Every parent wants the best for their children, and one of the most important things you can give to your offspring is a proper education.
However, sending them to a private school can be far more than many parents can afford, which means a state school is the only option.
Fortunately, if your child is academically inclined and can pass the entrance exams, they may be admitted to a high-quality grammar school, which in some ways is like sending them to a private school without the need to pay exhorbitant fees.
And if you think that sounds like the right solution for you, here are some of the best picks in the London area.
All-Boys Grammar Schools
Here are our top three picks for all-boys grammar schools in the London area.
Queen Elizabeth’s School
One of the very best all-boys North London grammar schools
Founded in 1573, Queen Elizabeth’s School – or QE Boys for short – has long been regarded as one of the top all-boys grammar schools in the London area, and in the whole of the UK for that matter.
The school is located in the North London Borough of Barnet and is easily accessible by train – the closest station is High Barnet on the Northern Line, which is only a short 20-minute walk away.
The school’s stated aim is to ‘produce young men who are confident, able and responsible’, and as well as excelling in classroom-related ratings, the school also offers a wide range of other activities such as drama, music, sports and more.
However, North London grammar schools are in high demand, and for such a highly-regarded institution, competition for places is fierce. Full details of the admissions process and a downloadable entrance test request form can be found on the school’s website.
- Address: Queen’s Road, Barnet, Hertfordshire, EN5 4DQ
- Website: www.qebarnet.co.uk
Wilson’s School, Wallington
One of the best all-boys grammar schools in South London
Located in the London borough of Sutton, Wilson’s School, Wallington is a centre of learning that has as much of a reputation for its sporting excellence as for its consistently high levels of academic success.
In terms of exam results, the school consistently ranks among the best grammar schools in the country. However, the school also understands that there’s more to life than just academic achievements and so offers a wide range of extracurricular activities to its pupils.
The entry procedure includes a two-step process that involves an eligibility test and then an entrance exam. The yearly intake is 180, so places are highly sought-after.
The school is easily accessible by bus, or you can reach it by train via either the Wallington or Waddon Main Line stations, from where it is about a further 20-minute walk.
- Address: Mollison Drive, Wallington, Surrey, SM6 9JW
- Website: www.wilsons.school
One of the most highly regarded grammar schools in south-west London
Tiffin School, located in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and founded in 1880, is another of London’s top all-boys grammar schools.
Particularly renowned for its prowess in languages and the performing arts, Tiffin has a consistent record of producing outstanding exam results in both GCSEs and A-levels.
It boasts state-of-the-art facilities, making use of the latest technology to assist pupils in their learning.
The school prides itself on helping pupils realise their full academic potential while also endeavouring to produce well-rounded individuals who are ready to progress in the wider world after leaving school.
Admission involves a two-stage process, and the yearly intake is limited to 180. Further details on how to apply can be found on the school’s website.
- Address: Queen Elizabeth Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT2 6RL
- Website: www.tiffinschool.co.uk
All-Girls Grammar Schools
Here are our top three picks for all-girls grammar schools in the London area. However, note that there are also several other good options, and we’ve listed a few more of them below.
The Henrietta Barnett School
One of the top all-girls North London grammar schools
Often regarded as the top state school in the country – and regularly the best-performing one in terms of exam results – the Henrietta Barnett School was founded in 1911 and takes the name of its founder, Dame Henrietta Barnett.
Henrietta Barnet School describes itself as ‘a warm, friendly and vibrant community that prides itself on happy and productive relationships’.
Academic success is a given, but a full range of extra-curricular activities, including sport, drama, music, public speaking and more is also provided to offer pupils a rich non-academic education.
Unsurprisingly, places at this exceptional school are highly sought after, and admission is granted to only the gifted few who pass the two rounds of entrance exams. Full details of the admissions procedure are available on the school’s website.
The school can be reached on the Tube, with the nearest station, Golders Green on the Northern Line, only a 20-minute walk away.
- Address: Central Square Hampstead Garden Suburb, London NW11 7BN
- Website: www.hbschool.org.uk
The Tiffin Girls’ School
An exceptional all-girls grammar school in south-west London
Posting consistently exceptional GCSE and A-level results year-on-year, the Tiffin Girls’ School – sister school of the boys’ school of the same name – is counted among the best state schools in England. As a result, it has been rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
The school’s motto is sapere aude, ‘dare to be wise’, and the school’s core values are Community, Love of Learning and Character – which, taken together, give a clear indication of what daily life at the school is like.
Not only do pupils concentrate on academic success, but they also engage in a range of extra-curricular activities to give them the widest range of experiences possible.
Furthermore, the school takes pride in creating an environment where pupils of different races, faiths, beliefs, cultures and backgrounds learn to understand and respect one another.
Like the boys’ school, Tiffin Girls is situated in Kingston upon Thames and can be reached by rail. The nearest station is Kingston Station, a 15-minute walk from the school.
Full details of Year 7 and Sixth Form admissions are available on the website.
- Address: Richmond Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT2 5PL
- Website: www.tiffingirls.org
Wallington High School for Girls
One of the best-rated all-girls grammar schools in South London
Wallington High School for Girls was founded in 1888 and has established a strong reputation for academic excellence.
This is a school that places great importance on creating an open and welcoming environment that allows pupils from all backgrounds, cultures and faiths to grow and develop – and promoting traditional British values plays a central role in this.
In a learning environment that aims to challenge, inspire and encourage, pupils are instilled with the institution’s core values of curiosity, courage and compassion, helping them achieve excellent exam scores while leaving them well-prepared for adult life after they leave.
The nearest rail station to the school is Wallington on the Southern Rail network, and the school is located a 15-minute walk from the station.
210 places at the school are available each year in Year 7 – and all admission details can be found on the school’s website.
- Address: Woodcote Road, Wallington, Surrey, SM6 0PH
- Website: www.wallingtongirls.sutton.sch.uk
Co-Educational Grammar Schools
Here are our top picks for the best co-educational grammar schools in the London area. However, note that one (St Olave’s) is only co-ed in the sixth form, but below that, it’s an all-boys school. We have also noted a few other good picks below.
The Latymer School
Among the best-performing co-educational North London grammar schools
The Latymer School has existed since 1624, and nowadays it is a renowned co-educational institution that excels in music as well as sports, drama and outdoor activities.
However, academic success also remains a strong focus, and the school consistently delivers impressive performances in exam results league tables.
Through this blend of academic and non-academic activities, the school aims to produce alumni ‘who are confident in their abilities, and considerate in their attitudes’. In this way, pupils are able to develop their personal and social skills as well as their purely academic ones.
The school is located in the borough of Enfield around 15 minutes on foot from Edmonton Green station on the London Overground network and the Greater Anglia railway.
Details of Year 7, Sixth Form and in-year admissions are available on the school’s website.
- Address: The Latymer School, Haselbury Road, Edmonton, London, N9 9TN
- Website: www.latymer.co.uk
Bexley Grammar School
Among the top mixed grammars in East London and offering the International Baccalaureate
Notable for having the only Sixth Form in southeast London that offers the International Baccalaureate, this is a well-regarded grammar school in the London borough of Bexley.
The school’s ethos is summed up by the three words ‘intellect’, ‘empathy’ and ‘courage’, and through focusing on these values, the school helps its pupils develop into well-rounded, respectful and responsible adults – all while achieving excellent academic results.
Aside from academia, the school also places importance on other activities such as sports, music and drama.
School facilities include several sports pitches, a fully-equipped technology and art department, three computer labs, three language labs and a well-stocked library.
Admissions details can be found on the school’s website.
- Address: Danson Lane, Welling, Kent, DA16 2BL
- Website: www.bexleygs.co.uk
St Olave’s Grammar School
A venerable co-educational grammar school in south-east London
St Olave’s Grammar School is an all-boys school with a co-educational sixth form. It is a venerable institution, having been founded in 1571 and has built a reputation for high academic achievement in both GCSE and especially A-levels.
The school is proud of its diversity and welcomes pupils of all faiths and backgrounds, and the stated ethos is that ‘this school is about happiness and success – in that order’.
To this end, alongside its impressive academic record, it also provides pupils with the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of other activities, including sports, music, drama, DofE, clubs and societies.
As is to be expected, there is strong competition for places at St Olave’s, and admission is awarded based on strong academic performance. Full details of the admissions process are available on the school’s website.
- Address: Goddington Lane, Orpington, Kent, BR6 9SH
- Website: www.saintolaves.net
Other Highly-Rated London Grammar Schools to Check Out
Here are a few other recommended grammar schools to consider if you are looking for other options to compare with the ones we’ve listed above.
- Newstead Wood School – an all-girls grammar school in south-east London
- St Michael’s Catholic Grammar School – an all-girls Catholic grammar in North London
- Nonsuch High School for Girls – an all-girls grammar in South London
- Townley Grammar School – a co-ed grammar to the east of London
- Chislehurst and Sidcup School – a mixed grammar school to the east of London
- Beths Grammar School – another good mixed grammar to the east of London
What’s the Difference Between Grammar School and Normal School?
The history of the education system in the United Kingdom is a little complicated, but to simplify things, grammar schools are essentially state-funded schools that are allowed to choose who they let in based on academic performance and entrance exams.
Since pupils are selected on academic merit, only the brightest children are able to obtain places in the most in-demand institutions.
However, these schools tend to outperform other state schools in many metrics – including, crucially, exam results – so the idea is that if your child passes the entrance exams and gets a place in a grammar school, they will be given a head start in life right from the beginning.
And the other big advantage of grammar schools is that, since they are state-funded schools, you don’t need to pay for them, unlike independent private schools, which can often be prohibitively expensive for many families.
This makes them a great option for families with highly intelligent and studious children but who lack the funds to put them through the expensive private school education system.
How Much Do Grammar Schools Cost in London?
Since grammar schools are state-run, there is no cost for attending one.
Can Anyone Apply for A Place in A Grammar School?
Anybody can apply for a place in a grammar school, but admission is dependent on the child passing the entrance exams and selection procedure.
How Can I Apply for A Place at A Grammar School for My Child?
Gaining admission to a grammar school requires your child to pass the entrance exams, which, depending on the school in question, can be highly competitive. Details for how to apply can be found on the website of each school.
What Are Some Important Considerations when Choosing a Grammar School?
Parents usually pay most attention to the academic results of the school they are choosing for their child, and this is obviously one of the primary concerns.
You should look at metrics such as the percentage of students who achieve grades 7-9 in GCSEs, the percentage receiving A*-B grades at A-levels and the yearly position on GCSE and A-level league tables.
Another important academic metric to take note of is the number of successful Oxbridge admission a school has per year.
Gaining a place at Cambridge or Oxford University is incredibly difficult since only those with the highest grades are even considered.
However, potential Oxbridge students must also pass the notorious entrance interviews in which some challenging and sometimes strange questions are asked, requiring interviewees to think on their feet.
This means schools need to produce well-rounded young adults rather than just academic robots who are unable to think outside of the box.
At the same time, academic achievement is not the be-all and end-all, and parents should also pay attention to the school’s facilities, which should include sports pitches, music facilities, computer labs and more. Offering a broad range of extra-curricular activities is also important.
Finally, parents should also take note of the school’s stated ethos and values to make sure they are a good fit with their own – if this is something they feel matters.
Do You Need to Live Near a Grammar School to Apply?
No, grammar schools usually choose pupils based solely on academic merit, and whether or not they live near the school is not considered relevant.
However, remember that if you send your child to a school that’s far from your home, they will have to wake up earlier, and their travel time will eat into their day. This will give them less time for their homework – as well as for relaxation time, which is important too.
Many Excellent Educational Institutions in The London Area
As we have seen, there are several exceptional grammar schools in the London area, and although the admission process can be highly competitive, if your child manages to pass the exams, they will have gained a place in one of the top state schools in the country.