Bedales is one of the UK’s leading independent, co-educational boarding and day schools, comprising three schools situated just one hour from London near Petersfield, Hampshire: Bedales Nursery and Pre-prep, Dunannie (ages 3-8); Bedales Prep, Dunhurst (8-13); and Bedales Senior (13-18).
The vision of Bedales founder John Badley was to create a school which would be profoundly different from the public schools of his day. From the outset, there was a determination to shape the school around what was considered best for the individual child’s educational welfare and happiness. Many of Badley’s early innovations are now mainstream: co-educational boarding (at Bedales since 1898); the emphasis on the arts, sciences and voluntary service; the importance of pastoral care; and listening to students’ views (the Bedales School Council, established in 1916, was one of the first in the country).
Even so, the contrast between Bedales and other schools remains strong. Today, our approach draws on our innovative traditions, with Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs) taught alongside five core GCSEs, project-based learning as a key part of our Block 3 (Year 9) curriculum, and approaches to boarding, pastoral care and interpersonal relationships that break down unnecessary barriers between the generations, the sexes and the wider community.
Set in 120 acres of South Downs National Park, the Bedales estate includes playing fields, orchards, woodland, pasture and a nature reserve; the countryside comes right to the heart of the schools.
An eclectic range of buildings adds to the school’s setting. They range from the modern, custom designed classrooms at Bedales Prep, Dunhurst and Pre-prep, Dunannie, through to the Grade I listed Lupton Hall and Memorial Library at Bedales, and the contemporary, award-winning Olivier Theatre, Orchard Building and Art & Design Building. The school’s on-site farm is at the heart of the school and enables pupils to put the school motto – ‘Work of Each or Weal of All’ – into practice whilst developing valuable practical and transferrable skills.
Approach to learning
At Bedales, we aim to develop inquisitive thinkers with a love of learning who cherish independent thought. Founded to be different, we remain progressively liberal in our approach, not for the sake of being different, but because we believe it is important for a properly rounded and relevant education. Our approach encourages inquiry, creative thinking and independent learning – vital requirements for further education and beyond.
We start developing these skills early with our youngest children as they progress through our pre-prep and prep schools. With the focus on the journey, our pupils can enjoy – and be inspired by – a much more expansive curriculum as we are not stifled by the Common Entrance syllabus, which we believe is ineffective in educating young people.
Since 2006 we have offered our own ambitious qualification programme which are recognised by universities – Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs) – to complement five core I/GCSEs, which give students more choice over what they study, mainly involve coursework as opposed to exams, and focus on outdoors, arts and humanities subjects.
In Block 3 (Year 9), we have also introduced project-based learning, embracing an interdisciplinary, ‘real-world’ approach to our study of the humanities. Emphasis is placed on outdoor learning at all three schools. The Outdoor Work curriculum – a core subject which incorporates nature and conservation, horticulture, animal husbandry, bushcraft and country crafts – enables pupils to develop an awareness, appreciation and knowledge of the natural environment in line with Bedales’ founder John Badley’s original aims.
While we take a kinder, more ‘child-centred’ approach, Bedales students are ambitious and go on to some of the most prestigious academic and artistic institutions in the UK and internationally, joining a host of alumni who are distinctively Bedalian for life. In 2022, over a fifth of Bedales students went on to study at universities featured in the 2022 QS Top 100 World University Rankings, including Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Edinburgh, Manchester, Warwick, Glasgow, Southampton, Birmingham and Leeds.
Another fifth went on to continue their art and design education, studying a range of courses including the Art Foundation, Fine Art, Architecture and Costume Design. Music and drama courses at performing arts conservatoires are also consistently popular choices for Bedales students.
Find out more about Bedales at bedales.org.uk