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Hot House

Educating the G&T set

Claudia Savage-Gore on the tricky social nuances of London day schools

This article is taken from the January/February 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering three issue for just £5.


Our second, Lyra, will be doing her eleven-plus entrance exams this time next year and the PR campaign with the relevant heads should have started, like, yesterday. But Will has been massively ineffectual about which schools we should target most heavily — while also claiming to feel “unheard” whenever I threaten to apply without his blessing. “Unheard” FFS. I think he’s secretly Zooming that shit couples therapist we saw twice.

The proportion of Chinese billionaires at London day schools is much higher than in our day

Anyway, the thing is this is all new to him because our oldest, Minnie, was obsessed with boarding (I blame Will’s propaganda about his time at Radley). So she’s ended up at a kind of Bedales-lite school in Surrey, and I’m categorically not OK with Lyra following her. I mean, it was fine for Minnie who’s essentially Will in female form. But you know teachers have this term “alpha children” for the G&T (gifted and talented)? That’s literally Lyra. Seriously, it’s like looking in a mirror sometimes.

So obviously I’m fairly confident she’ll get into St Pauls, like I did, but clearly we still need to apply for a few other highly competitive schools to make the point that Lyra’s a force. Will doesn’t get this basic point — that your second and third choices are a major part of cementing alpha status. Plus it’s all any other parent is going to talk to us about for the next year.

So like I said, Will is completely in the dark about London day schools, having grown up in the Home Counties and believed, until freshers week at Exeter (I know) that all girls went to Wycombe Abbey, Tudor Hall, Downe House, etc. He’s therefore oblivious to the subtle but vital nuances between, say, Francis Holland and Channing. And since there’s always the slim chance St Pauls won’t offer, these nuances could turn out to be crucial. 

Anyway, I presented him with an idiot’s guide to girls’ days schools, to save him being duped by The Good Schools Guide or whatever else he’s naive enough to buy into. And instead of being grateful for the intel, he claimed that these were just my ’90s prejudices and that “things had probably changed”. But schools don’t change. Not at their core. 

Ergo: Westminster boys continue to adopt excruciating Peckham drug-dealer accents whenever they speak to anyone their own age. And nobody of any significance ever went to Northbridge House. Admittedly, the proportion of Chinese billionaires at London day schools is much higher than in our day. Ditto Russians. But whatever. Here’s my guide. You’re welcome.

North London Collegiate: Essentially St Paul’s minus the glamour and neuroses. Unflattering brown uniform. Likely to end up at UCL or Harvard.

Queen’s College: Beautiful but dumb AF. Probably good at drama.

Francis Holland Regent’s Park: See above.

City: Now thought of as really academic but my only memory of City girls is that they always lived in Islington when it wasn’t a place anyone was aware of.

Godolphin & Latymer: Likely to have a famous parent, but probably also a drug problem. Will end up at Central Saint Martins.

Channing: Sporty, medium bright, attractive “all rounders”. Another crap brown uniform.

South Hampstead: Like Channing, but cleverer.

Francis Holland Sloane Square: Irrelevant.

Putney High: Even more irrelevant.

Queen’s Gate: Where you go if you get expelled.

St Paul’s: You can just tell when someone’s a Paulina, mostly because that level of competition sends them all insane. But Lyra’s whole generation is going to have anxiety disorders anyway, so she may as well get into Oxford as a by-product. Right?

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