Guide to Essex sixth forms and colleges

By Jade Archer and Dan Regan

In the county of Essex there are around 90 sixth forms and colleges that offer a variety of different qualifications and courses, some for students only aged 16 to 18 and others for anyone over the age of 16. Many of these sixth forms are part of the schools that Make Happen work with, such as the King Edmund School and Debden Park High School, and we also work directly with several of these colleges too.

This article is not an exhaustive list of colleges and sixth forms, but instead focuses on several of the colleges that we’ve worked closely with.

college students
Image: Harlow College

Colchester Sixth Form College

The Sixth Form College is a specialist college providing generic academic sixth form education to 16-19 year olds. The college has a very strong sense of community with just under 3,000 students who attend, many of whom many travel up to 35 miles on a daily basis, and around 300 members of staff supporting those students.

In terms of curriculum, there are roughly 50 A-level or equivalent subjects, a variety of supplementary qualification courses, and additional support for students who are applying to Oxford and Cambridge, or who wish to enter professions such as medicine, teaching or finance. The Sixth Form College also provides students with an Additional Studies Programme, whereby you can choose from over 80 options to enrich your skills and personal development.

The Sixth Form College was established in 1987 and is located on hilltop in Central Colchester, on an important historic Roman site. The college is located on the former site of the Gilberd School and dates back to 1912; the distinctive Edwardian buildings house the oldest part of the college and the front exterior of the original 1912 building remains more or less completely unaltered. The college has won several awards including a Queen’s Anniversary Award for Higher and Further Education in 2000.

The college can be easily located by several different public transport services including Essex First, Arriva and Chambers Buses as well as Panther Travel and Flagfinders (formally Chelmsford Taxi Bus). Colchester Town railway station is only a 15-minute walk from the college. Due to the central location, it is a short walking distance from Colchesters’ shops, restaurants and other amenities.

Find out more about Colchester Sixth Form College .

Colchester Institute

Colchester Institute provides education, technical skills training, and professional development to more than 8,000 students every year. The College supports students to launch and develop their career, as well as assisting local businesses in accessing training to develop their employees’ professional skills and talents. There are full-time and part-time education courses, degree options and apprenticeships available at the college;  they also provide short courses specific to industrial sectors.

Colchester Institute has two main campuses at Colchester and Braintree. The College has been regionally recognised for its exceptional facilities with some of the most recent developments including a brand new STEM Innovation Centre at its Braintree Campus and a Construction Skills Centre based in Clacton-on-Sea. The students who choose to study their degree qualifications at Colchester Institute are enrolled at the University Centre Colchester (UCC) and enjoy their own buildings with separate facilities. The College has excellent connections with employers and UCC has an amazing track record for its graduates gaining employment or further studies when leaving the University Centre.

The campuses can be easily located via public transport. The Colchester Campus, alongside UCC, is only a short walking distance from Colchester Town railway station and is easily accessed via many bus services with the closest bus stop at Middleborough approximately an eight-minute walk away. Colchester Park and Ride is also available and is located just off of the A12 at junction 8, which will also take you to the Middleborough bus stop. There is also student and staff parking available at both of the main campuses, however this can be limited. The Braintree Campus is only a short walk away from Braintree town centre and the George Yard Shopping Centre, as well as the bus stop and railway station.

Find out more about Colchester Institute.

Chelmsford College

Chelmsford College is a general further education (FE) college that offers a variety of vocational and professional courses, including apprenticeships, across three campuses – Moulsham Street Campus, Princes Road Campus and Rainsford Road Campus. The college was established in 1962 and provides education for anyone above the age of 16.

Each Chelmsford College campus houses a variety of different departments. Moulsham Street Campus houses several of these, including but not limited to Art and Design, Media, Childcare, Health and Social Care Applied Science, Sport and Public Services. However, the Princes Road campus houses the more practical vocational courses including Electrical and Engineering, Construction and Hospitality.

The college has a high standard of facilities that have been redeveloped in recent years including the Princes Salons, Learning Centres, Sport Centres and the Princes Room, which is a 40-seated modern restaurant. The college also has a new Electrical and Engineering block as well as an Art, Design and Media block.

The new welcome areas on both main campuses have internet cafés as well as lovely landscaped outside areas. Chelmsford College also partnered with Heybridge Swifts Football Club in 2011 to create The Football Academy, whose main aim is to provide young footballers and coaches with the opportunities they need to showcase their talent and develop their skills.

The college can be accessed easily via several Essex First bus services and designated student buses. All full-time learners who study at Chelmsford College are able to apply for the College Travel Scheme, providing they meet the requirements; learners who are under the age of 19 can also apply to Essex County Council for subsidised travel.

Find out more about Chelmsford College.

Harlow College

Harlow College is a general further education (FE) college offering a wide range of courses to students aged 16 and over. Harlow College is the leading college for the new Stansted Airport College which partners with Stansted Airport and offers courses on Aviation Operations and Cabin Crew, Engineering and Aircraft Maintenance and Hospitality and Events Management.

At Harlow College there are plenty of study options available including over 20 A-levels, more than 20 vocational subjects and many different apprenticeships. The college also offers adult courses and access courses, and has excellent employer links. In 2017 it was the first college in the UK to be recognised as an Apple Distinguished School for its innovative and pioneering approach to the use of technology. The college also has further opportunities for its students to get involved with including becoming a course representative or student ambassador.

Harlow College is located near the M11 motorway between London and Cambridge; it is only 15 miles away from Stansted Airport. The College can be easily accessed by bus and train from Loughton, Epping, Hertford, Ware, Bishop’s Stortford, London Liverpool Street and Stansted.

Students are eligible for discounted travel on many of the Arriva bus routes to the College; the level of discount depends on whether the student is in receipt of a College Bursary. There is also an exclusive College Chartered Bus Service that takes students from Uttlesford and East Hertfordshire to Harlow College and Stansted Airport; travel on this route is also discounted. Stansted Airport College is located just a three-minute walk away from Stansted airport, and is easily accessed via bus services; there is a free bus service that runs from the Airport terminal to Stansted Airport College that takes 10 minutes.

Find out more about Harlow College and Stansted Airport College.

Writtle University College

Writtle University College is one of the largest specialist land-based university colleges in the UK offering a range of higher and further education programmes, as well as short courses and apprenticeships. The college was established in 1893, and offers programmes in environmental, animal, design and sports courses at various levels.

The facilities and resources that are available across the university college enable students to gain theory-based and practical skills. Writtle University College has a lively atmosphere with 14 Halls of Residence, 382 rooms, located in the beautiful gardens of the Main Campus; these halls are close to all main amenities including the Bar and Fitness Centre.

Students at Writtle become part of its Students’ Union and gain access to a large amount of societies, clubs and sports teams including Mixed Hockey, Gin Society, Equine Society and the Futsal Team; if you can’t find a society or team that suits you, you also have the opportunity to create a new one. The Horticulture and Floristry departments have succeeded at events such as the Chelsea Garden Show and the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Writtle University College is located on a 220 hectare estate which is only two miles from the city of Chelmsford, 35 minutes to the West for Central London and 35 minutes to Southend-on-Sea. The university college has several different campuses split across one site including the Main Campus, King’s Lodge Campus, Lordship Campus and Cow Watering Lane Campus; Sturgeons Farm and the Titchmarsh Centre are also located on-site.

There are several transport options available for students including train, First Essex buses and Writtle University College minibus service. If you’re travelling via bus Writtle Village Green bus stop is a 10-minute walk from the main campus, and if you’re travelling via car, the main campus is only a 15-minute drive from the M25.

Find out more about Writtle University College. 

USP College

Unified Seevic Palmers (USP) College has two campuses situated in Essex, the Seevic Campus at Benfleet and & Palmer’s Campus at Thurrock.

USP College offers both A-level and BTEC qualifications in a range of subjects across both campuses. USP has also teamed-up with ITEC learning technologies, based in Basildon, to offer multiple apprenticeship programmes. The college offers multiple student continuing professional development (CPD) days throughout the year, giving students the opportunity to attend internal events, activities and workshops to up-skill themselves in specific areas. USP has historically been very well recognised for its sporting achievement, winning many regional and national events in both team and individual sports.

Both campuses have direct public bus routes and also offer multiple college buses that offer extra transport options to the college.

Find out more about USP College. 

South Essex College

South Essex College has three main campuses at Southend-on-Sea, Basildon and Thurrock, with all campuses offering both A-level and BTEC qualifications.

South Essex College have also partnered with PROCAT, which offers multiple leading apprenticeships programmes in engineering and construction.

The Southend Campus is situated in the heart of Southend high street offering many public transports links including the C2C line, Victoria line, and bus services. The campus is also surrounded by restaurants and shops and is a five-minute walk to Southend seafront. The Southend Campus also provides a hair and beauty academy, and the college’s football academy is run by former Southend United manager, Steve Tilson.

The New Basildon Campus is currently in the progress as the college builds its state-of-the-art digital technologies campus. This will be situated in Basildon town centre and will provide courses for both young people and adults in IT, IT networking, game design and animation.

The Canvey Skills Centre  provides courses focusing on construction. The campus is located on Canvey Island with the closest train station being Benfleet station, which is accessible via bus to and from the college. The campus is a 20-minute walk from Knightswick shopping centre which has a variety of shops and food outlets. This campus is also on the same road as Waterside Farm Leisure Centre and its multiple fitness facilities.

Luckyn Lane is located opposite Gloucester Park based in Basildon, and is one of the PROCAT engineering and construction sites. Basildon train station is around a 30-minute walk, and the bus stop is five minutes away. This campus offers engineers, construction, building services and transport courses.

Stephenson Road, situated off Progress Road, is a motor vehicle, engineering and construction centre in Southend. This is the most recent campus to be developed and focuses on more practical courses.

The Thurrock Campus is a two-minute walk away from Thurrock train station and town centre. The campus offers a range of subjects, and has workshops and studio facilities in construction, engineering, media and creative arts. It also has specialist facilities suited for logistics, childcare, health and social care and IT. The campus also offers a hair and beauty salon which is open to the public and also has a spa. There is no parking on the college grounds, but there are multiple parking options in the surrounding area.

Find out more about South Essex College. 

New City College, Epping

Epping College – New City College is a merger between multiple campuses in the East London region; this is made up of Epping Forest College, Havering Sixth Form and Further Educaiton College, Redbridge College, Tower Hamlets College and Hackney Community College.

Epping Forest College falls under the Essex Make Happen cohort, due to it being situated in Loughton, Essex, bordering London, and this campus is made up of students from both London and Essex boroughs. The college provides vocational courses offering students the mix between theory and practical learning.

Epping College has multiple new state-of-the-art facilities including a hair and beauty facility, construction site, media studio and an early years centre. There are multiple sports teams situated at the college with the football team collaboratively linked with the Tottenham Hotspur football development programme. They also use Harlow Town Football Club as their home stadium and training facilities.

Find out more about Epping Forest Campus.

So there’s the lowdown on many of the colleges across Essex – and if you want to know the difference between a sixth form and a college, read this basic guide. 


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"In the county of Essex there are around 90 sixth forms and colleges that offer a variety of different qualifications and courses, some for students only aged 16 to 18 and others for anyone over the age of 16."