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Grammars fuel house price rise: Town renowned for its schools sees biggest increase anywhere in the UK during 2012Property prices in Southend-on-sea, Essex up by nearly 15 per cent
00:26 GMT, 27 December 2012
A town renowned for its grammar schools enjoyed a bigger rise in house prices this year than anywhere else in the UK, research revealed today.
A ‘grammar school effect’ is said to be fuelling a buoyant property market in Southend-on-Sea, where average prices rocketed 14.8 per cent in 2012.
The Essex resort saw the steepest rise in selling prices of major UK towns and cities over the last 12 month, with homes now going for an average of 198,418, according to research by Halifax.
Good free schools: The 'grammar school effect' in Southend-on-sea, Essex, is a result of many middle-class parents no longer being able to afford private school fees
The town’s popularity is thought to have been boosted by its secondary schools, eight of which award some or all of their places according to ability in entrance tests.
Other UK towns which boast grammar schools and feature in the top 10 for house prices rises this year include Rochester, Dartford, Gillingham in Kent and nearby Bromley.
Robert McCartney, chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, said applications to sit the 11-plus schools were increasing in many areas, particularly among families who are no longer able to stretch to private school fees.
‘With the credit crunch, a number of middle-class families who could, with a bit of a push, have afforded an independent school are now looking for an equally good education at a much reduced cost’, he said.
‘There is also no doubt that people are continuing to flee from poor comprehensive schools.’
Southend’s grammars were a ‘big attraction’ for families seeking high-performing schools within commuting distance to London, he said.
In demand: Property prices in 'grammar school town' Southend-on-sea has risen by nearly 15 per cent
The town has four fully selective schools – two for boys and two for girls – and a further four which are partially selective, offering a proportion of their places on merit.
Mr McCartney added: ‘Some people are prepared to move from anywhere in the country to an area where their children can go to a grammar school. In three quarters of the UK there are no grammar schools.
‘Whether it is a grammar or a good comprehensive, all the evidence of the recent past is that people are buying houses in areas where they will be near good schools.’
Some 164 grammar schools remain in England, spread across 36 out of 150 local education authorities.
They are most plentiful in Kent, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Lincolnshire, Birmingham and parts of Surrey but large swathes of the country have none.
Mr McCartney said many areas which had held onto their grammars were places of relative wealth, where families were prepared to pay a hefty premium on property prices to be in the locality of top-performing schools.
But demand for places far outstrips supply, he said.
BIGGEST HOUSE PRICE GAIN
Southend 14.8% (198,418)
Basingstoke 14.7% (220,320)
Rochester 13.3% (184,908)
St Albans 13% (371,131)
Dartford 13% (209,557)
Lowestoft 12.7% (145,844)
Durham 12.6% (133,878)
Gillingham 12.4% (171,106)
Uxbridge 11.7% (309,891)
Bromley 11.5% (286,482)
BIGGEST HOUSE PRICE LOSS
Craigavon -18.4% (91,530)
Wishaw -12.5% (87,410)
Chorley -9.4% (125,156)
Carlisle -9.3% (123,100)
Wirral -9.3% (160,375)
Hamilton -8.9% (96,478)
Ayr -8.2% (116,352)
Inverness -7.9% (157,679)
Bury -7.4% (121,433)
Grays -7.3% (178,864)
Today’s table of house price gains and falls shows that three areas which are among the top five performers have grammars – Southend, Rochester and Dartford.
Basingstoke, in Hampshire recorded the second biggest rise in house prices with a 14.7 per cent gain by the end of 2012.
Most of the worst performing areas were located outside southern England.
The Northern Ireland town of Craigavon, in County Armagh, saw the biggest slump in prices, with a 18.4 per cent drop, while Wishaw, in North Lanarkshire, Scotland recorded a 12.5 per cent fall.
Chorley, Carlisle and the Wirral, all in northern England, made up the rest of the bottom five.
Nine of the 10 towns which saw the biggest declines in prices are outside the south of England, reflecting the continued regional divide in the property market.
Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis said: ‘Nationally, conditions in the housing market have been largely unchanged over the past 12 months with little overall movement in either house prices or sales for the second consecutive year. This picture, however, conceals considerable local differences.’
He said he expected continuing broad stability in house prices nationally in 2013, with the north/south divide likely to persist next year.
‘House prices are expected to be strongest in London and the South East as this part of the country performs best in economic terms,’ he added.