Parents camp out in ‘Wimbledon-style’ queues in rush for places at Hampstead’s independent schools

The queue outside South Hampstead High School of parents lining up to submit their application forms

The queue outside South Hampstead High School of parents lining up to submit their application forms - Credit: Archant

Parents have been camping out in “Wimbledon-style” queues to ensure their daughters’ places at one of Hampstead’s top independent schools - pointing to a rising demand in the private sector.

Parents of prospective pupils at all-girls South Hampstead High School waited patiently for two hours before the school opened its doors in Netherhall Gardens at its latest open day - in scenes likened to the tennis tournament’s annual queues.

Mums and dads came prepared with folding chairs for the long wait to hand in application forms and apply for places at the first possible opportunity, some two years before their daughters would attend the school in 2015.

The school operates a first-come, first-served system, and only accepts the first 250 applications to fill just 24 places.

A spokeswoman for South Hampstead High School said: “It is always one of the most exciting days for the school when we open registration. We always have a huge demand.

“The parents knew there was a cut-off at 250 so they wanted to be sure their forms got in on time.”

The school closed registration on the same day that it opened because it had already met its threshold.

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The first-come, first-served system may explain why parents were queuing in their droves last week but it does not provide a reason for the spike in interest at independent schools across Camden this year.

All four of North Bridge House’s schools, in Hampstead and Camden, have seen an increase in inquiries on open day visits despite a difficult economic climate.

Registrations for 2014 entry at the nursery school are up by 24 per cent from the previous year and at the junior school, applications have increased by 34 per cent from 2012.

Headteacher of North Bridge House Nursery and Junior Schools, Robyn Allsopp, said: “We are pleased to confirm that North Bridge House is more popular than ever and our registrations for all age groups in both the nursery and junior schools are up from previous years.”

A spokeswoman for University College School in Frognal said most schools in the area had reported a rise in applications but she had never heard of parents queuing around the block for places before.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC), a national body representing more than 1,200 private schools, reported in April that schools have been growing in size every year for the last 25 years, with pupil numbers rising by around one per cent in London in the last year.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the ISC, said the continued popularity of private schools is due to their academic success, wide variety of extra-curricular activities, and quality of pastoral care.

He said: “We also offer great choice, with schools to suit every requirement, whether you want a day school or a boarding school, single sex or co-education.

“Some of our schools are selective and highly academic, offering the chance to stretch the bright child. Others have very strong drama or music departments full of creative opportunities in plays, orchestras and choirs.”