Below are the most popular questions about admissions to Bedales that have been raised at our Open Mornings by prospective students and parents.

If, having trawled through these FAQs, you still have an unanswered question, please email it to the Headmaster Keith Budge (email: admissions@bedales.org.uk) and he will respond directly to you.

For enquiries about entry to Bedales, Dunhurst or Dunannie, please contact the Registrar: Janie Jarman, tel: 01730 711733; email: jjarman@bedales.org.uk

School ethos

1. How distinctive is Bedales?

Innovation in the curriculum, inspirational teaching and high academic expectations combine to foster inquisitive independent learners. Our students make choices: about their academic options, the sports and evening activities they enjoy, the broad ranging talks, concerts, exhibitions and productions they participate in or attend, and the academic societies and student committees they join.  Breadth is a feature of the Bedales offering - students are encouraged to try new things, develop their interests, and ultimately to shape the type of person they want to be. We encourage a greater degree of informality than other schools as we believe that mature, trusting and mutually respectful relationships between teachers and students are the foundations for personal development and academic success. This manifests itself in students choosing what clothes they wear to school, the use of first names between students and teachers, and each student shaking hands with every teacher at the end of assemblies and other gatherings. The more profound impact is the strong bond between student and teacher.

2. What does the Bedales bee stand for?

Bees live together in a community and are an excellent example of working hard and the school motto, ‘Work of Each for Weal of All’. The school also has a hive of bees. 

3. What is the meaning of the ‘Head, Hand, Heart’ approach at Bedales?

The vision of Bedales' founder, John Badley, was to create a school which would be profoundly different from the public schools of his day. From 1893, when Bedales began, there was a determination to shape the school around what was considered best for the individual child's educational welfare and happiness. Two strands predominated: breadth ("Head, Hand, Heart") and the cultivation of the individual's intellectual and personal qualities ("Intelligence, Initiative and Individuality").  We believe that a Bedales education is truly holistic. “Head, Hand, Heart” are not in opposition with each other, but more about focussing on academic interests, working together, encouraging an appetite for learning and following your passions, both within and beyond the classroom. An example where these elements come together is the Badley Celebration weekend in early Autumn each year when the whole school works on a community project. In the recent past, this has involved a combination of small group activities (such as restoring old garden and DIY tools for re-cycling and cleaning up a hostel for the homeless), and a major communal task (such as renovating the public pathway on the edge of the school grounds from Steep to Petersfield, dredging the school pond and a major landscaping project by Steephurst).  

4. How do you meet students’ spiritual needs given there is no chapel?

We believe that Bedales delivers an holistic education – although we are not a denominational school, students’ spiritual and moral needs find many channels. Our students learn about ethics and what it means to be a global citizen. They are encouraged to be open-minded. Our fortnightly ‘Jaw’ is the nearest equivalent to chapel; it is the time during the week for reflecting on philosophical, spiritual, religious and moral ideas and views, and can cover such wide-ranging talks as “Why you don’t really have a head” (a memorable talk about our self-perception) to a Zen Buddhist illustrating what consciousness is like, using an enormous beaker of water and some sand, to an act of remembrance to those from the school who died in the two world wars. Jaw reflects the diversity of views not just in the school, but in the world as a whole, and speakers from many different philosophical and religious perspectives are invited to participate. Some students attend local churches: Steep Parish Anglican Church is next door to the school and there is a Catholic church locally in Petersfield. A Christian discussion group (picnic) meets regularly for a sandwich lunch. Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (PRE) is a popular subject choice with just under half of students choosing to take the Bedales Assessed Course in PRE. Its Utopia project, where students design their perfect society, provokes a great deal of thought and discussion.

5. What are your next key priorities?

Bedales is constantly re-examining itself to ensure we are meeting the ever-changing needs of our students and their parents. Current priorities include:

  • Wellbeing and Mental health (next phase): fostering a positive and healthy environment for all. 
  • Enhance pupils’ independence as learners.
  • Increase collaboration through cross-departmental and cross-school projects.

6. How are parents involved in the school?

In addition to ad hoc phone and email contact and academic review meetings, there are a number of events and activities where parents are encouraged to be involved with the school. We have an active Bedales Parents’ Association (BPA) with affiliated ‘Friends of….’ for each of the three Bedales Schools. The BPA organises social events (some for fundraising) and also represents parents in meetings with the Headmaster, Senior Deputy and the Heads of Dunannie and Dunhurst. The annual Parents’ Day is one of the highlights of the year when the school opens its doors to parents on a Saturday near the end of the academic year for art and design displays, theatre, dance and music performances, sporting activities, picnic lunch and cream tea. Throughout the year parents are encouraged to attend the broad range of productions, talks and concerts at the three Bedales Schools. Our sports teams also welcome parental support. In terms of meetings to discuss academic progress, a series of year group meetings take place where parents and students discuss progress with teachers and tutors.  Weekly electronic bulletins are designed to keep parents up-to-date with latest events and activities. 

Academic

7. How do you motivate students to make the most of the opportunities…and how do they fit everything in?

Enthusiastic motivated students get more done. Harvard Graduate School of Education has conducted research into our approach at Bedales and we were not surprised that they concluded an approach offering significant choice and a degree of informality resulted in better motivated students and better academic outcomes. Or as one of our students put it: “If you’re having fun, it doesn’t feel like work.”   

8. Why did you introduce Bedales Assessed Courses and how are they recognised?

The Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs) are about choice. The choice for students to choose the areas in a subject that interest and excite them, and to a degree, to adapt to their preferred learning style. BACs are also an excellent example of how Bedales has chosen to develop its own more challenging and demanding courses that are better suited to our students than the (in most cases) duller GCSE alternative. Having established Bedales in 1893 as an innovative alternative to the mainstream offering, BACs show we still have the appetite to exercise our independence and innovate. As part of their introduction, we consulted universities who encouraged us to develop our own alternative and UCAS was happy to treat BACs as a GCSE equivalent qualification. We award the same grades as GCSE and all our BACs are externally moderated by subject experts. We do not think it is any coincidence that the ability for our students to progress to the most demanding universities has improved since the introduction of BACs in 2006. We have also found BACs a real draw in attracting the best teachers. Students sit a combination of core IGCSEs (in English, Maths, Sciences and a Modern Foreign Language) and can select  BACs from the following: Art; Ancient Civilisations; Classical Music; Dance; Design; English Literature; Geography; Global Awareness; History; Outdoor Work; Philosophy, Religion & Ethics and Theatre. A BAC in Sports Science is in development.

9. Given the innovative curriculum lower down the school, how innovative is the Sixth Form programme? (eg. Will you introduce the International Baccalaureate?)

Although we have re-shaped the Sixth Form offering due to the demise of the AS qualification, we are happy with the full A Level which prepares our students well for university and art college entrance (although we do offer Pre-U Music and Mandarin). When you add in the school’s global awareness activities, the Sixth form Enrichment programme (including the extended project), and the broad extra-curricular offering we feel that Bedales sixth formers have sufficient breadth balanced with their desire to specialise in specific subjects. We have no plans to introduce the International Baccalaureate as it would not suit a significant proportion of our students and we do not want to increase to the size of Sixth Form that would be necessary to run two curriculums side by side. The most popular 6.2 (upper sixth) subjects in 2016 were (in order): Maths; English Literature, History, Art, Religious Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Physics, Theatre Studies, Geography, Spanish, Latin, Design, Classical Civilisation, Music, Politics, Greek, Computing, Italian, German, Russian and Mandarin. Our Sixth Form programme is delivering students on to a broad range of degree courses at the most demanding universities and art colleges in the UK and overseas. 

10. What languages are offered?

Students can select from the following languages in Block 3: French, German, Spanish, Russian, Latin and Greek. Private lessons are also available in Mandarin Chinese, Italian and Japanese.  Our students have a good track record in accessing languages degree courses at some of the most demanding universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Exeter.

11. How do you differentiate between students’ abilities? 

We set classes in French, Maths and Science based on ability. The Gifted and Talented programme operates across all subject disciplines enabling students with the most potential to pursue their interests to greater depth. This can include membership of an academic society, attendance at special subject-related talks from visiting speakers, visits, and involvement in specialist workshops. Examples include discussions by the Maths Society on the influence of maths on war, a History Society talk on the History of the Book by Professor Andrew Pettegree, Professor Alan Lucas Old Bedalian on child nutrition and Shami Chakrabarti discussing human rights. Our tutoring system also ensures that students are achieving their academic potential.

12. How is academic progress monitored and what is the review and reporting process?

This is achieved through a combination of formal and informal channels. We have a system for teachers to record and share day-to-day progress of individuals; this, called the Day Book, is monitored by tutors. In Block 3 students are tutored by their Badley tutor; the role of the Badley tutor is to provide an academic mentor and the main point of contact for parents on all academic and extracurricular matters. Tutor groups thereafter comprise approximately 12 students spread across Blocks 4 and 5. There are separate Sixth Form tutor groups, often based around a student’s main academic interest. Meetings of tutor groups take place each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and tutors meet 1-1 with tutee approximately fortnightly to review progress. Every five weeks an entire year group has a Review where all teachers meet, the progress of each student is discussed and then fed back to parents via the online Review sheet. Individual timetables are also accessible online.

13. How do you balance students’ individuality with the needs to achieve their academic potential?

There is a combination of formal and informal monitoring - inspiration and motivation can come from a range of stimuli: teacher, house staff, tutor, visiting speaker, fellow student. Small tutor groups and 1-1 meetings mean that tutors get to know students on a personal level and there is close communication between the tutor and house staff which is triangulated with parents when necessary. Regular reviews of the entire Block ensure the monitoring of all students. These personalised and tailored systems are designed to support individual students in their learning and academic achievement.  Although we always prefer to operate through carrot rather than stick, we are especially alert to students who are not responding in the way we would like; in these instances we become more ‘old-fashioned’ in our approach and will create a bespoke set of structures, such as report cards and formal reviews with parents in attendance, to bring a student back on track.

14. What is your approach to learning support?

We have a well-resourced learning support department to provide 1-1 support to students who need extra support (sometimes subject-specific), typically once or twice per week. We are alerted to students’ needs either via parents, the admissions’ process or through an assessment by the department. All staff are made aware of the needs of specific students through our weekly whole staff meetings, which always begin with any ‘Student Concerns’.

15. What is a typical timetable for a student at the senior school?

Days are long and busy. Formal teaching runs from 8.45am – 5.30pm and on Saturdays until 1pm (except long leave weekends). The first lesson is preceded by tutor time (on Mondays) or whole-school Notices (on Tuesdays and Fridays). The evenings are busy with talks (Jaw, Civics, Assembly), the Activities programme (which offers a wide range of sporting, cultural and special-interest activities both before and after supper), productions and concerts. Although as a student progresses up the school, they have to be increasingly self-disciplined and well organised in deciding when and where they do their academic work, we have two Quiet Times – on Tuesday and Friday evenings (from 7.15 – 8.30) when all boarders must either be in a designated place of work or, if they choose, at a cultural event.  

Meal times are:

  • Breakfast: 7.30 – 8.15am
  • Lunch: 1-2.10pm
  • Tea: 3.30 – 4.10pm
  • Supper: 6.30 – 7.15pm
Admissions

16. How do you select pupils?

Ideally, all prospective pupils will visit us. We can make alternative arrangements for international applicants to meet our staff or representatives in their home country and to conduct interviews via video link.  From aged 11 upwards, the assessment is residential involving sitting a range of tests (Maths, English and General Ability), interviews (with House Staff and Head/Deputy Head) and a broad exposure to other elements of school life (ranging from Outdoor Work to Sport to Music).  The main assessments take place in the Autumn term (Sixth Form) and Spring term (11+, 13+). We hold a variety of taster and open days for interested families in addition to encouraging candidates to make a bespoke visit. 

17. What types of children thrive at the Bedales Schools (and which ones do not)?

We firmly believe that you get out of your education what you put in, so children who want to sit back and wait for things to happen to them would probably be better off going elsewhere. The most successful Bedales students develop good self-motivation, have an appetite to learn and like being busy; this can take time to come to the fore, and we work hard to foster good working habits from day one so that our pupils become more confident and fully participate in their learning. For Sixth Form entry, there is a minimum academic requirement of 50 points at GCSE or equivalent (where A*=8, A=7, B=6 etc). As a guideline this equates to 5xBs and 4xCs.

18. What is the relationship between Bedales Pre-prep (Dunannie), Bedales Prep (Dunhurst) and Bedales Senior School?

The three schools are all located on our 120 acre estate in Steep near Petersfield, Hampshire. The schools share a governing body, some major facilities (such as the indoor swimming pool) and teacher expertise, although each school has separate buildings. We also share the same educational philosophy and approach, albeit tailored to the relevant age group. There is an assumption that pupils will continue through the schools and there is a good degree of cohesion and continuity to help with this. The main entry into Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst’s Group 1 (Year 4) is from our Pre-prep, Dunannie’s Year 3 and the main entry to Bedales Block 3 (Year 9) is from Dunhurst’s Block 2 (Year 8). The main entry points for external candidates are at 8+, 11+, 13+ and 16+. Keith Budge is the Headmaster, Bedales Schools with ultimate responsibility for all three schools. On a day-to-day basis, Dunannie is managed by its Head Jo Webbern; Dunhurst is managed by its Head Jane Grubb and Louise Wilson is Senior Deputy (Operational & Pastoral) at Bedales Senior School.          

19. How do you integrate new students with those who come up through the Bedales Schools?

Pupils are all treated fairly and equally regardless of where they have come from and we find that they quickly feel part of the community. We have comprehensive induction programmes for new joiners, in particular all Block 3 (year 9) students spend a week in the Lake District on team-building and outward bound activities which has proven to be a catalyst in integrating new joiners with the cohort moving up from our own prep school, Dunhurst. Likewise for new Sixth Form entrants, the induction process ensures new students quickly integrate – giving them leadership responsibility for younger students helps considerably with this.

Boarding and pastoral

20. How is pastoral care organised?

Our pastoral care system is based on a lot of discussion and sharing of experience: between staff, pupil and parent (when necessary). At Bedales Senior School, each student has a House Parent (referred to at Bedales as House Staff); this is determined by whether the student is a Day or Boarder; all students also have a Tutor. Students build up a close relationship with both their Tutor and House Staff. House Staff are the first point of contact for parents with any pastoral queries relating to their child – they want to hear from parents if there is anything going on in any individual’s life that might affect their child’s school life. The House Staff team meet weekly with the Senior Deputy to review pastoral matters, discuss any particular individuals and to make any bespoke allowances or arrangements.

21. Why have mixed age boarding dormitories?

Boarding at Dunhurst is a wonderful introduction to boarding with flexi boarding also an option. Mixed age dormitories are often quoted by students as the best feature of the school. At its best, the integration of Blocks 3 – 6.1 students creates a supportive and genial environment which means that friendships are not only based across single years. The older students enjoy the chance to take on leadership roles in the dormitories; this keystone of our pastoral system plays an important role in helping students settle in quickly to Bedales life.

22. What is the interaction like between boarding and day students?

There is little difference between the treatment of day and boarding pupils other than where they sleep. Being on site, it is easier for boarders to make use of the rich evening programme of activities and visiting speakers; although they are encouraged to participate and with equal access, day students can take longer to feel the full benefit of the Bedales offering. 

23. What is the programme at school at weekends?

The formal teaching timetable finishes at 1pm on Saturday. However, there are a number of curricular and extra-curricular weekend activities. There is an annual whole school ‘all in weekend’ (the Badley Celebration Weekend each early Autumn) when we celebrate the school’s founder and work on a whole school community project and Community Festival. There are also subject and activity specific ‘all in weekends’ such as working on Art, Design and Outdoor Work projects, Dance and Theatre performances, Duke of Edinburgh training, sports fixtures/training and weekend visits. There is a specific programme for weekend boarders, arranged by the weekend duty team, which involves visiting local attractions (eg. Winchester Christmas Market and Ice Rink) and informal gatherings for meals with House Staff in the boarding houses.  There is also time for private study and to relax and socialise in readiness for another busy school week.

24. Do you offer flexi-boarding?

Flexi boarding is offered at Bedales Prep, Dunhurst. At the Senior School from 13+, we ask students to commit to either day or boarding. Some students choose to switch from day to boarding further up the school, which we will try and accommodate but will obviously be dependent on the availability of boarding places.  

25. What are your standards of student behaviour and rules about things like bullying, alcohol and drugs?

Don’t be deceived by the apparent relaxed nature at Bedales. There are firm rules that underpin the school and we expect high standards of student behaviour. These are spelt out formally at the start of each year to pupils and are reinforced throughout the year through the pastoral care system. Bullying, drug and alcohol abuse will not be tolerated and could result in a student leaving the school. 

26. What’s the worst thing about life at Bedales?...where are the pitfalls?

Lack of time - people often comment about the full and busy schedule and the need therefore to choose between competing activities. In an environment based on trust and mutual respect, there is a danger that a teacher’s generosity of spirit can be taken advantage of from time to time. We do provide a safe environment for pupils to make mistakes, but, through discussion, we treat any such mistakes as opportunities to learn. Not all pupils have the same levels of motivation – we generally try to operate by encouragement but we do use the more traditional ‘stick’ approaches if necessary. We generally find that enthusiasm for learning is infectious and by the end of their time at Bedales, our students have developed the ability to work independently with a strong passion for their chosen subjects.

Extra curricular and sport

27. How important is sport at Bedales?

We offer access to top quality coaching, a broad range of sports, outstanding facilities, a competitive spirit but with a strong emphasis on fair play and respect for the opposition and opportunities for gifted and talented sports players to develop their elite skills. Pupils who enjoy sport can benefit from the greater degree of choice offered at Bedales by opting for more sports related activities in addition to the compulsory sports curriculum. The main sports for boys are football, hockey, cricket and tennis. For girls, these are hockey, netball, football, tennis and rounders. Other sports offered through the curriculum and activities programme include rugby, basketball, horse-riding, sailing, diving, martial arts, and climbing. Pupils with particular sporting ability join the gifted and talented programme which offers regular visits to university sports departments and workshops with visiting elite athletes (such as Team GB hockey player and Olympic gold medallist Alex Danson). We are particularly proud that our students are offered the chance to qualify as sports leaders and coaches, and to develop their coaching skills with younger children at Bedales Prep and Pre-prep Schools. We do have a number of students playing sport at county, regional and national level.  We want our pupils to keep fit, healthy and have fun. Those pupils who partake of only the compulsory sports element can choose alternative activities such as in Outdoor Work (perhaps assisting with the management of the school’s flock of Jacob Sheep or rebuilding a Land Rover) or the Theatre (eg. stage management). 

28. How involved is the school in the local and wider community?

Bedales is one of the first UK schools to appoint a Head of Global Awareness to oversee our local, national and international community initiatives. Activities include volunteering locally (eg. at Sustainability Centre Green Fair), at the King's Arms local charity in Petersfield, and an annual visit to a community in Swaziland where students have installed running water and constructed a hostel . We are looking to ensure that through both the curricular and extra-curricular programmes, Bedales students develop a well balanced, ethically minded view of the world. A new Bedales Assessed Course qualification in Global Awareness was introduced in 2016 and is proving popular with students.

29. Where can students go to practise music or rehearse lines? 

Music, for performers and listeners alike, is central to our daily life. Bedales offers every musician challenging opportunities in which to study and take part in concerts, both at school and on tours abroad. There are individual practice rooms which are available in our Music School for pupils. There is a comprehensive selection of visiting music teachers offering the full range of additional lessons and ABRSM examinations. Pupils are free to use other spaces and classrooms and it is not uncommon to find a group of students rehearsing a play in the Lupton Hall, a student playing the organ in the Quad or Dunhurst pupils rehearsing in the Prep School's Music department. The events programme which is mainly based in the school's Olivier Theatre is packed with drama productions and musical concerts, including the two Bedales and Dunhurst Rock Shows. 

Beyond Bedales

30. What sorts of university courses and higher education do your students access and how do you help them through this process?

We have a comprehensive process, overseen by the Professional Guidance team, to support students in planning their next steps which starts more informally in Block 4 (year 10) and increases progressively through Block 5 (year 11) and into the Sixth Form. The vast majority of Bedales students will progress to universities and art colleges in the UK and abroad; examples of recent destinations include Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Edinburgh and City College Brighton (art college) in addition to a wide range of other Russell group universities and art colleges. Our students’ destinations are updated annually on the website, together with detailed information about the professional guidance available.  

31. How do you support students after they have left Bedales?

Bedales students tend to be versatile with a thirst to carry on learning and to seek answers to difficult questions; the vast majority therefore aim for entry to some of the most demanding universities and art colleges in the UK and overseas. Our Professional Guidance and Alumni teams combine to support students after they have left Bedales in areas such as post – A Level university applications, career support (eg. work experience), organising alumni reunions, and promoting Old Bedalian activities to the wider school community . We are fortunate that many Old Bedalians and parents are keen to help students by sharing their experiences and offering practical support.