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Best private schools in Clifton

Best private schools in Redland

Best private schools in Henleaze

Best private schools in Bristol City centre

Best private schools in Southville

Special Educational Needs

Best private schools in Bristol - Pupils at Collegiate School, BristolFor a city of its size, Bristol boasts a large number of notable private schools, the biggest names of which offer junior departments that would allow for a pupil to move smoothly from nursery through to A levels should families wish to do so. There are separate pre-preps and preps in the city too which will prepare pupils for senior private school, and popular options just outside the city in North Somerset.

Private schools in Clifton

Prep schools in Clifton

The big names of Clifton all have their own primary offering. Top of the social hierarchy is Clifton College Prep, whence progress is seamless for children from the nursery. The pre-prep area is separate from the prep, which children enter at year 3; they share all the fabulous facilities of the upper school (on occasion), but also have their own forest school. According to our review, ‘academic life seems stimulating and enjoyable but not unduly pressured’, with a thematic and values-based curriculum. Note that Clifton College prep finishes at year 8, to fit in with the traditional public school model.

Clifton High splits its primary provision into infants and juniors, but considers itself an all-through school. By the time children reach year 6, they will be taught by eight subject specialists in the senior school building, so transition is very smooth indeed. Particularly strong on swimming, with a 25m pool on site; more extensive facilities shared with Bristol University at Coombe Dingle.

Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital Junior is the sole boys-only offering in Bristol. By its own admission hard to find and tucked away under the wing of the ancient senior school, it takes boys from year 3 and more into year 5 to ready them for the senior school. Academically selective, parents like the ‘stretch and challenge’ their sons are given and that they are ‘allowed to be themselves’.

BGS Infants and Juniors (Bristol Grammar School), taking children from reception to year 6, the expectation being that they will go on to the senior school. Our review raves not only about the sports facilities over the suspension bridge, but also the forest school.

Transfer to the senior part of all these schools at year 7 (or year 9 for Clifton College) is pretty much guaranteed, even though entrance exams are standard, generally for setting purposes only. Doubtful runners will have been identified well in advance of year 6.

Just over into north Somerset is The Downs Preparatory School, the only other prep school in these parts to take children until the traditional entry point for major independent schools at 13+ (year 9). Idyllically situated and non-selective at all entry points, its leavers head to the Bristol independents, but also to big names such as Marlborough College (Wiltshire) and Winchester College (Hampshire).

Secondary schools in Clifton

All Clifton’s private secondary schools are reviewed by The Good Schools Guide. A prime location, ornate Victorian Gothic buildings, famous lines penned about it and some illustrious alumni (plus boarding) make Clifton College the dinner party school of Bristol. About half the upper school’s students board in some form, and the school is run along boarding lines and timetable, including Saturday commitments, as well as offering the IB in addition to A levels.

Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, (known as QEH) and Bristol Grammar School (known as BGS) are fearsomely academic day schools of great antiquity and history - and there’s a degree of friendly rivalry between them. QEH is boys only but takes girls in the sixth form (younger sisters tend to go to Redmaids’ High in Westbury), and now occupies commanding Victorian buildings built high over Clifton. Noted for academic prestige, pastoral care - ‘The school bends over backwards to bring out the best in each pupil’ parents tell us - and lack of social pretension. BGS is tucked in amongst the university quarter with similarly distinguished buildings and its results reflect that proximity, yet ‘achievement in any field is celebrated’, notes our review. Also offers the IB. Outdoor education strong here along with performing arts, with commitment to after school and Saturday mornings a given.

Slightly different in character is Clifton High School, co-ed since 2009, but teaching boys and girls maths, English and the sciences separately from years 7-9, the so-called diamond model. Generally reckoned to be less academically pressured, yet producing good results. The only school in Bristol to offer the British and French curricula in parallel, accredited by the French government.  

Best primary schools in Clifton

Best state secondary schools in Clifton

Best nurseries in Clifton

Private schools in Redland

Prep schools in Redland

There’s very little by way of private schools in this part of Bristol except for the Bristol Steiner School which takes children from the age of three, although it has been through turbulent times. There is also Torwood House: tiny and popular.  

Secondary schools in Redland

Since the closure of Redland High and its amalgamation with Redmaids’ High in neighbouring Henleaze in 2016, there is no longer any secondary private provision in Redland. Redland High’s magnificent buildings are being converted into very fancy apartments. Private schools elsewhere in the city are popular options, of course. If children live too far away from school to walk - and children do walk considerable distances to school as Bristol traffic can be dreadful - there are well-established joint bus arrangements between the city's state and independent schools covering major routes into and across town. 

Best primary schools in Redland 

Best state secondary schools in Redland 

Best nurseries in Redland 

Private schools in Henleaze

Prep schools in Henleaze

Girls are very well served in this part of Bristol, with both pre-eminent girls’ secondaries having prep schools attached. Badminton Junior School benefits from all the advantages of the senior school facilities right there, and has a similarly academic focus, particularly sciences and languages. Girls already in the school, having started in the nursery, do not have to sit any kind of test, but their progress will have been assessed over KS1, and the parents of anyone not thought to be suited to the junior school will have been gently alerted.

Redmaids’ High Junior School starts at year 3 and ‘despite high academic standards and expectations, we report this to be a very happy and relaxed school where girls are well supported in all their endeavours’, according to our review. The expectation of both these schools is that girls will move on to the senior part, but in the very rare cases where this looks doubtful, girls or their parents are carefully steered towards more suitable options. The single-sex option for boys is likely to be to QEH Junior in Clifton. 

Secondary schools in Henleaze

Unsurprisingly, the secondary school picture echoes the primary one, where girls are spoilt for choice between Badminton and Redmaids’ High School – and boys less so. Badminton attracts a day market from within Bristol and a few from Wales and N Somerset; a full mix of buses provided either by the school or by services dropping off at several Bristol schools takes the strain of the school run away from parents. Badminton is an academic powerhouse, ‘ideal for bright, inquisitive girls who want to excel,’ according to our review. It tops the Bristol academic league tables, and offers a good range of sports facilities within its grounds, unlike most of the other city secondary schools. Curiously, it seems to get less airtime on the dinner party circuit than Clifton College.

Redmaids’ High, noted for its sciences, is less academically selective, but does well by its students at all levels. It also offers the IB in addition to A levels. It has recently enhanced its sports facilities by buying and developing a new site out towards the M5. Most girls are pretty local; three minibus routes serve the school from within the city, but further-flung students might use buses which serve several of the Bristol schools. As well as being fed by their own prep schools, girls also come from primary schools across the city.  

Best primary schools in Henleaze

Best state secondary schools in Henleaze

Best nurseries in Henleaze

Private schools in Bristol City Centre

Rugby players at Clifton College Bristol

Prep schools in Bristol City Centre

Nothing right in the city centre – they have all moved up one of Bristol’s many hills or further out. BGS Infants and Juniors and Queen Elizabeth's Hospital Junior are well served both by public buses and by the joint school bus arrangements serving the Clifton and Redland schools.  

Secondary schools in Bristol City Centre

Similarly at senior level, none of the city’s independent schools are sited right in the city centre but Bristol Grammar School and Queen Elizabeth Hospital are options, as with the junior schools, thanks to buses, both public and those arranged by the schools. 

Best primary schools in Bristol City Centre

Best state secondary schools in Bristol City Centre

Best nurseries in Bristol City Centre

Private schools in Southville

Prep schools in Southville

There is but one tiny private prep school in nearby Totterdown, Cleve House. Those schools elsewhere in the city are popular options with locals and are easily reached by public buses.

Secondary schools in Southville

The same goes for the senior schools in this part of Bristol but Sidcot School, a day (and boarding) all-through school founded on Quaker principles, just a few miles outside Bristol, runs minibuses to and from the city, which children can use from year 3 onwards.

Best primary schools in Southville

Best state secondary schools in Southville

Best nurseries in Southville 

Bristol private schools for children with special educational needs

Places at special schools in the private sector are often sought through and funded by the local authority. Belgrave School for dyslexia and Specific Learning Difficulties shares a site with the Bristol Dyslexia centre, in Bishopsworth, which offers assessments and therapies. The charmingly named Grace Garden School in Westbury, a school for children with autism, is one such independent school. Founded on Steiner principles, it has 18 acres where they encourage outdoor learning.

Of the mainstream independent schools with good learning support, we rate Bristol Grammar School, where the philosophy seems to be one of ‘making it work’ for sufficiently academic children, whatever their needs. Clifton College Prep has the winningly named coach house, for that is what it was, which addresses dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia without taking children out of lessons; mild cases of autism are also fine, but the school is clear that it is not the school for everyone. A little further out in Stapleton, absolutely mainstream Collegiate Prep School supports children with social and emotional difficulties as well as mild learning difficulties; the same goes for Collegiate School.

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