The seven best independent prep schools in Wimbledon are;
- The Study Preparatory School,
- King’s College Junior School,
- Donhead Preparatory School,
- Ursuline Preparatory School,
- Hall School Wimbledon Junior,
- Wimbledon High Junior School, and
- Willington School.
They are all day schools and are within three miles of each other in this wealthy, green, residential suburb. Why choose these? Because these Wimbledon prep schools rank in the top 4% of schools in the country, as determined by the Schoolsmith Score.
If you’re putting together a shortlist of schools, this brief note might help you, because it actually compares the schools, just like you do. And there are links throughout to explainer articles (they open new tabs). There is also a partner review for state primaries in the same area, stretching from Wimbledon, to Morden, Raynes Park and Mitcham. And that can be found here.
There are differences between the schools, which I’ll expand on below. But, to cut to the chase, the highest scoring Wimbledon preps are King’s College Junior, Wimbledon High Junior, and The Study Prep. In that order. They are academic schools. But the lowest fees, and the best value for money, are Donhead Prep and Ursuline Prep. Do you get what you pay for? It depends on what you want, and what’s important to you. I’ve got some quizzes to help you with that. Otherwise, dear reader, read on.
Age range, gender mix, and faith
Many parents don’t get beyond the obvious differences between schools. These are the structural differences such as age range, gender, faith, all-through or not. You may have a preference one way or another, but these aren’t indicators of a better education.
First of all, there’s gender mix. Wimbledon has two boys’, three girls’ and two mixed schools. The Study Prep, Ursuline Prep, and Wimbledon High Junior are the girls’ schools. Donhead Prep and King’s College Junior are the boys’ schools. Hall School and Willington School are the two mixed schools. Hall School is 70% boys, and Willington School is 90% boys, though the latter has only recently become co-educational.
As for age range, they vary;
- The Study Preparatory School; 4 to 11,
- King’s College Junior School; 7 to 11,
- Donhead Preparatory School; 4 to 11,
- Ursuline Preparatory School; 3 to 11,
- Hall School Wimbledon Junior; 7 to 11,
- Wimbledon High Junior School; 4 to 11,
- Willington School; 3 to 11.
Which means that all but two have a Reception class. King’s College Junior starts at Year 3, and is fed by local pre-preps. Hall School Wimbledon has recently dropped its Reception class, and is moving towards a prep years only provision for 7 to 11 year olds.
Only two, Ursuline Prep and Willington School, have a nursery or pre-school class.
In addition, each of the schools offer wraparound childcare from 7.30/8.00am to 5.30/6.00pm.
As for faith, each of these seven preps welcome pupils of all faiths and none. Three of them have a religious tradition. King’s College School has a historic affiliation to the Church of England. Ursuline Prep and Donhead Prep are Roman Catholic schools. Christian and Catholic social morality informs the culture and pastoral care at all three schools. And there are assemblies and some religious celebrations. There is more religious observance at the two Catholic Schools with RE a more significant element of the curriculum. And there are daily prayers/reflections, twice weekly mass, and preparation for the Holy Sacraments.
Standalone preps and all-through schools
Donhead Prep, The Study Prep, Ursuline Prep and Willington School are standalone prep schools. They exist to prepare pupils for entry into a range of schools at the end of Year 6. The benefit being that choice of destination is more informed in later prep years than in Nursery or Reception.
Hall School Junior, King’s College Junior, and Wimbledon High Junior, on the other hand, are junior departments of all-through schools to age 18. At these schools, the curriculum is geared towards preparing the pupil for moving up into the senior school, rather than transferring to another school. And pupils are expected to make that transition. Which brings a benefit of a stress-free Year 6 for pupils, and parents. The schools might also argue that teaching time can be diverted to activities more beneficial than exam preparation.
Academic selection and inspections
Donhead Prep, Hall School Junior, The Study Prep, and Ursuline Prep are not academically selective. They operate a waiting-list admissions procedure. Willington School is not academically selective at Nursery/Reception, but it is from Year 3. King’s College Junior and Wimbledon High Junior are academically selective, with age-appropriate assessments as part of their admissions processes.
The degree of academic selectivity can dictate the pace of lessons. It can also be a prime determinant of academic outcomes; smarter pupils get better results. But not always. Demographics and, dare I mention, teaching, influence academic outcomes too.
ISI, the independent schools’ inspector, observes that pupils’ ability profiles at these Wimbledon prep schools are ‘above average’. Selective or not. Ability profiles at King’s College Junior are ‘well above average’.
The most recent ISI inspections for six of the seven schools were ‘Excellent’ across all areas. The most recent Ofsted inspection deemed Hall School (whole school) ‘Good’.
Buildings and grounds
This is suburban Southwest London. So a typical prep school setting is a converted and extended Victorian or Edwardian house, with limited grounds, in a residential area. This might describe Donhead School, and Ursuline Prep. Also, The Study Prep, which is based in two period houses, one of them Grade II listed Georgian.
Some might have more recent purpose-built extensions too, such as Willington School and Hall School Wimbledon. Wimbledon High Junior School is based in late 1990s purpose-built accommodation in the grounds of the 1920s red-brick Senior School.
King’s College School occupies neo-Gothic Victorian buildings in 20 acres of grounds. The Junior School occupies a Georgian house (Years 3 and 4) and a more recent teaching block (Years 5 and 6) within those grounds.
So there are definitely buildings of character in this collection of Wimbledon prep schools. But as for grounds, the immediate onsite choice is limited.
Class sizes and classes per year
The size of a school can influence the ‘feel’ of a school, as well as the extensiveness and variety of facilities. Wimbledon has the full range of prep school sizes;
- Mixed age classes/less than 1 class per year; Hall School Junior,
- 1 class per year, sometimes 2; Ursuline Preparatory School,
- 2 classes per year; Donhead Preparatory School, The Study Preparatory School, Willington School, and Wimbledon High Junior School,
- 4 classes per year; King’s College Junior School.
Average class sizes at Wimbledon prep schools tend to be higher than in some neighbouring areas. They can be as low as 15 at Willington School to as high as 23-24 at The Study Prep and Wimbledon High Junior. Class sizes at the other four schools average between 17 and 19 pupils.
Facilities at Wimbledon prep schools
Unsurprisingly, the widest variety of facilities are at King’s College Junior and Wimbledon High Junior Schools. Not only do they have their own facilities, but pupils may also have access to some facilities at their respective senior schools.
As far as the other five schools go, they actually have a good range of specialist facilities. Notwithstanding those for sport, which are often offsite.
Starting with sports facilities. Pupils at King’s College Junior, Hall School Junior, and Wimbledon High Junior have their own playgrounds but otherwise share the sports facilities with senior school pupils. At King’s College Senior, these facilities include a pool, Astroturf pitches, playing fields (on and offsite), a sports hall, and tennis courts. Similarly at Wimbledon High, though most are offsite. Hall School has hard court pitches and a multi-purpose hall onsite, and newly acquired playing fields offsite.
The standalone preps all have an onsite playground/games area, a multi-purpose hall/gymnasium and access to offsite playing fields, usually a short bus ride away. Donhead and Ursuline Prep also have an onsite Astroturf games area.
Wimbledon prep schools have a wider variety of arts facilities than most schools in neighbouring areas. Which may partly explain their unusually wide arts curricula. Expect each one to have an art room(s), a music room(s), a hall, and a separate drama space. These may be for the sole use of prep pupils or shared with senior pupils. Of course, arts facilities at Wimbledon High and King’s College may be more grand, but those at Willington School, for example, are just as extensive, for primary aged pupils.
Academic learning facilities are similarly broad. Each school has an outdoor learning space, library, DT and/or science room, and a computer suite and/or laptops/tablets in the classroom. Pupils at King’s College Junior and Wimbledon High Junior also have access to impressive senior facilities. In particular for DT at King’s College School and the STEAM Tower at Wimbledon High School.
Computing and remote learning
As well as computer suites for teaching computing skills, or classroom/library devices for research and project work, there are also dedicated devices.
During the pandemic, remote teaching, assisted by technology, became a necessity. Blended learning (face to face and online) is now a reality. Perhaps not for the youngest pupils, but certainly for those in Year 3 upwards. As such, schools are starting to issue dedicated devices to their pupils. At The Study Prep, girls have their own iPad from Year 3. The other six schools provide pooled iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, on an as-needed basis.
All seven of the Wimbledon independent prep schools offer curricula based on, and augmenting, the National Curriculum.
They all acknowledge the importance of skills development, as well as fact acquisition. This balance is topical in curriculum design for all schools, and these Wimbledon preps balance the two differently.
Donhead and King’s College Junior have quite traditional curricula, in that subjects are taught separately. And skills are developed through ‘deep-dives’ within those subjects. Similar to senior school curricula, in effect. Hall School Wimbledon is heading this way too.
Willington School and Ursuline Prep have a traditional curriculum from Year 3. But in pre-prep years they combine history and geography, at least, into half-termly cross-curricular ‘topics’. The Study Prep goes further by combining most subjects into its ‘creative curriculum’ to Year 2.
Perhaps the most thematic of all the seven curricula is at Wimbledon High Junior. Here all subjects, except maths and English (mostly) are linked within the ‘Adventum’ curriculum. Adventum is a thematic curriculum where all subjects are linked to a half-termly philosophical umbrella theme. Continuing the pursuit of higher order thinking, older girls take part in the ‘Experientia Scholarship’ programme. This is a series of courses designed to promote ‘critical thinking and the art of Socratic discussion’. And if two names that sound like an IT consulting company weren’t enough, there’s a third. ‘Arcadia’ is the co-curricular programme.
Like most GDST schools, Wimbledon High is keen on STEAM lessons, and has two ‘scientists in residence’ to facilitate them.
There are other ways to encourage thinking and so-called ‘21st Century Skills’ in primary age pupils. Theme Days and Weeks are popular. Hall School Junior also has philosophy classes from Year 4.
The curriculum at Ursuline Prep and Donhead emphasise Catholic social morality. Particularly in lessons such as PSHE. RE, naturally, plays a prominent role in the curriculum as a core subject along with English and maths.
All seven schools introduce some degree of verbal and non-verbal reasoning in preparation for Year 6 11+ exams. At Ursuline Prep and The Study Prep, it starts as early as Year 3.
Outdoor learning and trips
All seven preps offer plenty of educational trips to support and stimulate their curricula. And there are field, cultural, adventure, sporting and musical residential trips too, from Year 4 or 5. However, Ursuline Prep offer residentials from Year 3.
Outdoor learning, however, isn’t as prominent in Wimbledon prep schools, as it is in some other areas. Hall School Junior has more outdoor learning than most. But it is Wimbledon High Junior’s ‘Wild Girls’ that is the most structured plan.
To a greater or lesser degree, some pupils at each of these prep schools enter national academic competitions. Usually, it’s part of a ‘gifted and talented’ programme. And pupils at King’s College Junior and Wimbledon High Junior have met with some success too, appearing in national finals for chess.
Foreign language teaching
French is the main foreign language at Wimbledon prep schools. Most teach it from Nursery or Reception. An outlier, King’s College Junior only starts French (and Latin) from Year 5.
Donhead Prep and Wimbledon High Junior actually start with Spanish, but then flip to French in Years 3 and 4 respectively.
Willington School is the only other school to add a second language, and that too is Latin from Year 4.
Otherwise, two schools add quick tasters after exams in Year 6. The Study Prep adds Spanish, and Wimbledon High Junior adds Latin and German.
Subject specialist teaching
Primary school teachers can, and often do, teach a wide range of subjects to their pupils. Their expertise is in teaching this age group. Prep schools make the case that subject specialists may be better for some subjects. Also, the progression from one to several teachers prepares pupils for teaching in senior schools. How much subject specialist teaching each school offers varies, as does when they offer it.
Wimbledon prep schools offer a similar menu of class-based teaching to Year 3, but with subject specialist teaching in sport, music, languages, and sometimes drama, art and computing. Perhaps science or art is added in Year 3.
The Study Prep and King’s College Junior transition most subjects to specialist teaching from Year 5. By Year 3 Wimbledon High Junior girls also have specialist teaching in maths, English, science, and computing.
Sport at Wimbledon prep schools
It is in the provision of sports and the arts that private schools excel. In particular, time spent on sport, and lessons dedicated to music, art, drama and sometimes dance set them apart from state schools.
And these seven schools are no exception. They offer at least two PE/games sessions per week and 10% of curriculum time for sport. They also offer between 10 and 15 different sports. At King’s College Junior 17% of curriculum time is sport. And that excludes matches. Unsurprisingly, it offers the widest variety too.
Facilities, pupil numbers and specialist teaching are the key ingredients for sporting achievement at independent prep schools. These seven all turn out representative teams across, at least, the major sports. We should expect the larger schools; Donhead, The Study Prep, King’s College Junior, and Wimbledon High Junior to have the most competitive teams.
One measure of sporting prowess is the regularity with which the senior teams appear in the final stages of national competitions. By this measure, Donhead Prep is successful at rugby. King’s College Junior is strong at athletics, rugby and rugby sevens. The Study Prep is strong at netball and athletics. And Wimbledon High Junior is also strong at netball. It is unusual to have four schools with national-standard sports records in one area.
The arts at Wimbledon prep schools
Just like sport, art and music are popular pursuits throughout these schools’ curricular and extra-curricular programmes. For a start, they all have curricular art lessons and extra-curricular art activities.
Even the smallest school, Hall School Junior, has a choir and one or instrument ensembles. Otherwise, the schools have upwards of seven or eight choral and instrument ensembles.
And that’s because, at least half of all pupils learn an instrument and take exams outside curricular music. At Wimbledon High Junior and King’s College Junior its nearer 80%. These two schools have five choirs and nearer 10 instrument ensembles. The Study Prep has four choirs and six or seven instrument ensembles. It also has an Artsmark Gold accreditation recognising its commitment to the arts.
Five of these schools offer drama as a standalone curricular subject. Ursuline Prep and Donhead Prep offer drama as part of the co-curriculum. Pupils at all seven schools take part in musical and dramatic performances, and extra-curricular ESB and LAMDA speech and drama exams.
Dance doesn’t feature beyond Year 2 at any school, though it is on most schools’ extra-curricular programmes.
And there are many extra-curricular clubs. There’s sport, of course. But in addition, Donhead, King’s College Junior, Ursuline Prep, Wimbledon High Junior and The Study Prep offer 15-20 non-sport clubs per year group, per term.
Exam results and destination schools
It’s hard to compare these seven Wimbledon prep schools on exam results since they don’t all enter the same comparable national exams.
But with destination schools, there are some differences between them.
Pupils at the junior/prep departments of the three all-through schools invariably move on to their senior schools at the end of Year 6. King’s College School ranks in the top 3 for all schools in the UK by A-Level results. Wimbledon High School ranks in the top 30 independent schools. The Hall School is less academic.
Leavers from the four standalone prep schools go on to a large number of, mainly independent, schools, there are some perennial favourites, however.
Ursuline Prep girls tend to head to a girls’ independent school. Sutton High School, Surbiton High School, and the state Catholic Ursuline High School being the most popular. Donhead leavers also leave for a spread of schools many head to Wimbledon College, a Jesuit comprehensive school.
For Willington School leavers, St John’s Leatherhead and Whitgift School are popular, though this may change when girls get to Year 6.
Girls from The Study Prep win places at up to 30 different schools per year, but on average, 60%-70% of them will head to Wimbledon High, Surbiton High, and Sutton High.
Fees and value for money
For the 2022/23 academic year, Year 6 tuition fees at these prep schools range from £4,200 to £7,300 per term. Fees at King’s College Junior are the highest. Fees at Donhead Prep and Ursuline Prep are the lowest. Willington School and Wimbledon High Junior charge around £5,500. The Study Prep and Hall School are slightly lower at £5,300. So there are three, maybe four pricing tiers. These fees exclude lunch and extras such as residential trips.
|Schoolsmith Score||Tuition Fees v National Average (Years 1or3-6)||Value for money (rank)|
|Hall School Junior||74||+30%||7|
|King’s College Junior||88||+74%||6|
|The Study Preparatory||83||+39%||3|
|Wimbledon High Junior||84||+47%||4|
To put these fees into perspective, total tuition fees from Year 1 through to Year 6 at the three all-through junior divisions are 10%-74% higher than the national average.
King’s College Junior is the highest scoring Wimbledon prep school, followed by Wimbledon High Junior and The Study Prep. And there is some correlation between fees and Schoolsmith Score. The three highest scoring schools have the highest fees. And the two schools with the lowest fees have the second and third lowest scores. Donhead Preparatory School and Ursuline Preparatory School also offer the best value for money as measured by £/Schoolsmith Score.
What accounts for this difference in fees? In general, it’s location, grounds, facilities, class sizes, staffing, and local demographics. Some of which applies here. Of course, the adage of ‘getting what you pay for’ can also be true, which I hope this note has highlighted. These are all good prep schools, providing a worthy educational experience. But when it comes down to it, what are you prepared to pay for?
Why are these the best independent prep schools in Wimbledon?
Schools that feature in these notes are those with the highest Schoolsmith Scores, not just in Wimbledon, but nationwide. This is an objective score that accounts for 50 different aspects of schooling, grouped into 5 broad categories. You can read more about them from the links below, and the Schoolsmith Score here.
- their achievements; academic, sporting and artistic,
- the breadth of the education they offer,
- the quality of teaching,
- their facilities,
- their look and feel.
A quick pause for breath
By now you might be wondering what you should be thinking about when choosing a school? It happens to everyone. Why not try my 7 one minute quizzes for those starting their school search? Wood, trees, and all that…