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Best secondary schools in Chelmsford

Best secondary schools in Colchester

Best secondary schools in Brentwood and West Essex

Special Educational Needs

Colchester Royal Grammar School

Among the best secondary schools in Essex are a handful of highly-desired, academically selective grammar schools. Such is the draw of these schools, many families move to live nearby but even then, an offer of a place is dependent on success in the 11+ assessment. The best secondary schools (of the non-selective variety) are similarly popular so it’s helpful to examine their oversubscription criteria before applying. Our article on secondary school admissions is recommended reading to anyone researching these schools.

Grammar Schools in Chelmsford

Grammar schools in Essex avoided the chop back in the 1970s and Chelmsford County High School for Girls (CCHS) and King Edward VI Grammar School (for boys, locally shortened to KEGS) are two of the best performing schools in the country, consistently appearing near the top of the national league tables for GCSE and A level results. Set in traditional buildings a mile from each other on the city’s Broomfield Road, they both offer a highly academic modern education for the most able and send a steady stream to Oxbridge. Each receives four times more applications than they have places in year 7 and 80 per cent of these are reserved for those living within 12.5 miles of the school. Many more apply from state primaries than in the past.

Tutoring is often seen as the way to secure a place at a grammar school but, warns our review, CCHS is ‘not a school for girls who can’t keep up with a fast pace of learning,’ while KEGS parents report to us that the school has ‘almost a university ethos in terms of levels of enquiry and intellectual curiosity.’ Alternatively, a bus-ride away in Southend-on-Sea are Westcliff High School for Boys Academy, Westcliff High School for Girls, Southend High School for Girls and Southend High School for Boys - four schools that are also selective grammars and (only marginally) easier to get into.

Secondary Schools in Chelmsford

Saffron Walden County High School to the north is worth moving for – not selective and over-subscribed by two-to-one, many who don’t make it in for year 7 come back later to join the large and successful sixth form.

There’s no further academic selection for Chelmsford’s other state secondary schools, our top pick of these is St John Payne Catholic School, a caring community where pupils achieve above average results.

Best primary schools in Chelmsford

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Grammar Schools in Colchester

Colchester County High School for Girls

With two of the country’s best grammar schools, Colchester really cleans up when it comes to senior state education. Colchester Royal Grammar School sends as many as a fifth of its leavers to Oxbridge while the rest take up places at the heavier weight universities or to study medicine; needless to say, competition for the 128 year 7 places (awarded to boys according to their performance in the 11+ exam) is fierce, particularly (and unusually) as applicants don’t have to live locally. Our review says the pupils are ‘as bright as buttons,’ and parents describe the teaching as ‘inspirational’. Excellent music and the boarding house for 30 international students brings a global dimension to the co-ed sixth form.

Just up the road is the equivalent, Colchester County High School for Girls, another grammar and perennially the top-performing school in Essex - the reason for the annual 700 applications for 192 year 7 places. Our review says girls here are treated to a ‘stimulating, thought-provoking, multi-faceted’ education. About a third leave for a local co-ed sixth form, and are swiftly replaced; after year 13, 60 per cent head off to Oxbridge or Russell Group (though some go into the arts).

Secondary schools in Colchester

The city’s non-selective state secondary schools are somewhat in the grammar schools’ shadow, though St Benedict’s Catholic College is a preferred faith school for many. The very bright spot is The Sixth Form College Colchester, which for many years, our reviewed noted, ‘has achieved the best value-added scores of any sixth form in England’. With 3,000 students on roll at its city centre campus, it offers 55 A level options and students go on to top universities and apprenticeships.

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Grammar Schools in Brentwood and West Essex

Woodford County High School has won awards and with good reason – this is a highly academic girls’ grammar school where pupils told us that it’s having staff who really care about the pupils ‘more than any targets or pressure, that helps them succeed’. Still over-subscribed, even though it’s now six-form entry - places are on offer to pupils who take on the apparently tutor-proof 11+ entrance exam – they could fill their places twice over and that’s just from applicants in its catchment area (if you’re not well inside the M25, don’t even bother). Diverse pupil body here speaking more than 40 languages and nearly all leave for Russell Group universities or Oxbridge.

Secondary schools in Brentwood and West Essex

Less tricky to get into as long as your address fits the catchment criteria is the highly regarded Becket Keys Church of England Free School in Brentwood. Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School is similarly impressive and a popular faith school option for girls.

The Anglo-European School a few miles east of Brentwood in the pretty commuter village of Ingatestone brings a uniquely global education to Essex - it was the first state school in the country to offer the IB, back in 1977. Students from all over the world or whose families have an international flavour (multi-lingual or mixed nationality parents, for example) learn here, alongside pupils from three local CofE primary schools, but places in various year groups do come up as and when families move abroad. As well as a huge languages offering, there are annual study visits and exchanges to other countries and the whole place has the feel of an American high school and a cosmopolitan air.

Best primary schools in Brentwood and West Essex

Best private schools in Brentwood and West Essex

Best nurseries in Brentwood and West Essex


State secondary schools for children with special educational needs in Essex

Information on secondary school provision available to children with special educational needs in Essex can be found on the websites of the county’s three local authorities, Essex, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock.

Special schools include Columbus School and College, based on two sites in Chelmsford it meets the needs of three to 18s with profound and multiple learning difficulties and complex learning difficulties who have an EHC plan, and has its own FE department for years 12 to 14. The state primary section details other all-through special schools. Doucecroft School is a private school for children with autism (see ‘Best private schools in Essex: the reviews are in’). It is not unusual for places at private special schools to be accessed with state funding.

Stand-out mainstream senior schools for SEN are Mark Hall Academy in Harlow - which carries resourced provision for a number of conditions including hearing impairment, autism, social emotional and mental health, and moderate learning difficulty – and Mayflower High School, rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, which has an additional resource provision for dyslexia.

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