Are you looking for the best schools in Essex?
Full of natural beauty and a diverse landscape that includes picturesque countryside, charming villages, and a scenic coastline. Essex has so much to offer those lucky enough to call it home.
The county of Essex is situated on the outskirts of London, providing a convenient location for work and entertainment, along with excellent urban amenities and a quieter suburban or rural lifestyle.
Compared to more central London areas, Essex often offers more affordable housing options, making it very appealing to individuals and families seeking a better cost of living.
Whilst all these incredible benefits are welcomed, if you are moving into the area with children, arguably one of the most important aspects for you will be finding a home within the catchment of a reputable school.
Choosing a home and a school are two big decisions that are often linked for parents.
It is good to know that the region provides a variety of well-regarded schools and educational institutions from nursery to secondary levels and beyond.
How to Change Schools
Although we are focussing on Essex in particular in our article, the process for moving children to a new school is more or less the same in all regions of the UK.
If you intend to change your child’s school during the academic year, a process referred to as an ‘in-year application,’ you’ll need to apply either to the desired school itself or to your local educational authority.
This is applicable for situations when a child requires a school placement outside the standard transfer period, i.e., within the ongoing school year.
The procedure for initiating an in-year application for a school place can significantly vary based on your location.
It is advisable in the first instance to check the local council website for pertinent information regarding schools in your area.
About Essex Schools
Based on data provided by Essex County Council there are 551 state schools in Essex.
449 of these cater for children under 11 years of age and 81 are for secondary children over the age of 11.
The remaining 21 schools cater for children who fall within the special education sector. Children with a range of learning disabilities from mild to severe have access to some excellent schools within Essex.
There are three local education authorities in Essex, depending on where you live will determine which applies to you. Together they cater for all educational needs across the county.
Each County Council website is an excellent tool.
From their websites, you have access to all kinds of information relating to education in your area, making finding the right school for your child that much easier.
Best Primary Schools in Essex
Many neighbourhoods within Essex are particularly sought after purely because they are in close proximity to an Ofsted highly-rated school.
As the region has so many schools performing well, new people moving to Essex have a wide choice of locations in which to concentrate their property search.
There are so many good primary schools across the region, too many to list here.
In order to narrow it down, we will concentrate on five of Essex’s best primaries and five best secondaries.
These schools have been chosen because they have managed to reach Ofsted’s highest and most esteemed rating of “outstanding”.
You will find a little information regarding each school and a direct link to their full Ofsted report after each paragraph.
Greensted Junior School
Basildon is located in the far south of Essex.
It benefits from good transportation connections.
This includes a direct train link to London in 32 minutes, making it a magnate for commuters.
Greensted Junior School falls under Essex County Council and is located in the town.
A primary and nursery school for girls and boys, Greensted has a pupil count of 454 children aged between 3 and 11 years.
In the school’s most recent report, Ofsted stated the following:
“Excellence for all’ is an expectation at Greensted Junior School rather than merely an aim. Staff work remarkably well as a strong and cohesive team to achieve this”.
“Standards have risen year on year since the school opened. Results in the most recent assessments for 11-year-olds are well above the provisional national figures in reading, writing and mathematics”.
“All pupils make substantial and sustained progress, including pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities. The most able pupils achieve particularly well because they are stretched by the challenging curriculum and by teachers’ high expectations”.
Grove Wood Primary School
Grove Wood Primary School is located in the southeast of the county in the market town of Rayleigh.
Another Essex County Council school and also a co-ed school with a student count of 632 catering for children aged between 4 and 11 years.
It was rated as outstanding in all categories and received some very favourable comments in its latest report:
“All leaders, including governors, are effective in their roles. They provide clear, strategic direction and, as a result, Grove Wood provides an outstanding education for all children and pupils”.
“Leaders have developed an exciting and innovative curriculum which enables pupils to flourish and thrive. They are taught valuable life skills, preparing them well for secondary education”.
“Effective challenge in lessons ensures that the most able pupils make strong progress”.
Great Bentley Primary School
Colchester was the oldest recorded town in Britain, now classed as a city, it is a mix of modern amenities and historical charm.
Sitting toward the northeast of Essex, Great Bentley Primary School is at the top of the list when it comes to education levels in Colchester.
It is one of Essex’s smaller schools with a total of around 200 boys and girls.
The school has maintained good SAT (Standard Assessment Tests) results at all key stage levels with the majority of them surpassing the UK average.
Having been rated an Ofsted “outstanding” school its pupils and teaching staff continue to perform exceptionally well.
Ofsted praised the school with comments such as “Because of the highly respectful relationships that have been built, the whole school community works in harmony to be the best they can be. By the time pupils leave the school in Year 6, they are confident, articulate, and knowledgeable young people”.
“Throughout the school, pupils behave extremely well. They are polite and kind to one another, and bullying is rare”.
Great Bently has managed to provide a fantastic haven for children to learn and mature.
Chancellor Park Primary School
The city of Chelmsford sits just below the centre of the county.
It is an extremely popular location and home to some very high-performing schools including Chancellor Park Primary.
A relatively small school with around 230 boys and girls between the ages of 4 to 11 years.
Essex County Council manage the school.
It was inspected as recently as 2022. The comprehensive Ofsted report had some very complimentary observations to make about the school.
“Through the skilled and passionate leadership of the headteacher, adults and pupils alike are provided with an ethos in which to excel personally and academically”.
“Leadership at all levels is outstanding. Middle leaders are given regular opportunities to ensure high standards in their areas of responsibility. They monitor the achievement of pupils exceptionally well, so no one falls behind”.
Hare Steet Community Primary School & Nursery
West of the county, Harlow sits close to the border with Hertfordshire and London.
Designated as a “new town” after World War II, Harlow was designed with modern urban planning principles, with an emphasis on green spaces and community amenities.
Hare Street Primary & Nursery is a popular choice for local parents due to its enviable reputation for providing exemplary education.
Yet another of the county’s Ofsted-rated “outstanding” schools.
A mixed community school with an enrolment of 456 children aged between 3 and 11 years.
Most children progress from nursery through to the primary stage within the same school, which provides a seamless transition between each stage.
The school was previously rated as “good” but following its last inspection in January 2020, it is now deemed “outstanding”.
Ofsted noted many positive points about the school including:
“Pupils, staff, and parents are extremely proud to belong to this exciting school. The headteacher has created a happy and friendly atmosphere that has ensured that the school is at the centre of the local community. Staff go out of their way to get to know every family”.
“Pupils are a credit to the school and the local community. Their behaviour is exemplary, and they show genuine care and respect for each other”.
This praiseworthy school is an ideal choice for local families.
For further information on just how well the school performs, you can read its full Ofsted report here.
Best Secondary School in Essex
Having access to such a huge number of highly rated primaries in Essex inevitably means that when children move up to secondary school, they are well-prepared academically and psychologically for some of the most important years of their education.
Secondary schooling provides a foundation for higher education and prepares students for working life by providing the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to enter the job market.
Living in Essex offers a wealth of choice for the next stage in your child’s educational journey.
Though there are plenty of great secondary schools dotted right across Essex here are five of the best:
Saffron Walden County High School
This area of the county can be found in the northwest corner of Essex surrounded by beautiful countryside.
Known for its historic architecture, quaint streets, and well-preserved buildings. Saffron Walden has a rich history dating back centuries, creating a unique and appealing atmosphere for its residents.
There is a variety of schools in and around the town including Saffron Walden County High School, a state school for boys and girls aged from 11 to 18.
The school has an enrolment consisting of 2,158 students with an additional 649 sixth formers making it the largest school in Essex.
Last year 2022, 83% of pupils achieved a grade 4 or higher and 61% of pupils achieved a grade 5 or more for their GCSE results.
Plus, it is an Ofsted-rated “outstanding” school, no mean feat for a school of its size.
Ofsted reported that the high school was “outstanding across all criteria; Leadership and management, pupils’ achievement, quality of teaching and behaviour and safety of its students”.
If you wish to discover what else Ofsted has to say about this fantastic school, you can read its latest report here.
Colchester Royal Grammar School
Back to Colchester and the Colchester Royal Grammar School is the perfect follow-on from Great Bentley Primary School.
The grammar school as the name suggests is a selective school whereby students sit an entrance exam (11+) before being accepted.
The school caters for boys aged 11 to 18 and for boys and girls in the sixth form, with boarding provision for up to 30 boarders exclusively for sixth formers.
The school has consistently achieved high results, coming first in the A-level league tables on many occasions.
Colchester Royal continues with its impressive GCSE results record. In 2022, 95.8% of pupils managed to achieve either an A*, A or B exam result.
For further information regarding the school’s academic performance visit their website here.
Becket Keys CofE School
Sitting between Chelmsford and London in the commuter town of Brentwood, Becket Keys CofE School is one of four secondaries in the town and arguably the best.
Catering for girls and boys, it is a smaller than average school with over 1030 pupils, including its sixth form provision.
This is another school that has impressed Ofsted with its overall performance, ethos and teaching standards and awarded its hard work with an “outstanding” rating across the board.
In particular, Ofsted noted that:
“Outstanding leadership from the headteacher has, in a very short space of time, established a new school with a strong ethos and a culture of high achievement”.
“Behaviour and safety are outstanding. Students feel safe, free from bullying, and thoroughly enjoy school. Students are polite and courteous. They work hard and wear their uniforms with pride”.
Debden Park High School
Situated close to the famous Epping Forest in Essex, Loughton forms part of the metropolitan and urban area of London.
The town has grown substantially over recent years as many of London’s families have moved in benefitting from the area’s lower-priced properties and open space.
One of three secondaries in the area Debden Park High School is in demand, unsurprisingly as it is such a good school having gained an “outstanding” from Ofsted.
On average, there are 1050 students on the school pupil roll. Debden Park has a sixth-form provision and teaches children from ages 11 through to 18 years.
The school had an Ofsted inspection in January 2023 and the Ofsted inspectors were overwhelmingly impressed by the school, its staff, and its students.
The report states that “a culture of high aspirations and high expectation pervades this very popular school’s work”.
“Consistently high-quality teaching results from the school’s relentless focus on training and development”.
This very specialised school has an incredible reputation for offering the best schooling for children with all kinds of physical and mental obstacles to overcome.
Sitting very nicely on the far east of Essex facing the North Sea, Shorefields is a school for pupils with special needs.
Located in Clacton-on-Sea the school provides for 149 pupils ages 3-19 years with a range of complex, severe and profound learning needs.
This includes a high percentage on the autistic spectrum.
The school cleverly devises personalised flexible learning programmes and therapies.
These are designed to support children and young people’s education health and care plans, no matter what their disability may be.
Having been inspected fully by Ofsted last in 2019 and again in 2020, the results were fantastic, and the school was awarded the highest rating of “outstanding”.
The inspectors were very complimentary stating:
“The positive relationships between staff and pupils are a real strength. It is evident that all staff know the pupils really well. The skills that they possess, in terms of understanding and being able to cater for the increased complex medical needs of the pupils, are fundamental to the success of the school”.
“This, combined with the passion, enthusiasm, and commitment that all staff have to ensure that every child is challenged, motivated, and engaged in their learning, means that all pupils are challenged to do their very best. As a result, the progress pupils make from their starting points is excellent”.
Shorefields School is a credit to the Clacton-on-Sea community.
The county of Essex is an incredible place to live, work and of course study.
Having researched the county thoroughly, these are just a few of the highly regarded state schools that Essex has in abundance within its county lines.
Although we have focussed here on state-funded schools, for those who can afford it, there is also a swathe of independent schools for both day and boarding students.
If you want to know which are the best independent schools in the county, the Snobe website has a list of the best in Essex.
When you have the assurance that your children’s education is the best it can be, it is a good feeling.
The residents of Essex are blessed indeed.
We hope this article has helped you better understand some of the schooling options if are thinking of moving to Essex.
You can start planning your dream move with the assistance of our Essex House Removals service from White & Company today.
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We look forward to assisting with your move to Essex!
Max is a seasoned writer and blogger in the real estate and home moving sectors, as well as a knowledgeable source of information for expatriates living and working abroad. His detailed insights have helped thousands of people move and live abroad with greater simplicity and ease.