Our founder John Badley, looking at the conventional public schools in his day, decided they “simply wouldn’t do” as a means of educating young people.
We came to the same conclusion about the standard programme of nine or ten GCSEs.
As a group of educators, we wanted to introduce a curriculum that mirrored our ethos and suited our students. Looking at the experience of our students during the GCSE years, we decided we could do better.
All too often, a large number of excessively prescriptive GCSE syllabuses squeezed out opportunity for appropriate, imaginative and challenging work with particular groups and individuals, and they placed too much emphasis on terminal written exams. Coursework, potentially such a rich tool for developing independent learning skills, was tied to laborious mark schemes.
As we explored possibilities, we consulted closely with parents and universities, as we were determined that our new courses should only enhance our students’ prospects in applying to university.
We decided that the best course was to pursue reform in a measured way, retaining the ‘core’ GCSEs but supplementing them with a varied menu of internally and externally assessed courses.
Although Bedales students will, like their peers elsewhere, sit public exams for each of their final three years at school, they will find themselves extended beyond the confines of GCSE, whilst not being pressed into the examinations treadmill.
Instead, they will be working with material that is specifically designed to promote our central educational aim, “to develop inquisitive thinkers with a love of learning who cherish independent thought”.
Our curriculum is built around a group of five compulsory subjects – GCSEs in English, Mathematics and a Modern Language, plus the International GCSE (IGSE) Double Award in Science*. This ensures both that the full range of core skills is covered and also that the minimum requirement for much of higher education is met. These five are the only GCSEs required.
The only other compulsory courses are Physical Education and Personal, Social and Health Education. Students then choose from a considerable range of Bedales Assessed Courses and other GCSEs or externally examined subjects.
Since we aim to develop a broad range of skills through the delivery of BACs, internal assessment includes a mixture of written assignments, presentations, projects and performances, together with terminal examinations as appropriate. Each course is externally moderated.
More information on the structure of the curriculum.
* The IGCSE curriculum is more demanding than the standard GCSE. The Double Award includes the three subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Biology and is a good foundation for any combination of them at A level.
Bedales students have a reputation with universities for their independence of mind and have frequently offered unusual academic and personal profiles in their applications for courses.
In designing the new curriculum, we wanted to maintain and enhance these factors.
Universities see students’ independence of mind squeezed out by an over-examined schooling system.* They are increasingly sceptical about the value of amassing large numbers of GCSEs.
Senior officers at UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) welcomed our initiative in developing more imaginative and engaging courses alongside GCSE (December 2007).
UCAS is the gateway to higher education, managing the application process for thousands of applicants a year. UCAS agreed not only to inform all UK universities and colleges about our courses but also to include the BACs in its publication ‘UK Qualifications for Entry into University and College’ and in the drop-down menu for on-line applications.
*Oxford Department of Educational Studies survey of Admissions Tutors, February 2000
Read articles on BAC subjects and examples of student work, with commentary from Bedales Heads of Departments.
For more detailed information about BACs please download the BAC information booklet.
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