London commuter towns with good schools: High Wycombe, Chelmsford, Reading and Haywards Heath

London parents looking to give their children the best start in life will find these commuter towns have homes that offer more space for their money and a choice of very good schools.
The mad scramble for places at London’s most coveted state schools begins this summer, which means ambitious parents must either give their little darlings a head start with private tutoring now, or move out of the capital to be near a sought-after home counties primary or a top-performing grammar.
Those in the latter category may want to start looking in High Wycombe. The Buckinghamshire town tops a league table of school-hunting hotspots, thanks to a combination of outstanding school results and an easy commute to London.

*Source: Garrington Property Finders


High Wycombe
Just a 28-minute train ride from London (an annual season ticket costs £3,344), High Wycombe has excellent state schools, with 86 per cent rated either “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted, the government schools watchdog.
It also has a range of quality private schools, including the all-girls Wycombe Abbey School, which produces some of the best A-level results in England.
The study by Garrington Property Finders also reports that the average price of a detached family home is a relatively modest £432,000 — if you pick the right area.
Chelmsford is a worthy runner-up, having a slightly longer commute into London (36 minutes). The average price of a detached home is cheaper than in High Wycombe — £417,945 — but an annual season ticket is more expensive at £3,728.
“Every year, tens of thousands of families move out of London to become commuters,” says Jonathan Hopper, managing director of Garrington Property Finders.
“They want more space for their money than they could get in London, a pain-free commute and a choice of very good schools.
“With house prices in High Wycombe and Chelmsford still relatively affordable, they triumphed over more established — and thus more expensive — commuter hotspots such as Sevenoaks and Guildford.”
£1,595,000: a five-bedroom house at The Common, Penn, about four miles east of High Wycombe

High Wycombe itself isn’t pretty, but Nick Keegan, branch manager of Hurst estate agents, says: “It is a town made up of a lot of different areas. There is the lovely village of Downley, which is sandwiched between Downley Common and the National Trust-owned Hughenden Park, former home of the Victorian prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.”
The village, about two miles north-west of the town centre, has an old-fashioned feel, with fêtes held regularly, and there’s a spectacular Bonfire Night torch parade. It has its own parade of shops, a couple of pubs and a fantastic junior school, Downley Combined.
Properties range from two-bedroom workers’ cottages priced at £275,000 to £285,000, to six-bedroom detached houses, mostly built in the Twenties, priced from £650,000 to £1 million.
If you want to be closer to the station and shops, then Keegan recommends Keep Hill, a 10-minute walk into town. It is on the doorstep of Wycombe Rye open space, surrounded by ancient woodland.
Families move there to be in the catchment area of High Wycombe’s grammar schools — the Royal and John Hampden (both boys) and Wycombe High (girls).
Property in the area ranges from three-bedroom Thirties semi-detached houses priced at about £360,000 to £370,000, to four- and five-bedroom detached houses dating from the Fifties, priced from about £450,000 to £600,000.
£1.15 million: a handsome five-bedroom house in Four Ashes Road, Cryers Hill, High Wycombe

Brian McGovern, sales manager at McCartney Property Services in Chelmsford, says that about 30 to 40 per cent of his buyers are Londoners.
“Education is one reason, and there is also a lot of investment and expansion in the city centre — John Lewis is opening a new store in the next year or two.”
A favourite with Londoners is Old Moulsham, a mile-and-a-half south of the city centre, and handy for the area’s largest open space, Hylands Park.

“It has excellent local schools,” adds McGovern. “The main ones are Oaklands Primary and Moulsham infants, juniors and high school.”
A four-bedroom semi-detached house would cost between £400,000 and £500,000. 

Three-quarters of Reading’s schools receive “good” or “excellent” Ofsted reports, propelling the Berkshire town into fourth place, after Epsom, in the survey, with a detached home costing on average £467,931.
  • Search for houses and flats to buy in Reading

Haywards Heath
Haywards Heath in West Sussex took fifth place with 79 per cent of its schools winning praise from Ofsted. On the downside it’s a 45-minute commute and properties are relatively expensive — it will set you back on average £523,608 for a detached home.

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