How useful are independent school league tables?

Written by: Gemma B


Many will insist that league tables are incredibly useful when it comes to assessing independent schools. Obviously, we want to ensure we “get what we pay for,” if we’re going to make huge financial sacrifices and provide our children with a private education.

Skip straight to top 10 attainment reports for GCSE 2022 or A-Level 2022.

On the other hand, critics would argue that the league tables aren’t completely fair and focus parents’ attention onto one element of the school, rather than assessing the bigger picture.

In this blog, we gain an insight into the pros and cons of league tables and establish how useful they are when it comes to helping us invest in a private education for our children.

What are school league tables?

Most of us know what school league tables are, but for those who don’t, here’s a bit of background info:

In 1992, the government introduced school league tables with a desire to improve public services. The tables are compiled mostly of exam result data and each school is ranked numerically based on their performance, one being the best and so on….

How do league tables help us?

According to the research of Simon Burgess Economics, parents continuously rank academic standards as the most important factor when choosing a school.

It’s easy to understand why. The majority of parents want their child to receive the best education possible, and many will argue that the exam results of an independent school are a true reflection of the quality of the education that a child receives while attending.

League tables are easy to access and concisely show us the pass rate percentage of each school, enabling parents to assess their performance efficiently. By combining the independent school’s performance with other considerations such as fees, location, values and other factors; parents are equipped to narrow down their “top” schools before making further enquiries.

There’s also an argument that league tables ensure that the teaching profession strives to achieve the highest possible percentage and thus, our children receive a better education. With parents investing £14,200 per year on average for each child, there’s a pressure on the schools to ensure that their students achieve excellent results. is a free to use, online calculator, which enables parents to compare the fees from over 850 independent secondary schools in the UK. As well as the fee data, parents can also see how the school performed in the latest Attainment 8 (GCSE) and A-Level results.

Top 10 Schools by GCSE 2022

School % 7 or Above
St Paul's Girls's School 99.4
St Paul's School 98.9
City of London School for Girls 98.7
Latymer Upper School 98
North London Collegiate School 98
Westminster School 98
Guildford High School 97.2
King’s College School, Wimbledon 97.1
Tonbridge School 97
City of London School 96.8

Top 10 Schools by A-Level 2022

School % A or Above
St Paul's School 95.4
St Paul's Girls's School 95.1
Cardiff Sixth Form School 94.7
St Helen and St Katharine 94.5
Wimbledon High School GDST 94
Latymer Upper School 94
The Haberdasher's Aske's Boy's School 97.2
St. Helen's School 93.9
King's College School, Wimbledon 93.8
Guildford High School 92.9

What are we missing?

Critics of league tables would argue that they’re one dimensional and don’t take into account other important factors that parents may want to consider. Other influences such as fees, values and extra-curricular activities, aren’t included in the majority of independent school league tables and subsequently; parents are landed with the responsibility to research these considerations, rather than relying purely on exam results to make their choice.

There are some independent sites who incorporate all of this information, however, in many cases, parents have to pay to access some of this data or request information.

We all know that exam results can ‘open doors’ for our children, however, ensuring that you choose an independent school that suits your child’s needs and personality is incredibly important. Take time to do your research and get to know a school before making any final decisions.

How do I know if I can afford a “top” school?

As we have already mentioned, the financial aspect is one of the biggest considerations we have to take into account, when looking into a private education for our children.

It is always recommended to seek professional financial advice when considering such a large investment. A financial advisor will be able to help establish if a private education is achievable and, if so, help you to formulate a plan tailored to your financial situation.

There are dedicated financial advisors who specialise in school fees. One example is SIFA, who build relationships with schools and gain an understanding of their fees and values. This enables them to help their clients place their children into their ideal independent school.

Whilst it is probably best to speak to a financial advisor, there is a cost involved with this service.

According to this article on a government backed money advice website, an hourly rate can range from £75 to £350; though the average fee in the UK is £150 per hour. With most parents already concerned about the financial sacrifice; many will want to assess their options prior to seeking professional advice, in order to keep costs down.

The site includes a savings calculator, in which you can input any deposit amount and gauge how much you’d need to save from your child’s birthday, in order to afford to send them to a particular independent school.

It’s a great place to start…