About Henley

A proud history and reputation

In 2012 The Henley College celebrated 25 years of teaching and learning excellence, although our origins can be traced back to King James I Grammar School founded in 1604. These foundations closely reflect the academic and vocational traditions that still remain at the forefront of today's offering.

Since its creation in 1987, the College has continued to serve as the sixth form of choice for our four local partner schools. However, thanks to our leading reputation and the quality of our courses, we are now home to nearly 2,000 full-time students from over 100 schools across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

In 2010 Henley was the first college in the UK to be granted a change of status to become a sixth form college. For the past decade we have also been proud to be the only sixth form college in the three surrounding counties to be awarded the highest accolade in the post-16 sector by the Department of Education.

The sixth form college for South Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley, we offer a wide range of courses including over 60 A Level subjects and high achieving vocational diplomas, as well as Apprenticeships and other opportunities.

What Ofsted said

The Henley College is delighted to announce that it has retained its ‘Good’ rating following a recent Ofsted Short Inspection in May 2016. The report highlights many strengths and outstanding features that recognise the high quality of provision the College continues to offer.


The report praises the College’s broad curriculum offering stating that: “Students have access to a wide range of academic and vocational subjects that are closely aligned to their needs and future aspirations.” 

Inspectors also commented on how the College develops employment, personal and social skills through its subject and extra-curricular activities. The College was described as providing “a pleasant and harmonious learning environment in which students thrive” adding that students “enjoy college and attendance is high.”

A welcoming and inclusive environment

Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds and we are committed to promoting equality of opportunity and to celebrating diversity. In 2015 the College was recognised as a Leader in Diversity which is the highest award that can be granted by the National Centre for Diversity. The Leaders in Diversity Award recognises the College's excellence in equality, diversity and inclusion practice its role as an EDI ambassador.

We operate a zero tolerance policy to any form of bullying or discrimination and any such instances are very rare.

Whilst many of our students know at least a small number of their fellow students when they first arrive, this doesn't apply to everyone. Either way, the College is an easy place to meet and make long-lasting friends quickly, helped by a busy timetable and a wide range of enrichment activities.

The College provides a safe and rewarding environment for all staff and students and 24 hour CCTV provides comprehensive coverage across both sites. It is also a totally smoke-free environment, in order to protect and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Henley and the community

During term time, one in every six people in the town is a Henley College student so we play a very important role in the local community.

We enjoy strong links with Henley Town Council, the local media (The Henley Standard and Henley Herald), sports clubs (Leander Club, Henley Hawks), culture and entertainment venues (Henley River and Rowing Museum, Regal Picturehouse and The Kenton Theatre) and many other organisations.

As a result our students benefit from a wealth of opportunities including training and playing at a League 1 rugby ground, writing for the local newspaper, access to advanced film screenings and performing on a fully-equipped stage.

Throughout the year our students also support a wide range of charities and causes, and participate in renowned local events including the Henley Festival, Henley Royal Regatta and the Henley Youth Festival. 

Our History

The College's foundations are closely tied to the academic and vocational traditions that still remain at the forefront today. The original grammar school was founded by the Royal Charter of King James I in 1604 in the Chantry House next to St Mary's Church. A second school was established on the site in 1609, endowed by Dame Elizabeth Periam, apprenticing twenty boys from less wealthy families.

In 1778 the two schools merged, closely mirroring the future creation of a tertiary college in Henley. The United Charity Schools of Henley moved to a new location on Hart Street, then to Northfield End. However, the Schools remained largely separate and in 1892 Henley Grammar School was formed.

In 1928 the school moved to Rotherfield Court, today known as the College's Rotherfield site off Paradise Road. It was equipped as a modern secondary school and began accepting girls for the first time. Due to the growth of newer nearby secondary schools, demand to educate younger pupils decreased, so in 1974 the school became King James' Sixth Form College. By this time the South Oxfordshire Technical College, based at what is now the College's Deanfield site, was well established in the town.

Students were able to study at both colleges owing to a common timetable adopted by both institutions, leading to growing calls for a merger. In 1987 The HENLEY College was created following the amalgamation of King James's College and the South Oxfordshire Technical College, creating Oxfordshire's first tertiary college.

In 2004 Henley became the only college in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire to be awarded the highest accolade in the post 16 sector by the Department of Education. In 2010 it also became the first college in the UK to be granted a change of status to become a sixth form college.

Today the College, led by Acting Principal Simon Cuthbert, is home to nearly 2,000 students from 100 schools across three counties. The College offers over 60 high-achieving A Level and vocational diploma courses, as well as part-time courses and apprenticeships.