ISI report 2014 - key themes

1. Main findings

Bedales has been rated “Excellent” for boarding quality, pastoral care and academic provision across the Senior, Prep and Pre-prep Schools when assessed rigorously and independently by two teams from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) who visited for week-long inspections in the Spring term 2014.

“Relationships across the school are exceptionally positive, with staff and students working together in a co-operative, purposeful atmosphere underpinned by mutual respect for all… At all stages, students are well educated, and the quality of their achievement and learning is excellent.” (Bedales report)

“Pupils in both schools, including children in EYFS, have highly positive attitudes to work… It enables them to question and reason without fear or embarrassment… The quality of academic and other achievements is excellent… Reception children proudly presented their first Assembly to parents; they had designed their own costumes. In these events, and other areas in both schools, an atmosphere of love and mutual support prevails.” (Dunhurst and Dunannie report)

2. Academic

These reports provide further endorsement for our desire to maintain Bedales’ distinctiveness and to develop the continuity from Dunannie Nursery, through Dunhurst to Bedales Sixth Form, building on the founding vision to educate ‘head, hand, heart’ and innovations like mixed age dormitories and the Bedales Assessed Courses.

“Students enjoy learning, relishing the challenges set by their teachers. They are highly motivated with a disciplined approach to their work, exhibiting a well-developed intellectual curiosity… Students work collaboratively with ease, and as independent research and learning is embedded into the ethos of the school, students largely take responsibility for their own learning.” (Bedales report)

“From the EYFS, where provision is excellent, pupils are increasingly involved in their learning and make excellent progress… At Dunhurst, the curriculum is planned so that it covers considerably more than the usual subjects taught in schools. ”(Dunhurst and Dunannie report)

Bedales, Dunhurst and Dunannie were rated “Excellent” in all areas of teaching and learning: 

  • The quality of students’ achievements and learning - Excellent
  • The contribution of curricular and extra-curricular provision - Excellent
  • The contribution of teaching - Excellent

“The style of teaching throughout the school fully supports the school’s aim to develop inquisitive thinkers with a love of learning who cherish independent thought. The quality of teaching has improved since the previous inspection. At all levels it is frequently excellent and at times inspirational…  All students enjoy learning and exhibit a well-developed intellectual curiosity and independence in pursuing their studies. They benefit from high quality teaching, and the excellent, innovative curriculum.” (Bedales report)

“Assessment records, lesson observation, interviews with pupils and the scrutiny of their work show that pupils of all ages, including those in the EYFS, make excellent progress in relation to their starting points… Throughout the two schools, pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills in both curricular and extra-curricular activities are extremely successfully developed.” (Dunhurst and Dunannie report)

3. Students’ personal development

These inspections build on previous external validation by Harvard Graduate School of Education research at Bedales in 2013 which concluded that providing academic choice in an informal environment results in highly motivated students and stronger academic outcomes.

“Students’ personal development is excellent.  They are encouraged from a young age to take responsibility for their decisions and to be brave in trying new things.  Bedales students are exceptionally well-prepared to take their future life into their own hands… The positive, informal and respectful relationships form the bedrock upon which teaching takes place… The quality of boarding is excellent.  Students live harmoniously, enjoying friendships across a wide age range.” (Bedales report)

“Pupils are highly articulate and mature for their ages and are always prepared to speak their own mind… A culture of mutual respect and care is implicit in school life and this is increasingly seen as pupils grow through their Dunhurst years….Outcomes for boarders are excellent.  Pupils are confident, cheerful, polite and purposeful… Boarding strongly enables pupils to develop valuable life skills.”(Dunhurst and Dunannie report)

4. Governance, leadership and management

Informality and a consultative approach at the Bedales Schools are underpinned by strong structures and academic conviction.

“The school’s visionary and approachable leadership team provides clear educational direction which is demonstrated in the high level of the students’ achievements and their excellent personal development. All staff strongly support the vision.” (Bedales report)

“Their [governors] determination to maintain the schools’ focus on Badley’s aims, thereby ensuring that all pupils, including in the EYFS, are educated in ‘head, hand and heart’, underwrites all their work.” (Dunhurst and Dunannie report)

5. Action points and recommendations

We will not rest on our laurels after this strong endorsement. Action points and recommendations from the reports are already being implemented or planned: we will look carefully at how to improve the imaginative use of ICT, teacher appraisals, use of assessment and the variety of activities to engage all pupil abilities. An annual review by governors of the child protection policy has already been put in place at the Summer term Board of Governors’ meeting.

6. About the inspection and ISI

The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) is the body approved by the Department for Education for the purpose of inspecting schools belonging to Independent Schools Council (ISC) Associations and reporting on compliance with independent school regulations. Schools receive five working days' notice of an inspection. Ahead of the visit, parents and pupils are invited to complete confidential questionnaires. Inspectors check documentation and compliance with regulations, scrutinise pupils’ work, observe lessons and activities, and interview staff and pupils. For more information and copies of previous reports:

Dunhurst: 2011 Ofsted Boarding Report | 2010 ISI inspection | 2007 Ofsted Boarding Report 

Dunannie: 2008 inspection