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Best private schools near Bishop’s Stortford

Best private schools in Harpenden

Best private schools in Radlett

Best private schools in Rickmansworth

Best private schools in St Albans

Best private schools near Welwyn Garden City

Special Educational Needs

Bishop's Stortford CollegeDespite the pockets of excellent state school provision, Hertfordshire is jam packed with popular private schools. The pre-prep and prep schools get children up to scratch for entry into private senior schools (or partially selective state schools), and there are also many all-through schools. The range is huge – from ferociously selective to gentler ethos – offering families a genuine choice.

Private schools near Bishop’s Stortford

Prep schools near Bishop’s Stortford

For many parents it’s a toss up between Felsted Prep School (about 20-minutes away, in Essex) and Bishop’s Stortford College Prep School. Felsted suits lively, curious types from quite a wide ability range. This friendly school has a rural setting and masses of extracurricular. Bishop’s Stortford College Prep, based in town but still with a country feel, is more selective, with teaching described as ‘outstanding’ by parents. With both preps, over 90 per cent go on to the respective senior schools. We also rate the all-through school, St Edmund’s College, in Ware. The oldest Catholic school in England, it’s a charming, traditional school set in 400 acres.

For standalone preps, the large Heath Mount School in Hertford turns out sparky kids. ‘Every year, it gets better and better,’ attests one parent. In Bishop’s Stortford itself, there is Howe Green House School, which offers a gentler start and is good on extracurricular.

If you’re prepared to travel further, favourites include all-through schools St Nicholas School, in a rural spot close to Old Harlow, and the smaller Coopersale Hall School in Epping. Stephen Perse Junior School Dame Bradbury’s in Saffron Walden is a friendly, prep combining rural charm with forward-looking educational opportunities. Mainly feeding into Stephen Perse Senior School, the facilities would be the envy of many a senior school.

In Cambridgeshire but within fairly easy reach, favourites include King’s College School CambridgeSt Faith’sSt John’s College SchoolStephen Perse Junior School Fitzwilliam Building and St Mary’s School Cambridge (girls, all-through). For the best Essex preps besides Felsted (eg New Hall Prep) see our guide to Essex.

Secondary schools near Bishop’s Stortford

Just as at junior level, Felsted School (Essex but close to the Herts border) and Bishop’s Stortford College bring in big numbers from Bishop’s Stortford. Bishop’s Stortford College is the more academic of the two, with a work hard/play hard ethic and excellent pastoral care. At Felsted (further out of town), the broad approach to education is particularly suited to sporty types.

St Edmunds College in Ware is a solid option,  also popular at both junior and senior levels. There’s an excellent school bus service, and good diversity too. Other all-through schools popular at both junior and senior levels are St Nicholas School in Old Harlow and Coopersale Hall in Epping – both in Essex, but again nearby.

Haileybury is the best-known boarding school in the area. Vibrant, busy and forward-thinking, it attracts more academically able applicants than in the past and has a cracking IB programme. Around 30 per cent are day pupils.

Some families living in east Herts decide to venture into Essex and greater London. You won’t find as many private schools as in some home counties, but many have glowing reputations eg New Hall School in Chelmsford and Brentwood School, with Chigwell School a bit further away, and Gosfield SchoolForest School and Bancroft’s School. See our guide to Essex for further details. Cambridgeshire also draws some families in from east Herts eg Stephen Perse Senior School, The Leys SchoolThe Perse School and St Mary’s School Cambridge.

Best primary schools in Bishop’s Stortford

Best state secondary schools in Bishop’s Stortford

Best nurseries in Bishop’s Stortford

Private schools in Harpenden

Prep schools in Harpenden

Aldwickbury School is the local boys only option – and it really does get boys, say parents. ‘Busy boys are happy boys’ might as well be the school’s mantra, although sport is the best bit about the school, according to the pupils. For girls, St Hilda’s School is a small, cosy prep. Not the biggest site, but it packs in facilities including a swimming pool and STEM lab.

Prefer co-ed? Beechwood Park School in St Albans snaps up many Harpenden children, while the more local The King’s School stands out for its caring staff, small class sizes, Christian ethos and extra support. A bonus is that it goes up to 16.

Secondary schools near Harpenden

Haileybury and Bedford School top the bill for Harpenden families – both are boarding schools, with day pupil options. The former is co-ed, while the latter is boys’ only. Sporty, arty and with stretch (but without pressure) in the classroom, both have fabulous facilities.

Closer to home, there tends to be cross-over with the St Albans crowd, with Queenswood and Abbot’s Hill popular for girls, and Berkhamsted School (boys) and Berkhamsted School (girls) drawing in families who like the diamond structure, sport and innovative teaching. Much closer to home, and a longstanding winner among local families, is St Columba’s College, which does well by pupils of all abilities.

Best primary schools in Harpenden

Best state secondary schools in Harpenden

Best nurseries in Harpenden

Private schools near Radlett

Prep schools near Radlett

While Radlett boasts multiple preps, don’t be fooled into thinking places can be snapped up – most are highly sought after, even more so post-Covid. Among the most academic are Radlett Preparatory School, whose strong leavers’ destinations are a big pull for parents, while a short drive away at North London Collegiate Junior School, fast paced academics are, in the words of parents, ‘a given’. Edge Grove School has more of an ethos of discovery and learning through doing. This delightful prep with lush grounds guarantees a fun childhood but still gets youngsters into first-rate senior schools. Lochinver House School is more on the gentle side too, while St Hilda’s School, Manor Lodge School and Lockers Park School are easily commutable.

The all-through St Columba’s College - on the right side of St Albans - attracts Radlett’s Catholic families. Even closer to home is Aldenham Prep which is, literally, a breath of fresh air with its spacious grounds that are well-used for work and play. Three-quarters head to the senior school, but entry is not guaranteed. St Margaret’s Junior School is much gentler still, with automatic entry into the senior school, and a world away from the ferociously academic Haberdashers’ Boys’ School, where just a handful leave at 11. For families in search of a school reflecting their Jewish faith, Immanuel College offers an excellent Modern Orthodox education.

Secondary schools in Radlett

Lots of choice, especially with all-through schools. St Columba’s CollegeAbbot’s Hill and the girls-only Queenswood all attract families from Radlett, while Immanuel College has a focus on Jewish life, strong academic support and good pastoral care. Berkhamsted School (boys) and Berkhamsted School (girls) is a half hour drive away.

For the smartest kids in town, Haberdashers’ Boys’ School is seen as a solid passport into a prosperous career, provided your son likes swimming in this type of pond – that is, big, busy and with a relentless pace. Meanwhile Haberdashers’ Girls’ School is academically one of the best in girls’ education. Also for girls, there is North London Collegiate School, a top-drawer school for super bright, confident and resilient girls, ready to throw themselves into everything on offer. And for the musically gifted there’s The Purcell School, the UK’s first and oldest specialist music school.

If the likes of Haberdashers’ and North London Collegiate seem too high octane, Aldenham School has always been a strong local contender due to its unpressurised, rounded vibe and mixed ability cohort (although it’s harder to get into than it was). And St Margaret’s School will certainly never join the North London pressure cookers – the school ‘focuses on the journey itself, not just the destination,’ said a parent.

Best primary schools in Radlett

Best state secondary schools in Radlett

Best nurseries in Radlett

Private schools in Rickmansworth

Prep schools in Rickmansworth

Girls get more choice here, and with three out of four of the girls-only junior options, they can stay on to the senior school. Royal Masonic School Cadogan House is closest and is a tip-top learning environment for those that favour a warmer and more friendly feel over a relentless pursuit of all things academic. Under 15 minutes’ away in Northwood, there’s also St Helen’s School, which may not soar the peak of the league tables but has plenty of ambition, academic and otherwise, while Northwood College Junior School for Girls has a more pastoral feel and is slightly less selective.

Also worth consideration for girls in Rickmansworth is the delightful Charlotte House, a stand-alone prep with a real family feel and personalised approach.

For boys, there’s Merchant Taylors’ Prep School - ultra-selective and absolutely not the school for more liberal parents who ‘just want their kids to be happy’. But there’s plenty of support and ‘they make learning fun,’ say pupils.

In 20 minutes or under, you can also get to Berkhamsted Prep and Pre-Prep and Aldenham Prep.

Secondary schools in Rickmansworth

In Rickmansworth itself, Royal Masonic School for Girls does academically better than it’s sometimes perceived to, and it’s also got a strong artsy and pastoral feel. ‘They are spectacular at finding each child’s strengths across the board and then relentlessly nurturing them,’ felt one parent.

Over in Northwood (a 10-minute drive or a short Tube journey on the Met line) is the more academic girls’ school, St Helen’s School, where extracurricular, enrichment and sport shine, and Northwood College for Girls where pastoral and creative thinking are prioritised. A bit further along the Met Line, for boys and girls, is The John Lyon School, which provides an all-round education in a welcoming atmosphere.

For boys, there’s Merchant Taylors’ School, just one stop on the Tube. Maybe not the obvious choice for macho rugby types or parents looking for boys to come out with a public school swagger, but for brainy boys – including the quirky ones – it offers outstanding academic teaching. Many locals also opt for Berkhamsted School (boys) and Berkhamsted School (girls), whose boys and girls come back together for sixth form, and Aldenham School.

This area is good for specialist schooling too - The Purcell School for music and Tring Park School for Performing Arts.

Best primary schools in Rickmansworth

Best state secondary schools in Rickmansworth

Best nurseries in Richmansworth

Private schools in St Albans

Prep schools in St Albans

Given its size, there’s a surprising dearth of standalone preps in St Albans itself. But Beechwood Park School is a corker, with a strong reputation for trad subjects like French and music, as well as enrichment.

A short drive away, there are three fantastic, outdoorsy preps: In Hemel Hempstead, there’s Lockers Park School (a small, family-feel boys’ prep with academic rigour and long, busy days) and Westbrook Hay Prep School (co-ed and again, gets them out come rain or shine, with sport played four times a week). And in Shenley, Manor Lodge School with its wonderfully creative curriculum.

In the all-through school arena, four stand out. At Roman Catholic St Columba’s College, 95 per cent of pupils move up to senior. Mildly selective, it excels at flexing around the needs of the individual child, as well as finding hidden talents via its extensive extracurricular programme. For something more (and increasingly so) academic, Berkhamsted Pre-Prep and Prep School is about half-an-hour away – a solid, traditional choice that is also good on sport and other out-of-the-classroom pursuits. Although nearer Radlett, the even more academic Haberdashers’ Boys’ Prep and Pre-prep is also half-an-hour away. And for girls only, Abbot’s Hill, over in Hemel Hempstead, is a gentler option.

Secondary schools in St Albans

Clever-clogs boys head off to St Albans School. Traditional, disciplined and structured, it shines as bright in sport and music as it does academically. For girls, there’s the equally academic St Albans High School for Girls. Both these – as with many of other schools in this area – have a fleet of school coaches, with ever extending routes.

Softer (but equally sought after) options include St Columba’s College, where 40 boys and girls join those moving up from the prep. The school has impressive results, especially given the wide intake, and the music and art are fabulous.

Although marginally nearer Radlett, Queenswood School is popular among St Albans girls. Its all-embracing pastoral and extracurricular package (especially the sport) – and focus on adapting to each child rather than hothousing – means it’s a pushy parent free zone. Also girls only, and an antidote to local hothouses, is Abbot’s Hill in Hemel Hempstead, where the performing arts are particularly well served. Note no sixth form, though.

The well-oiled machine that is Berkhamsted School (boys) and Berkhamsted School (girls) appeals to parents who like the diamond structure and work hard, play hard culture, as well as the exceptional sports provision.

Meanwhile, from year 9, there’s Haileybury, with its spectacular surroundings, long-established IB programme and exceptional co-curricular – although take note, only 30 per cent are day pupils.

Best primary schools in St Albans

Best state secondary schools in St Albans

Best nurseries in St Albans

St Edmund's College, WarePrivate schools near Welwyn Garden City

Prep schools near Welwyn Garden City

For standalone preps, Hertford is seen as the local mecca. The delightful Duncombe School is a small, outdoorsy prep with good results – families say they feel very involved here. St Joseph’s in the Park, an even smaller prep in Hertford, brims  with sport, music, drama, outdoor ed and an inspiring academic curriculum. As one parent told us, ‘They are happy, and happy children learn.’ For a larger prep, Heath Mount School is set in splendid Grade 1 listed grounds, with fabulous music and art and a creative approach to teaching.

Also big, although not as pretty, is Lochinver House School, a boys’ prep in Potter’s Bar where parents say they really ‘get’ boys (lots of fresh air). Harpenden’s Aldwickbury School is another large, boys only prep, which also has boarding. ‘Sport’ was the quick reply when our guides were asked the best thing about school, but it’s the leavers list alone is proof of its academic rigour. Occasionally, children from Welwyn Garden City go to Kingshott School in Hitchin, a large, ambitious prep set in 23 acres.

On the all-through front, St Columba’s College in St Albans is a mildly selective co-ed all-through school, with an informal yet purposeful vibe, while closer to home there’s Sherrardswood School. Once the go-to local traditional private school, it is now better known for coping with a wide range of individual needs, including children who have struggled elsewhere. Co-ed and all-through, it is a nurturing school with small classes and a low pupil/teacher ratio. St Francis’ College in Letchworth also attracts some girls from Welwyn Garden City.

A number of schools in Hertfordshire and North London run bus services to and from WGC although these do change as demand comes and goes. Best to check with individual schools to find out what they offer.

Secondary schools in Welwyn Garden City

For the right child, the progressive St Christopher School in Letchworth is worth moving for. Students wear their own clothes, call teachers by their first names, have an exploratory approach to learning; there are no bells between lessons, little noise and a great sense of purpose. Queenswood School, a girls only school in Hatfield, also stands out from the local hothouses - parents call it ‘a breath of fresh air’, with one telling us her daughter ‘gets good grades but without undue pressure and with a lot more time for activities outside the classroom’.

The more traditional Haileybury is a popular local choice. Although a boarding school, 30 per cent are day pupils. A famous name in public school education, but not as selective as some, it has a stunning location and offers the IB.

Hard hitters on the academic front include St Albans Girls’ School and, for boys, St Albans School. Popular all-through options include St Columba’s College in St Albans (good for all abilities), Bishops’s Stortford College (more academic) and, in Welwyn itself, there’s Sherrardswood School (pastoral focus). Some girls also head to Roman Catholic St Francis’ College, Letchworth.

Within 40 minutes there are also a couple of specialist options: Purcell School for musicians and Tring Park School for the Performing Arts.

Best primary schools in Welwyn Garden City

Best state secondary schools in Welwyn Garden City

Best nurseries in Welwyn Garden City

Private schools for children with special educational needs in Hertfordshire

As is the case across the country, places at private special schools are often sought through and funded by the local authority. Egerton-Rothesay School in Berkhamsted offers support for 5-19 year-olds with dyslexia, dyspraxia, speech and language difficulties and autism spectrum disorders. It’s an aspirational, intimate school that offers a highly flexible mainstream education with a thoughtful, caring approach and an abundance of individual attention. For 4-19 year-olds with autism, we rate Radlett Lodge School in Radlett. ‘The school is like fresh air to me,’ commented one parent. ‘You know you won’t have a phone call saying you have to pick her up’. Emphasis is on practical learning for life. In these, as in most private SEN schools, places are largely funded by the LA via an EHCP. St Elizabeth’s School in Much Hadham is a centre of expertise in supporting and educating young people aged 7-19 with moderate or severe learning difficulties (MLD/SLD), profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) or other complex neurological conditions potentially caused or complicated by epilepsy. Set in 60-acres of stunning countryside, it has Catholic roots, with day and boarding places.

Of the mainstream independent schools with standout learning support for milder end needs, we rate Westbrook Hay, where the learning support department is part of a wider wellbeing centre run by full-time SENCo and assistant, both of whom have dyslexia which they feel helps them ‘relate to children who have learning needs,’ Well-staffed learning support centre is in pride of place at the heart of Abbot’s Hill, while Queenswood is rightly proud of its personalised learning centre which is open to any girl who needs support or additional stretch, including scholars, and closely linked to new wellbeing centre. Aldenham Prep and Aldenham School are both worth considering for SEN – it’s not a specialism and numbers are not big, but parents gush about provision, some having taken their children out of other schools where they felt ‘desperate’ only to find they ‘thrived here.’ St Margaret’s Junior School and St Margaret’s School really get to grips with pupils’ diagnoses, then train up and guide the teaching staff, as well as sharing relevant data. Royal Masonic School Cadogan House and Royal Masonic School also have a creative, inclusive approach to SEN. 

Further east, we recommend St Joseph’s in the Park, where staff (including an educational psychologist) provide tailored support using a multi-sensory approach. St Edmund’s College stands out for both the quantity and quality of individual help available. At Heath Mount School, staff include an occupational therapist, plus two learning support assistants to support all kinds of issues such as processing problems, dyslexia etc. There is also a visiting educational psychologist and speech therapist. While selective, Bishop’s Stortford College ensures a lot of help within the class as well as individually or in groups. And at Haileybury all pupils are screened on entry ‘to understand how they are as a learner’ and as such, learning support is an integral part of education, with around 50-80 youngsters with a diagnosed SEN (mild to moderate) getting additional support on top.

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