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Maldon, Essex

Living in Essex

Take the trouble to travel a few miles beyond the glitz and glam of ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ (Joey Essex et al) along one of the country’s oldest Roman roads or on the newest train line, and you’ll find a county that has golden sandy beaches, wild and wonderful woodland and some of the best schools in the land, all within easy reach of the bright lights and culture of the capital. Indeed, the local history, culture and population have been shaped by Essex’s proximity to London and the mouth of the River Thames.

If the Thames Estuary is London's gateway then Essex is its northerly gatehouse, home to major manufacturing, agricultural and maritime industries. Hugely popular with people moving out of London in search of more space and broader skies, urban sprawl close to London and the river in the south west gives way to small cities – Colchester being one of the UK’s newest – and bucolic landscapes as the county fans out, before reaching the coast in the east and idyll of ‘Constable country’ in the north. With such variety on offer, not least in terms of education, there can be no doubt that Essex is a great place to raise a family.

Education scene in Essex

Local Education Authorities in Essex
Essex County Council
Southend on Sea

The quality of education in Essex is a massive factor when it comes to the number of families moving in search of work-life balance and a garden big enough for a climbing frame and a swing.  One of the smaller counties, Essex’s educational highlights set it apart from some of the more fashionable shires. It has kept hold of some of its grammar schools, indeed a number of the country’s highest performing grammars are here, as well as some historic private schools, each with a character all its own. We’ve taken a closer look at schools within three broad areas: Chelmsford, Colchester, and Brentwood and West Essex.

Essex’s three local authorities (Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea, and Thurrock) use catchment areas for allocating places at schools. Essex County Council calls them ‘priority admissions areas’ but the principle is the same. Each local authority website will tell you which catchment (or priority admissions) area you’re in. There’s nothing to stop you applying out of catchment but it can be risky. The county’s eight grammars tend to have larger catchment areas than the comprehensives and are, not surprisingly, very popular thanks to their results. 

Grammar school admissions require careful consideration and are primarily driven by the 11+ assessment - inevitably tuition for these exams is popular. A less common feature of Essex (mainly Southend) schools is the four ‘partially-selective’ schools (The King John School, Shoeburyness High School, St. Bernard’s High School, and St. Thomas More High School) where a portion of applicants may be offered a place based on their 11+ performance, whilst the majority get their places based on proximity to school. A third of the county’s 106 state secondary schools (including all-through schools) record above average Progress 8 scores – the best of which mainly come from the eight grammar schools. Single sex education remains the modus operandi of the grammars: four all-boys and four all-girls, plus a handful Roman Catholic schools dotted around the county.

Essex’s 521 primary schools (including a couple of all-throughs) are a mix of academies, community and faith schools. The best are highly sought-after and get far more applications than they can accommodate. Some faith primaries (particularly Roman Catholic) expect applicants to come from observant families, but not all do so check the admissions requirements.

Looking for the best schools in Essex? Our Education Consultants can help.

Every day, Good Schools Guide education consultants successfully help parents from all over the world find the best schools for their children. Our UK team is spread out across the country, each expert with their own specialist areas of knowledge.  If you would like us to help you find a school place or are keen to know more about your family’s education options in Essex, we are ready to help. Read about our education consultancy services or get in touch - [email protected].

Your thoughts on education in Essex

Are you tuned in to the Essex education scene? We rely on parents and teachers who have been there, done that and got the school blazer to keep us informed and to guarantee that the information we publish stays fresh and useful. If you know something about schools round your way which would help other families reach decisions – good or bad, do let the editorial team know - [email protected].

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