SLT’s Top 10 Prep Schools in London 2023
There are almost 400 independent prep schools in London. With so many to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. Our team of school experts is pleased to present our list of the best prep schools in London for 2023.
London is known for the number and quality of its prep schools. Families come to the city from all over the world to gain the best independent education for their children.
But the sheer volume of options can be a little overwhelming, and there is a lot for parents to consider – from the school’s location and its values to academics and extra-curriculars, not to mention destination schools. There are only so many schools parents can visit, and even online it can be hard to see past glossy brochures and glitzy websites.
At SLT, our in-house team of education experts know London day schools better than anyone. Whether you’re looking for single-sex or co-educational, academically high-performing or a centre of sporting excellence, there is a brilliant school for every child. All of this means that there could be a different top-10 list for every family. In our experience, however, the schools below are reliably excellent, and the perfect place to start when thinking about where to apply.
We are pleased to present our list of the best prep schools in London for 2023.
Best Prep Schools in London 2023
Boys, ages 8-13
Sussex House is located in a beautiful Norman Shaw mansion in Chelsea. Deceptively large inside, the school has been restored to something approaching its original 19th-century grandeur. This sets the tone for the traditional English atmosphere of the school, where William Morris wallpapers adorn the walls and wooden desks and chairs fill the classrooms. But there is still room for modernity amongst the Victoriana, with a well-equipped science lab and IT and music tech facilities. The school is very much in the image of its Head, Nicholas Kaye, an erudite schoolmaster with a fondness for tradition, who has led Sussex House since 1994. Sussex House boasts an excellent record at 13+, with around 80% of pupils going on to Eton, King’s Wimbledon, St. Paul’s, Westminster and Winchester. The school’s drama and music provision is also very strong, and its fencing team is usually one of the strongest in the country.
Co-educational, ages 3-11
Garden House is, properly speaking, three schools in one: Early Years, Boys, and Girls, each with separate Heads. The Early Years site occupies a building just off Sloane Square, with two bright and spacious rooms and a small outdoor space. The older boys and girls are taught in the same building but separately, though there are opportunities for them to socialise throughout the school week. All members of the school are obliged to follow its ‘Kindness Code’, a set of seven guidelines for promoting successful relationships among students and teachers. Indeed, in its most recent report, the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) praised the pupils for their selflessness and moral sense. The ISI rated Garden House ‘Excellent’ for both academic achievement and personal development. Children move on to a range of competitive senior schools – Francis Holland and St Mary’s Ascot are the most common for girls; for boys, Sussex House, Westminster Under and Ludgrove are the most popular destinations.
Co-educational, ages 3-13
Chepstow House, part of the Alpha Plus Group of 20 London independent schools in London, comprises an on-site nursery, pre-prep and prep school. Located in an attractive Notting Hill townhouse, it is known for its blend of strong academic performance and excellent extra-curriculars that help develop pupils into well-rounded individuals. Its wide offering of clubs range from the traditional, like football and orchestra, to the more inventive, such as robotics, coding and street dance. Children go on to destinations including Francis Holland, Queen’s College, Maida Vale and Notting Hill Senior. One parent said, “Chepstow House provides a perfect balance between strong academics and a balanced and nurturing learning environment where children feel very happy and valued.”
Co-educational, ages 3-13
Pembridge Hall, another Alpha Plus school, is based in two white Georgian buildings on Pembridge Square in Notting Hill. While welcoming students from a wide range of nationalities, the school retains a distinctively British atmosphere. Inside, the two buildings are modern and deceptively large. Girls from Reception to Year 3 are based at number 10, while years 4 to 6 are accommodated at number 18. Each site has its own gym, music room and art studio (although these are on the smaller side), and over 40 clubs are offered per week, including chess, Mathletics, dance and debating. The ISI rated the school as ‘Excellent’ for both academic achievement and personal development. The most popular destinations for leavers are Godolphin and Latymer, Francis Holland and Wycombe Abbey.
Co-educational, ages 4-13
Thomas’s are a family-run group of seven schools across West and South West London. At SLT, we have been recommending the Battersea site as one of the best prep schools in London long before the admission of Prince George and Princess Charlotte lent the school international prominence. Schools outside of the very centre of London often benefit from slightly more space, and Thomas’s Battersea is no exception, with the school spread out over Edwardian and modern buildings and featuring a courtyard garden at its centre. In its own words, the school aims to create “conscientious and caring citizens of the world”. In awarding the school an ‘Outstanding’ grade, Ofsted praised Thomas’s Battersea for its inspirational leadership, high-quality teaching and excellent academic progress. Pupils go on to destinations such as Charterhouse, Wellington, Francis Holland and Latymer Upper, as well as Thomas’s senior site – though it is worth noting that this has been the cause of consternation for some parents, as the planned senior school in Battersea was recently replaced by a site at Putney Vale.
Boys, ages 7-13
Wetherby Prep, part of the Alpha Plus Group, comprises around 400 pupils in a Marylebone townhouse. Its sister pre-prep school is a couple of miles west in Pembridge Square. The prep school has quite a traditional English independent school atmosphere, not least in the way it majors on sport. Physical exercise is seen as a key part of the curriculum, and the school is proud of its successful sports teams, with a ‘Sportsman of the Week’ award even handed out during term-time. Although it is not quite as academically high-performing as schools like Sussex House or Westminster Under, it boasts a solid track record of senior school entrance. Alongside its own Senior School in nearby Marylebone Lane, Wetherby Prep boys commonly go on to competitive public schools like Eton and St Paul’s. In its latest inspection, the ISI rated the school ‘Excellent’ for academic achievement and personal development. However, with a new senior leadership team in post, it will be interesting to see whether the school can maintain its place in our list of the best prep schools in London for 2024.
Girls, ages 4-18
Queen’s Gate is a through-school for girls aged 4-18. Based in two adjacent South Kensington townhouses, Queen’s Gate is an academically high-achieving school with a track record of learning excellence. As a through-school, younger children at Queen’s Gate (unlike at many prep schools) benefit from many of the trappings of a senior school: from higher numbers of specialist teachers to more advanced facilities, such as a gym and three science labs. The school’s teaching is excellent and emphasises the importance of study skills that will equip girls well in their later academic careers, alongside a thorough understanding of the curriculum and passion for learning. Queen’s Gate students are mature and confident, as well as compassionate and considerate of others. Prep school girls commonly stay on for the senior school; those that choose to leave go on to destinations such as Godolphin and Latymer, Latymer Upper, Alleyn’s and City of London Girls’.
Girls, ages 4-11
Another Alpha Plus school to make our list, St Anthony’s Girls is a sister institution to St Anthony’s School for Boys in nearby Hampstead. The school is based in the large, detached Ivy House, a building with a storied history – it is a former home of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova and was once occupied by JMW Turner. Now it houses 14 classrooms, including a science lab, and a dining hall that functions as a gym outside of mealtimes. The performing arts are a strength, and in keeping with the building’s traditions, on-site ballet lessons are offered by the West Hampstead School of Dance. St Anthony’s is a Catholic school which aims to promote the spiritual wellbeing of its pupils. The Head Master, Donal Brennan, is popular with parents and highly regarded. Parents value the school for its welcoming environment and active social community.
Co-educational, ages 4-13
Kensington & Chelsea
Hill House is the oldest London independent school that is still run by its founding family, having been founded in 1949 by athlete and Liberal Party politician Lt-Col Stuart Townend. It is also the largest prep school in London, with nearly 700 boys and girls in attendance over the school’s three locations in Kensington and Chelsea. The school aims to provide a broad-based curriculum where creativity and self-confidence are promoted alongside academics. To this end, all children take part in singing or performing, there is daily physical exercise, and there are dozens of specialist music, sports and art staff. It is not an academic hothouse, but children nonetheless go on to a good range of senior schools including Francis Holland, Alleyn’s, St Paul’s, Thomas’s Senior, and Eton.
Co-educational, ages 4-11
The only non-selective school to make our list of the top prep schools in London, Norland Place was founded in 1876 and is based in a Notting Hill townhouse. The current Head, Patrick Mattar, has been at the school for twenty years and places a great emphasis on music in the school curriculum – each child receives two music lessons a week from the Director of Music and there are a wide range of choirs and orchestras for the keenest musicians to join. In its most recent inspection, the Independent Schools Inspectorate rated it ‘Excellent’ for both academic achievement and personal development. Francis Holland, Notting Hill and Ealing High School, and Godolphin and Latymer are the most popular destinations.
Find the best prep school for your child
- At SLT, our school placement service is comprehensive and personal. We meet with you and your child, find out what makes them tick and what you’re looking for, and use our in-depth knowledge of prep schools in London and the wider UK to match them to the perfect school for them.
- No ‘best-of’ list or school search tool, no matter how comprehensive, can get to know you and your child. If you would like personal advice on which school is right for your child, please contact our expert team of school admissions consultants.
- If you are applying for London prep schools, we work with entrance exam specialist tutors who know schools’ requirements inside-out and can make all the difference to a successful application. Make an enquiry if you would like to book in a session with an entrance exam tutor.
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“I feel very grateful to Amy to have helped me. Amy was funny and happy and it helped learning in an easy way. She did not get angry, she was pleased with my effort even if I got things wrong. Amy taught me how to check my work properly, how to get out of a puddle (trouble?), to use the text in answering my questions. She helped in preparing me for my journey in getting into Colet Court”.
Miss. K, 7+ Preparation for Colet Court