Matthew Dancona


An introduction from Matthew d’Ancona, editor of The Spectator

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An introduction from Matthew d’Ancona, editor of The Spectator

The Spectator is a proudly humanist journal. Since the days of Addison and Steele, co-founders of the magazine in its first incarnation in 1711, we have championed the civilising power of learning: not only as a route to employment, but as a path to pleasure. It is an article of faith for us that education is liberation. The books we read, the science we absorb, the languages we learn, the artistic, sporting and musical skills we acquire are the tools that enable us to fulfil our potential as human beings. The best education is not just about cramming for exams but preparing the young for life in all its aspects. No wonder parents fret so deeply about the schools to which they send their children.

This guide is intended to make that quest a little easier for you. The Spectator has long campaigned for more state grammar schools, but they remain pitifully few in number and extraordinarily hard to get into. Every year, therefore, thousands of parents enter the maze of independent education, determined to get the best for their children, but understandably uncertain about what criteria to apply, where to look, how to set aside money for fees, what hidden extras to budget for and how to assess the relative merits of boarding and day schools.

There are no simple answers to such questions. But the articles in these pages should act as a compass for the intrepid parent beginning a journey that can be baffling, is often overwhelming and is invariably expensive. It is a truism that, in looking for the right school, information is power — and with good reason. To help you, the tables compiled at the end of this section are uniquely arranged — listed by county, alphabetical order, cost and performance.

I hope you find this guide useful and that you will let me know how we can improve it in years to come. Do email me at with your thoughts — and good luck as you embark on the search for the right school for your child.

Matthew d’Ancona

Editor, The Spectator