The importance of a good education can’t be overstated and the earlier your children start the better.

Academia is more a journey than a destination and those first few steps are crucial; the perfect prep school isn’t simply a learning institution, it’s the key to unlocking a student’s potential both now and in the future.

As well as the innate educational merits of these institutions, they have the added benefit of unlocking some of the most elite schools in the world. Entry isn’t guaranteed of course, but the likes of Harrow and Eton certainly know where to look for those fitting their stringent criteria, and sending your child to one of these five prep schools certainly won’t hurt their chances.

Arnold House Boys Prep School

The bright red jackets of Arnold House students are synonymous with arguably the most coveted preparatory school in the UK – and quite possibly the world. While the school’s stated aim is relatively simple – to turn out ‘well-rounded, nice young men with good manners’ – that mission statement happens to coincide with scholarships to the likes of City of London, St Paul’s and Eton.

Needless to say the school is oversubscribed – as are all the most sought after preps, privates and universities – but there’s no need to go over the top in tutoring. Entry requirements aren’t that stringent in an academic sense, but come more from their first impressions of the prospective student and, more importantly, the parents. In short, if your son doesn’t get in, it’s probably not his fault but yours. Be on your best behaviour.

Bute House Girls Prep School

It’s easy to get sucked into the culture of constant tests and exams, the streaming and academic elitism common to all too many institutions. That’s never the case at Bute House. Girls are never streamed and there’s not a single exam until the 11-plus, meaning that students can take their education at their own pace.

Not that it’s all fluff of course; the girls are certainly not shy of a bit of competition outside of their own school, consistently coming on top in badminton, netball and swimming. Bute House also provides a constant stream of students to Benenden, Wycombe and Uppingham so their approach is evidently working. Whether it’s the environment, the ethos or the truly exceptional teaching staff, that’s all that really matters.

Dulwich Prep London

The students of Dulwich prep seem to excel at whatever they turn their hands to. The swimming team is ranked nationally, the football team regularly heads off to competitions in St. Germain, 50 percent of their 300 music exams last year earned distinction and, just to top it all off, the school contributed 20 pieces to the Young Art Exhibition at the RCA. There are no half measures here.

Their academic record is almost as impressive; last year Dulwich students were awarded 57 scholarships to schools across London and the Southeast. The list of those particular schools reads like the top of the league table. Between the seemingly inevitable sporting and educational prowess of their students, Dulwich has one aim in mind for it’s boys above all else: to simply be ‘happy children who love life.’  Dulwich gives them a very good start there, too.

Eaton House The Manor School

If the name didn’t give it away to begin with, Eaton House The Manor is pure educational traditionalism. Don’t expect new-wave teaching techniques or a softly approach – order and discipline are the core aspects of this London prep. Granted discipline is far easier with just 200 students, but getting in certainly isn’t.

Boys and girls might be segregated when it comes to teaching, but both are technically the same school, meaning there’s a little more social integration than most single-gender preps. That said, it does allow Eaton House The Manor to set their students’ aims at the perfect schools for them: Dulwich College, King’s Wimbledon and Westminster for the boys; Francis Holland, JAGS and Woldingham for the girls.

Falkner House Prep School

It might this year have both a boys and a girls school, the former is actually a recent addition to Falkner House. The girls school on the other hand is one of the most successful in the country – which given the wealth of academic institutions in the UK is saying something – and rather than some teaches its students to succeed academically, not socially.

Falkner may be a beautifully traditional school but from reception onwards the tools of teaching are cutting-edge with iPads and Apple Macs dotting every classrooms. Outside of lessons, girls are encouraged towards independent learning as much as sports and Falkner students are invariably successful in both. Only time will tell, but given Falkner’s track record we have high hopes for the boys’ prep too.

Words by: Sam Kessler