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Best private schools in St Albans

Best private schools in Harpenden

Best private schools in Radlett

Best private schools in Rickmansworth

Special Educational Needs

Aldenham SchoolDespite the pockets of excellent state school provision, Hertfordshire – especially in the west of the county - 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 semi-selective state schools), and there are also many all-through schools. The range is huge – from ferociously selective to gentler ethos.

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

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 College, Abbot’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 for children with special educational needs in West Hertfordshire

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.

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. 

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