10 Outstanding British Public Schools To Consider

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May 24, 2017 | BY Hong Kong Tatler

Thinking of sending your kids to the UK for a British education? Unlike in America, Britain calls their private schools "public", whereas non-fee paying institutions are referred to as "state schools" or "comprehensives".  Below, we've shortlisted some of the best British public schools with incredible educational standards and high-class facilities for you to consider.

Photo: Courtesy of Benenden School
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Benenden School

Ages: 11-18

Registration: Three to four years before entry

Admissions: School’s own exam, plus interview and previous school’s reports; Common Entrance at age 13

No. of Pupils: 550

Curriculum: GCSE and A-levels. Benenden’s Professional Skills Programme was successfully launched last year, teaching sixth formers essential business and financial skills.

The Benenden Diploma is a two-year bespoke curriculum for the fourth and upper fourth, in which all subjects focus on a particular theme each term. Students produce a dissertation-style piece of research or a practical project at the end of the two years.

Noteworthy: Regarded as one of the top all-girls schools in the country, Benenden was founded in 1923. It attracts local and international students who are looking for an all-round, high-quality education, and boasts a superb extracurricular programme of sports, music, art and drama.

New: A fantastic all-weather pitch and sports pavilion has been opened, allowing girls to train in lacrosse and hockey whatever the weather—and creating a wonderful facility for spectators. Benenden has also recently released its first-ever commercial CD—a specially commissioned interpretation of Stabat Mater, performed by the Chapel Choir.

Term fees:  £11,900

Benenden, Cranbrook, Kent, benenden.kent.sch.uk


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10 Outstanding British Public Schools To Consider
Photo: Courtesy of Charterhouse
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Charterhouse

Ages: 13-18

Registration: Three years before entry

Admissions: Independent Schools Education Board (ISEB) tests or school’s own exam, plus interview and previous school’s reports; Common Entrance at age 13

No. of Pupils: 800

Curriculum: IB, Pre-U, A-levels

Noteworthy: Primarily a boys’ school, Charterhouse also accepts girls in the sixth form. More than 400 years old, a sense of history pervades. It has both outstanding academic results (43 per cent achieved 40+ IB points), and outstanding sports facilities including a golf course, tennis courts, hockey pitches and more. Flexi-boarding is offered to all Carthusians.

New: Preliminary works have now been completed for the first-phase construction of a new science and mathematics centre. The main project will begin early in 2017, with the new chemistry wing opening in September 2018. The first phase will provide seven new chemistry laboratories, five teaching rooms, two preparation rooms and a project research room.

Term fees:  Day: £10,129; boarding: £12,258

Godalming, Waverley, Surrey, charterhouse.org.uk


Photo: Courtesy of Cheltenham Ladies' College
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Cheltenham Ladies’ College

Ages: 11-18

Registration: Four years before entry

Admissions: School’s own exam and interview

No. of Pupils: 850

Curriculum: IB Diploma Programme alongside A-levels

Noteworthy: The top all-girls boarding school for flexibility in choosing a curriculum that best suits each student’s interests and abilities, CLC boasts a 39.8 IB average, making it the UK’s top-ranked IB boarding school. Besides strong academic achievements and more than 160 co-curricular opportunities, at the heart of CLC’s education is its commitment to charitable work, with more than 3,200 hours of volunteering activities each year.

New: In 2015-16, the school opened a new engineering, enterprise and technology department and launched a new whole-school well-being programme. It is now developing a new sport and physical activity strategy, as well as a new health and fitness centre (due to open in early 2018) that will include a second sports hall, a gym and a range of other facilities. 

Term fees: Day: £7,680; boarding: £11,440

Bayshill Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, cheltladiescollege.org


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10 Outstanding British Public Schools To Consider
Photo: Courtesy of Eton College
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Eton College

Ages: 13-18

Registration: By age 10

Admissions: 1,200 boys sit a challenging Eton pre-test for just 250 places, plus interview and previous school’s reports; Common Entrance at age 13

No. of Pupils: 1,300

Curriculum: (I)GCSE, AS/A-levels, and Pre-U examinations 

Noteworthy: Eton College was founded in 1440 by Henry VI. Arguably the most famous modern alumni are Prince William and Prince Harry, not to mention the 19 British prime ministers it has educated.

Eton is one of four remaining single-sex boys’ schools in Britain and emphasises high academic standards, with the success rate for entry into Oxbridge and other UK top universities astonishingly high. Academic achievement is well balanced, with strong pastoral support as well as a wide range of excellent sporting and cultural activities. 

New: Multi-million-pound upgrades have been made in the form of new buildings for specific subjects, state-of-the-art design and technology classrooms, and the new Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research.

Term fees:  £12,354

Eton, Berkshire (near Windsor), etoncollege.com


Photo: Courtesy of Gordonstoun
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Gordonstoun

Ages: 11-18

Registration: No deadline

Admissions: School’s own exam, plus interview and previous school’s reports; Common Entrance at age 13

No. of Pupils: 497

Curriculum: GCSE and A-levels. Starting in autumn 2017 is a new Year 11 GCSE one-year programme, designed for students aged 15 or 16 who are not already in the English academic system; for those who wish to continue in the English system, it provides an excellent foundation for A-levels in the sixth form. Those who need support with spoken and written English will receive additional tailored English lessons over and above their GCSE classes.

Noteworthy: Not for softies, this boarding school is known for its rigorously high standards and tough outdoor education programme. Prince Philip and Prince Charles were both educated here.

New: Lisa Kerr will become Gordonstoun’s first female principal and the first non-teacher to lead a Scottish independent school in summer 2017. Combined Outdoor Service and Sports Service have also been introduced. The former offers sailing, canoeing, kayaking, summer and winter climbing, orienteering, indoor climbing, and year-round hillwalking and mountaineering.

Term fees: Day: £8,063; boarding: £10,787

Elgin, Moray, Scotland, gordonstoun.org.uk


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10 Outstanding British Public Schools To Consider
Photo: Courtesy of Harrow School
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Harrow School

Ages: 13-18

Registration: By age 10

Admissions: Independent Schools Education Board (ISEB) tests or school’s own exam, plus interview and previous school’s reports; Common Entrance at age 13

No. of Pupils: 820

Curriculum: (I)GCSE and A-levels. The Shell year (Year 9) is a foundation year in which every boy studies art, biology, chemistry, computing, design and technology, English, history, geography, Latin or classical civilisation, mathematics, music, physics, and theology and philosophy, as well as a choice of two languages from classical Greek, French, German, ItalianJapanese, Putonghua, Russian or Spanish. 

Noteworthy: This all-boys full-boarding school is one of the world’s most renowned. With notable alumni that includes an eclectic assemblage of politicians, heads of state, poets and actors (some Old Harrovians are Winston Churchill, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jawaharlal Nehru and James Blunt), Harrow has always been a favourite of parents around the world.

A whopping 68 per cent of grades across all subjects were A*-A last year and a record number of Oxbridge offers were given to Harrovians. Academics aside, sporting and extracurricular programmes are top, as is the superb pastoral care.

New: Extensive expansion plans have been approved for the construction of new science and sports buildings and facilities.

Term fees: £12,450

Harrow on the Hill, Harrow, London, harrowschool.org.uk


Photo: Courtesy of The King's School, Canterbury
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The King’s School, Canterbury

Ages: 11-18

Registration: Two years before entry

Admissions: School’s own exam, plus interview and previous school’s reports; Common Entrance at age 13

No. of Pupils: 848

Curriculum: GCSE and A-levels

Noteworthy: Said to be the oldest continuously operating school in the UK, King’s School, Canterbury was founded in 597 CE and aims “to anchor a 21st-century education within the illustrious history of the oldest school in the country.”

Originally a boys-only boarding school, today it is co-educational. The school sits on a World Heritage site within the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral, and is just one hour from London. Each school year culminates in the traditional King’s Week, a fascinating festival of music, drama, art and sporting events that take place in various locations, and which often attracts thousands of visitors.

New: Kingsdown House, a girls’ boarding house, opened in October 2016. A new state-of-the-art science centre, on the site of the existing Mitchinson’s House, is set to open by 2020. The overall renovation project will include improved classrooms and dining facilities.

Term fees: Day: £8,900; boarding: £11,765

The Precincts, Canterbury, Kent, kings-school.co.uk


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10 Outstanding British Public Schools To Consider
Photo: Courtesy of Westminster School
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Westminster School

Ages: 13-18

Registration: Three years before entry

Admissions: Independent Schools Education Board (ISEB) tests or school’s own exam; Common Entrance exam plus interview. There are 550 applicants for 120 places at 13+

No. of Pupils: 740

Curriculum: (I)GCSE, Pre-U, A-levels

Noteworthy: One of the top-ranked co-educational schools in the UK, Westminster has the highest Oxbridge acceptance rates of any secondary school or college in the world. Last year, a phenomenal 86 per cent got A*-A grades at A-levels. This day and boarding school is located within the awe-inspiring precincts of Westminster Abbey and is the only ancient London school to occupy its original site.

The school’s alumni reads like a who’s who list of literary luminaries including Ben Jonson, John Dryden, Christopher Wren, John Locke, AA Milne, Peter Ustinov and Tony Benn, as well as seven British prime ministers to date.

New: Westminster won the 2015 Space Design Competition and represented the UK at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida; it also beat 600 other schools to win the 2016 Cambridge Schools Debating Competition.

Term fees: Day: £8,416; boarding: £12,154

Little Dean’s Yard, Great Smith Street, Westminster, London, westminster.org.uk


Photo: Courtesy of Winchester College
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Winchester College

Ages: 13-18

Registration: Four years before year of entry for 13+

Admissions: Winchester has its own entrance examination, called Election, and does not use Common Entrance, plus a challenging 70-minute interview and previous school’s reports. There are about 500 applications for 120 places at 13+ and about 550 applications for 80 places at 16+

No. of Pupils: 690

Curriculum: In 2008 it abandoned the A-level system to adopt the Cambridge Pre-U. All boys sit IGCSEs in at least two of three sciences, maths, English, GCSE Latin, and usually three or four other subjects.

Noteworthy: Winchester’s origins can be traced back to 1179 and it has existed in its present location for over 600 years thus claiming the longest unbroken history of any school in England. Elizabeth I confirmed royal patronage in 1560 and is celebrated as the school’s foundress. One of the most academically rigorous all-boys boarding schools in the UK, it has a superb track record for entry to Oxbridge. 

New: Four Queen’s Scholarships are now available for girls joining Winchester in the sixth form. This year, the school swept awards for the National Schools Regatta, National Schools Head, Senior Epee in National Schools Fencing Championships, U19 Schools Cricket Cup, the UCL Schools Debating Cup, various UK Olympiads, the European Astro Pi Challenge, the Royal College of Science Union’s Science Challenge and more.

Term fees: £12,226; sixth form entry: £9,200

College Street, Winchester, Hampshire, winchestercollege.org


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10 Outstanding British Public Schools To Consider
Photo: Courtesy of Wycombe Abbey
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Wycombe Abbey 

Ages: 11-18

Registration: Two years before entry

Admissions: School’s own exam, plus interview and previous school’s reports; or Assessment Day and Common Entrance at age 13

No. of Pupils: 580

Curriculum: GCSE and A-levels.

Noteworthy: Ranked as the top all-girls school in the country, Wycombe Abbey sits in an idyllic setting of woods, gardens and a lake. The school boasts incredible academic results: 95 per cent A*-Bs for A-levels in 2016 with over a third of the girls receiving Oxbridge offers. It marked its 120th anniversary last year with a series of exciting programmes and events.

New: Campaign 120 will see two new boarding houses built and all of the school’s boarding houses refurbished. The new houses will have en-suite bathrooms, personalised study areas, and generously sized social hubs. Future projects on the cards include a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Centre, a Business and Enterprise Centre, a China Centre and a Sports Pavilion.

Term fees: Day: £9,188; boarding: £12,250

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, wycombeabbey.com