New schools and homes will ease battle over catchment areas

At least 90,000 more school places are needed by 2016. Central and local government are promising new homes with on-site schools to create communities for inner-city families.


From £327,000: homes with up to five bedrooms at Kings Hill, an 800-acre estate designed in the style of an old Wealden village in West Malling, Kent, with schools, golf course, cricket pitch, country park, convenience stores, a Waitrose supermarket, pub, vet and restaurants. Call 01732 848316.

Finding a home you can afford near the best state school for your children is a dispiriting task for most families. As many London parents are only too aware, property in the most coveted catchment areas is typically 34 per cent, or £173,000, more expensive than homes elsewhere in the same boroughs, according to research by estate agent Savills.

State education can be cheaper than private by as much as £20,000 per year per child, but paying the catchment-area property premium still doesn’t guarantee your son or daughter a place in a state school. Competition for places is intensifying because of a baby boom, while a record shortage of places has left many schools oversubscribed, says the Local Government Association. In London alone, at least 90,000 more places are needed by 2016.
As a result, school catchment areas are shrinking, often measured in yards rather than miles. With the educational goal posts continually changing, house builders and estate agents are less inclined to boast about homes being in catchment areas.


From £908,000: flats at the 375 Kensington High Street scheme, which includes a new school. Call 020 7118 0375

Councils are clamping down on cheating parents who pretend to be churchgoers to get their children into faith schools, and others who give a false address, or even rent a flat they don’t intend to occupy in a catchment area, just to qualify. Central and local government are also bringing school building to the top of the agenda. Their focus is on less-wealthy inner-city districts where politicians are keen to attract more middle-class families, part of a strategy to create so-called “balanced communities” that take pride in their neighbourhood.
This goes hand in glove with the decision to create new housing developments with many more family homes and new on-site schools in the mix. These include 850-home Chobham Manor, at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, where four-bedroom townhouses cost from £765,000. Call Taylor Wimpey on 020 3435 9269. Purpose-built Chobham Academy opened last September and specialises in the performing arts.
The Plimsoll Building, the latest phase of King’s Cross Central, incorporates a new academy and nursery with a walled playground and a podium garden on the lower floors of the development, while above are new apartments. Prices from £995,000. Call Knight Frank on 020 3691 3969. New schools are also springing up alongside new homes in prime central boroughs, including at 375 Kensington High Street, a mega development of luxury homes priced from £908,000 to £7,722,500. Call St Edward on 020 7118 0375.
Cricklewood, Croydon, Tottenham Hale, Barking and Enfield are among 10 new “housing zones” designated by the Mayor where schools will be built. All are relatively low-value areas of London. Boris Johnson is freeing up public land for 11 schools with up to 7,300 places.
New schools include Harris Primary in East Dulwich; The Olive School, Hackney; Mossbourne, at the Olympic Park, and Canary Wharf College, Isle of Dogs.


New neighbourhood: Wood Wharf, with 3,100 Docklands homes, will include a new primary school to bring in families

East London is where most housing growth will take place in future decades, and is also where good schools are currently in shortest supply. Wood Wharf, with 3,100 homes, is one of several new neighbourhoods being built in Docklands and will include a new primary school and community  facilities, with the aim of encouraging finance-sector workers to put down roots in the area rather than commuting from more family-friendly districts in north, south and west London.
The Government hopes the expansion of free schools in urban areas will hasten gentrification and the establishment of balanced communities.
There are still areas where state secondary schools perform outstandingly well, but where house prices are not yet inflated. While it costs a premium of 245 per cent to live in the catchment area of Southgate School in Cockfosters, homes close to high-performing Haberdashers’ Aske’s — among the country’s most oversubscribed state secondaries — and Prendergast Hilly Fields, both in Lewisham in Zone 2, are less than 19 per cent above the borough average.
Streatham’s Graveney School is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, yet homes around it are about 40 per below the Wandsworth borough average, partly because City money has not yet arrived in the area.
Hammersmith is among cheaper west-central locations with top schools, including Latymer — the independent secondary where old girls include Nigella Lawson and actress Kate Beckinsale — and Cardinal Vaughan, a Catholic school with an “outstanding” rating. Also check out Brackenbury Village, which since the Nineties has moved from up-and-coming to fashionable, boasting small family houses which are just about affordable, plus a well-regarded local primary school, smart restaurants, gastropubs and a park.
In King Street, which is Hammersmith’s high street, a former car park is being transformed into Sovereign Court, with 418 new homes plus offices, shops and restaurants, 160 yards from the Tube station. Prices from £964,950. Call St George on 020 8741 2400.
Brewery Gate in Twickenham includes 28 townhouses and is in the catchment area of a number of highly rated schools. Prices from £1.25 million. Call St James on 020 3002 9457.
Halstow Primary School in Greenwich has an “outstanding” Ofsted rating. New homes nearby include 38 four-bedroom townhouses at Greenwich Square. Prices from £799,950. Call 0800 077 8177.


From £1,295,000: family-size loft-style apartments carved from a former office block at 55 Victoria Street, Westminster. Call 020 7318 4677

The Grey Coat Hospital in Westminster is one of the top state schools for girls in London, popular with parent politicians including former education secretary Michael Gove, who sends his daughter there. Family-size flats are for sale moments away at 55 Victoria Street, in an office block remodelled into 54 loft-style homes. Prices from £1,295,000. Call 020 7318 4677.
Tiffin School, Kingston, is another of the capital’s best-rated grammars. Homes at nearby Kingston Riverside are priced from £740,000. Call Redrow on 020 3581 2003.

More families are leaving London to buy better-value family homes near good schools. The home counties are hotspots for parents willing to commute for the chance to send their children to grammar schools offering a top education that is free, reports the Good Schools Guide.

Particularly good for grammar schools are Buckinghamshire, with Beaconsfield High and Dr Challoner’s in Amersham; Kent, with Sevenoaks and Tonbridge schools, and Essex, with Colchester Royal Grammar and King Edward VI in Chelmsford.
Cranbrook School, a co-educational grammar in Kent, looks like a public school and has the same brand of academic success, ethos and sporting facilities. The only difference is that entry is free to children who live within 5.2 miles of the school gates.
Tunbridge Wells has three grammar schools, and Knights Wood, on the edge of the town, is a rare new-build housing development of scale there, with 550 homes in 200 acres of woodland. Prices from £365,000 for a three-bedroom detached house with garage. Call 018925 12006.

Kings Hill, a former Royal Air Force base at West Malling in Kent, is an 800-acre estate designed in the style of an old Wealden village, with schools, golf course, cricket pitch, country park, convenience stores, a Waitrose supermarket, pub, vet and restaurants.

New homes at The Manor are due to be completed this month and two bedroom homes are available from £327,000. Call Environ Communities on 01732 848316.

Signature, the latest launch at the site, has houses with up to five bedrooms. Call Bellway on 0845 548 3041.

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