Is London a good place to raise a family? Can you actually raise kids in the capital city? Of course you can!
In fact, in terms of pure numbers, London has more kids than anywhere else, so it can't be too hard to raise them here.
But where to raise your kids is always going to be an important decision. There are lots of factors that you should consider and in this article we have covered the most important.
- Pros and cons of raising kids in London
- Education in London
- Safest places to live in London
- Outdoor space in London
- London - a cultural hub
- Opportunities for kids in London
Pros and cons of raising kids in London
The pros of raising kids in London are numerous:
- There are loads of things to do with kids, simply loads of things. It is literally impossible to be bored, if you put your mind it. At the obvious end you have museums (see this article for more details), theatre, music, sport, zoos, family attractions like the Tower of London, movies, family friendly restaurants and tours.
There are also a myriad of more obscure activities that get you off the beaten track, like a self-guided walk of the sights of the Great Fire of London or why don't you see if the kids would enjoy mudlarking on the Thames foreshore?
- London is very cosmopolitan. If you want your kids to grow up with a broad world view, an acceptance of other cultures and an appreciation of the value of difference, then London is the place
- Public transport is outstanding, much better than anywhere else in the UK. It is so good that it is easy not to have a car at all. This means that older kids can become independent more easily than if they lived anywhere else in the UK
- It is easy to cycle almost everywhere, due to the extensive network of cycle lanes in the capital. Kids love cycling
- There are loads of great outdoor spaces within easy reach of almost everyone, great for the kids to run around and burn off excess energy. See this article for details of the largest parks in London
There are a few cons of raising kids in London:
- The air quality is a problem in London compared to the rest of the UK, due to the sheer size of the capital, and this might be a more of a concern when there are kids in the equation
- Property prices and rents in London can be significantly higher than in the rest of the country. If you have a family, then you need more than a 1-bed flat, and ideally a garden, which adds to the cost. Fortunately, London jobs tend to pay more than the rest of the country, so it balances out to some extent. And for most people, if you do it strategically, it is quite possible to buy property in London
- Traffic is pretty awful at most times. Doing the school run during rush hour will not be fun
Education in London
For most parents, making sure that their children have a good education is a high priority. Schooling in London is a real mixture, so you'll have to think carefully about where to live and how much to spend.
A key distinction is between private (fee-paying) and public education:
- If you go down the fee-paying route you can expect to pay around £20,000 per year per year for most London day schools. For this you will typically very good facilities, smaller class sizes, shorter terms, and generally good teaching. You will be able to contact the teachers individually, and expect a rapid response or a meeting if you want. Depending on the school there may be a strong sense of entitlement/arrogance among both the parent and pupil bodies. There will be a uniformly high value placed on education by the parents and a focus on results from the school.
If you are going private, you then need to decide if academically selective is the way forward, in which case get ready for 6 months of tutoring prior to the entrance exams
- In the state sector, there are no fees to pay. Good state schools can still cost though, in that the cost of housing in the catchment area of the best schools can be up to 8% higher according to research by the Department of Education. As class sizes are larger than in the private sector, and resources more limited, you might also need to factor in the cost of additional tutoring for your children
Safest places to live in London
Safety is likely to be a consideration when you are thinking of family. If we go by reported crime statistics, the safest boroughs in London are Richmond-upon-Thames, Harrow and Bexley. You can find all the details of the other safest areas here.
Outdoor space in London
One of the things that most kids really need is space to run around and places to get mucky and explore nature. Gardens in the London area are often small to non-existent, so it is a good job that London is blessed with a large number of wonderful parks, from the tiny garden squares (usually only for local residents) to the world famous Hyde Park (free to all) and Kew Gardens (not free, but well worth the entry cost).
Most of the larger parks allow for activities such as cycling and boating, for example Battersea Park and Dulwich Park. Battersea Park also has a great little zoo that is perfect for kids.
London - a cultural hub
Culture for kids cuts two ways. They can observe/experience it and they can actually take part.
You can take them to listen to an orchestra AND they can play in it. They can go to the theatre AND they can strut your stuff on stage.
Of course this is also true for adults; there are plenty of adults who enjoy amateur orchestra or dance classes. But I guess it is more true for kids.
In London your kids will be amazing well provided for however they want to enjoy the arts.
Take classical music for example. For a very early age they can enjoy great classical music with Bach to Baby. You can take them to FUNharmonics at the Royal Festival Hall. Other world-renown venues like the Royal Albert Hall and the Wigmore Hall run similar programmes for children of various ages.
But if they also want to make music themselves the opportunities are almost endless. You can find anything from local teachers up to the junior programmes of the great music institutions like the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music (these latter options if your kids show Mozart tendencies lol).
Theatre is similar. You can open their minds with trips to the Unicorn Theatre to see wonderful, age-appropriate acting. If they want a go themselves, stage schools are on every street corner. And in London, you never know when a talent agent might be lurking around looking for the next Daniel Radcliffe!
Opportunities for kids in London
For older children, having the opportunity to get work experience in a field they are interested in can be life changing. They can get a real feel for how different careers might suit them, which can drive their choices of A-levels and university courses they apply for. Meeting a mentor can open horizons that were invisible before and change a child's expectations of what they can achieve in life.
London is by far the biggest city in the UK, and has many of the biggest, most innovative businesses. Hence the opportunities for work experience in London are so much greater than anywhere else. When but London could you get work experience with giants of investment banking like JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley?