INSIDE Which school is the 'best' for your child ... - Financial Times

INSIDE Which school is the 'best' for your child ... - Financial Times


FINANCIAL TIMESSPECIALREPORT | SaturdayMarch 21 2009­1000­schools­2009

Overarching ambition

INSIDE Which school is the ‘best’ for your child?

PLUS on the web: full tables and additional content,­1000­schools­2009


Top 1,000 Schools

Exam results remain

centre of attention

Despite fluctuations

the rankings have

stayed fairly stable,

say Simon Briscoe

and David Turner

Westminster was

again the top

school for

A-level results

in 2008, according to the FT’s

rankings. It still maintains a

good few lengths ahead of

the other schools in the racing

paddock by virtue of the

number of exams that its

pupils sit. But it is difficult

to find a flaw in its performance,

since it also has the

highest proportion of grade

As – 92 per cent – of any


The unusual feature of the

top end of this year’s table is

the three strong risers coming

into the top five. Perse

School for Girls, Cambridge,

Magdalen College School,

Oxford, and Queen Elizabeth’s

School, north London,

are all in the top five for the

first time, having been

ranked in the teens the previous


This is an unusual amount

of movement – in the previous

year, only one school

made it to the top 10 that

was not previously in the top


Patricia Kelleher, headmistress

of Perse Girls, credited

the school’s performance last

year to a “brilliant” group of

pupils. She said 12 – exactly

half – had won places at

Oxbridge. Westminster was

unable to comment on its top


There is of course, a question

over how significant are

the moves at the head of our

table, as fluctuations of a

school’s results in any one

year are quite normal and

often do not reflect any

changes in the school. There

is very little difference in the

results of the top schools and

a few places here or there

mean little.

However, appearing near

the top, whether fifth, eighth,

or 18th, is undoubtedly a

mark of extremely high performance.

The schools in

that position are almost by

definition highly selective

academically, so they will

have had the pick of the

most promising material. But

they have, at the very least,

enabled bright pupils to fulfil

their promise.

This is also the first year,

since we altered our tables

for the 2006 results, that a

comprehensive has entered

the top 100. Watford Grammar

School for Boys, a com-

One leading head

dismissed league

tables as ‘at best

half­truths and at

worst as downright


prehensive despite its name,

has come first in the race,

although it selects a minority

of pupils by ability. It also

benefits from self-selection –

many parents who place a

high value on education

make strenuous efforts to get

their children in.

Our tables are different

from those produced by other

newspapers, in that we show

a number of measures of


We show the grade of each

exam and the number of

exams on average sat by

each pupil, counting only the

“core” subjects as selected

Cambridge University. It has

a well-known list of subjects

deemed to offer “less effective

preparation” for its

degrees, such as dance and

media studies.

We add quality and quantity

together to arrive at our

own rankings. But we also

show figures for the percentage

of grade As, the rank

counting all exams, the

number of AB grades per

candidate, the percentage of

candidates scoring AAB (a

level normally required for

entry to a top university) and

the rank based on the government’s


A full explanation of what

our tables show is at:

The three large risers into

the top 10 all did so by virtue

of having a significant pro-

In This Issue

Which school is ‘best’?

THE RIGHT CHOICE It is not just a

simple dichotomy of state versus

private, says Ross Tieman Page 4

The ever­present need for cash

FUNDRAISING Schools are beginning

to adopt a more professional

approach to drumming up money,

writes David Turner Page 5

FT Online

FT Top 1,000 tables are online

FULL LISTINGS Interactive tables and additional editorial

are available at­1000­schools­2009


David Turner

Education Correspondent

Simon Briscoe

Statistics Editor

Ross Tieman

Miranda Green

Charles Batchelor

FT Contributors

Patrick Stiles

Commissioning Editor


portion of pupils – from one

in three to two in three in

the case of Perse – sit an

extra A-Level compared with

the previous year, while

maintaining the quality of


A number of independent

schools decided not to publish

their exam results last

autumn, once they had been

Steven Bird


Andy Mears

Picture Editor

Department for Children,

Schools and Families data

processed and supplied by

Ralph Lucas of the Good

Schools Guide (www.

released to the schools, for

inclusion in the league tables

produced at that time –

including our table of independent

school performance.

Our tables – published

today in full online – include

them, as the figures are

derived from data released

by the government. They

include some of the highest

A broad and rounded approach


profiles a qualification designed to

address worries that traditional

A­levels are too narrow Page 6

Competition is growing fiercer


the effect of rising applications and

a cap on places Page 7

Front page: Westminster

School, London, top of

the league table again

Picture: Daniel Lynch

Tables compiled by

Judith Pizer of Jeff Head

Associates (Amersham) and

Simon Briscoe

For advertising, contact:

Yvette France on:

tel: +44 (0)20 7873 3289;



sthatareseekingarigorousenvironmentfortheirchildrenandthebestpossiblechanceofentrytoatopuniversity Bloomberg

performers of all, including

Eton College, the world’s

most famous school and

more importantly – at least

for the purposes of this piece

– 10th in our league table.

The arguments used for

not publishing in the autumn

were many and varied. Virtually

all are intellectually


They include the difficulty

of comparing different types

of qualification (for example

the Pre-Us and IB), and that

no allowance is being made

for intake and the “valueadded”

to the pupils in the


Other arguments include

that tables focus attention on

relative performance (a

school can be getting better

results but slipping in the

table), on fluctuations introduced

by small cohorts, and

on the choice of hard or

softer subjects.

Some schools point out

that A-Level results fail to

allow for other school activities,

such as music, community

action, drama and sport.

It is also important to note

that a set of results does not

mean that all a school’s

cohort at entry aged 11

makes it through to achieve

those results; there is movement

in and out of most

schools at 16 that can

improve or weaken the exam

performance at 18.

Some of the schools said

they did not want to release

their results in time for the

autumn league tables, as

they came before re-marks.

Finally, some heads

accused newspapers of constantly

tinkering with how

they rank schools, so per-

formance in one year cannot

be compared with another.

The FT has been guilty of

this, but not since the 2006

results when we revamped

the tables to reward the most

rigorously academic schools.

We circumvented those

problems that we can (see

the notes on


More fundamentally, we

stand by the publication of

the tables, as exam results

remain a key component for

parents that are seeking a

rigorous environment for

their children and the best

possible chance of entry to a

top university. Being in a

culture of success is important

for those who want to

succeed academically.

Commenting on league

tables, the headmaster of one

leading school suggested that

damage is done by “the

promulgation of what might

be regarded at best as halftruths

and at worst as downright


He said such tables have

fuelled the current obsession

with “mere results” as

opposed to genuine education;

that this obsession has

“inhibited creative, inspirational

teaching”; and that

they have “encouraged the

‘dumbing down’ of qualifications,

as schools and pupils

hunt for examinations which

are likely to deliver improved


The same headmaster,

however, said our tables

were the “least worst” of

those printed in the media.

We think we have done

better than that, but remain

happy to be praised by faint


Top 1,000 Schools

The FT top 60 schools based on A level results

FT Rank 08 - v3

FT Rank 07



School type

Points/core A

level entry 08

Pupils taking A

level only

% girls (A level


Core A level entries/candidate

1 1 Westminster School Westminster Ind 267 189 29 3.9

2 14 Perse School for Girls Cambridge Ind 265 24 100 3.8

3 9 Wycombe Abbey Sch High W’be Ind 266 86 100 3.5

4 18 Magdalen College Sch Oxford Ind 264 68 0 3.6

5 19 Queen Elizabeth’s Sch Barnet Gram 264 139 0 3.4

6 4 St Paul’s Girls’ School Hammers’th Ind 266 101 100 3.3

7 2 Winchester College Winchester Ind 261 139 0 3.5

8 7 North London Coll S (IB) Edgware Ind 267 89 100 3.2

9 5 Colchester Royal GSch Colchester Gram 259 149 26 3.5

10 3 Eton College Windsor Ind 262 259 0 3.4

11 11 Badminton School Westbury Ind 260 51 100 3.5

12 7 Radley College Abingdon Ind 256 125 0 3.6

13 29 Concord College Shrewsbury Ind 260 111 51 3.4

14 6 St Paul’s School Barnes Ind 263 155 0 3.3

15 11 Manchester Gram Sch Manchester Ind 259 202 0 3.4

16 28 University College Sch Hampstead Ind 260 104 0 3.3

17 33 City of London Sch Girls Barbican Ind 266 70 100 3.0

18 49 Lady Eleanor Holles Sch Hampton Ind 262 95 100 3.2

19 66 Reading School Reading Gram 258 140 0 3.3

20 21 Guildford High School Guildford Ind 265 93 100 3.0

21 45 St Olave’s & St Saviour’s Orpington Gram 259 168 29 3.2

22 10 James Allen’s Girls’ Sch Dulwich Ind 258 98 100 3.3

23 46 King Edward VI HS, Girls Birmingham Ind 264 82 100 3.0

24 25 Royal Grammar School Guildford Ind 261 129 0 3.1

25 199 Casterton School Carnforth Ind 258 30 100 3.2

25 13 Withington Girls’ School Fallowfi eld Ind 264 81 100 3.0

27 22 Hab’ashers’ Aske’s Girls Elstree Ind 263 118 100 3.0

27 40 Kendrick School Reading Gram 257 102 100 3.2

29 16 City of London School London, City Ind 259 137 0 3.2

30 23 Hab’ashers’ Aske’s Boys Elstree Ind 260 156 0 3.1

31 93 Hampton School Hampton Ind 259 169 0 3.1

32 37 Whitgift School (IB) S’th Croydon Ind 255 101 0 3.3

33 15 Lycée Charles de Gaulle Kensington Ind 243 41 80 3.8

34 31 Oxford High School GDST Oxford Ind 260 74 100 3.1

35 43 St Mary’s School Ascot South Ascot Ind 262 55 100 3.0

36 52 Tiffi n Girls’ School Kingston Gram 259 146 100 3.1

37 65 South Hampstead H Sch Camden Ind 260 61 100 3.0

38 27 Abingdon School Abingdon Ind 252 135 0 3.3

39 17 Cheltenham Ladies’ Col Cheltenham Ind 261 165 100 3.0

39 32 St Swithun’s School Winchester Ind 259 70 100 3.0

41 62 Perse School Cambridge Ind 260 120 41 3.0

42 36 Henrietta Barnett School Hampst’d GS Gram 256 119 100 3.1

43 43 St Catherine’s School Bramley Ind 260 81 100 3.0

44 34 Oundle School Oundle Ind 254 215 40 3.2

45 20 King Edward VI Gram S Chelmsford Gram 252 141 21 3.2

46 55 Latymer School Edmonton Gram 256 229 53 3.1

47 105 Notting Hill & Ealing HSch West Ealing Ind 260 77 100 2.9

48 62 King’s School Canterbury Canterbury Ind 254 165 48 3.1

49 78 St Mary’s School Calne Ind 261 39 100 2.9

50 68 Wimbledon High School Wimbledon Ind 259 75 100 2.9

51 49 Roedean School Brighton Ind 247 82 100 3.4

52 37 Godolphin & Latymer (IB) Hammers’th Ind 259 83 100 2.9

53 75 Highgate School Highgate Ind 254 134 21 3.1

54 126 Brighton College Brighton Ind 259 126 37 2.9

54 23 Merchant Taylors’ Sch Northwood Ind 258 146 0 2.9

56 79 Pate’s Grammar School Cheltenham Gram 257 175 54 3.0

57 71 Headington School Oxford Ind 256 115 100 3.0

58 106 King Edward’s School Birmingham Ind 260 113 0 2.8

58 60 Nottingham High School Nottingham Ind 252 112 0 3.1

60 120 Benenden School Benenden Ind 257 81 100 2.9

Many additional columns of data are available on

(IB) School also offers International Baccalaureate


Top 1,000 Schools

Which school is ‘best’?


If money were no

object should it be

private or state?

asks Ross Tieman

Choosing a school for

one’s child must be

one of life’s toughest

decisions. The consequences

can last a lifetime –

for one’s offspring – and have

enormous effects upon their

wealth and happiness.

The data on which to base

a decision are incomplete –

even academic league tables

such as our own are only a

partial measure of a school’s

“success” in preparing pupils

for adult life – and money, or

the lack of it, may limit the

range of options.

But if money were no

object, would it be better to

send your child to an independent,

or a state school?

On the face of it, evidence

in favour of independent

schools looks strong. Independent

schools educate only

7 per cent of children in the

UK, yet they dominate our

rankings. Parents who have

the financial resources also

vote with their pockets.

According to studies by

MTM Consulting, a specialist

adviser to independent

schools, almost a quarter of

families who can afford the

fees send one or more children

to independent schools.

They are therefore spending

a lot of cash to buy a

private-sector service in preference

to one that, in theory,

is available free from the

state. These parents clearly

believe they are buying some

added value.

Research by the Sutton

Trust found that pupils from

independent schools are

remarkably over-represented

in some professions. For

example, three-quarters of

judges and 42 per cent of

office-holding MPs attended

independent schools.

Professor Francis Green, of

the University of Kent, in

collaboration with colleagues

at the London School of Economics,

where he is a visiting

professor, sought to discover

whether independent

schools really conferred lifelong

economic benefits to

more than a select group of


Their conclusion was unequivocal.

In a forthcoming

paper, to be published in the

magazine of the Royal Statis-

tical Society, they reveal that

“employees who have been

at private school earn around

a third more than those graduating

from state schools”.

The “premium” was bigger

for the post-1960 cohort, suggesting

the “success gap”

had widened. But, adjusting

for family background, the

post-1960 premium was

reduced to 20 per cent. When

they adjusted for qualifications

too, males achieved a

6.6 per cent earnings premium,

and females a premium

of 5.5 per cent.

So, crudely put, pupils of

independent schools earn

more because they tend to

get better qualifications, but

also because the schools give

them something else which

adds about 6 per cent to their

earning power.

As the authors remark, the

Noteverythingthatmattersismeasurable dreamstime

nature of this “extra” value

awarded by employers is

unclear. The authors wondered

whether it might be

higher self-esteem, or contacts

and friendships.

The shortcoming of such

analysis, as the authors point

out, is that it relies on historic

data, at a time when

independent schools, their

state rivals, and the labour

market, are changing fast.

What was true in the past

might not be true for those

leaving independent schools


Professor Alan Smithers,

director of the Centre for

Education and Employment

Research at the University of

Buckingham, says: “If you

look at independent grammar

schools, about half the

variation in performance is

about educational talent”

and correlates with family

background and the professions

of parents. “Another 15

per cent is linked to the qualities

of the staff and head


But are the academic passrates

of school leavers, or

even lifetime earnings, really

good measures of a school’s

success? Anthony Seldon,

Master of Wellington College,

is an outspoken advocate of a

more ‘holistic’ education.

“Only a very small minority

of parents want their children

to be successful at all

costs,” he says. “Many more

want their children to be

happy and come out as

rounded, decent kids who

will go to a good university.”

This view appears to dominate

parental choices. Only

15 per cent of children at

independent schools, are

boarders. Research by MTM

Consulting suggests that

many parents would sooner

have their children living at

home and place a high value

on being able to take them

on interesting holidays and

family activities.

Dick Davison at MTM says:

“Good examination results

aren’t everything. Parents

value ‘holistic’ education,

and many of the most valuable

things that go on in

school aren’t measurable.”

So, what does all this add

up to, when it comes to

choosing a school for your

child, money no object? In

sum, most parents consider

academic success desirable,

but secondary to assuring

their child’s happiness and

personal development, and

continued residence within

the family.

The advice from educationalists

about how best to

choose a school within those

parameters is remarkably

consistent: learn as much as

you can about the schools

which are viable options, and

trust your instincts and

those of your child.

“Of course, it is important

to give parents data, but

most parents and most children

will make the decision

based on intuition,” says

Wellington’s Dr Holden.

While the independent sector

has more of the best-qualified

teachers, the best facilities,

and is often strong on

Most parents think

academic success

desirable, but put

their child’s

happiness and


development first

extra-curricular activities,

there are great teachers in

both sectors”.

In both state and independent

sectors, Dr Holden says,

“The best schools will be

developing all the talents

that children have, in music,

sport and so on, and also getting

the best grades in the

right subjects for your child.

The best schools teach your

children how to lead a happy

and balanced life.”

Parents, says Professor

Smithers, need to “think

about what would be good

for the child”, and evaluate

schools in that light.

Trust your own reactions

to the head, to the staff, and

to all that you see and hear,

says Dr Holden. “Emotion is

five times more important

than reasoning. It is a question

of whether the child and

the parents feel at home.”


All roads lead to a need for money


Schools are taking a

more professional

approach, writes

David Turner

The head of English may be

appalled, but Britain’s private

schools are beginning to

use the sort of curious neologisms

characteristic of professional


St Peter’s School in York

plans to follow up last year’s

Telethon with this summer’s

Thankathon. Sixth-formers

will express the 1,402-year-old

school’s gratitude to recent

donors – addressing givers’

regular plaint of “you only

ever talk to me if you want

some money”, says Erica

Town, head of marketing.

The Royal School, Hasle-

mere, is indulging in “friendraising”,

Kit Bithrey-George,

marketing and development

director says, establishing

contact with old girls who

might become donors.

What accounts for this outbreak

of words not found in

school pupil’s dictionaries?

Professional fundraisers such

as Ms Town and Ms Bithrey-

George, have moved into the

private school sector.

The days when a retired

housemaster would take

charge of fundraising have

not yet disappeared, but are

on their way out.

Schools are motivated by

two competing priorities: the

increasing demand by families

– and particularly the

pupils themselves – for stateof-the-art

facilities and a

drive by private schools to

build up funds for bursaries.

The second is given added

urgency, at the very least, by

new Charity Commission

guidance that independent

schools have to serve the

poor as well as those who

can afford the full fees.

But the move towards professionalism

raises a

dilemma for each school. Can

it afford a full-time professional


Ms Town thinks that for St

Peter’s, a school of 550

pupils, the answer is yes.

The cost of a full-timer – who

works with Ms Town – is justified

by the money the

school can raise from its

large pool of male and female

alumni to pay for bursaries.

But Ms Bithrey-George

thinks a school of the Royal’s

size – up to 370 girls – can for

the moment justify only an

all-rounder marketer and

fundraiser such as her.

She acknowledges the fre-

quently made observation at

girls’ schools that, although

newer generations may have

high-earning careers, “the

older old girls may not have

vast sums of money”.

The consolation is that

they have memorabilia,

which are destined for the

school’s “archive room”. She

notes gratefully that “one

very old old girl has donated

her lacrosse stick”.

Martin Stephen, high master

of St Paul’s School, the

leading London boys’ institution,

has also chosen not to

employ a full-time fundraiser

– but for a different reason.

Mr Stephen notes succinctly:

“People who give you

big bucks want to meet the

top banana.” By contrast,

“our experience is that people

will not give money to a

professional fundraiser”.

Although in practice most

Top 1,000 Schools

schools raising funds will use

the head when it comes to

big donations, Mr Stephen’s

role in an ambitious £45m

fundraising effort to rebuild

the school seems unusually

punishing. This Easter is he

is off to meet alumni in New

York, Washington and San

Francisco, and in the summer

he travels to Singapore,

Hong Kong and Australia.

But has fundraising by

schools become frenetic at

exactly the wrong time – just

as the credit crunch hits

donors’ pockets?

The Royal School launched

its £250,000 appeal for new

facilities a couple of days

after Lehman went into

administration – hardly the

best timing. However, it has

reached the £50,000 mark

already – suggesting that

even in these times, schools

can make headway.


St Paul’s, whose alumni

have some of the deepest

pockets, has raised £25m

from private approaches to

large donors in the past 18

months. But it began on the

remaining £20m only in

November, when it publicly

launched the appeal.

It is too early to say how

the rest of the St Paul’s campaign

will fare. Mr Stephen

acknowledges that “people

who used to give to four or

five charities are now able to

give to only one or two, at

least for the next year or so”.


Top 1,000 Schools

Built on a




The qualification

addresses worries

that A­levels are

too narrow, writes

Ross Tieman

There is no doubt the

AQA Baccalaureate

is a conceptually

clever response to

criticisms that A-levels are

too narrow.

The Assessment and Qualifications

Alliance, a not-forprofit

examination board

that is England’s biggest, has

designed a complementary

qualification that retains

A-levels at its core.

But in addition, students

are required to take an ASlevel,

show competence in

both maths and English,

demonstrate their capacity

for independent learning and

their achievements in personal


It is a qualification, says

AQA director-general Mike

Cresswell, that recognises

the rounded education provided

in many sixth-form

programmes, without sacrificing

the multiple advantages

of a respected gold


“Because it builds on Alevels

and of lot of good practice,

there is not a high bar-

rier to entry,” he says. “It is

about mustering evidence,

supervising projects, and

making sure there is an AS

subject.” These characteristics

have helped ensure a

remarkable take-off for the

latest contender in England’s

growing armada of schoolleaver


In 2008, 40 pilot examining

centres tested 800 students

following AQA programmes

in addition to their A Levels.

In June 2009, AQA expects to

have 140 centres examining

3,500 students. That compares

with 150 centres for the

International Baccalaureate

(IB Bac), which has been

around since 1968.

As Mr Cresswell says, the

response to the AQA Bac

from schools and colleges

has been “about as enthusiastic

as it gets”, leaving the

government’s planned Diplomas

in the shade. And, he

says: “Many more are thinking

of offering it in 2010.”

One advantage, he argues,

is that the AQA Bac builds

on A-levels without turning

the clock back. A-levels,

which allow students to

study three subjects in

depth, were introduced decades

ago because the School

Certificate, their precedecessor,

was seen as too general.

The IB Bac, which requires

students to study three core

subjects and three subsidiary

In2008,800studentstookAQAprogrammes;thisyear,3,500studentsareexpected Alamy

subjects, originated as an

attempt by an international

school in Switzerland to

come up with a qualification

that would be acceptable to

higher education institutions

from Finland to Spain, so

that internationally-mobile

school students could gain

entry to further education in

their country of origin.

That the IB Bac is now

offered as an alternative to

The student­chosen

project and the

recognition of


activities, are two

great strengths

A-levels by many schools in

both the state and independent

sector in the UK is an

indication that the programme’s

developers did a

pretty good job.

But many education industry

experts remain unconvinced

of its merits. Mr

Cresswell argues that the

personalised approach to

learning allowed under the

AQA Bac is in tune with the

government’s mantra that

“Every Child Matters”.

Allowing students to

choose the topics in which

they excel, or which most

fascinate them, as the A-level

programme does, helps

ensure sixth formers are well

motivated and therefore

learn more, he says.

To undertake the AQA

Bac, candidates must hold

five GCSEs at grades A to C,

including English and Maths

– so as to kill off criticism

that A-levels allow schools to

turn out illiterate scientists

and innumerate artists.

Students taking the AQA

Bac must also complete a

more general AS, in general

studies, critical thinking or


Candidates must complete

100 hours of “enrichment

activity” of two kinds, such

as work-related learning,

sport, music or community

participation. And they must

complete a project on a topic

of personal interest.

For Cath Brown, AQA Bac

co-ordinator at King Edward

VI High School for Girls, an

independent school in Edgbaston,

Birmingham, that is

the greatest strength of the


After reviewing its certification

programmes and

rejecting the IB Bac and

Cambridge Pre-U, King

Edward applied to become a

pilot centre for the AQA Bac.

Half the sixth form signed

up, and the first cohort of 31

were awarded the qualification

in June 2008.

Ms Brown says the student-chosen

project and the

recognition of extra-curricular

activities, are the two

greatest strengths of the

AQA Bac.

One sixth former studied

Spanish politics and history

The FT top 30 International Baccalaureate schools

IB points rank 08

IB points rank 07

IB points rank 06


after being fascinated by

Picasso’s “Guernica” painting.

Another, who went on to

study medicine, did a project

on Mahatma Gandhi.

Jenny Setchell, of Richard

Huish College in Taunton,

Devon, a sixth-form college

that has decided to offer the

AQA Bac, observed during

the 2008 pilot programme

that participation in the

AQA Bac not only gave recognition

to the less academic,

but appeared to

enhance success in A-levels.

“Among the 43 participants

in AQA Bac last year, 18 had

distinctions with three A

grades at A level,” she says.


Pts Per Candidate


Top scoring cands, 38

pts+, %

1 1 1 North London Collegiate S Edgware 1260 18 83

2 4 Godolphin and Latymer Sch Hammersmith 1216 17 71

3 3 2 King’s College School Wimbledon 1214 125 70

4 2 3 Sevenoaks School Sevenoaks 1185 205 64

5 6 4 St Helen’s School Northwood 1143 28 43

6 5 5 Whitgift School S’th Croydon 1120 20 60

7 22 15 Maidstone Grammar School Maidstone 1111 21 33

8 34 8 Tonbridge Grammar School Tonbridge 1109 30 37

9 7 11 Malvern College Malvern 1105 77 40

10 11 13 Haileybury & Imp Serv Col Hertford 1094 59 37

11 44 St Dunstan’s College Catford 1089 14 36

12 33 27 Marymount Internat’l Sch Kingston 1081 40 38

13 15 17 Ardingly College Haywards Hth 1073 41 29

14 17 11 ACS Egham Internat’l Sch Egham 1051 25 20

15 14 21 Hockerill Anglo-Euro Coll Bishop’s S’ford 1041 94 32

16 25 28 Southbank Internat’l Sch Kensington 1038 46 26

17 12 6 Bedford School Bedford 1034 32 25

18 23 23 Truro and Penwith College Truro 1028 41 24

19 19 Tasis Thorpe 1027 17 12

20 10 7 Oakham School Oakham 1021 71 37

21 Harrogate Grammar Sch Harrogate 1020 18 28

22 31 32 Brockenhurst College Brockenhurst 1015 17 24

23 9 King Edward’s School Wormley 1014 24 21

24 18 18 Worth School Turners Hill 1008 28 25

25 28 26 Henley College Henley on Th 992 57 18

26 26 9 ACS Hillingdon Internat’l Sch Hillingdon 991 29 24

27 43 Taunton’s College Southampton 989 21 24

28 35 20 St Clare’s, Oxford Oxford 986 102 21

28 39 24 Anglo European School Ingatestone 986 36 19

30 24 14 Dartford Grammar School Dartford 983 134 27

The full list of schools offering the IB can be found at

Institutions offering the IB but presenting fewer than 10 candidates:

Bexhill College, Bexhill on Sea; Bexley College, Belvedere; Bosworth Independent Col,

Northampton; Braintree College, Braintree; Cambridge Centre for 6th Form Studies,

Cambridge; Colchester Institute (inc BCT), Colchester; Cowley Language College,

St Helens; Davies Laing Dick Col, Marylebone; Doncaster College, Doncaster;

Hertford Regional College, Ware; Kings International Coll for B&A, Camberley; Leigh

Tech Academy, Dartford; Liverpool Community Coll, Liverpool; Mander Portman

Woodward, Cambridge; Matthew Boulton Coll F&HE, Birmingham; Ridings High

School, Winterbourne; Sparsholt Coll Hampshire, Winchester; Stanborough Secondary,

Watford; Varndean College, Brighton.



Reports of hard­pressed parents

pawning their Rolexes and Aston

Martins have brought an immediacy to

the long­running debate over the level

of independent school fees, writes

Charles Batchelor.

Recent surveys have shown an

inexorable rise in the burden of a

private education. Fees rose 39 per

cent in the five years to 2006,

compared with an 18 per cent rise in

average earnings, according to

Mtmconsulting, an education

consultancy, while boarding school fees

rose 80 per cent in the decade to

2007, a Halifax Financial Services

survey showed.

Some critics accuse the private

schools of “gold­plating” the service

they provide with swanky premises,

lavish swimming pools and

generously­equipped music rooms to

distinguish them from the state sector.

David Lyscom, chief executive of the

Independent Schools Council, denies

that his 1,280 members are spending

on “shiny new toys”, but he

acknowledges the challenge from the

state sector.

“The costs of running a school have

risen,” he says. “Look at the amount of

money the government is pumping into

state schools for IT facilities and

rebuilding programmes. The cost of

state education per pupil has risen

considerably over the years.

He adds: “Compared with the retail

price index, you could argue

independent school fees have risen

rapidly. But if you use the rate of

inflation in education – for independent

schools, state schools and universities

they have not.”

The main factor in any school’s

budget – private or state – is teachers’

salaries. They amount to 70 per cent

or more of costs. So keeping teachers

happy, recruiting high­quality staff and

employing enough to provide a broad

curriculum, form a significant challenge

for the independent school head.

Pensions are also a significant cost.

When the government decided on a

significant boost to pension

contributions a few years ago, the

independent sector had to follow suit.

The computer and internet revolution

has also imposed stiff costs on

schools. Buckingham College, a small

independent school in Harrow, made

one of its largest investments in its IT

system in 2003. “After five years you

have to start again,” says John Corcut,

acting head.

A few of the larger, long­established

independent schools have endowments

that generate an income on top of

fees. “But 98 per cent have no

endowments to speak of,” says Dick

Davison, a senior consultant at


In present financial market

conditions, these endowments will have

seen their income fall.

What of the future? “This is a critical

year,” Mr Davison says. “Governing

bodies will be doing their budgets now.

In the 1990s recession, there was a

sharp drop in the rate of school fees

inflation, from 10 per cent a year to

4­5 per cent, though it has since crept

up again to 5­6 per cent.”

There is usually a delay between an

economic downturn and a fall in pupil

numbers because parents make other

sacrifices before axing school fees.

But, with the Charity Commission

insisting on a tougher and potentially

costlier definition of “public benefit”,

there is no room for complacency.

Top 1,000 Schools

Competition is becoming even fiercer


Rising applications are

coinciding with a cap

on places, explains

Miranda Green

Competition for places at the UK’s

leading universities, always fierce,

has been more intense this year.

Applications to undergraduate

courses are up nearly 8 per cent,

the biggest rise in eight years, and

there is a two-year government cap

on places across higher education.

Against this background, schools

attempting to give pupils and parents

the best advice on how to

make a successful application to a

top institution say it is more important

than ever to show you are the

best candidate for admission.

This means not just presenting a

string of excellent exam results, but

demonstrating a passionate curiosity

about your chosen subject and

the ability to think and work independently.

“Universities clearly try to accept

the best students for the courses,”

says Simon Armitage, director of

the Stephen Perse Sixth Form College

in Cambridge, a small and

recently established co-educational

private college hived off from Perse

Girls, which has consistently sent

about 30 per cent of students each

year to either Oxford or Cambridge.

A former teacher at Colchester

Royal Grammar School, the only

state school among the 30 with the

highest Oxbridge admissions in last

year’s Sutton Trust investigation,

Mr Armitage has experience of how

both state and independent sectors

prepare pupils for university.

He warns: “Just because you

have an independent education, it

doesn’t mean you have a ticket to

the top universities.” But efforts to

prepare Perse pupils are a good

example of how well the top private

Takingapunt:theremaybetimetorelaxifthegruellingadmissionsprocesshasledtosuccess Rob Judges

schools understand what it takes to

become the sort of candidate that

catches the eye of the admissions

tutors at Oxford, Cambridge and

the other best universities.

Mr Armitage says: “Oxford and

Cambridge are not necessarily the

be-all and end-all, but the challenge

and stretch exert a strong pull, and

as your percentage of offers go up,

your aspirational students will look

that way.”

The most effective of these virtuous

circles is still to be found at

Westminster School. Here, half of

each sixth form year group receives

Oxbridge offers, helped by a style of

small-group teaching and an environment

that prepares candidates,

not only to achieve strings of A

grades but also to demonstrate in

tests and interviews that they will

benefit from the demands of the

most selective undergraduate


The combination of tough selection

into the most academic schools

and the expert way they prepare

pupils for the rigours and culture of

the top universities has resulted in

a disproportionate intake from the

independent sector.

Cambridge has had some success

in correcting the imbalance, at

the last count taking 59 per cent

of its new undergraduates from

the state sector. Oxford, meanwhile,

is stuck at 47 per cent, and

political pressure on the entire

Russell Group of research-intensive

universities shows no sign of


Meanwhile, the debate about

admissions, even at the highest

Applicants aspire to

show the qualities dons

are looking for, even if

their school or college

is not offering specially

tailored preparation

level, is still plagued by paranoia

and conspiracy theories, with both

sides of the secondary school divide

suspecting, or even claiming, bias

against their candidates.

Last autumn’s bad-tempered spat

between Chris Patten, chancellor of

Oxford, and John Denham, cabinet

minister for universities, was only

the latest example.

According to Elfi Pallis, author of

Oxbridge Entrance, the Real Rules,

the playing field is far from level,

but both universities are genuinely

motivated – “obsessed” she suggests

– with finding the most able

candidates. This year’s 9.9 per cent

rise in applications to Oxford and

Cambridge has made that search

even more difficult.

So the best thing applicants can

do is ignore the class politics, and

find out how to demonstrate the

qualities that dons are looking

for, even if their school or college

is not offering specially tailored


For example, Ms Pallis has

noticed that extra-curricular activities

without an academic element

or a link to academic pursuits have

become less important over the

past year or so.

Although a real ability in sport or

music might give one candidate

the edge, she advises that other

interests have to be presented

as part of a thirst for yet more

knowledge about the chosen subject.

One of the applicants for

whom she acted as a mentor was

able to argue that his time in the

Sea Scouts has given him extra

Top state schools by type

Rank School

Top 6th form colleges

155 Hills Road Coll, Cambridge

311 St Dominic’s, Harrow

416 Winstanley College, Billinge

418 Greenhead College, Huddersfi eld

431 King Edward VI Col, Stourbridge

448 Woodhouse College, Finchley

545 Peter Symonds College, Winchester

584 Richard Huish College, Taunton

628 Shrewsbury

630 Holy Cross College, Bury

Top comprehensives

89 Watford Gram S Boys

104 Cardinal Vaughan, Holland Park

120 Watford Grammar Girls

162 Dame Alice Owen’s, Potters Bar

191 Lady Margaret, Parson’s Green

197 Hasmonean High, Hendon

248 Parmiter’s School, Garston

250 London Oratory School, Fulham

307 JFS, Kenton

325 Durham Johnston

Top grammars

5 Queen Elizabeth’s, Barnet

9 Colchester Royal Grammar

19 Reading School

21 St Olave’s & St Saviour’s, Orpington

27 Kendrick School, Reading

36 Tiffi n Girls’ School, Kingston

42 Henrietta Barnett, Hampst’d GS

45 King Edward VI, Chelmsford

46 Latymer School, Edmonton

56 Pate’s Grammar, Cheltenham

insights into marine engineering.

Choosing the right individual college,

on the other hand, seems to

matter more than ever, with some

altering their interview procedures

and techniques to be more stateschool

friendly and others sticking

doggedly to the fabled terrors of

random aggressive questions and

long silences designed to test a candidate’s


But however well you prepare,

Mr Armitage cautions, there will be

questions at interview that you are

not expecting: “Adopt a ‘have a go’

mentality,” he advises.

“If you are not prepared to push

the boundaries of your learning,

this does not bode well and the

interview process will uncover your


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