Tiger parents, this is for you: the top 10 places for primary schools. There is a caveat — admissions criteria are remarkably localised, so you’ll still have to do your homework
Bermondsey, London SE16 Inner London may not be the destination of choice for many parents, but this postcode has three primary schools in the top 500: Riverside Primary School (28); St Joseph’s RC Primary School (106); St James’ CofE Primary School (173).
Putney, London SW15 Three primaries in the top 500, as part of a wider presence of 10 schools across the borough of Wandsworth: St Mary’s C of E Primary School (9=); Our Lady of Victories RC Primary School (50=); Brandlehow Primary School (113).
Ruislip This London suburb has four schools in the top 500: Whiteheath Junior School (136); Sacred Heart RC Primary School (256=); Warrender Primary School, (282=); St Swithun Wells RC Primary School (350=).
St Albans Three schools in the top 500 (and two in neighbouring Harpenden): Cunningham Hill Junior School (142); Abbey CofE VA Primary School (164=); Maple Primary School, (480=).
Maidenhead This Berkshire hotspot has three entries in the top 500: Oldfield Primary School (9=); Lowbrook Academy (9=); White Waltham CofE (449=).
Rugby Four top-500 choices: Paddox Primary School (85); Knightlow CofE (161); Long Lawford (288); Clifton-upon-Dunsmore CofE Primary (303=).
Nottingham NG12 You’ll find three in the top 500 here: Willow Brook Primary School (167); Cotgrave Candleby Lane School (221); Kinoulton Primary School (291).
Rossendale There are three top-500 options here, too: Rawtenstall Balladen Community Primary School (111); Helmshore Primary School (334); St Veronica’s RC Primary School (403).
Wetherby Yorkshire gold, with four schools in the top 500: St Joseph’s RC Primary School (78=); Collingham Lady Elizabeth Hastings’ CofE (149=); St Edward’s RC, Boston Spa (316=); Crossley Street Primary School (480=).
Stockton-on-Tees Three top-500 schools in the borough, all in Eaglescliffe: Junction Farm Primary School (91=); Durham Lane Primary School (181=); The Links Primary School (362).
Source: Alastair McCall, editor of Parent Power, The Sunday Times Schools Guide
Bath The city’s two universities are among the safest in the country, according to research by the Complete University Guide. Impressive safety record aside, Bath is simply beautiful. Average student rent £375 a month
Birmingham Brum’s students let their hair down the most, spending more on alcohol (£68 a week) than those in any other UK city. And after the booze, there’s the balti — Birmingham is the UK’s curry capital. £350 a month
Brighton Coming out of the closet isn’t always easy, but Brighton is a good place to do it — or just experiment and explore a more alternative way of life. Brighton rocks. £435 a month
Cambridge Why study here? Because the University of Cambridge is consistently ranked among the foremost universities in the world, that’s why. But it isn’t all about books: there are the bicycles, the punts and the pubs. £470 a month
London The capital was crowned second best student city in the world by the global rankings drawn up by the QS Best Student Cities — and rightly so. It has world-class clubs, culture and a true cosmopolitan mix — more than 100,000 international students from upwards of 200 nations. The capital can be eye-wateringly expensive, but there are loads of part-time jobs available to help finance your studies (and social life). £600 a month
Loughborough Ranked Sports University of the Year by The Sunday Times, it was also the official preparation camp for Team GB ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games. Even if you don’t wander around in a tracksuit, you should fit in: it was voted England’s best student experience for six years running (2006-11). £337 a month
Manchester The university at the heart of northern soul receives more applications for undergraduate study than any other — and it’s a lively place to live. There are four centres of learning to choose from: Manchester University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Salford University and the Royal Northern College of Music. What’s more, life in Manchester is super-affordable, with digs almost 50% cheaper than in Dublin or London. £350 a month
Newcastle Get a degree in partying — Which? rates Newcastle as the third best university in the country for nightlife. An £8m refurbishment of the students’ union has recently been completed: proof, if any were needed, that this northern uni plays hard. £325 a month
St Andrews Ever since Kate Middleton and Prince William put this pretty Fife town on the map, St Andrews has been one of the most popular UK universities. £500 a month
Swansea If you want to hear the sound of crashing waves post seminar, this could be the university for you: the campus is less than a minute from the beach. £280 a month
Sources: Kaye Holland and Bryn Glover, Student365.co.uk, Easyroommate.com
Keswick, Cumbria Free of many of the tourist excesses of the central Lake District, Keswick is a walkers’ paradise from where you can scale the highest peaks in England. A base camp for the iconic fells of the north Lakes, such as Skiddaw — which looms above the town — or the perfectly formed peak of Catbells, Keswick is also blessed with a fine selection of earthy hikers’ pubs, including the famous Dog & Gun.
Ambleside, Cumbria At the northern tip of Windermere, Ambleside offers walkers an express route up into the hills. The huge massif of Fairfield and its subsidiary peaks can be climbed in less than two hours, while there are more modest fells around Grasmere. For a more ambitious expedition, head over Lakeland passes into the intimate neighbouring valleys.
Settle, North Yorkshire This Dales market town is an ideal point from which to explore the rugged limestone country that surrounds it. Footpaths radiate out in every direction, but it’s Settle’s location at the end of England’s most scenic railway — the Settle-Carlisle line — which opens up vast tracts of the nation’s richest walking country to hikers.
Bakewell, Derbyshire In the heart of the White Peak, Bakewell is possibly the prettiest of the Peak District’s market towns. What sets it apart, though, is its proximity to such a diverse range of walking country. From Bakewell’s mellow stone streets, hikers can stride over to Monsal Head or the gnarly edges of Baslow and Curbar. Chatsworth is also within easy walking distance, as is the valley of Lathkill Dale.
Hay-on-Wye, Powys Perched on the banks of the Wye, this ancient border town offers instant access to the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons. The walking hereabouts is wild and lonely, offering an ideal escape from crowds invading the more accessible honeypots. To the north, the lower-lying hills of Radnor Forest offer less ambitious rambles.
Llangollen, Denbighshire Eastern gateway to the glories of Snowdonia, Llangollen is the ideal jumping-off point for the gentler slopes of the Clwydian, Llantysilio and Berwyn hills, whose ridges converge on the north Wales market town. The Offa’s Dyke long-distance trail passes the eastern suburbs before following the limestone escarpment of Eglwyseg, above the River Dee, into a fascinating landscape of prehistoric remains.
Bath, Somerset Sandwiched between the Cotswolds and the Mendips, Bath is quite simply a stunning city surrounded by hills that are criss-crossed with a multitude of footpaths. Standing at the southern terminus of the 100-mile Cotswold Way, its elegant Abbey has become a place of pilgrimage for long-distance walkers, while the six-mile Bath skyline walk is a splendid half-day hike.
Wooler, Northumberland Nestling under the edge of the deserted upland vastness of the Cheviot massif, yet within hiking distance of empty beaches and the spectacular Northumberland coastline, Wooler offers walkers a world of choice.
Pitlochry, Perthshire This modest little town marks the final outpost of civilisation before the Cairngorms. This vast plateau is the closest we get to an authentic wilderness, but the forest of Blair Atholl offers less intimidating hikes. The enigmatic conical peak of Schiehallion lies a few miles to the west, while the Pass of Killiekrankie is one of the best gorge walks in Britain.
Ullapool, Wester Ross Appearing out of the folds of inlets and mountains, Ullapool’s location — between the intimidating peaks of Scotland’s far north and the sea — suits mountain-bikers, kayakers, walkers and fishermen. The town is pleasingly substantial, so you can get most of what you need without leaving its sequestered charms.
Coniston, Cumbria A This is one of the more convenient Lakeland villages to visit, if you’re travelling from the south. It’s also one of the prettiest and least corrupted by the tacky brigade. There’s a fine local brewery, too. Drink up.
Mallaig, West Highlands Mallaig’s principal attraction is not that it is within eyeshot of the fierce island silhouettes — Skye’s Cuillin ridge looks particularly dramatic. Nor is it the town itself, though the seafood is hard to beat. No, living in this West Highland port is all about strategic positioning; from here, you can access the wild places of Britain.
Dolgellau, Gwynedd Nestled at the foot of Wales’s second most famous mountain, Cadair Idris, and near the quiet hills of the Arans and the rugged, thickety wilderness of the Rhinogs, Dolgellau is a charming, robust launching pad for exploring southern Snowdonia and the Welsh coast.
Sources: Country Walking and Trail magazines; lfto.co.uk
The UK housing market is picking up, and rising prices bring back the investors. But where are the surest bets?
Manchester City Centre The chief executive of the city council, Sir Howard Bernstein, is driving regeneration of this lively northern city with an iron hand. A booming economy and limited stock for sale make Manchester an easy first choice.
Central London It has become clear that the world wants to come to the capital, and prices are expected to continue their rapid rise.
Derby A £1.3bn deal with the train manufacturer Bombardier has secured 760 jobs, and a further 244 are still to be created. It’s a manufacturing success story — and all those employees will need somewhere to live.
Alderley Edge This aspirational location south of Manchester has one of the most vibrant local cafe and restaurant scenes. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just for footballers and Wags.
Southern Lake District Strict planning restrictions in the area limit new development, and this perfectly controlled environment limits supply. The price-growth forecast is steady.
Devon Coastal towns Regardless of floods, homes on the south coast are still in great demand.
Cambridge Property in the fenland city is even more sought after thanks to the burgeoning tech industry and easy access to London. The universities provide a route into the lucrative student-lettings sector.
Warwick A city in almost all but name, this county town is a good spot to invest in a student buy-to-let.
Edinburgh The market in the Scottish capital is strong. Registers of Scotland figures recently revealed that more properties were sold in Edinburgh at the end of last year than anywhere else in Scotland. Its rich culture makes it a popular location with families, students and downsizers.
Aberdeen The granite city has shown a huge growth in property prices, with North Sea oil driving the local economy and local industry. It’s one of Scotland’s star performers and has a very bright future.
It is a housing truth universally acknowledged that good state schools push up property prices. But where to go? Our top 10 has been chosen by Alastair McCall, the editor of Parent Power, The Sunday Times Schools Guide. It offers a geographical spread and where possible a cluster of schools, so that you can find places where your children can go on to achieve outstanding results without having to pay or pass a raft of selection tests.
The place North London borough that is both leafy and urban — and brainy.
The schools Queen Elizabeth’s School (UK state secondary school rank: 1), boys’ grammar; The Henrietta Barnett School (2), girls’ grammar; St Michael’s RC Grammar School (8), girls’ grammar; Hasmonean High School (79), Jewish, mixed; Mill Hill County High School (154), mixed (selected on technology, music and dance); Ashmole Academy (155=), mixed (some selected on musical ability); Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School, Barnet (304); Finchley RC High School (359=), boys, mixed sixth; Copthall School (498); Woodhouse College (UK sixth-form college rank: 6), mixed.
The price Average family home, £520,000; detached, £1.17m.
The place The capital of Essex, 35 minutes from London by train.
The schools King Edward VI Grammar School (13), boys, mixed sixth form; Chelmsford County High School for Girls (19); St John Payne RC Comprehensive (277), mixed; The Boswells School (330), mixed; The Anglo-European School (441), mixed, offers International Baccalaureate; The Sandon School (463), mixed.
The price Average family home, £283,000; detached, £411,000.
The place Great transport links and nooks of architectural interest.
The schools Maidstone Grammar School for Girls (97=), girls, mixed sixth form; Invicta Grammar School (101), girls, mixed sixth form; Oakwood Park Grammar School (193=), boys, mixed sixth form; Maidstone Grammar School (201=), boys, mixed sixth form; St Simon Stock RC Comprehensive (487), mixed.
The price Average family home, £261,000; detached, £418,000.
The place A civilised sort of a place with Regency terraces and festivals.
The schools Pate’s Grammar School (4), mixed, and three comprehensives: Balcarras School (178), mixed; The Cotswold School (224), a mixed language and science academy; Cleeve School (429=), mixed.
The price Average family home, £284,000; detached, £454,000.
The place An architectural mixed bag, cheaper than nearby Cheltenham.
The schools All selective grammars: Sir Thomas Rich’s School (54=), boys’ grammar, mixed sixth form; High School for Girls (73), girls’ grammar, mixed sixth form; Ribston Hall High School (203), girls, mixed sixth form; The Crypt School (390=), boys, mixed sixth form.
The price Average family home, £189,000; detached, £290,000.
The place Well-heeled and well-connected.
The schools Four good comprehensives: All Saints RC School (171=), mixed; Fulford School (219), mixed; Archbishop Holgate’s School (256=), C of E, mixed; Huntington School (375), mixed.
The price Average family home, £238,000; detached, £330,000.
The place Possibly the most beautiful cathedral city in England.
The schools Durham Johnston School (107), mixed (top co-ed non-faith comprehensive in England); Framwellgate School (166), mixed; St Leonard’s RC School (207=), mixed. Also look to Chester-le-Street and Lanchester.
The price Average family home, £147,000; detached £225,000.
The place Super spa town in the Yorkshire Dales.
The schools St Aidan’s C of E High School (225=), mixed; St John Fisher RC High School (238), mixed; Rossett School (472=), mixed. Also try Knaresborough and Ripon.
The price Average family home, £297,000; detached, £470,000.
The place A relatively rich and leafy chunk of Greater Manchester.
The schools It’s hard work to getinto one of these selective grammars: Altrincham Grammar School for Girls (7); Altrincham Grammar School for Boys (69); Loreto Grammar School (82=), Catholic, girls; St Ambrose College (137), Catholic, boys.
The price Average family home, £359,000; detached, £631,000.
The place One of Britain’s happiest — and greenest — cities.
The schools Tapton School (197), mixed; Silverdale School (260=), mixed; High Storrs School (291), mixed; Notre Dame High School (308), Catholic, mixed; King Edward VII School (351=), mixed.
The price Average family home, £163,000; detached, £270,000.