At Bedales a standard Sixth Form programme consists of three A Levels, occasionally four, and usually complemented by our Enrichment Programme (see below), which is a series of internal, non-examined courses of our own design. This, we believe, fulfils both the need for objectively measured, in-depth study (through the A Levels) and our commitment to breadth, and to undertaking learning for its own sake (through the Enrichment Programme), which is a strong ideological strand of the school's ethos.

We were quick to seize on the opportunities that A Level linearity offered in terms of de-emphasising frequent public examination and winning back teaching and learning time. We do not permit students to take any of the new style AS Levels, since we felt that this would detract from the potential benefits of linearity and keep students on a treadmill of external exams. We also did not feel that all courses were genuinely co-teachable. The Enrichment Programme is, in effect, an extension of the principles under-pinning our Bedales Assessed Courses (see below), which are delivered at age 14-16, and emphasise the importance of students having significant choice and diversity in what they study.

Our pedagogical preference is for an overall experience which stimulates the ‘Head, Hand and Heart’ of our students, and the programme is designed to ensure this is possible for all, so some of the Enrichment Programme is practical and creative (e.g. oak-framing and pottery), whilst some is traditionally academic (Astronomy and Theology), and some is linked to community service.

We predict UCAS grades provisionally at the very beginning of the upper sixth year based on their performance in the lower sixth, incorporating their internal examination results which are determined at the end of that year. Students then have a three week window in which to influence those predictions by undertaking additional activities and assessments which might demonstrate that they are capable of working at a higher level than our initial - usually slightly suppressed - predictions suggest.  Heads of Departments then 'lock down' their predictions at the end of September. Teachers are instructed to award predictions on the basis of the 'balance of probabilities'. 

Bedales Assessed Courses

Bedales has a history of educational innovation. Dissatisfaction with the quality and challenge involved in some of the GCSEs available led to the launch of Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs) in 2006. Eleven years in, the BACs are an established part of life here at Bedales, and are increasingly recognised by universities and colleges. Better preparation for A Level and development of independent learning skills are common aims, and BACs are tailored with our first school objective in mind: ‘to develop inquisitive thinkers with a love of learning who cherish independent thought.

Our 14-16 curriculum comprises four areas:

  • Core IGCSE subjects: English (single language), Mathematics, Dual Award Science and a modern foreign language (up to seven)
  • Bedales Assessed Courses (between 1-5).
  • Additional GCSE or other externally examined courses
  • Core non-examined courses: Physical Education and Personal, Social & Health Education

BACs are designed to offer increased depth, more stimulating material, less prescriptive syllabuses and a wider range of assessment methods than their GCSE equivalents. Courses are internally assessed, and externally moderated and quality assured by acknowledged experts in the design and delivery of curriculums in their subject area.

BACs are graded according to their own assessment criteria, and follow the GCSE convention of awarding A* - G grades, and from 2018, 9-1 grades. The level of attainment indicated by these is at least as difficult to attain as the corresponding GCSE grade. Although the qualification is comparable in challenge with GCSE, the flexibility, structure and assessment of the course means that students are better prepared for the independence of mind and intellectual depth required for A Level and beyond.

Find out more about BACs, including subjects available, here.
Further information is available from the Head of Bedales Assessed Courses, Dr Matthew Yeo myeo@bedales.org.uk or the Deputy Head Academic, Alistair McConville, amcconville@bedales.org.uk 

The Sixth Form Enrichment Programme

At Bedales, students are encouraged in their independent thinking and learning: we want them to develop their passions and their enthusiasm, and to be free to learn beyond the confines of exam syllabuses. The new linear A Levels have afforded Bedales the opportunity to extend this approach further into the Sixth Form with the new Enrichment Programme, which began in September 2015.

The Sixth Form curriculum has three strands:

  • A Level/Pre-U courses
  • The Enrichment Programme
  • Core non-examined courses: Physical Education and Personal, Social & Health Education

On the modular system, students were expected to start four A Levels, dropping one after AS. Our expectation now is that students will take three linear A Levels, and complete a programme of enrichment alongside this. Some students will still elect to take four A Levels and have the option to undertake some enrichment.

The Enrichment Programme comprises a range of short courses, many devised internally (such as the History of Maths or Ceramics) and some external courses (such as the EPQ and language qualifications). All courses have an attendance requirement of 80%, and clear criteria for passing the course. Students create for themselves a programme of enrichment courses to go alongside their A Level qualifications. Depending on the student, this programme might be very focussed and academic, very creative, or broader and more eclectic. Around one third of students elect to complete an EPQ as part of their programme.

Those studying three A Level subjects choose courses worth seven credits: credits are allocated based on the length of the course, and the amount of independent work involved. Students who gain seven credits are awarded the Enrichment Diploma; those who gain four credits are awarded the Enrichment Certificate.

Find out more about the Enrichment Programme and the current courses here.
Further information is available from the Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge, Clare Jarmy cjarmy@bedales.org.uk, or the Deputy Head Academic, Alistair McConville amcconville@bedales.org.uk