When you have a family or are thinking about starting one, you will want to give your children the best possible start in life and choosing where to live will be a major part of the process. In an attempt to help families get to grips with the national property market and find the perfect patch to raise their brood, TheHouseShop.com have painstakingly researched and ranked dozens of areas across the UK to reveal to best, and worst, places to raise a family.
By looking at a variety of factors relating to housing, childcare, schooling, cost of living and quality of life, we hope to discover England’s next family hot-spots. Ranking factors included: the average price of 3 and 4 bed family homes currently on the market, affordability of childcare and the number of childcare providers rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, Key Stage 2 scores, Key Stage 4 or GCSE achievement, cost of living, crime and safety indexes and more…
Top 5 Family Hotspots in England:
And the 3 worst: Brighton, Exeter and Cambridge.
Nick Marr, Co-founder of TheHouseShop.com, commented on the results:
“With the rapid increase of prices in London’s property market, families are struggling to get a foot on the property ladder and find the quality of life that they hope to achieve. However, outside the capital there are a wealth of affordable and desirable family-friendly towns, cities and villages that offer the perfect combination of affordable childcare, excellent local schools, low cost of living and great quality of life.”
“With many families already making the jump to commuter towns and cities across the country, property developers and investors are taking note of the potential for growth in these family-friendly areas, and it is highly likely that we will see significant development in emerging hot spots over the coming years.”
“The lesson here is not to be blinded by the bright lights of London, as buyers who keep an eye on the many up-and-coming areas outside the capital are far more likely to enjoy a better quality of life and get better value for money – whereas many of those in London will have drained the kids’ university fund before they’ve even made it through primary school.”
Full Area Breakdown
Leeds performed well consistently across the ranking factors and was frequently featured in the top 5 overall including:
• 4th for cost of living
• 4th place overall for quality of childcare with 41 providers in the area rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted
• 4th for Key Stage 4 results, with 54.6% attaining A* – C grades in Maths and English
• Leeds scored highly for availability of family homes with 1,406 3 bed properties currently on the market
• Scraped into the top 5 for median annual salary with £24,752
Leeds is one of the fastest growing metropolitan cities in the UK with good schools, beautiful rural hamlets and cosmopolitan suburbs.
Leeds’ school pupils achieved the biggest increase in attainment at GCSE levels in the whole of Yorkshire, with the proportion of students in the city getting at least five good grades (including maths and English) increasing significantly compared to the previous year.
Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, has recently confirmed that Leeds will appear on the newly announced phase 2 route of HS2, greatly improving transport links and cutting journey times to key locations throughout the country. Although the new line is not due to open until 2033, the potential for growth and development as a result of the new high speed service has already been noted by investors, suggesting a bright future for the area.
Within Leeds, the Horsforth area is one of the most popular neighbourhoods for families. Being just 10 minutes drive from the city centre, Horsforth offers an excellent family-friendly location with good primary schools, low crime rates, large open spaces, and all within easy commute of the employment opportunities and entertainment in the city centre.
• Came 1st for safety out of all areas
• 3rd for availability of 3 bed properties on the market at a whopping 1,504
• 2nd overall for Key Stage 4 attainment
• 2nd overall for percentage of pupils reaching the expected standard at Key Stage 2
• Solid performance for affordability of family homes with 3 bed homes costing on average £181,942, and 4 beds on average £307,405
Reading is a great place to entertain your kids with tons of family-friendly activities, including a museum, a swimming complex with 4 separate pools, an indoor climbing centre and if you really want to impress the kids, Chessington World of Adventures is just an hours drive away.
Reading has put in an impressive performance when it comes to education, with three quarters of schools in the area receiving a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ Ofsted rating. Reading came second overall for the percentage of pupils achieving the expected standard at Key Stage 2 according to our rankings, and matched this result in GCSE performance, again coming 2nd overall.
Nearby Wokingham is a short drive outside of Reading and has repeatedly been voted the number one spot to raise a family in the UK. The birthplace of Will Young and actor Nick Hoult, Wokingham owes its success to very low crime rates, excellent Key Stage 2 results and a selection of great primary and secondary schools. With high average salaries in Woking itself, parents have solid local employment opportunities, however with frequent trains to London taking just over an hour, the option to commute is also available.
• 3rd place for percentage of pupils achieving A*-C grades in Maths and English GCSEs
• Top 5 for affordability according to the Cost of Living Index
• 5th place for percentage of average salary spent on childcare at 17%
• 4th for safety on the Crime Rates Index
• Good availability of family homes currently on the market
While Nottingham may not be an obvious choice for families, there are a number of key neighbourhoods that offer the perfect combination of high quality and affordable childcare, low cost of living, solid GCSE and primary school performance and desirable family homes.
Southwell, one of Nottinghamshire’s prettiest market towns, has a splendid cathedral, narrow high street, beautiful pubs and good primary and secondary schools – making it a popular choice for families.
West Bridgeford is another popular neighbourhood for families. The area is great for sport-loving kids with excellent facilities, being home to the Nottingham Forest football ground and world famous Trentbridge cricket ground. House prices in West Bridgeford are affordable with the average price of 3 bed homes currently on the market standing at £298,529.
Not only are there pretty detached homes available, but property developers have also seen potential in the area with 2 significant new developments recently coming onto the market. The Bounds, situated in a quiet cul de sac just a ten minute walk from the town centre, offers a selection of 3, 4 and 5 bed contemporary family homes – while a new sustainable development of 500 homes overlooking the River Trent and the Hook Nature Reserve also offer affordable, family-friendly living.
• 2nd place for average price of a 4 bed property at £274,716
• 5th place for average price of a 3 bed home at £176,900
• 4th place for percentage of pupils achieving the expected Key Stage 2 standard
• Joint bottom of the table for safety with a Crime Rate Index score of 100
• 10th overall for median annual salary at £23,192
Sheffield is Britain’s fifth largest city with a population of 563,749, meaning there will be ample opportunity to meet other young families here. Located conveniently close to the Peak District, it’s easy to escape the city centre. However, if a trip to the hills is a stretch too far, then there are numerous parks to enjoy within Sheffield’s urban centre too.
The Ecclesall neighbourhood is a popular choice among families with its leafy streets and character-filled Victorian 3 – 4 bed homes. Buyers can expect to pay upwards of £200,000 for a detached home in the area, while renters can find a selection of 3 and 4 bed family homes available for between £900 to £1,300 per month. The Silverdale and Ecclesall secondary schools have also recently been rated outstanding by Ofsted, providing solid educational options for older children.
Norton, another sought-after location due to its quiet village lifestyle, is a fantastic area for parks, shops and travel links, with easy access to major routes around Sheffield.. The Norton Free Church of England Controlled Primary School and Meadowhead School have a good record of Key Stage 2 results, and are an essential component of Norton’s village community.
• 1st for Cost of Living
• 1st for average price of 3 bed properties currently on the market at £145,796
• 4th for average price of 4 bed properties currently on the market at £295,771
• 6th place according to Crime Rates Index with a score of 89 out of 100
• On a positive note, came in the top 10 areas for Key Stage 2 performance
Plymouth is well known for its friendly locals and laid back attitude, with most people commuting into the city from the surrounding villages, small towns and hamlets in less than 30 minutes.
There are numerous local children’s activities to choose from with Merchant’s House Museum, Plymouth Pavilions Ice Rink, Tinside Lido, West Hoe Park and ClayArt all within a mile of the city centre. While there are tons of family-friendly activities to keep the kids entertained in Plymouth, there is always the option to escape the city and visit fantastic beaches such as Bude, Widemouth and Crackington, all within an easy drive.
When it comes to family-friendly neighbourhoods, Newton Ferrers is a beautiful, tranquil village located on the banks of the River Yealm and just 10 miles from the urban sprawl of Plymouth. While Newton Ferrers offers rural seaside living in picturesque surroundings, the only downside is the recent rise in property prices, with a 4 bed home complete with a plot of land in the area now coming in at a hefty price tag of £675,000.
And the worst:
Brighton’s large student population and high cost of living make it more suited to young professionals than young families.
• Popular university town which is less suited for young families
• Came last in the cost of living ranking factor
• In the bottom 5 for % of salary spent on childcare at 20%
• On a positive note, came in 2nd place for number of outstanding childcare providers
• In the bottom 5 for KS4 maths and English attainment
Brighton has become a popular area for young professionals and families priced out of London, however this has driven up the cost of family homes considerably and the boost in population in recent years has also led to a relatively high crime rate. House prices in the area are far from affordable, with detached houses creeping up towards the £600,000 mark and the average flat costing just under £300,000.
If your mortgage payment hasn’t eaten up all your disposable income, then the high cost of living certainly will, with Brighton coming last overall for this ranking factor.
While Brighton does contain many desirable neighbourhoods, Whitehawk and Moulsecoomb are some of the poorest in Brighton and have earned the unfortunate nickname of the “third world” of Sussex.
Expensive housing and poor primary school performance make Exeter a bad choice for families.
• Worst score for KS2 attainment
• Most expensive for a 3 bed family home costing £487,778
• 2nd last for outstanding childcare providers rated by Ofsted
• High score on the Crime Index Rating featuring in the bottom 5
• High on the Met Office map of average UK pollen levels making it unsuitable for children with serious allergies
In October 2015, uSwitch ranked Devon 132nd out of 138 counties for the worst place to live in the UK. While Devon does contain some great places to live, certain less desirable areas have significantly impacted its overall performance.
Exeter ranked poorly in a number of our family hot spots categories, especially when it comes to safety, with crime rates in the area significantly higher than the average for Devon and Cornwall. A key concern for families in Exeter are the high levels of drug and substance abuse in the area, with local residents in some neighbourhoods even avoiding using their gardens due to used needles being thrown over their walls.
Relatively high rates of homelessness in Exeter also point to broader social deprivation that could have a negative impact on family life in the area. In fact, in 2014 Exeter was branded one of the worst places to live in Devon according to reviews by ordinary people, many of whom cited Exeter’s high levels of social deprivation.
Volatility and uncertainty in the housing market, high cost of living and surprisingly poor educational achievement made Cambridge one of the worst places to raise a family.
• Came in the bottom 5 for cost of living
• Performed poorly for percentage of salary spent on childcare at 20%
• 2nd lowest KS4 maths and English attainment
• Scored in the bottom 5 for Crime Rate Index
• Bottom 5 for median annual salary £20,956
In 2015, Cambridge was listed as the 7th worst place to live in the UK based on a range of factors including crime, health, schools, homelessness and deprivation. Despite its world class university, Cambridge was also ranked 5th worst overall for education in the same report.
The 2015 Department of Education report reveals Fenland in particular as a failing area for education, being named the worst performing district in the whole of England for primary school results. Only 66.2% of children achieved the expected level in reading, writing and maths by the time they left primary school, disadvantaging their progression through secondary education.
The housing market in Cambridge has shown substantial volatility over the past year, making both buyers and sellers nervous about the future of house prices in the area. Back in March of this year, the ONS reported that property prices in Cambridge were growing faster than anywhere else in the country, having almost doubled since 2010. However, a more recent Hometrack report from September this year showed prices in the city had decelerated faster than anywhere else in the country, largely due to the squeeze on affordability and dampened investor appetite.
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