Bedales featured in House of Lords report on education

Academic & Curriculum, Bedales Pre-Prep, Bedales Prep, Bedales Senior

With growing concerns that the English education system is moving in the wrong direction, a House of Lords Committee has concluded that the education of 11-16 year olds “is not adequately preparing pupils for the future... the evidence we heard persuades us that major change is necessary.” 

The Education for 11–16 Year Olds Committee was appointed by the House of Lords in January 2023 to focus on the skills necessary for the digital and green economy. It has now published its report Requires improvement: urgent change for 11–16 education. The report concludes: “The present system is not adequately equipping young people with the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to progress to the next phase of their education, and to flourish in the future” and references “a narrow set of subjects and teaching styles”. 

Bedales has been at the forefront of the call for change, having exercised its independence in 2005 with the introduction of its own unique curriculum and assessment in Blocks 4-5 (Years 10 –11), as highlighted in this latest report: 

“Bedales School in Hampshire now plans to offer GCSEs in only English language and maths, with pupils primarily studying their own Bedales Assessed Courses at key stage 4.” The report quoted evidence submitted by the Rethinking Assessment group: “GCSEs were created at a time when many young people left school at 16 and needed to be able to demonstrate what they could do at this point of transition. With the majority of pupils now going on to study until 18, that idea is horribly out of date.” 

Earlier this term, Bedales launched its 10-year strategy Cultivating a community of learners as a renewal of its core purpose and philosophies and to ensure Bedales’ relevance for its students and leadership within the educational community for the next generation. Included in the plans are the further expansion of the school’s own Bedales Assessed Courses with a consequential reduction down to a two-GCSE model. Students will therefore follow more of the school’s own curriculum, designed to develop intellectual ambition, creative thinking and independent learning, preparing them better for A Levels, giving them more learning time and developing the dispositions and capabilities to help succeed in life beyond Bedales. 

The Lords’ report is critical of the current education system: 

“Reforms to the 11–16 system initiated by the Government since 2010 have been guided by an emphasis on knowledge acquisition and academic rigour. Education in this phase now prioritises a restricted programme of academic learning, delivered through a narrow set of subjects and teaching styles...Today’s 11 year-olds will leave school in the 2030s. They need change to be made urgently. While it is difficult to predict what jobs will be available when they enter the workforce, digital, creative and technical skills are likely to be in even greater demand. Skills such as collaboration, creativity and problem-solving are also expected to become increasingly important. Opportunities to develop these skills have, however, been squeezed out of the 11–16 phase.” 

Four key areas of the education system were identified as needing attention in the report: an overloaded curriculum; literacy, numeracy and digital skills; the introduction of alternative forms of non-exam assessment; and a review of school performance measurement. 

In addition to the two-GCSE model, Bedales’ plans for the next decade include: a digital portfolio for all (an ‘education LinkedIn’); establishing a Centre for Progressive Education to inform global education thinking and practice; doubling the number of fully funded bursaries; weekly ‘Bedales Service’ by all students to support the operational running of the school (akin to the Japanese soji approach); a move to mixed boarding houses for all years (rather than separate single sex houses); hands-on experience for students growing their own food and building sustainable structures; and initiatives to live more sustainably and moving to carbon net zero. 

The House of Lords full report can be read here. There's more information on Bedales’ plans for the next 10 years here.