Parents in Kensington and Chelsea often face a tough choice between private schools or postcode premiums to be within the right catchment area for a school when buying a new house. Karen Tait finds out what are the best available options…
With the start of another educational year, parents will be considering catchment areas once more. The tiny digits in your postcode can make a world of difference to your child’s education, so it’s no wonder that properties close to a good school are in huge demand, and are therefore are more expensive. But is the extra cost worth it?
Research from The Good School Guide and Savills suggests that the premium for properties near London’s best state schools averages 34% and can be as high as 245%. While this may seem exorbitant, it can be worth it when compared to private school fees.
‘For families with children, living near a good school is top of their list, along with security and good amenities close by,’ comments Shirley Humphrey of Harrods Estates.
Matthew Harrop of John D Wood & Co. in Kensington notes that ‘there seems to be a trend emerging for ‘state until eight’. If, for example, you have two children between the ages of four and eight, their private education may cost upwards of £15,000 per child per annum. That’s a spending of £120,000. Buyers are increasingly seeing this as a saving, as by moving into the priority area of a reputable state school, they can afford to pay more for a property. In general, buyers are willing to spend money to save money long-term.’
He adds that catchment areas are decided by exact distances rather than roads, so families may choose a basement flat over a first, second or third floor flat. ‘If two families are in the same block, the child in the basement takes priority over those on the higher floors as they’re closer to the school,’ he explains. ‘Although it sounds extreme, people are being smart to get the best for their children.’
For families favouring private education, the issue is of course moot. ‘In and around Holland Park and Notting Hill, where families are typically quite affluent, many send their children to public schools and are less concerned about whether the home they are buying falls into a catchment for a local school or not,’ says Simon Corringham of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward. These families are more interested in ‘the style, quality and location of the property’, he says.
‘I think it’s fair to say that the issue of catchment is far more common with primary schools,’ says Sam Allport of Mountgrange Heritage. ‘We often see people moving to be in the catchment of Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ schools.
‘Moving to a school catchment is common practice and you really can’t blame people for doing it as early years education is so important for children’s development,’ she adds. ‘The phrase ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ is very relevant here – if everyone else does it then to be in with a chance of getting into a good school, you need to be canny as well.’
‘It’s worth ensuring you’re well inside the area boundary and as close to the school as possible,’ advises Matthew Harrop of John D Wood & Co. ‘If a school becomes over-subscribed, the catchment area will get smaller and if you’re on the edge you may no longer be in the priority area.’
‘Remember that school policies differ and change regularly, as do catchment areas. The policy may not just be driven by the catchment area, particularly if it is a faith school,’ says Richard Marsh of Property Vision.
‘Catchment area cheats are a hot topic at the moment,’ says Tamzin Incledon of Douglas & Gordon. ‘Parents frequently know who they are and you’re likely to need a thick skin to withstand a negative reception.’