"Bedales helped me to take my learning into my own hands and use that to create a fulfilling life for myself. I developed into an independent learner who organised time efficiently."

Alumna with a first-class degree from Oxford, a distinction in an MPhil at Cambridge, now working at a multi-award-winning professional podcast production and promotion company

At Bedales, we decided in 2004 that GCSEs were examining too narrow a range of skills, which are a poor match for the skills required to flourish in future study, employment and life in general.

Today our students sit five GCSEs and IGCSEs (English Language, Maths, Sciences and a foreign language) and then can choose up to five of the 14 Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs).

"The core of GCSE subjects alongside a choice of Bedales Assessed Courses enables Bedales pupils to develop their interests to high levels and prepares them well for A Level work."

ISI Report, 2022

BACs are internally assessed and externally moderated. In a system similar to university practices, work is set and assessed by Bedales teachers against BAC-specific marking criteria and internally standardised, then moderated externally to have at least GCSE equivalence.

Moderators are independent of Bedales, and therefore able to take an impartial view. They serve for around four years. Moderators are chosen for their expertise in the subject, and understanding of assessment standards, particularly at KS4. Past BAC moderators have often included retired Chief Examiners. Moderators' decisions on marks are taken as final. 

"BACs ... developed my independent working skills and really suited my inquiring mind, which matches up with my PhD, where I conduct lots of independent research."

Alumnus currently pursuing a PhD in Particle Physics at Durham

BACs are two-year courses with a rich diet of continuous assessment as well as, in many cases, 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 and go significantly beyond the confines of the GCSE syllabus. Further course information is available here.

"The vast majority of students at Bedales report being "a good amount" or "very" motivated in academic courses. In addition, students at Bedales describe how the school culture supports them to be independent learners. Further, Bedales students tend to report having a genuine love of learning and describe a school culture that inspires curiosity."

Research Schools International research project, Harvard Graduate School

Exploring BAC and GCSE data since the move to 9-1 grading has confirmed that we can be confident in our BAC standards and Bedales’ processes. For example, a comparison of grade 9s awarded in the last five years shows achievement at BAC to be very much in line with GCSE/IGCSE:

Percentage of Grade 9s - BACs vs GCSEs

Our students go on to study at QS World Top 100 universities, renowned art colleges and music conservatoires. With the introduction of BACs, we saw a marked improvement in standards at A Level, and concomitantly competitive places at university. The most popular destinations over the last 10 years include Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, Cambridge, and Oxford in addition to art foundation and degree courses at Kingston, Oxford Brookes, Central St Martins and Manchester Metropolitan.