DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Published 27 March 2017

Clive HedgesEvery property programme you have ever seen on TV has told you that when it comes to selling a house, it’s all about ‘location, location, location’.  It is undeniable that certain towns and villages, and within cities certain areas and suburbs, have a bigger appeal than others.

There are all sorts of factors which affect this, but one of the biggest, especially for families, is the quality of the local schools.  And now research from none other than the Department for Education has put a figure on just what a difference being in the catchment area of a top state school can make.

The government research, published this week shows that homes near the top 10% of secondary schools cost on average 6.8% more; buy near one of the top 10% of primary schools and you face an 8% price premium.  On the average house price in Norfolk, that means you’ll pay more than £20,000 more to live in a home close to a top-performing primary school.

While the quality of education available nearby is undoubtedly a big factor in attracting buyers, it is only one of many: in much of rural Norfolk, broadband speeds are increasingly a factor, especially with more people wanting to work from home.  Good transport links are another desirable, whilst we have often covered the ‘Waitrose factor’ – the bounce in house prices which result from the opening of the upmarket grocers in the locality.

What this latest study means, of course, is a gradual introduction in the state sector of selection, not by ability, but by parents’ financial means.  There is a danger that only the affluent will be able to afford to live in the catchment areas of the best schools.

education

Interestingly, the DfE statistics rate schools only by exam results – they define the top 10% as those with the best Key Stage 2 results (for primary) or GCSE grades (for secondary).  Whilst this can be a useful snapshot, it’s only one way of measuring a school.

My advice to buyers looking to move to a good school catchment area (enthusiastically backed up by my wife, who is a primary school teacher) is that you need to do rather more research than just looking at the most recent exam results. 

Before paying a premium to buy a home close to a school whose students did well last summer, look also at their Ofsted report, and most importantly ask around to get some anecdotal evidence about how good the school is at those vital things which are less easy to present in neat statistics: behaviour, extra-curricular activities, culture and values.

In short, if you want to buy a house near a school where your child will get a good education, you must do your homework.

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