The Spear's Schools Index in partnership with Carfax Education: Top Twenty UK Senior Schools - Spear's Magazine

The Spear’s Schools Index in partnership with Carfax Education: Top Twenty UK Senior Schools

The Spear’s Schools Index in partnership with Carfax Education: Top Twenty UK Senior Schools

The top 20 senior schools in the UK, compiled by Spear’s magazine in association with Carfax Education 


Co-ed; Boarding ($52,000); 810 pupils; ages 13-18
Focus: Education for life
Curriculum(s): GCSE, A-level, IB
Accessibility: Heathrow; 40 mins/Gatwick; 50 mins

Charterhouse has long been a favourite with parents seeking an all-round school with strong academics. Under Head Dr Alex Peterken, the school will go fully co-ed in 2021. As befits the founder of Association Football this is a ‘football’ school, while its inclusive education philosophy means every pupil takes part in societies such as medicine, animation, computing or debating

Cheltenham Ladies’ College

Girls Boarding ($54,000), 840 pupils; ages 11-18
Focus: Intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm
Curriculums: GCSE, IB
Accessibility: Heathrow; 1 hr 40 mins

The boarding environment at Cheltenham fosters the perfect conditions for growing and learning in a community of peers, just as founding Head and suffragette Mrs Beale envisaged. The culture encourages girls to believe nothing is beyond their reach. Academic results are high and sport is a strength. It’s also strong on design: Katharine Hamnett and Amanda Wakeley are old girls.

Downe House School

Girls, Boarding ($49,250), 592 pupils, 11-18
Focus: Traditional with a sharp focus on the future
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level
Accessibility: Heathrow; 1 hour

Downe House is a top all-girls school with alumnae such as Clare Balding and Miranda Hart. It’s set in a former convent on a stunning estate in Berkshire, and the cloisters still provide a haven of peace. Academic results are high, and with upgraded music and maths facilities coming in 2022, and a chance to spend time in the school’s farmhouse in France, opportunities abound.

Eton College

Boys, boarding ($53,000), 13-18, 1,325 pupils
Focus: Independent thought and learning in the pursuit of excellence
Curriculums: GCSE, A-levels
Accessibility: Heathrow; 15 mins

Eton College was founded by King Henry VI in 1440, and while tradition still shapes some of the guiding principles, a willingness to innovate has seen it thrive for almost six centuries. The all-round education is world-class: academic excellence is coupled with opportunities to develop strengths in art, music, drama and sport. Princes and prime ministers have benefited from an Eton education.

Fettes College

Co-ed/ Boarding, some day $44,000(B), $35,600(D), 764 pupils, 7-18
Focus: Prepared for life
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level, IB
Accessibility: Edinburgh; 20 mins

Fettes draws an international mix of pupils attracted by the choice of A-levels or IB curriculum, strong sport and drama, plus the benefits of being educated in a turreted ‘castle’ on a 90-acre campus on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Fettesians have a track record of making an impact in society, from real-life old boys Tony Blair and Nobel prize winner Sir Angus Deaton to the fictional James Bond

Harrow School

Boys, Boarding ($50,000), 824 pupils, 13-18
Focus: Courage, honour, humility, fellowship
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level, Pre U,
Accessibility: Heathrow; 30 mins

Steeped in tradition, Harrow is one of the best-known British schools. The ethos that ‘success should be measured not by grades but by one’s influence on the world’ is delivered by educating for a love of learning, an ability to lead and the chance to serve, as befits the alma mater of Winston Churchill. There are acres of parkland for sports, drama and music facilities alongside the historic buildings.

The King’s School, Canterbury

Co-ed/Boarding, some day ($46,000), 853 pupils, 13-18
Focus: A 21st-century education at the oldest school in the country
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level
Accessibility: H’row; 1 hr 40 mins, G’wick; 1 hr 15 mins

A combination of ancient and modern permeates the ethos of the King’s School. Set in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral, it has a strong academic tradition but believes education takes place both inside and outside the classroom. The King’s Week, an annual arts festival organised by pupils, is an example of this. Head Peter Roberts feels the school is ‘a massive confidence-building machine’.

Latymer Upper School

Co-ed, Day $26,500, 1,247 pupils, 11-18
Focus Rounded and grounded pupils
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level
Accessibility Heathrow, 20 mins

Representative of cosmopolitan London, Latymer Upper is a unique co-ed day school. The academic side speaks for itself, with pupils moving on to top universities. At sixth-form level it offers its own research programmes to extend studies beyond A-levels. Situated on the banks of the Thames, the school excels in rowing. There is also emphasis on community service and support.

Marlborough College

Co-ed, Boarding ($49,000), ($42,000(D)), 960 pupils, 13-18
Focus: Rigour, respect and responsibility
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level, IB
Accessibility: Heathrow; 1 hour 20 mins

One of the first of the public schools to go co-ed, Marlborough College was also one of the first to appoint a female ‘Master’, Louise Moelwyn-Hughes, in 2018. The principles of respect, responsibility and rigour are strongly embedded in the school, and the well-established boarding community creates a family feel. Alumni include poet John Betjeman and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Millfield School

Co-ed, Boarding, some day ($49,000), ($32,500(D)). 1,289 pupils, 13-18
Focus: Sport and cultural endeavours
Curriculums: GCSE,A-level,BTEC
Accessiblity: Heathrow; 2 hours, Bristol; 45 mins

With an Olympic-size pool, cricket and equestrian centres and extensive sports pitches on its 240-acre campus, it’s no surprise that Millfield has educated dozens of Olympians. There is also an extensive range of academic subjects on offer, as well as an academic enrichment programme that allows pupils to meet and debate with professors, politicians and poets.

Milton Abbey School

Co-ed, Boarding ($51,800), ($27,250(D)), 210 pupils, 13-18
Focus: Developing broad skills
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level, BTEC
Accesibility: Heathrow; 2 hrs/Southampton; 1 hr

Nestling in a Dorset valley, this former monastery and stately home is now a school known for recognising that every child learns differently. Pupils can mix traditional subjects with courses in digital content production, hospitality, equine management and more. The school farm is hugely popular, and entrepreneurs in residence support pupils as they develop their own businesses.

Oundle School

Co-ed, Boarding, some day $45,000(B), $29,000(D), 1,114 pupils, 11-18
Focus: Innovation, opportunities for all
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level
Accessibility: Heathrow; 1 hr 40 mins

Founded in 1556, Oundle is one of the larger schools, but the house system and being part of a town make it feel smaller. Its flexible exeat policy appeals to longdistance parents. Academics are strong, with several prestigious Arkwright scholarships, and a new science and technology centre featuring lasers, wind tunnels, microelectronics and CAD cements its reputation in those areas.

Rugby School

Co-ed, Boarding ($45,000), 808 pupils, 13-18
Focus: Intellectual curiosity and resilience
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level,IB
Accessibility: Birmingham; 45 mins

The founder of the sport of rugby, the school is also known for combining tradition with innovation, along with a down-to-earth approach that reduces any hint of ‘public school arrogance’. Its 3 ‘R’s are ‘Restlessness, Rigour and Reflection’. While there is a strong focus on academic results, the school also fosters resilience and not being afraid to run the risk of failure by trying something new.

St Paul’s School

Boys,Day & boarding ($32,608(D)), ($49,000(B)), 950 pupils, 13-18
Focus: Preparing gifted boys for their future
Curriculums: GCSE, Pre U, A-level
Accessibility: Heathrow; 30 mins

An elite boys’ school in southwest London, St Paul’s takes only the most academically able boys who demonstrate an unrivalled intellectual curiosity. It occupies a huge campus with outstanding sports facilities on site. Half the intake arrive from the linked junior school and all places are highly selective. A huge percentage of pupils from the school are offered places at Oxbridge.

St Paul’s Girls’ School

Girls, Day $32,500-$35,000, 770 pupils, 11-18
Focus: Academic excellence, creative energy
Curriculums: GCSE, Pre U, A-level
Accessibility: Heathrow; 30 mins

Internationally renowned and highly competitive, this is a school for the most academic girls. Half the pupils are offered places at Oxford or Cambridge. It’s creative too: art is proudly displayed on all walls and music is celebrated. Exchange trips can be made between Washington DC and Beijing. Illustrious alumnae include academics and astronomers, actresses and authors.

Sevenoaks School

Co-ed, Day & Boarding ($53,000(B)), ($35,000(D)), 1,092 pupils,13-18
Focus: Open-minded and forward-thinking
Curriculums: GCSE, IB
Accesibility: Gatwick; 30 mins,Heathrow; 1 hour

One of the first schools to adopt the IB for sixth form, Sevenoaks pioneers a very international approach. The 100-acre campus offers excellent sporting facilities, an extensive performing arts space and thousands of trees. The school sets a fast pace and values an ethos of service. Reduced homework allows pupils time to be young and they still achieve stunning academic results.

Wellington College

Co-ed, Boarding ($52,300(B)), ($44,000(D)), 1,060 pupils, 13-18
Focus: Inclusive, cosmopolitan education
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level, IB
Accessibility: Heathrow; 40 mins

Founded as a memorial to the Duke of Wellington in 1853 and set in 400 acres of leafy Berkshire, Wellington was one of the fi rst schools to embrace mindfulness, to establish a Mandarin centre, and to open sister schools in China. Academics are strong and the facilities are stunning, including a new £12 million arts centre. Pupils are encouraged to be all-rounders, in sport or the school’s TV studio.

Westminster School

Co-ed sixth form, Day & boarding, sixth form ($49,500(B)), ($37,400(D)), 757 pupils, 13-18
Focus: Intellectual curiosity
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level
Accessibility: Heathrow; 40 mins

In the shadow of Westminster Abbey, the school still inhabits some of its original medieval buildings. Highly academically selective, the school demands intellectual risk-taking and pupils are encouraged to learn for the sake of learning, not just for passing exams. Results are outstanding, with more than half of pupils securing Oxbridge/ Ivy League places.

Winchester College

Boys, Boarding ($52,500(B)), 693 pupils, 13-18
Focus: Celebrating the individual
Curriculums GCSE, Pre U
Accessibility: Heathrow; 1 hour

Academically rigorous, the Winchester style is to ‘guide rather than govern’. Boys develop a love of learning, exploring of ideas and making connections outside an examined curriculum. Head Dr Tim Hands comments on how relevant the original school motto remains: ‘“Manners Makyth Man” inspires the key qualities of character, conversation, curiosity, foresight and leadership.’

Wycombe Abbey School

Girls, Boarding ($50,800), 635 pupils, 11-18
Focus: Academic excellence, empathy, integrity
Curriculums: GCSE, A-level
Accessibility: Heathrow; 30 mins

A pioneering Cambridge graduate, Miss Dove, founded Wycombe Abbey to offer girls an education equivalent to boys. It maintains its reputation for academic excellence and Head Jo Duncan wants girls to learn how ‘to form meaningful relationships; to display good judgment; to demonstrate courage and integrity; to be emotionally resilient and to have a deep sense of respect’.

Carfax Education is the leading private education consultancy whose motto, ‘academic excellence without borders’ is underlined by a network of offices that stretches across London, Oxford, Monaco, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Moscow, Singapore and Hong Kong.