Getting your child into a highly selective independent London school, either at 13+ or at sixth form, is a difficult feat. The city has the fastest improving state schools in the UK, but parents still prefer the private sector. Just 35% of parents in London would choose state schools if money were no object (the lowest percentage in the country).
Why is London so particularly competitive? In part it is simple demographics. With a population of 8,546,761 London has grown 16% in a decade, adding a million new people since 2004. There are now 2,117,000 children under the age of 19 in London, and this population is predicted to swell by 13% over the next decade. New school places are simply not being built quickly enough. Entrance to all types of school in London is now highly competitive, with parents scrambling for primary and secondary school places.
London state schools are, statistically, the best in England. The latest Department of Education figures demonstrate that in London, 69% of all state school pupils achieve expected standard of attainment in reading, writing and maths.
Though London state schools perform well academically, they still fall some way behind independent schools. For example, in Kensington and Chelsea, where there is a high distribution of independent schools, the percentage of students achieving top scores at Key Stage 2 for reading, writing and mathematics was over 40% higher than national averages. There can be no denying that London independent schools perform the best academically.
In 2018 a new, more challenging grading system was introduced for most GCSE subjects. Rather than lettered grades, results are now numbered 1 to 9, with a 9 being considerably harder to achieve than an A*. The Department of Education is still collating the results, but if 2017 is anything to go by it will be easy to predict. More state-educated students in London achieve above average scores than anywhere else in the UK, but this still pales in comparison to London's elite independent schools. At Westminster and KCS Wimbledon 97% of students achieved A* or A grades.
The same pattern is even more clear at A-Level. London and the South-East have the highest-achieving state schools in the UK, but 135% more students in independent schools nationwide achieved 3 A grades or higher.
It will come as little surprise that Oxbridge entrance statistics favour those coming from independent schools. Oxford has a 26% acceptance rate for UK independent schools, and a 19% acceptance rate for UK state schools; Cambridge has a 32% acceptance rate for independent schools and a 24% acceptance rate for state schools. Despite Oxbridge's efforts to admit more students from less privileged economic background, independent schools still have the advantage. Their students get better A-level results and are better prepared for entry to the top universities.
The data presents a stark message for ambitious London parents. If you want the best results, you need to consider independent schools. Though London state school results are the strongest in the nation, and universities are trying harder to open their doors to students from different socio-economic backgrounds, state schools cannot compete with the consistency of achievement found in the UK's independent schools.