Tatler reveals the best private schools in Britain
7th September 2022

Tatler crowns the best private schools in Britain: Posh prep Abberley Hall where students have lessons in treehouses and learn croquet takes the top spot alongside £40,000-a-year Stowe which featured in Bridgerton

  • The winners of this year’s Tatler Schools Awards have been announced online
  • Abberley Hall has been voted the best prep while Stowe is the top public school
  • Eastbourne College was given the title of best ‘Eco Warrior’ by British magazine

The winners of Tatler’s annual school awards have been announced.

The British society bible voted Sir Richard Branson’s former secondary Stowe the best public school, while Abberley Hall, in Worcester, where parents pay £6,540 a term, was given the spot for top prep.

Stowe, in Buckingham, piqued the public’s interest when it graced our TV screens as one of the beautiful period settings in the hit Netflix drama Bridgerton. 

Meanwhile, Eastbourne College, on the south coast of England, was given the title of best ‘Eco Warrior’ – thanks to the environmentally-friendly initiatives it has championed.

Last month, the magazine revealed the list of nominees for Tatler Schools Awards 2023, which was packed with world-class educational institutions for children aged four to 18 – and unsurprisingly, many came with eye-watering fees.

Schools that offered a ‘forest school’, eye-opening trips to Normandy and meals served by Michelin-trained chefs all made the list – as did one that offered lessons in rifle shooting.

Meanwhile other institutions were host to famous alumni, from Tony Blair to former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Coldplay front man Chris Martin.

Here, FEMAIL reveals the schools which came out as top of the class – and the ones that were nominated… 

BEST PREP SCHOOLS

WINNER

Abberley Hall

Term fees: £6,540

Abberley Hall: This Worcester school’s annual sports day features a tradition whereby eggs are hurled across the field by a specially designed catapult

The school began in 1878 as the Dame School in Kent, but in 1896, it became a private school before moving to Abberley in 1916

This Worcester school’s campus – home to around 160 pupils – includes Abberley Hall, a Grade II listed building, its gardens and grounds, which is also home to the Grade II listed Abberley Clock Tower.

Class sizes are small, thought to average around 11 pupils in each one, and sports played by classmates include golf, croquet, fishing, archery, shooting and climbing.

The school – which counts the late Oscar nominated actor Sir Anthony Quayle as a former student – also apparently runs regular trips to France.

The school’s annual sports day features a tradition whereby eggs are hurled across the field by a specially designed catapult.

Outdoor education is a big deal, with a treehouse classroom and a fly fishing lake. It recently merged with Malvern College.

The school began in 1878 as the Dame School in Kent, but in 1896, it became a private school before moving to Abberley in 1916. 

NOMINEES

Elstree

Term fees: Up to £7,770 

Elstree School: X-Factor contestant Danyl Johnson, who appeared on the programme in 2009 and landed in 4th place behind Stacey Solomon, Joe McElderry and Olly Murs, is currently a dance teacher at the institution

Elstree School, near Newbury in Berkshire, is an English preparatory school for children aged 3–13 at Woolhampton House. 

Founded in 1848, its notable alumni includes singer James Blunt and novelist Sebastian Faulks – while it also boasts famous teachers. 

X-Factor contestant Danyl Johnson, who appeared on the programme in 2009 and landed in 4th place behind Stacey Solomon, Joe McElderry and Olly Murs, is currently a dance teacher at the institution.   

Perrott Hill

Term fees: £6,055 per term

Perrott Hill: Pupils have 28 acres of grounds to explore and a ‘forest school’, where they learn to bake over a fire pit

This ‘small but mighty co-ed prep school goes from strength to strength’, according to British society bible Tatler.

Pupils have 28 acres of grounds to explore and a ‘forest school’, where they learn to bake over a fire pit.

The students are also treated to ‘loft night’, where years groups stay up together in the loft to watch a film and enjoy fun activities.

Papplewick

Term fees: Up to £8,235

Papplewick: At this school ‘science is brought alive with state-of-the-art equipment’, according to Tatler

Papplewick, a boys’ school in Ascot, was reportedly recently visited by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, when looking for a new school for Prince George following their move to Windsor.

Apparently on a visit to Papplewick one pupil told Kate that ‘she looked just like the Duchess of Cambridge’

‘A love of learning is instilled at this charming prep, where science is brought alive with state-of-the-art equipment, and the boys are encouraged to experience rather than just learn by rote, bringing a great vitality to their education,’ according to Tatler.

Mowden Hall

Term fees: Up to £6,160

Mowden Hall: This Northumberland school for both boys and girls was established in 1935 and is one of the of the leading Prep schools in the North of England

This Northumberland school for both boys and girls was established in 1935 and is one of the of the leading Prep schools in the North of England. 

Notable alumni include actor, comedian and presenter Alexander Armstrong and television presenter and sports correspondent Pete Graves, among others. 

The school also offers a special swim school for children and babies to become confident and safe in the water. 

BEST PUBLIC SCHOOLS 

WINNER

Stowe

Term fees: Up to £13,598

Stowe: The school, which opened in 1923 with 99 pupils and whose other alumni include businessman Sir Richard Branson and the late actor David Niven, is housed in one of the country’s most imposing neo-classical buildings

The school opened in 1923 with 99 pupils and whose other alumni include businessman Sir Richard Branson, the late actor David Niven and Prince Harry’s ex-girlfriends Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas.

It is housed in one of the country’s most imposing neo-classical buildings, Stowe House, set in 750 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland outside Buckingham. 

The school has been embroiled in controversies in the past, when in 2003, a former pupil was arrested for alleged sex abuse of a 14-year-old still at Stowe.

A year earlier there was a drugs probe when the rave drug ketamine was found in a student’s room.

The school piqued the public’s interest when it graced our screens as one of the glorious period settings in the hit Netflix drama Bridgerton.

The school piqued the public’s interest when it graced our screens as one of the glorious period settings in the hit Netflix drama Bridgerton (pictured) 

In April, The Daily Mail revealed that the £40,000-a-year boarding school is pushing through controversial plans for a £6.5million design, technology and engineering facility to be built on the estate, in the face of fierce opposition from conservation groups.

Historic England, The Gardens Trust and The Georgian Group have claimed that the ‘flawed’ proposal will ’cause a high degree of harm to the historic fabric and character of one of the most important registered parks and gardens in Europe’.

The landscaped parklands have been run by the National Trust since 1989, while the school’s main building, the Grade I listed Stowe House, is the former country seat of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos. It has played host to kings, queens and tsars through the centuries.

The opposers became so incensed by the ‘damaging proposal’ for the development of part of Rook Spinney woodland, an area unaltered since the 18th century, that they sent their appeal to the Housing Secretary Michael Gove.

It is housed in one of the country’s most imposing neo-classical buildings, Stowe House, set in 750 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland outside Buckingham

But he brushed aside their complaints and refused to get involved.

Although permission was granted, planning officers did raise their own concerns and recommended that the application be rejected, stating in their report that: ‘It is the view of officers that the level of harm would be at the higher end of that scale’.

Planning documents show that at least 28 trees will need to be removed, including some that are around 150 years old.

However, Stowe’s headmaster, Dr Anthony Wallersteiner, remains optimistic about the plans.

He told the Daily Mail: ‘We are working closely with our partners and stakeholders to ensure that the whole site is developed sympathetically and in accordance with established conservation and restoration principles.

‘We hope to open the building in late 2023, Stowe’s centenary year.’

NOMINEES

Radley

Term fees: £14,850

Radley: This Oxfordshire school boasts an on-campus art gallery and extra-curricular activities ranging from opera appreciation to wine tasting and flight simulation

This Oxfordshire school boasts an on-campus art gallery and extra-curricular activities ranging from opera appreciation to wine tasting and flight simulation.

It also features a Countryside Centre which provides experience of animal husbandry, which is popular with students. 

Alumni include former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and the late comedian Peter Cook.

‘Radley is a bit like a London club,’ said one prospective parent who previously toured the school.

Sherborne

Term fees: £13,995

Sherborne: Set in Dorset, this boys school offers a vast variety of sports, from rugby to rifle shooting, golf, polo and athletics

Set in Dorset, this boys school offers a vast variety of sports, from rugby to rifle shooting, golf, polo and athletics.

Actor Hugh Bonneville, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and the man responsible for cracking the enigma code, Alan Turing, are some of the school’s notable alumni.

The school says that it protects its students from modern living as they are encouraged to use technology wisely, to interact with friends from Sherborne Girls, and to engage with the local community. 

Blundell’s

Term fees: Up to £12,995

Blundell’s: Students at this school have planted up raised beds, nurture their crops in polytunnels and have established a pond, while they also run a cafe selling soups and smoothies made from their produce

Green-fingered pupils thrive at this Devon school, where gardening is one of the most popular extra-curricular activities.

Students have planted up raised beds, nurture their crops in polytunnels and have established a pond, while they also run a cafe selling soups and smoothies made from their produce.

Its Christmas Olympics during the pandemic featured a tree-throwing competition, while punishments at the school involve writing essays on a subject chosen by a prefect, such as ‘the taste of oxygen’.

Fettes

Term fees: Up to £12,400

Fettes: As well as Mr Blair, who attended in the 1970s, other alumni include David Ogilvy, one of the biggest names in advertising, and General John de Chastelain, who oversaw IRA arms decommissioning

Fettes College was founded in 1870 after Sir William Fettes bequeathed £166,000 for the education of poor children and orphans.

As well as Mr Blair, who attended in the 1970s, other alumni include David Ogilvy, one of the biggest names in advertising, and General John de Chastelain, who oversaw IRA arms decommissioning. 

In June 2022, Fettes College paid out £400,000 to a former pupil who claimed he was beaten and sexually abused by a teacher.

The school was sued by a man, known as Frank, who gave evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

It settled damages out of court, in the first known legal victory against the prestigious Edinburgh school where boarding fees can reach £36,500.

Some 20 former pupils have raised actions for damages with more than a dozen naming the same former master and payments could total more than £15 million.

… and the very best eco-warrior schools, who have championed environmentally-friendly initiatives 

WINNER

Eastbourne College

Term fees: Up to £13,510

Eastbourne College: This school is a leading independent day and boarding school for boys and girls offering academic excellence in a coastal location

Eastbourne College is a leading independent day and boarding school for boys and girls offering academic excellence in a coastal location. 

The academic staff have studied at a range of universities from Central Saint Martins, Christ’s College Cambridge and University of St Andrews. 

Weather forecaster Michael Fish, comedian Eddie Izzard, architect Sir Hugh Casson and actor Hugh Skinner all attended the school.

NOMINEES

Notting Hill Prep

Term fees: £7,326

Notting Hill Prep: This school promotes a full programme of expeditions and adventures run by a team of professionals made up of current and ex-NHP teachers

Set in the heart of London, Notting Hill Prep educates boys and girls aged between 4 and 13. 

From year 4, children are able to attend residential trips from camping in Dorset to a cultural visit to Normandy and and a ski trip to The Alps. 

Notting Hill Prep also promotes a full programme of expeditions and adventures run by a team of professionals made up of current and ex-NHP teachers. 

Putney High

Term fees: Up to £7,213

Putney High: This London based girls school support its ladies to be whatever they want, from top scientists, talented musicians or design whizzes

This London based girls school support its ladies to be whatever they want, from top scientists, talented musicians or design whizzes.

The school has strong links with Thames Rowing Club and in 2018 acquired a rowing boathouse on the Putney Embankment, becoming the first ever girls boathouse on the Thames.  

The school also has links with Putney Lacrosse Club and its gymnastics team won the national competition in 2005.

Caterham School

Term fees: day £6,955; boarding £14,180

Caterham School: Located within the Surrey Hills, this 200-acre campus school offers rugby tours to Dubai, choir tours to Prague and a wide variety of clubs including beekeeping, puppetry and gender sexuality alliance

Located within the Surrey Hills, this 200-acre campus school offers rugby tours to Dubai, choir tours to Prague and a wide variety of clubs including beekeeping, puppetry and gender sexuality alliance.

It had a record number of applicants for 2021, with eight per cent of its leavers going onto Oxbridge universities. Alumni include the actor Angus Deayton and conductor Geraint Jones.

A school report in 2018-19 said: ‘As a combined community of almost 2,000 people across a campus of 200 acres, Caterham School and Caterham Prep School take seriously the effect we have on our environment. 

‘The school community has worked to reduce the impact we have on the environment and the proactive initiatives we have employed to promote the natural beauty from which we all benefit right here in the Harestone Valley.’ 

Belhaven Hill

Term fees: day £6,400; boarding £8,525

Belhaven Hill: This school is set near the beach, and pupils are exposed to hours of activities on sand and sea

Belhaven Hill is set near the beach, and pupils are exposed to hours of activities on sand and sea.

Students at the Scottish prep spend their weekends paddle-boarding and riding, with Mandarin, Lego Club and gardening also among the activities offered.

The school welcomes both boys and girls between the ages of seven and 13, and currently has 125 pupils enrolled.

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