This is the first in our five-part series looking at where to live near the most ‘outstanding’ schools. In the next installments we look at the best places to live near top secondary schools and nurseries.
As competition for school places grows even more fierce, parents are having to be savvier than ever about where they choose to live. To hedge their bets, more home hunters are searching for properties that are within the catchment area of as many top-performing schools as possible.
Research by Savills has shown that across England buyers wanting to live close to a primary school deemed ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted have to pay £37,000 (or 16 per cent) more than if they were to settle for one ranked ‘good’.
Yet giving your child the best start in life doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Over the next five weeks we'll be hunting down the best places to live in England near the most ‘outstanding’ schools, including secondary schools, nurseries and private schools.
In this first installment of the series we've crunched the numbers to find the sweet spots with thriving economies, high levels of household income, strong house price growth, affordable properties, and access to the most ‘outstanding’-rated primary schools.
The 44 places that top the list are spread across seven of the nine English regions; there were no locations fitting our research criteria in the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber. Here is our pick of the best.
Best of all: north-west of Windsor and Maidenhead
Average house price: £595,000
Average monthly rent for a three-bedroom home (according to Savills): £1,934
The South East and East of England share the top spot for the highest number of locations that combine ‘outstanding’ schools, high house price growth and a strong local economy, with 11 in each.
In the South East, most are scattered around Windsor and Maidenhead. Towns such as Cookham and Waltham benefit from having five ‘outstanding’ primary schools close by, including Burchetts Green and Knowl Hill.
Over the past five years house prices in the area have risen by 43 per cent. Some of the most popular properties in Cookham are along High Road and Lower Road, which benefit from being close to both the train station and a number of different schools.
What differentiates Windsor from other commuter towns is its sense of community and history, says Jo Chadwick of Strutt & Parker. “The castle is a big part of that, drawing tourists, keeping the economy growing and ensuring there are plenty of things to do day in day out.” Although prices in the area are steep, she adds that this also suggests that a house here could make a steady long term investment.
East of England
Best of all: St Albans
Average house price: £451,373
Average monthly rent for a three-bedroom home: £1,935
Buyers seeking out top schools in the East of England should look to Hertfordshire, where towns and cities such as Bishop's Stortford and St Albans are within the catchment areas of at least four ‘outstanding’ primaries.
Salaries in both locations are generally high − almost double the national average of £34,200. St Albans, where properties have jumped in value by almost 40 per cent over the past five years, has seen the stronger house price growth of the two.
Rozanne Edwards, from Strutt & Parker, tips the county as a burgeoning commuter hotspot. “The north commuter belt is set to benefit from the Metropolitan Line extension to Watford Junction, and proposed new rail link under Crossrail 2 connecting Broxbourne, Cheshunt and Waltham Cross to London,” she says. Hertfordshire’s council is already discussing plans to create garden villages and to improve cycle routes.
St Albans has something for all budgets, from the six figure sums you'd pay for a six-bedroom Arts and Crafts home in the quiet streets off Sandpit Lane, to new-build flats near the train station bought using Help to Buy for less than £300,000.
Best of all: Ruislip Manor
Average house price: £512,500
Average monthly rent for a three-bedroom home: £1,807
Because of affordability pressures stretching buyers’ budgets, across London there was just one place that fit all criteria: Ruislip Manor in the borough of Hillingdon.
Sitting on the fringes of north-west London, it benefits from having a Tube station on both the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines, while also being within close reach of a nature reserve, lido, and numerous golf courses.
There are three Ofsted-rated ‘outstanding’ primaries in the area: Field End, Lady Bankes, and St Swithun Wells. Two-bedroom apartments along Field End Road, a short walk from Field End junior school and Eastcote station, go for around £450,000.
Analysis by Propcast, which charts buyer demand on the property portals in different parts of Britain, shows that Ruislip Manor is one of the most sought-after locations in this pocket of north-west London.
“Unlike other postcodes in the Harrow area, demand has remained strong and stable for Ruislip Manor in HA4, which will have put upward pressure on house prices,” says Gavin Brazg, PropCast's founder. Houses in Ruislip Manor have leapt in value by almost 60 per cent since 2014.
Best of all: north-east of Rushcliffe, Nottingham
Average house price: £335,995
Average monthly rent for a three-bedroom home: £927
The five locations in the East Midlands with the highest number of top schools and the best housing offerings are clustered between Nottingham, Leicester and Grantham. The borough of Rushcliffe, to the south-east of Nottingham, is a particular hotspot for excellent primary schools.
Parents have four ‘outstanding’-rated options in the north-east of the borough and a further three in the east. Average house prices in both areas remain relatively affordable, at around £336,000 and £275,000 respectively.
Buyers should look to the old villages of Flintham, Orston and East Bridgford, with their historic churches and lively pubs, to live within walking distance of the top schools.
Best of all: north-west Wiltshire
Average house price: £447,500
Average monthly rent for a three-bedroom home: £1,193
Of the eight places in the South West with the buzziest economies, highest salaries and best choice of schools, most are dotted around the north of the region, in north Wiltshire and south Gloucestershire. “This is true quintessential English village territory,” says Luke Brady from Savills. “Places like Biddestone and Corsham are full of parks, duck ponds and great pubs.”
But far from being stranded out in the sticks, you have Bath just a few miles away, Bristol is a quick zip down the M4, and there’s a handy train station in Chippenham, where a direct line takes you into London in around an hour and a quarter.
“There’s a great mix of housing for all price brackets: from old Cotswold stone cottages and converted post offices right up to Regency townhouses and grand old manors,” adds Brady.
House prices have risen by almost 30 per cent in both north Wiltshire and south Gloucestershire, bringing the cost of an average house in each place up to £447,500 and £352,000. For a four-bedroom farmhouse in Yatton Keynell one street away from the 'outstanding'-rated By Brook Valley primary school expect to pay upwards of £600,000.
Some of the prettiest towns and villages in the area are Marshfield (famous for its locally-made ice cream), Badminton and Castle Combe, with its world-class racing circuit.
Best of all: east of Hereford
Average house price: £318,748
Average monthly rent for a three-bedroom home: £940
Sitting in a picturesque location bordering both the Wye Valley and Malvern Hills, south-east Herefordshire has much to offer young families besides opportunities for horse riding, kayaking and cycling.
There are three ‘outstanding’ primary schools in the area, and the cathedral city of Hereford is around a 20-minute drive away. “Sandwiched between two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this bit of countryside has lots of pretty market towns,” says Charles Probert of Knight Frank.
Ledbury, the jewel in its crown, is full of timber-framed buildings and chic boutique shops; household income is above the national average, at around £41,000. “It’s by no means isolated either," adds Probert. "The railway station in Ledbury has a direct link into London Paddington, and there is easy access onto the M50.”
Stafford, Rugby and Lichfield also offer plenty of options for parents hoping to get their children into top-performing schools.
Best of all: north of Cheshire East
Average house price: £361,000
Average monthly rent for a three-bedroom home: £1,500
Buyers hunting for homes further north should make a beeline for chi-chi Cheshire East. This area, famously prime footballers’ wives territory, also has well priced homes, high salaries and a glut of top schools in both the north-east and north-west of the borough. Average house prices here are £307,000 and £415,000 respectively.
Those with young families moving to Knutsford, for example, have Lower Peover, Mobberley and Peover Superior Endowed (all Ofsted-rated 'outstanding' schools) within a 10 minute drive.
According to Crispin Harris of Jackson-Stops, Cheshire’s excellent transport links and big jobs market mean that working parents don’t have to suffer a long commute.
“Stock levels [of houses for sale] are lower than in previous years, which is beginning to draw in stiff competition for the most desirable properties,” he says. A family home in east Cheshire can range in price from £650,000 for a three-bedroom with a pretty garden to £1.25million for a glitzy five-bedroom home.
Head eastwards to the Wirral, home to five nature reserves and Britain’s first country park, and prices become more affordable, at £185,000 on average. Parents in this borough have three ‘outstanding’ primaries nearby.
This is a five-part series from Telegraph Property on where to live near the most 'outstanding' schools. It will be published every Tuesday morning for five weeks. Come back next Tuesday to find out the best places to live near top-drawer state secondary schools.