Moving Closer to Good Schools
Educating children in London can be stressful. Finding the right school, where pupils get good grades, enjoy nice facilities, that is not too far away from home is most parents dream. The UK educational system is split into two types of education: Free education (known as ‘State’ schools, which are government run) or Private schools (sometimes known as ‘Public’ schools) which require you to pay fees each term.
Good State schools (free, government run) are highly prized and so there is large demand to send children to those few schools with better exam results. Due to the high competition, schools feel it’s fair to prioritise the pupils they choose by location (especially true of primary schools and comprehensives, not true of private schools, grammar schools, religious schools and nurseries).
Catchment areas are the proximity the School uses to define who should win priority and be allowed to join the school. If you live 5 miles from your preferred Primary School, your child won’t gain entry as they deem its fair to let children from the local area have the places – cutting down on their travel time plus allowing them to have school friends living in the local area.
Schools definitions of catchment areas (how big they are) can change every year. Usually they get smaller.
Private or Public?
In recent years the cost of privately educating children has risen faster than inflation or incomes have. Demand for Private school places has pushed up their tuition fees. This extra demand comes from the higher priority placed on education – with fewer professional jobs per applicant, aaswell as the influx of foreign residents, making London their primary home, often prepared to pay for private education.
Good State schools have created a trend where parents move close by to them, to get their children a better education while avoiding private school fees. As a result, property prices in the catchment area of a good public school are often inflated by as much as 10-25% (for both buying and renting) above a house one street outside the schools catchment area.
As schools give priority to siblings (if your daughter goes to the school, her brother is almost guaranteed a place) getting ‘one child in’ can often be a golden key to allowing automatic entry for the others. In some years more than 50% of the schools new intake can be siblings, so even those who think they are in the catchment area are disappointed when their child doesn’t get a place.
Always contact schools before starting your property hunt and ask them what the catchment area is. If they remark “0.4 miles from the school” ask where this is measured from! Seriously… a school with a large playground or several buildings may measure the area from one side of the land and this may mean houses to the west 0.4 miles away are included whereas to the east only houses within 0.2 miles of the school boundaries are counted!
Furthermore, if you can, reduce the catchment area by 25% from it’s edges. Try and move within that band – this increases chances of gaining a place for your child if more parents move to the area like you, or if the year your chilld wants to join has a lot of brothers and sisters of current pupils joining (they get priority even if they are no longer in the catchment area). Be aware that some parents will rent property within the catchment area, just long enough to get their child entry – if there are alot of rental properties in the catchment area, competition could prove tougher.
Of course, you need a backup plan. If you move and spend an extra 15% on a house just for the school, you may still have to send your chilld to the next closest school if they don’t get in – is that school satisfactory? If not, weigh up the cost of private education around your new neighbourhood.