The College building is closed but the College is open. We will provide a unique personalised service to all students while the building is closed.

SML College

SML College is part of the educational charity, the Centre for Self Managed Learning. We have been providing SML programmes for young people aged 9-17 at SML College in Brighton for 18 years.

The College is a vibrant learning community that offers a real alternative to schooling. We provide a stimulating and nurturing environment where students can develop the confidence and skills they need for the future. Whatever they want to learn a way is found for them to do so.

‘Managing my own learning has shown me that I can be really self-motivated” Ethan

Our students feel well prepared to take the next steps in their careers when they leave the College. Results for students of all abilities have been exceptional, with ALL of our 16 year olds having gone on to further education or employment.

Our approach

We treat each young person as an individual and personalise learning for every student.

We provide a supportive structure that allows students to plan, organise and carry out their learning activities.

Our community

We work as a learning community where the role of staff is to support the students in learning what they need to lead purposeful adult lives. Key features of the College are mutual respect, collaboration, helping and supporting each other.

Our aim

We support our students in deciding for themselves who they want to be in life and how to achieve it. We assist them in deciding what they need to do to pursue their goals and future careers. The structure we provide facilitates this process.

What we know

We know a lot today about how children and young people learn - for instance we know that they are all individuals with their own learning journey. Yet school still assumes that students will learn the same things, in the same way, at the same time and that’s why SML College offers a real alternative.

If we really want our children to be prepared for life in the 21st Century, perhaps it’s time to look at a more progressive approach to learning.

Introducing Self Managed Learning



Self Managed Learning (SML) is a research-based approach developed in the late-1970’s. Since 1980 we have applied and rigorously evaluated the method in a wide variety of contexts. We have run SML programmes with many organisations – the Bank of England, the BBC, Sainsbury’s, British Airways and the NHS, to name a few.

Person-centred learning

The Self Managing learner determines what, where, when, how and why they will learn. Learning is structured and supported but there is no predefined syllabus or curriculum. Our research has shown that this is the most effective way for people to learn. Taking responsibility for one’s own learning and learning to learn are vital skills in a fast-changing world.

Structure and flexibility

The SML approach values learning with others and collaboration. There are three elements at it’s core: the Learning Community, the Learning Group and the Learning Agreement. This structure supports the demands of individuals and organisations for the 21st century. You can read more on this in our free ebook.

What people have to say about us

  • Peter Humphriesformer headteacher

    `I cannot think of a more secure, supportive and caring atmosphere in which to learn. On every visit to the SMLC, on any occasions I have spoken with youngsters and parents at conferences and so on I have been so impressed with the working atmosphere, and the total dedication and care of the staff team.`

  • Charlotte Jalleyparent

    `Lilly has attended SMLC from age 11 to 16 and has been very happy. She has been allowed to and shown how to manage herself and her learning. She can pursue subjects that interest her and to the level that she wants with the support of the College and it's tutors. We are very grateful to have such an innovative, forward thinking College on our doorstep.`

  • Emily Charkinhistorian and philosopher at the Institute of Education, London

    `The college has a national and international reputation as one of the rare examples of a place which is providing families with a real and positive alternative to main-stream schooling. I visited a few years ago and was extremely heartened that such a place exists - where young people have the opportunity to self-educate in a supportive mixed-age environment.`

Our Educational Programme

SML College is inspected every three years by East Sussex County Council as part of approving us as an External Training Provider. In this capacity we ran an educational programme for the Council and have worked jointly with the University of Sussex to run educational programmes in two secondary schools in East Sussex.

These programmes were independently evaluated by the schools and the programme in Uckfield Community Technology College was the subject of an award-winning dissertation from the University of Brighton. A published article on the Uckfield programme is available as is the research report. (Please email if you'd like a copy of the article.)

SML College has taken students funded by most Brighton and Hove schools as well as running programmes in two of the schools. Brighton and Hove City Council has also directly funded some students. Other Councils that have used our services include London Borough of Harringay, Portsmouth, West Sussex and Jersey. Independent evaluations by universities have shown the educational value of our approach.


Learning for life

A day in the life of SML College

The best thing about SML College

Admissions & fees

The main criteria for any young person joining us are - does the person want to be with us – are they keen to be part of our learning community - and are they likely to benefit from being with us? If these criteria are satisfied after an initial meeting, we invite prospective students to join us for a trial week at the College. This allows them to experience SML first-hand and helps everyone to know if it's the right choice for the student.

We run trial weeks for up to three students at a time most term-time weeks only. These weeks are free and without obligation on either side.

Once an application has been accepted the student may join us at the start of the next new term.

Fees for the full academic year (3 terms) of September to July:
£1330 per term in advance, or 11 monthly payments of £370.91.

We believe that all children, irrespective of parents’ means, should be able to access the opportunities of our Self Managed Learning College and if parents are not able to afford the fees there are possibilities to get assistance either from a local charity or from the College’s Hardship Fund, providing 100% and 50% fee reduction respectively. If you’d like to know more about these please get in touch.

Find Out More

If you'd like to know more about the SML approach and our work at the College please email us for a copy of our free e-booklet that explains everything in more detail. You are also welcome to drop into one of our regular Open Days, have a look around and meet members of the community. Please call for details on 01273 987629.