Varndean College


Varndean College is a popular and successful Sixth Form College based on the northern outskirts of Brighton with approximately 1600 students aged 16 to 19. It offers a wide range of Advanced and Pre-advanced academic and vocational courses, as well as being the only state-funded college in the area to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

In the evenings, it opens its doors to the community by offering an extensive programme of Adult Education courses, as well providing Family and Community Learning at several outreach centres within the City. Full-time Access to Higher Education Diploma courses also offer places for up to 40 mature students.

The College not only draws from Brighton and Hove’s main secondary schools, but also many other schools throughout East and West Sussex, from as far north as Haywards Heath and as far east and west as Eastbourne and Worthing. A number of students also come from the independent sector and from overseas. This all makes for a lively and cosmopolitan mix of students.


Varndean College specialises in the provision of academic and general vocational education to the 16-19 age group. At Level 3, it offers over 30 A level subjects alongside a choice of vocational qualifications, as well as the increasingly popular alternative to A Levels, the International Baccalaureate Diploma. At Level 2, approximately 140 students each year follow various vocational courses and a range of core GCSEs.

In addition to examination courses and tutorial work, a broad programme of enrichment activities is available to students, including sporting activities, art, drama, music, political and environmental issues, work experience and volunteering. There is an extensive range of day, residential and international trips. A thriving Student Union also enables students to contribute to the development and improvement of the College, as well as the organisation of social and fund-raising activities. The work of the College in the areas of environmental and international education has been recognised through national awards.

Students have a rich, broad and enjoyable experience throughout their time at Varndean and College Principal, Dr Phil Harland, says “Instead of telling students they have to fit into a narrow curriculum, our provision here is wide enough to be able to tell them we will make the curriculum fit them.”


The College has a distinguished record of achievement over a number of years. In 2018, the A Level pass rate was 98.02%, with 49% achieving A*-B grades and 75% achieving A*-C grades. Nineteen A Level subjects had a 100% pass rate. Varndean also offers a comprehensive range of vocational courses, which many students take alongside A Levels, and once again these results were equally impressive with an overall pass rate of 97%.Students on the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme achieved some of the best results in the UK, with an average score of 36.12 points which is the equivalent to 3 A grades at A Level.In 2018, 13 students gained 40 points or above and 75% of those applying to UCAS acquired places at Russell Group universities, including three at Oxford and Cambridge and six studying medicine. One student even gained an incredible maximum score of 45 points, putting him in the top 0.5% of students worldwide, and is now studying Medicine at Sheffield University. Success rates and high grades for vocational courses are similarly high.

Value Added

The College is particularly proud of the fact that, at Varndean College, students do significantly better than expected based on their GCSE results. In the 2017 Department for Education “16-18 Schools & Colleges Performance Table for Added Value”, the college was ranked 2nd out of all sixth form colleges in the country. In the league table for all providers of A Levels (2,770 of them), Varndean College was placed 217th (in the top 9%). Within Brighton & Hove, Brighton College was next in the table at 234th. ‘Value Added’ scores are government calculations which provide a measure as to how much more or less successful students have been by declaring how much 'value' has been added to their results.

Varndean’s Mission Statement is: ‘through the quality of its provision and support for a diverse community, to encourage and inspire all its students to fulfil their potential’.


In January 2018, the College staff consists of 113 full and part-time teaching staff and 102 full and part-time support staff, plus an additional 50 Adult Education tutors. The Principal, Dr Phil Harland, is currently supported by a Deputy Principal and two Directors. Curriculum subjects are organised into five areas each led by a Head of School, with two Assistant Heads of School. Programme Leaders are responsible for individual subject areas within the schools and are supported by departmental technicians, IT technicians and administrative staff. The Additional Support Team provides in-class support and individual support to students. Support staff teams include Registry, Library and Careers, HR, Finance, Marketing and Site Maintenance.

Other Information



  • Governors, leaders and managers have developed a highly inclusive culture that allows staff and students to thrive
  • Teachers know their students well and have high expectations. They use their own experiences and expertise to motivate students to achieve.
  • Students have positive attitudes to their learning and are proud of their work. They are confident, self-assured, courteous and respectful. They feel that staff treat their health and wellbeing as a priority, which supports them to learn and achieve.
  • A Level and vocational students make good progress and achieve well.
  • Students on the IB course make outstanding progress. Their achievement is exceptionally high and well above the international average. They develop extremely high levels of skill, knowledge and understanding and the very large majority move on to their first-choice university.
  • Students benefit from a broad and balanced curriculum that meets their individual needs.