Which are THE BEST independent schools near me for 2023 entry?

There are many private schools, independent school and public school differences, so let’s focus here on the best 2023 independent schools.

Here’s our recommended 13+ practice papers for the common entrance.

Plus, other ISEB, CEM practice pre-tests available.


School Entrance Tests’ top independent schools 2023 include the relevant practice tests for 2023 entry.

Top 50 independent schools 2023

11St Paul’s Girls’ SchoolLondon52.187.797.1599.61Girls
26The Godolphin and Latymer SchoolLondon4681.596.76=96.36=Girls
37Brighton CollegeBrighton44.282.597.2494.511Boys Girls
43King’s College School, WimbledonLondon49.984.696.18=96.36=BoysMixed
54Wycombe Abbey SchoolHigh Wycombe32.780.695.21197.63Girls
65Magdalen College SchoolOxford45.583.996.18=94.213BoysMixed
79Guildford High SchoolGuildford42.779.79416=97.34Girls
816St Mary’s School AscotAscot41.179.494.91495.59Girls
910St Paul’s SchoolLondon50.282.193.91896.75Boys
1026King Edward VI High School for GirlsBirmingham3676.995.51093.215Girls

Eton College

1217Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for GirlsElstree3075.19512=92.617=Girls
13Cardiff Sixth Form CollegeCardiff51.890.399.2183.954Boys Girls
148Westminster SchoolLondon46.776.290.744=98.82BoysMixed
1548City of London SchoolLondon46.782.292.82594.610Boys
1612North London Collegiate SchoolEdgware33.87591.53596.36=Girls
1725Concord CollegeShrewsbury41.284.397.3384.651=Boys Girls
1813=Sevenoaks SchoolSevenoaks39.680.493.81991.224=Boys Girls
19=31Hampton SchoolHampton45.278.693.52091.224=Boys
19=13=The Perse SchoolCambridge49.380.29232=94.114Boys Girls
2134Withington Girls’ SchoolManchester31.872.293.321=90.627Girls
2244=UCS HampsteadLondon31.875.892.528=91.822BoysMixed
2311The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ SchoolElstree45.476.393.321=89.135=Boys
242City of London School for GirlsLondon427990.548=94.412Girls

Highgate School

London41.675.892.528=90.329=Boys Girls
2646South Hampstead High School GDSTLondon37.777.491.239=92.617=Girls
2735Latymer Upper SchoolLondon31.970.791.337=92.120Boys Girls
2830James Allen’s Girls’ SchoolLondon28.170.391.337=9221Girls
2944=Oxford High School GDSTOxford42.177.592.726=88.437=Girls
3042Eltham CollegeLondon29.170.193.321=8742BoysMixed
3123Cheltenham Ladies’ CollegeCheltenham33.774.591.239=90.329=Girls
3224Winchester CollegeWinchester42.381.292.726=87.141Boys
3338=St Albans High School for GirlsSt Albans30.868.890.94390.528Girls
3438=Tonbridge SchoolTonbridge28.869.289.95392.519Boys

Lady Eleanor Holles

3619Wimbledon High School GDSTLondon32.372.389.65491.723Girls
3722Royal Grammar School, GuildfordGuildford35.567.890.35090.131Boys
3847King Edward’s School, BirminghamBirmingham35.375.792.92484.848=Boys
3979Whitgift SchoolSouth Croydon26.766.794.21581.763Boys
4032Merchant Taylors’ SchoolNorthwood32.474.690.744=88.437=Boys
4129St Helen and St KatharineAbingdon28.765.890.64786.544Girls
4250Channing SchoolLondon27.770.291.14185.346=Girls
4337The Manchester Grammar SchoolManchester32.97589.15589.135=Boys
4457Abingdon SchoolAbingdon30.669.490.25186.743Boys
4576Ruthin SchoolRuthin36.782.798270.6116Boys Girls
4621Putney High School GDSTLondon27.468.891.83482.460Girls
4749Queen Ethelburga’s CollegeYork31.580.392.528=80.567Boys Girls
4855=Reigate Grammar SchoolReigate6690.548=8453Boys Girls
4927Alleyn’s SchoolLondon3168.688.75987.540Boys Girls
5040Trinity School, CroydonCroydon22.661.187.263=89.733=BoysMixed

Independent school 2021 differences

Public School Differences pupils in class

A private school is a school that is not financed by the State but by school fees paid by parents. Private schools can catertor any age group and there is a considerable range in the size of the fees they charge.  Independent schools are all private schools. These terms are often used interchangeably. However, technically independent schools are all overseen by a board of governors or trustees. Whilst other private schools may be run by their owner with no governing body.  Public schools are, confusingly, also private schools. Mostly the oldest and most expensive of boarding secondary schools.

Public, Private and Independent schools all share the common ground of having the independence to operate outside of government regulations although they do have to conform to official standards of education, health and safety and are regularly inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate as well as or instead of Ofsted.  All these schools that cater for pupils of the relevant year groups prepare pupils for the GCSEs and A-levels or IBs as do state maintained schools.

Public schools

In the UK, ‘Public School’ is the term used for a group of old-established boarding secondary schools. The term ‘public’ actually refers to the fact that in 1868 a small group of boys’ schools were given independence from the Crown, church or government in favour of management by a board of governors. These original seven were;

  • Charterhouse
  • Eton College
  • Winchester College
  • Harrow School
  • Rugby School
  • Shrewsbury School
  • Westminster

There are now several hundred Public schools, including many girls’ and co-educational schools.  Nearly all of these schools have a proportion of day pupils. The majority have with boarding fees upwards of £35k per year and some have highly selective entrance requirements

Preparatory schools and Primary schools

Preparatory (‘Prep’) schools prepare pupils for entry into private senior schools via exams known as Common Entrance taken at age 13.  Unlike state-funded Primary schools, Prep schools are all fee-paying.  Pre-prep schools usually take children from the ages of 3 or 4 and feed into prep schools at 7 or 8.

Some, but by no means all, girls’ Prep schools finish at the end of year 6, as do some co-educational Preps that feed independent day or grammar schools starting in year 7.  Many senior schools require students to take an 11+ style pre-test in years 6 or 7. These subsequently offer places up to two years ahead of entry. These are then secured by the Common Entrance exam and/or a further selection exam.  Pupils at a state primary school move on to their local state secondary school unless they live in a county that has Grammar schools, in which case they will set the 11+ selection tests.  Some pupils may also sit exams for fee-paying secondary schools.

Are all schools open to all pupils?

Selection for early years’ places may involve an assessment to see whether your child is school ready; for example observations with regards to speech, play and social interaction.  At age 7 or 8, your child will be assessed in maths and English. Also, possibly a reasoning test to measure potential.  Many senior schools will invite the child to a taster day to see how they interact with their potential classmates.  Some Prep schools openly select the brightest and best. Whilst others appear to be less discerning with regards to pupils’ ability levels.

When reaching a decision about which senior school to aim your child at it is essential to plan ahead.  Some school application deadlines are up to three years prior to entry.  For the Grammar schools, you can register for the 11+ during the early autumn term of Year 6.

There is no doubt that some schools are more ‘selective’ than others.  For some Prep schools, the only way to be sure of gaining a place is to put your child’s name down at birth! Others are more relaxed with the majority actively marketing for new pupils.