Education, education, education is the driving mantra for parents finding a London home. And families who want the best state education for their children know if they are to stand a chance of getting their children into the best school the second rule in this quest is location, location, location.
© Mamta Kapoor
As last week’s report from the schools adjudicator shows, parents will go to any lengths to get that place at a popular state school. Cheating is the school hunting blood sport. Some have given the address of a relative who lives in a catchment area as their main home, while others have used second homes and business addresses.
In future, parents caught lying face hefty fines and civil court proceedings. Tougher regulations and scrutiny are promised. Already some schools are employing private detectives to prevent fraudulent applications.
All this throws into sharp focus the relationship between good schools and property prices. Moving close to your chosen school remains the best way for parents to secure a place for their child, though it is no guarantee (see below).
TOP OF THE CLASS
New research reveals the premium paid by homebuyers to live near high-performing schools, either private or state, has increased during the recession. At the height of the boom three years ago, parents paid 13 per cent over the odds. Today, parents are paying 16 per cent more on average for the privilege of living in streets close to top schools. "In some cases, homes can be worth two or three times the average for the area," says Lucian Cook, head of residential research at estate agent Savills, which has identified a number of school hotspots.
These are towns and suburbs with at least five leading private and comprehensive schools from the top quarter by academic performance where buyers pay big premiums. Top of the list is Leatherhead, where prices are 59 per cent above the Surrey average. In Winchester, prices are 37 per cent higher, while in Tunbridge Wells, prices are 20 per cent higher. Woking, where prices are four per cent below the Surrey average, is what Cook calls "bargain territory".
Henrietta Barnett School for Girls, a state grammar, has some of the best exam results in the country. Local property values are 94 per cent higher the average elsewhere in the London Borough of Barnet.
In inner London, Streatham and Tooting stand out as good value, where prices are seven per cent less than the respective borough averages.
"We don’t know whether the presence of good schools causes high prices, or whether good schools thrive in prosperous areas," adds Cook.
Buying a home in popular catchment areas also pays dividends for parents longer term. "Areas around the best schools tend to attract more affluent buyers and we expect these areas to lead the way in the upturn."
© Barry Phillips
A TOP EDUCATION FOR FREE
Sue Fieldman, editor of the Good Schools Guide, says: "Demand for selective state school places is intense. Increasingly, parents are searching out selective grammars, which offer the ‘best of both worlds’, a top education that is free.
More and more, London families are moving out of traditional Tube line areas to Kent and Essex (especially Colchester and Chelmsford), which are particularly good for grammars. Cranbrook School, a co-educational grammar in Kent, "looks like a public school and has the academic success, ethos and sporting facilities of a public school," says Savills’ William Peppitt. "The only difference is that entry is free to children who live within 10 kilometres of the school gates."
Boarders aged between 13 and 18 pay £3,100 a term. In the Nappy Valley neighbourhoods of south-west London, talk of "sector switching" now dominates dinner party discussions, says Luke Pender-Cudlip of estate agent Knight Frank. "Without doubt, popular state schools in the borough - such as Belleville and Honeywell, between the commons - command a price premium. However, catchment areas are elastic and admissions are influenced by other things such as religious faith and sibling policies, meaning you are not in until you are in."
One parent school governor in the area adds: "Catchments are shrinking all the time. Schools are looking at street numbers rather than only roads. At this rate, people will be getting out their tape measures at house viewings."
Over in Wimbledon, where schools have a magnetic pull, Clive Moon of Savills says: "I have yet to come across a family who is not moving for the schools."
Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College in unglamorous New Cross Gate, south-east London, has the distinction of being the most over-subscribed state school in the country, with an average 2,500 applications for its 200 annual intake.
It has the best GCSE results for a state school in London (and ranks 10th in the country).
Formerly a grammar, then a comprehensive, it is now an academy specialising in music.
It has two school sites (one for boys, the other for girls) on Telegraph Hill, a Victorian conservation area where large semis and terrace houses - some with amazing views of London - are priced between £500,000 and £800,000.
Local estate agents’ claims that the area is "undervalued" ring true. The area also has two parks and quick rail links of six minutes to London Bridge plus is on the East London Tube line. Developer St James Homes has submitted a planning application for a scheme of 12 town houses at a former reservoir, moments from the school on Jerningham Road. Call 020 8349 6262.
© Carl Everingham
‘WE FEEL WE HAVE EVERYTHING HERE’
With three primary school-age sons, education was uppermost in the minds of Maria and Thomas Arnold when planning a property move from Bromley. The couple chose Chislehurst in Kent because of its high-performing state and private schools and the good commuter links to Canary Wharf, where Thomas works.
They bought a new-build five-bedroom home at Kingswood Chase, a gated scheme of houses and apartments in the grounds of a former country mansion.
Taylor, aged 10, starts at secondary school next September. Logan, seven, and Bailey, five, attend the same local primary.
Maria says Taylor will take entrance exams soon. "We’ve not finalised our choices yet but we’ve done our research and know the options. Eltham College is high on the list. It’s reassuring to know that there are half a dozen or so high-performing schools that are convenient to get to."
"We feel we have everything here. It’s a lovely, spacious house. We used to live on a main road but this is a far safer environment for the boys. They can ride or scooter around the grounds, play in the garden or the woods, which our house backs onto."
Prices at Kingswood Chase start from £635,000. For more information, call 020 8467 5695.