It is a place where students put into practice the school motto, 'work of each for weal of all', and really understand how their contribution matters, both now and in the future. Our aim in Outdoor Work is to become renowned for running an ethical and sustainable farm/smallholding that has education at its heart. 

The school has its own farm and pupils plant trees, keep bees and learn about livestock management, blacksmithing, hedge laying, timber framing and wood whittling
Good Schools Guide
  • Block 3 (Year 9)
  • Blocks 4 and 5 (Years 10 and 11)
  • Sixth Form

Every student who joins Bedales will get to experience Outdoor Work in Block 3. Rotating through a carousel of skills, all students gain some exposure to each area of ODW's rich variety of activities. These include planting trees, beekeeping, hedge-laying, timber framing, wood whittling, making chutneys and jams, weaving and spinning wool, and working with our livestock. Students are also assigned a garden plot and a polytunnel plot to help manage and grow a variety of fruit and vegetables over the year. The produce is used in the Bakehouse, where bread and other traditional food is made every week; groups take it in turns to work on this important element of school life.

A typical week's session may see one group blacksmithing candle holders whilst another group works in the wool room spinning wool. Or one group could be found in the polytunnels tending their vegetable plots, another moving sheep, whilst the other makes quiche in the Bakehouse using homegrown produce. Students are not formally assessed in Block 3. An opportunity to deepen the skills developed on this course is available in the corresponding Bedales Assessed Course (BAC) option in Blocks 4 and 5 (Years 10 and 11).

BAC Outdoor Work

The Outdoor Work BAC is entirely different from other courses. The success of the student is largely dependent upon the degree of effort and enthusiasm with which they approach the course, their reaction to the challenges which arise, and the execution of a practical project. It is a course which values and evaluates personal qualities, as well as academic abilities.

The overall aim of the course is a practical education in ‘head, hand and heart’. During Block 4, each student is given the opportunity to experience new and meaningful skills, as well as to become more aware of their environment. The first two terms consist of a Foundation Course, in which all students practise a variety of skills and carry out tasks in the following six areas: 

- Animal Husbandry: working with our pigs, alpacas, sheep, chickens, bees and, very soon, cattle
Cooking: cooking from scratch using produce from our farm - everything from bread baking to butchery, cakes to pickles
Building: construction and restoration of buildings and pig arks, training in safe tool use
Gardening: foraging, seed propagation, crop rotation and fruit and vegetable growing
Country crafts: willow, wool and hazel work, blacksmithing
Conservation: creating habitats, hedge laying, planting, coppicing

During the final three terms, students will apply themselves to a particular project of their own choosing, either on an individual or group basis. Students can choose projects that allow them to develop the skills learnt during the first two terms.


All students will maintain a journal which will record the journey that their chosen project takes. The journal must consist of an introduction to the project, plans, drawings and photographs; comments from staff and peers; details of visits to relevant sites (museums, farms, etc.); expeditions (working horse shows, agricultural fairs, etc.); personal assessments of the progress and the outcome/conclusion. The finished project may be presented to the course moderator as a detailed journal or a photographic record of events, with a verbal discussion of the student's thoughts and objectives. How work is presented is very much up to students, allowing them to work to their strengths. In all cases the emphasis will be on the observation of the students at work, their commitment, enthusiasm, attainment in practical skills, social interaction, co-operation, initiative and creativity.

Students have the option of producing a portfolio of work which might cover a number of different skill sets. For example, one student may elect to care for the fruit cage and make jams from the fruit. They may take charge of record keeping and be responsible for the pigs over a stated period of time, as well as take part in a small aspect of a building project. This portfolio approach allows students to develop a number of different areas of interest. There is also the option to work on a major group project (the main criteria of which is that it must be of benefit to the school community and estate). For example, in 2016 a group project consists of three students who are developing an open barn into a farm shop selling produce from the farm.

Sixth Form students have the opportunity to be involved in an Enrichment course in timber framing with our visiting expert timber framer Gabriel Langlands; the students are currently building a barn which will double as a teaching space for Outdoor Work. We have added an Enrichment course in food and cooking this year which is an exciting new development. There are also fantastic opportunities for 6.1 students to complete their extended project (or part of the project) within the department.  The Badley Senior initiative provides our 6.2 students with an opportunity to develop their leadership skills as well as demonstrate to our newest students the importance of Outdoor Work. 

Living with the Land

Living with the Land is a two-year sixth form course, equipping students with the practical skills to live lightly off the land, and enabling them to look at the wider context for the issues surrounding the environment and our impact upon it. Living with the land around us means having a greater awareness of our environment, living with the seasons, trying to reduce our footprint and applying our new-found knowledge to other aspects of our lives and our community.

It is a natural progression from all aspects covered in the ODW BAC, however it goes into far greater depth and includes significant self-directed work including a portfolio and a ‘major’ project in the final year. There is currently no clear pathway for a student wishing to take a more practical course at sixth form in environmental subjects. The closest comparable courses are Countryside Management, Food Skills, Sustainability or the planned Natural History GCSE. No courses combine traditional building, cooking and craft skills with aspects of ecology, sustainability and community.

The main topics within the course will be shelter, food and craft. By stripping things back to these basic necessities, we aim to equip students with the skills and understanding they need to survive in a world where self-sufficiency is becoming increasingly important. This course aims to base students’ learning within a wider community context, making it less about the self and more about the world at large.


Natural building is a construction system that places the highest value on social and environmental sustainability. It assumes the need to minimize the environmental impact of our housing and other building needs, while providing healthy, beautiful, comfortable and spiritually uplifting homes for everyone. Natural builders emphasise simple, easy to learn techniques using locally available renewable resources. Natural building means paying more attention to all the details of how the world really works.

This module will cover the following areas:

- The context for natural building/What is natural building
- Design and Planning
- Natural Building Materials and Techniques
- Application of these techniques through the creation of a dwelling with the potential to spend time living in it.


Sustainable food production involves learning about the natural environment and all the usable and edible elements within it, from herbs to animals. Cooking through the seasons, making the most of bountiful harvests to see us through the cold months, baking with heritage wheats, making butter and cheese, bacon and pickles. All the skills we need to survive and live off the land. A balance of the practical with the theoretical – discussing the repercussions and consequences of our food choices – organic, local, seasonal, fair-trade, arable or pasture, carbon use etc.

The main modules covered are:

- Preserving
- Foraging
- Baking
- Butchery
- Dairy


Generally, by ‘craftsperson’ we mean a man or woman who, through training and natural aptitude, develops the ability to produce an object or a piece of work from natural materials that is useful and, at the same time, beautiful. There is a huge upsurge in interest in making and doing, as people are seeking opportunities to escape the modern pressures of life and immerse themselves in something ‘real’. 

To live with the land requires numerous unique crafts that have developed over generations, all of which are highly skilled disciplines and require years of dedication and practice. Throughout the course we will look at the crafts and skills that are directly involved with living with the land here at Bedales. 

This module will cover the following areas:

- Blacksmithing
- Wool: weaving, knitting, spinning, fleece
- Animal Husbandry: health care, breeding, diet, daily care and welfare
- Gardening: planning, propagating, plant care, winter crops, harvesting
- Green woodworking: types of wood, hurdle making, carving, weaving
- Land care: ecology principles, livestock, hedgerows, coppicing

Assessment framework

At the end of the course students will achieve an overall certificate/qualification at one of the following levels: Mastery, Artisan, Apprentice or Fail in Living with the Land.

Year 1

Students keep a journal / scrapbook of their learning to act as revision notes/reflection which is not formally assessed.

Students work will be assessed through the following assessment criteria: Explore, Make and Apply.

30% of work will be assessed through explore and make assignments, this will allow students to demonstrate their new understanding of a topic, both theoretically and practically.

A further 10% is available at the end of the first year when students are asked to write an end of year essay/presentation and present it to the group and invited guests. This is an opportunity for students to set all they have learned in year 1 within a global context, looking at the bigger picture and analysing how they can apply what they have learned to other areas of their lives. E.g. Looking at all you have covered in your journal from year one, reflect on how the skills and knowledge gained can be applied to your life as a whole, to improve your own life and that of your wider community. Give examples of how this might be achieved.

Year 2

50% major project

10% viva / presentation

Major project: Students begin work on their major project, a practical exploration of a particular strand from year 1, for example herb tinctures, curing meat, or cob walls etc. This is self-motivated but with strong teacher supervision and mentoring, along with regular study skills input. It will be assessed like an EPQ – planning 20%, research 20%, artefact/object/essay 40%, reflection 20% (weightings likely to change).

There will be a final presentation/viva of their overall work, which like in year one will be presented to invited guests and is worth 10%.


What do students get from Outdoor Work?

Outdoor Work incorporates a holistic approach to learning and student welfare. Whereas in most other subjects students are marked in a traditional way, here we take into account the student’s journey; their effort, enthusiasm and development.  We also aim to make the time they spend with us fun; this can mean learning a new skill or simply relaxing their cerebral side as they undertake physical work. They also gain the satisfaction of seeing instant results from their toil. We see the development of both social and problem solving skills, enhanced respect for themselves and their environment and ownership of their own work, which is hugely beneficial for their self-confidence. The subject matter also promotes self-discipline and responsibility.

Outdoor Work staff

The department plays an important role in staff welfare and professional development within the school. We regularly have experts in for a day to teach students a specialised craft or to train staff and equip them with the necessary skills to teach the basics to students. For example we have had a hedge layer, willow weaver, thatcher and blacksmith visit over the past year to teach students and interested staff. An exciting opportunity for Outdoor Work and Bedales is visiting Blacksmith, Lucille Scott, who works from the Sotherington Barn once a week. On these days there is an opportunity for staff to sign up to a short course in Blacksmithing over a number of weeks.

Head of Department: Andrew Martin

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