In search of a better education

There is much talk currently in educational and political circles about whether GCSEs are still the right form of assessment for 16-year-olds and whether their content is adequately preparing children for the fast changing world beyond school. The disruption caused by COVID has also shone a worrying light on the fact that GCSEs rely solely on a single examination after two years study. Many parents, who have been more involved than usual in their children’s education because of online learning, have also been questioning the type of education that GCSEs offer; it feels narrow, unimaginative and overly pressurised.

At Bedales we decided that GCSEs were too rigid and that by relying on them solely we were failing our students and narrowing their educational horizons. Today our students study five I/GCSEs (English Language, Maths, Science and a foreign language) and then can choose up to five of the 14 Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs).

Bedales Assessed Courses allow for a wider range of topics to be studied, sometimes giving us complete autonomy over what we would like to learn

Felix, 6.2 (Year 13) student

Our alternative to GCSEs

BACs are two-year courses with continuous assessment as well as a final exam. There is more reliance on collaboration, research, creative thought and problem solving – a natural progression therefore to A Level study. Teachers can shape the syllabus according to current events or their students’ interests and go way beyond the narrow confines of the GCSE syllabus. Importantly the courses are externally moderated and recognised and respected by UCAS, universities and employers. Our students go on to study at QS World Top 100 universities, renowned art colleges and music conservatoires.

BACs are available in the following subjects:

  • Ancient Civilisations
  • Art
  • Dance
  • Design – Product and Fashion
  • Digital Game Design 
  • English Literature
  • Geography
  • Global Awareness
  • History
  • Music
  • Outdoor Work
  • Philosophy, Religion & Ethics
  • Sports Science
  • Theatre

The holistic approach of the BACs allows teachers and students to shed the artificial subject barriers imposed through the GCSE system, and instead allows focus on skills and overall achievement

Abi Wharton, Head of Faculty: Humanities 

Read case studies of five Bedales Assessed Courses here.