The Best Grammar Schools in the UK: Your Top 10 List

Welcome to your guide to the best Grammar Schools in the UK.

If you’re looking for a world-class education for your child (without the hefty fees that come with a private education!), Grammar Schools are the perfect choice. In this guide, we’ll explore the best Grammar Schools across the country, helping you make informed decisions and ensure your child gets the best possible education.

We’ll dive into the unique features and academic strengths of these schools as well as what sets Grammar Schools apart in general. We’ll also explore the top areas for Grammar Schools and whether students really perform better at these selective state schools.

So, let’s get started and find the perfect secondary education for your child’s future.

What are Grammar Schools?

Before we talk about the best Grammar Schools in the country, let’s explain what sets them apart from other schools in the UK.

A Grammar School is a type of secondary that admits students based on their academic abilities. Admission is determined through entrance exams, commonly known as the 11 Plus. 

Students take these tests during Year 6, when they’re around 11 years old (hence the name!). While entry also relies on factors like catchment area (i.e. where you live) or whether any siblings already attend, those achieving the highest scores in 11 Plus exams are likely to secure a place.

Another distinguishing feature of Grammar Schools is they’re publicly funded. This means there aren’t any tuition fees for parents. Despite being state-funded, these schools provide the very highest-quality education and boast a wide range of extracurricular activities.

Securing a place at Grammar School can be difficult, especially in densely populated regions like London. The rigorous nature of 11 Plus exams contributes to this competitiveness, ensuring only the most capable students are admitted.

For more information on the UK Grammar School system and entrance exams, read our in-depth introduction to Grammars.

What is the best Grammar School in the UK?

The best Grammar School in the UK, according to the Sunday Times’ influential Parent Power Secondary School Rankings, is Wilson’s School. Situated in Sutton, South London, this boys’ Grammar recently made headlines by surpassing even prestigious private institutions like Eton and Westminster to claim the number one spot. It’s not just the best Grammar, but the best school!

We’ll provide a brief introduction to Wilson’s School alongside the other top ten Grammars later in this article. But what makes this school quite so special?

Well, Wilson’s School has a long-standing reputation for academic excellence with some truly exceptional results.

In 2023, 94.9% of GCSE students achieved grades 9-7. At A Level, 96.8% of students secured A*-B grades. Out of 174 upper sixth students, 27 went on to study at Oxbridge.

But Wilson’s School is about so much more than exam results. With a focus on nurturing talent and instilling values of resilience, kindness, integrity and excellence in its students, Wilson’s School offers an exciting and inclusive learning environment. They welcome boys from all over the world (with over 40 languages and all major religions represented at the school) and proudly state in their prospectus: “No one is a guest at Wilson’s. Everyone is included.”

What is the second-best Grammar School in the UK?

The second spot goes to Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet, London. Like Wilson’s School, this boys’ Grammar is renowned for its exceptional standards and rigorous curriculum. As a result, Queen Elizabeth’s has consistently secured a place among the top-ranking Grammar Schools in league tables nationwide.

Founded in 1573, Queen Elizabeth’s boasts tradition spanning over four centuries. During this time it has maintained an unwavering commitment to fostering intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and holistic development among its students. The school places a strong emphasis on extracurricular activities, encouraging boys to explore their interests beyond the classroom and develop essential skills such as teamwork, leadership and resilience.

Like many Grammars in this article, one of the key factors contributing to Queen Elizabeth’s exceptional standing is their rigorous selection process. Admission is highly competitive, with prospective students undergoing comprehensive 11 Plus assessments evaluating their academic aptitude, potential and suitability for the challenging curriculum offered. 

For more information on Queen Elizabeth’s School and Grammar Schools in Barnet, read our 11 Plus entry guides.

Which area has the best Grammar Schools in the UK?

There are just over 160 Grammar Schools in the UK. But these schools aren’t evenly spread throughout the country. While some areas like Kent have almost 40 Grammar Schools, others (like Norfolk, Bristol and the North East of England) don’t have any at all.

In terms of quantity, the best counties for Grammar Schools are:

  • Kent: 38 Grammar Schools
  • London: 19 Grammar Schools
  • Lincolnshire: 15 Grammar Schools
  • Buckinghamshire: 13 Grammar Schools
  • Essex: 8 Grammar Schools

But in terms of quality, there’s one area that’s head and shoulders above the rest – and that’s London.

London is a hotspot for outstanding Grammar Schools, attracting families from all over the world seeking an exceptional education for their children. The capital boasts a diverse range of Grammar Schools, many of which consistently rank among the top-performing schools in the country. Indeed, in our top ten list half of the Grammars are based in London!

The concentration of excellent schools in London comes down to its historical significance, continued investment in education and a diverse pool of talented educators. 

So whether it’s Wilson’s School in Sutton, Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet, or The Tiffin Girls’ School in Kingston upon Thames, parents in London have the luxury (or agony!) of choosing between some amazing secondary options.

Do children do better at Grammar School?

This depends on what we mean by “better”…

While Grammar Schools are renowned for their academic rigour and results, they may not be the best fit for every child. While some students thrive in this challenging environment (and bright children are less likely to experience bullying), others may struggle to cope with the intense pressure or feel out of place in a selective setting. 

As a parent, it’s crucial to consider your child’s individual needs, learning style and personality before making a decision. Factors such as commute time, extracurricular opportunities and school culture should also be taken into account when evaluating whether a Grammar School is the right choice for your child.

In terms of results alone though, generally speaking, Grammar Schools outperform other secondary schools. There’s some much-cited research, that almost all Grammar School pupils achieve five or more “good grades” at GCSE compared to two-thirds of pupils at comprehensives. Despite this, the British Journal of Sociology of Education points out that Grammar Schools’ “higher average attainment” is mainly down to their academic selection process.

Is Grammar School better than Private School?

The debate between Grammar Schools and private schools is nuanced. The answer ultimately depends on your child’s academic goals, preferences, personality and your family circumstances. 

As we’ve seen, Grammar Schools offer rigorous programs tailored to high academic achievers. They boast high standards of teaching and learning, as well as a strong sense of community. 

On the other hand, private schools provide a broader curriculum and diverse teaching approaches (often more tailored to individual students), albeit at a higher cost. 

Both types of institutions offer quality education, and the choice depends on what best aligns with your child’s needs and your family values.

Here are a few points to consider:

Grammar Schools

  • State-funded selective schools admit students based on entrance exams or academic merit.
  • Generally offer a strong focus on academic achievement and rigorous curriculum – which won’t be suitable for all children.
  • Often have larger class sizes compared to private schools but may offer a more diverse student body.
  • No tuition fees, making them more accessible to families regardless of financial status.
  • May offer fewer extracurricular activities and specialised facilities compared to private schools.
  • Provide an opportunity for academically motivated students to study alongside peers with similar aspirations.
  • Can offer a pathway to higher education institutions and competitive careers through strong academic performance.

Private Schools

  • Independent institutions funded by parental tuition fees, providing greater financial resources and autonomy.
  • Often feature smaller class sizes, allowing for more personalised attention and support.
  • Tend to offer a wider array of extracurricular activities, specialised facilities and resources.
  • Provide a more personalised approach to education, with additional support services tailored to individual student needs.
  • May offer a broader range of academic and non-academic opportunities, including international exchanges, leadership programs and community service initiatives.
  • Can foster strong networks and connections with alumni, potentially providing advantages in higher education and career opportunities.
  • Tuition fees are generally high, which may cause financial stress for some families.

The Top 10 Grammar Schools in the UK

Here are the top ten Grammar Schools in the UK, as ranked by the Sunday Times Parent Power League Table.

1. Wilson’s School

Topping the charts as the number one Grammar School in the UK, Wilson’s School, located in Sutton, South London, is an all-boys Grammar renowned for its academic prowess and exceptional standards. 

Founded in 1615, Wilson’s School has a long-standing reputation for nurturing talent. With state-of-the-art facilities, dedicated teachers and a supportive community, Wilson’s School offers a dynamic learning environment where boys thrive academically, socially and personally.

According to the school, parents regularly say just how much their boys enjoy their time at Wilson’s. They firmly believe “school life should be enjoyed for itself and not just as a preparation for adulthood.” As a result, enrichment opportunities are very strong, with a particular focus on sports and music.

2. Queen Elizabeth’s School

Founded in 1573, Queen Elizabeth’s School (located in Barnet, North London), is steeped in history and tradition. Indeed, the school celebrated its 450th anniversary in 2023. 

Renowned for academic excellence and high standards, this boys’ grammar consistently ranks among the top-performing schools in the country. Queen Elizabeth’s prides themselves on a “totally meritocratic environment” where all students teach their “considerable potential”. This plays out in exam results, with over 58% of A Levels awarded A* in 2023.

The school’s rich heritage is complemented by modern facilities, dedicated teachers and a vibrant extracurricular program, offering students a well-rounded education preparing them for future success.

3. Henrietta Barnett School

Henrietta Barnett School (in Hampstead Garden Suburb, London), is another incredibly well-respected London Grammar School. 

Founded in 1911, this all-girls school has established a reputation for consistently delivering outstanding results and nurturing generations of talented individuals. They are “committed to developing the whole person”, instilling confidence and a global outlook in their pupils.

With a strong emphasis on academic rigour, innovative teaching methods and a wide range of extracurricular activities, Henrietta Barnett School prepares its students to excel in an ever-changing world. The school is also set in beautiful, leafy surroundings – with a beautiful Grade II* listed Lutyens building.

4. Pate’s Grammar School

Founded in 1574, Pate’s Grammar School (in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire), is renowned for its strong academic focus and vibrant extracurricular activities. 

With a commitment to excellence, innovation, and personal development, Pate’s Grammar School provides students with a well-rounded education in stunning surroundings. 

The school’s supportive community, dedicated teachers and modern facilities create a stimulating learning environment. In their latest exam results, over 91% of A Level students achieved A*-B grades. 90% of GCSE candidates also secured exclusively 9-7 grades.

5. St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School

In Orpington, Kent, St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School boasts a legacy of academic excellence dating back to the sixteenth century. It provides a supportive environment with staff who “know their pupils well and serve their individual needs”.

The school prides itself on the diversity of its student body, championing respect and dignity for all. Indeed, there’s a strong sense of pride and loyalty right throughout the school.

As well as a thoroughly welcoming atmosphere, academic performance is also high. 91% of Olavian’s A Level grades were A* to B, with 41% at A*. 91% of GCSE grades were also 9-7 with 50% at grade 9.

6. Colchester Royal Grammar School

Established in 1206, Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS) holds the distinction of being one of the oldest schools in the country. 

Located in Colchester, Essex, CRGS has a long-standing reputation for academic excellence and holistic development. It joined the “Thinking Schools Academy Trust” in 2013 and offers a wide range of trips, extracurricular activities and global exchanges.

With a history spanning over eight centuries, CRGS combines traditional values with modern educational practices (and lessons designed to “stretch and inspire”) to provide students with a well-rounded Grammar education. It’s an 11-18 boys school, admitting girls for sixth-form study. 

CRGS is also one of the very few state-funded schools with boarding options – boasting a family-style boarding house for 30 sixth-form students.

7. The Tiffin Girls’s School

Nestled in the leafy suburb of Kingston upon Thames, The Tiffin Girls’ School is celebrated for its impressive academic achievements and inclusive ethos. 

Established in 1880, this girls’ Grammar provides a supportive and stimulating environment where students are encouraged to excel academically and develop into confident, independent young women.

In the headteacher’s welcome, the school’s “wonderful culture and ethos” is celebrated. Girls are consistently encouraged to pursue active citizenship and new challenges with a “real buzz” around the school. This inclusive and brave atmosphere stems from its motto “sapere aude” which translates as “dare to be wise”.

8. Reading School

With a history dating back to 1125 (founded as part of Reading Abbey), Reading School is one of the oldest and most prestigious Grammars in the country. 

Located in Berkshire, this boys’ Grammar School combines tradition with innovation to deliver exceptional education. Year 13 students consistently achieve the highest A Level grades, with over 90% of entries awarded A*-B. GCSE results are similarly high, with 85% of students achieving top 9-7 grades.

According to the school, these stellar results are a “necessary” but “insufficient” measure of education. Their outlook focuses on much more than grades, instead focusing on hope, society, culture and innovation – enabling “the best in humanity”.

9. King Edward VI School (KES)

With a history dating back to 1295, King Edward VI School (in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire), is one of the oldest and most prestigious Grammar Schools in the country. 

As the school attended by William Shakespeare, it combines rich heritage with modern educational philosophy, providing students with a dynamic learning environment in a truly historic setting. They ensure small sets in examination classes (for both GCSE and A Level), ensuring a personal approach for all students.

KES enriches its challenging curriculum with a “vast array” of activities including competitions, work experience, foreign exchanges, a visiting lecture program and field trips.

There’s also an exceptional girls’ grammar in this small town, Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls, affectionately known as Shottery.

10. Altrincham Grammar School for Girls

Established in 1910, Altrincham Grammar School for Girls (based in Altrincham, Cheshire), has a well-earned reputation for academic excellence and personal development. 

With a focus on empowering young women through education, this girls’ Grammar m provides a supportive and inclusive environment where students thrive academically and personally.

The school is part of the “Bright Futures Educational Trust” which creates a wide range of educational and extracurricular opportunities. They foster “enjoyment of learning, self-discipline, concern for others and opportunities for leadership” with every student encouraged to develop their full potential.

Are you thinking about Grammar School for your child?

If you’re thinking about Grammar Schools and preparing your child for their 11 Plus exams, get in touch today. Our expert team at Achieve Learning offers one-to-one 11 Plus tuition, consultancy and mock exams. With a proven track record of success, we’ll help your child achieve their academic goals.