South African schools – it’s a topic I’ve written about multiple times. It’s also one of the most asked-about topics when readers contact me. When I recently posted a reader question on the Joburg Expat Facebook Page regarding which of the private schools on his list were the most desirable, the response was overwhelming but also interesting: Not a single responder was attempting to rank the schools in any way by labeling any “good” or “bad.” Everyone was purely intent on sharing their own experience, listing additional options, and giving helpful hints on how to secure a place – something that has become increasingly difficult in South Africa’s overcrowded private school scene.
While I absolutely loved the school our kids went to, I realize in hindsight that it was not as exceptional as I thought. It was a good school, of course, but there are a ton of other excellent choices out there – and each of them packed with students, as one reader pointed out, so the parents must be happy with them. Finding the perfect school in South Africa is a little bit like selecting the perfect safari lodge: Each of them is unique and wonderful and you can’t really go wrong with any of them.
Selecting the right school is more about location than anything else, given Johannesburg traffic. Our school ended up being the perfect choice for us primarily because of where it was located. Nothing gave me more pleasure during our years in South Africa than watching our kids leave the house in their school uniforms in the morning to walk to school while I got down to the business of reading the morning paper with my tea on our beautiful sunny terrace.
Location is one of the most important criteria you should consider when selecting a school in Johannesburg.
There are others, such as cost, the school year calendar, special needs accommodation, academics and sports, and I’ve elaborated about them here, but trust me when I say that location of school vis-a-vis work and home should be your first consideration.
Private Schools in Johannesburg by Location
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Other details about South African schools you should know:
- International students are only permitted to study at a South African school with a valid study visa/permit (typically as an accompanying dependent of a work visa holder); make sure you apply early for your kids’ study permits.
- South African schools are either preparatory schools (typically divided into Junior Prep Grades K-3 and Senior Prep Grades 4-7) or high schools (Grades 8-12). The term “college” often refers to a school that encompasses both prep and high school.
- Some of the prep schools only offering Grades K-7 are “feeder” schools tracking into some of Joburg’s most excellent high schools/colleges, so don’t write off such schools just because the system looks unfamiliar to you.
- Most, but not all, schools on this list are members of the Independent Schools Association of South Africa (ISASA).
- All schools offer South African matric examinations except some of the international schools where noted.
- All follow the South African school year (January-November), except some international schools where noted.
- In South Africa, Kindergarten is called “Grade 0” or “Grade Nought.” Pre-K options are often noted as “000,” meaning a nursery school with two years prior to Kindergarten or Grade 0 is offered. I’ve decided to stick with “K” and “Pre-K” in this school listing, using the American terminology.
- Some South African schools take on boarders alongside day students; where applicable, this is noted in my list.
- Conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD are considered special needs in South Africa and might be better accommodated by a special needs school (of which a few are included here) than a mainstream one; if your child has any special needs, make sure you check thoroughly what your school of choice is prepared to do to help your child.
- Many South African schools are parochial, i.e. cater to only one gender, as is noted below. Some schools admit both boys and girls but offer separate tracks, and this is also noted where applicable.
- On the map below, don’t forget to factor in traffic, as distances that look short on the map are not necessarily short in real time. Checking Google Maps during rush hour may give you an approximation of traffic patterns.
- I would like to thank my fellow expat and friend Natalie for her valuable research and contribution of her local knowledge in making this such an extensive list.