attractions.