Thoughts from an outgoing 6.2

Becky Grubbjpg

Over the past few weeks, 6.2 flat has grown increasingly quiet as more of us depart having finished the last of our exams. It has not been unusual to see those leaving become emotional when it hits them: when their bags are packed and they leave their friends still swamped in folders and practice papers. Having finished the last of my exams on Tuesday, l don’t believe it has quite hit me yet.

As an initial reflection on the past year and my time here as a whole, I can’t imagine another place I would have rather conducted and concluded my school education. It strikes me as a rarity to find a place that can offer the freedom this school does. The freedom and space to think, to exercise and to spend time with the people you have grown to love and care for- especially during the exam season – is often taken for granted.

I believe it is this freedom which truly motivates and sustains us. At this time, conversation does tend to turn to the future and the dreaded question: “and what will you be doing next year?”, but there is also a fond reflection on the past and “what more would you have done?” Discussing the latter with fellow 6.2s, we settled on one main thing we would have done if we relived our Bedales education. We decided we would have written a diary starting at Block 3, if not sooner, not just for comic-value but as a reminder and record of all our experiences. I think of this, what it would look like and how full it would be; I think Bedales encourages people to leave with a weighty volume, a full and well-used diary.

While the many empty pages ahead will always be daunting, I am immensely grateful for the freedom I have had so far to fill the pages with numerous and various experiences and to have shared them with such a supportive and special bunch of people.


Beyond Bedales – help to make the right choice

A recent survey of A level students conducted by Which? found that around three in ten wish they had chosen different A level subjects. Only half felt sufficiently informed about how their A levels might affect their choice of university or choice of course, and three in ten said that advice they were given when choosing their A levels failed to take into account how their subject options might affect their degree and university choices.

Careers advice in schools has long been criticised as patchy – not least by Ofsted, who in 2013 reported that only one in five schools were effective in ensuring that all students were receiving the level of information they needed. On the surface of it, then, it sounds like this may be a fairly straightforward failing on the part of school careers guidance practitioners. However, it would be wise for us to pause before pulling the trigger.

I am fortunate to be part of the Bedales Professional Guidance Department which provides a well-resourced, highly-structured and regularly reviewed HE pathway for students. However, making good choices also requires an investment on the part of the student. To this end, we encourage them to make use of Unifrog – a wonderful resource that, amongst other things, is a comparison platform for university courses. It collates available data – subject requirements, typical grade offers, league table and student satisfaction scores, tuition and teaching provision, and much more. No less usefully, it allows students to calibrate their progress against what is available to them, and so make realistic choices.

Overall, the resources we are able to bring to bear on behalf of our students bear no relation to those I encountered as a sixth former. Does this guarantee that our students make decisions that are right for them? Well, for those who are clear about their direction and highly motivated it is a great help, but for others the picture can be less straightforward.

In my experience, around half of any 6.1 year group will know broadly what they want to do, with about 10%-20% of the cohort very clear about subjects and institutions, and how they plan to realise their goals. The remaining half will tend to be pretty vague in comparison – their direction might extend towards doing one of the humanities, but with little preference as to where. Around 10% of the cohort will have no clear idea.

It is tempting to assume that students will make best use of what we make available to them. However, whilst at key points some want a great deal of my time, others need lots of encouragement to come and see me and give resources a wide berth. Unifrog would seem obviously useful when deciding upon A level and other choices, but a recent audit suggested that only one third of Bedales Block 5 students had visited the site.

We must be wary, then, in assuming that students’ A level and university choices reflect the quality of careers and HE guidance available to them. And even when this is the case, things don’t always go to plan. For example, it is difficult to foresee that continuing a subject in which they had done well at GCSE may prove to be too much of a stretch for some, or that non-educational factors may change the picture for them. Working with such uncertainties is one of ways in which we careers guidance specialists must earn our corn.

There are various approaches we can take to helping the undecided to ensure that they make sound choices at A level and university destinations. For example, we might steer them towards facilitating subjects –  those that Russell Group universities have identified as having admissions currency across a range of courses. More specifically, for those who are less than firm in their preferences for university, we may encourage them to consider applying after they have received their A level results. This removes at least some of the uncertainty from the process for them, and we do it more and more.

For those who are struggling to identify a specialism, we might make a point of highlighting the availability of liberal arts degrees which, initially at least, see students pursue a wider range of subject options thus allowing extra time to settle on their passion. Such programmes are well-established in the US, Canada and Europe, and an interesting new development has been the rising enthusiasm in UK universities for this approach.

Sound advice from school careers staff is very important, of course, but I sometimes wonder whether we might be better advised to structure HE in a way that doesn’t require all young people to settle on specialism quite so early. Until such time, I would urge critics to pause before pointing the finger at schools – we careers and HE specialists do our best, but there are some things we simply can’t control.

On 18 June, Old Bedalians who are now studying at university will join the school’s Professional Guidance staff and a careers expert to talk to 6.1 students about their options. A broad range of courses and institutions will be represented, and it should prove to be a highly informative event.

By Vikki Alderson-Smart, Head of Professional Guidance

Professional guidance

As the academic year reaches its climax with the beginning of the examination period, the Professional Guidance department is looking ahead to the next cycle of Higher Education and Careers advice.

The 6.2 students who have applied to university this year are making their final choices from the offers received whilst concentrating on A2 exams.  On Friday the 6.1s had a lecture from the Admissions Officer from the University of Southampton about how to make an attractive and individual application via UCAS. This was followed by sessions with Vikki Alderson-Smart, Sarah Oakley and myself about setting up UCAS or Common Application accounts (for USA), and understanding the portfolio process surrounding Art College applications.  This Sunday evening (8 May), the information will be shared with 6.1 parents in the SLT at 7.30pm.

On 18 June, 6.1 and 6.2 students will be invited to the OB Fair – a hugely popular event – where OBs currently at university return to Bedales in order to share their experiences with the sixth form.  This interaction has proved very valuable to our students as it gives them an insight into undergraduate life.  Block 5 students are by no means forgotten at this time of year, and will have their own Careers Fair on 24 June where numerous professionals from a huge variety of specialisms come to discuss their own career paths and offer tips on how to get to where you want to be.

It is a very exciting time of year for us in the PG department and we hope the students enjoy the events as much as we do.

By Alison Mason, Careers and North American university liaison

What can we get out of doing exams?

“What can we get out of doing exams?” I asked the students at assembly on Monday.

This term is the most beautiful of the year at Bedales, yet it is a serious term, too, during which every student will sit exams of one sort or another by the end of term. We started addressing this question by looking at different motivations for doing something: extrinsic goals and intrinsic goals. Exams are generally thought to be good ONLY for extrinsic reasons: they are the ticket by which you access lots of other things you want, such as places at competitive universities, or jobs in industries where particular skills and qualifications are valued. There is a problem, though, in only going after extrinsic goals. Aristotle pointed this out in the Nicomachean Ethics, where he noted that if we only ever do something in order to achieve another goal, then we have no real reason for doing anything. To make this clearer, I used the example: if learning is for exams, and exams are to get you to university, and university is to get you to professional training, and the professional training is to get you to a job, what happens if, after all that, you don’t like the job you were aiming for? If we can find something intrinsically good about doing exams, all the better.

I was arguing that exams are good because they allow students to become the authors of their own learning. We talked about different philosophical/psychological theories of knowledge acquisition, including Locke (which we rejected), Piaget and Vygotsky. It was Vygotsky’s vision we settled on – that when students receive the right support (scaffolding) with their learning from peers and adults, they can progress much better, such that they develop the structures of mind to begin to learn independently. It is this that the revision period gives to students: the opportunity to make learning their own, to move from needing the structures, to taking the content on as theirs. This is part of the conceptual furniture of their mind, not simply some knowledge fed in by a teacher and received passively by the student.

I was arguing that the term ‘revision’ is misleading, because it suggests you are looking at something again; in fact, I think revision allows students to see the material for the first time through their own eyes, as opposed to through the eyes of their teacher. A student of mine in 6.1 proudly said to me the other day that she “owned Plato” now she had revised that material. Intentionally or not, she hit on something by saying this: in her process of independently working through the content, it has ceased to be my content, presented to her – her learning has become authentically her own. And this is something, I think, that we can say is intrinsically worthwhile, and in line with the school’s aim that we “cherish independent thought”.

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge, and Head of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics

Read an article in the TES by Clare Jarmy on the subject of revision (with a slightly different argument)

Watch a video about Vygotsky:

New University Options With UK Liberal Arts Degrees

An important aspect of the work of the Bedales Professional Guidance Department, which I lead, is to be alert to changes and trends within higher education. For example, there has been a trend in recent years for university applicants to be admitted on lower grades than those expressed in offers which, in turn, has seen us advise students on their applications and make them aware of incentives from some universities to those applicants making them their first choice. This is part of our extensive engagement with students over the choices they make concerning their working lives beyond the school, wherever their preferences may lie.

An interesting new development has been the rising enthusiasm in UK universities for more American-style liberal arts degrees which, initially at least, see students pursue a wider range of studies than tends to be the case here.

This comes against a backdrop of increasing interest amongst Bedales students in studying in the US and Canada. They appear to value the additional flexibility that this offers them, and the fees, whilst typically expensive, have not appeared quite so steep subsequent to the increases to those in the UK. European universities are also opening up to English students, who can expect liberal arts programmes to be taught in English, and are extremely well supported by their institutions.

However, over the past few years a number of UK universities have launched modular liberal arts degrees, all of which offer students the opportunity to study a combination of major and minor subjects rather than straight single honours programmes. The most recent of these, offering extensive subject choices and significant flexibility, is from Leicester University. After the first year students can upgrade their minor interest to joint honours, or can even change to single honours should they so wish. It is the most flexible of the liberal arts degrees I’ve seen here, and I think many Bedales students – although not all – will find it attractive.

When I interview Bedales students during the 6:I year as they begin to consider their UCAS applications, some are very sure about what they want to do. Many don’t know, however, and so find it very hard to choose – a significant factor in some electing to study abroad.

Now, it seems, they may be able to find such a programme without leaving these shores. As with everything, there are potential drawbacks as well as advantages to this route. They are not for everybody, and those who are clear about their direction are likely to be better served by the single honours route. We are mindful that some of our students have not enjoyed the American model but, instead, have been frustrated to find themselves unable to study some subjects in as much detail as they would like.

For such courses to work well they require sound planning and management – some Bedales students who have gone on to pursue joint honours programmes have found the workload onerous, exacerbated by poor sequencing of requirements for written work. I suspect that students’ perception of such programmes as manageable will be the making or breaking of them in the long run.

Certainly, I will be alerting many of our students to what Leicester and others offering liberal arts degrees have to offer, and I’d like to see more universities follow this trend and make the programmes work. Industry has been vocal in its requirement for entrants with a rounded education, and there is an increasing numbers of students seeking an education hitherto available only overseas – such programmes can serve both parties well.  Of course, this does not undermine the importance of the more traditional degree programme, which remains the better bet for those wanting to specialise, or to pursue higher academic study, and we will encourage our students to think very carefully about what is right for them.

By Vikki Alderson-Smart, Higher Education Advisor



Thinking Higher (Education)

In November my family and I visited the Mechanical Engineering department at the University of Bath.

Alex Ludwig Bath University blog

Dr Jos Darling and Alex

On arrival we met Dr Jos Darling, senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the University. Jos informed us about the opportunities and courses the Engineering department had to offer. After a very interesting conversation with him, we were guided around the impressive facilities and labs. From a wind tunnel the size of a class room, to a metal cutting CNC machine, they had all the equipment necessary to create a diverse range of products. I was surprised to see how many opportunities the University had to offer as well as the sophistication of their equipment. Afterwards we had a look around the campus. The University consists of a campus on top of a hill and feels much like a village, which I found to be very communal.

At the end of the Mechanical Engineering course, 97% of their graduates gain employment. With approximately 185 spaces available each year it is not exactly easy to be accepted into the University, as their typical offer is A*AA for Engineering, but the university seems like an excellent place to aspire to study science and many other subjects.

By Alex Ludwig, 6.1

Bedales A Level Success

Lizzie Compton A+AB, Chloe Green 3A+ A (1) (Large) (Large)

Bedales students have achieved strong A Level results for 2015 with the school’s highest ever percentage of A* grades at 15.5%. They have secured places at universities including Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics, University College London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Durham, Glasgow, Exeter, Warwick and Berklee (US). 43% of all grades were A*-A and 72% at A*-B.

Seven Bedales students have secured places at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge on courses in Medicine, Chemistry, Biochemistry, English, Philosophy, Politics & Economics, French & Religious Studies, and Fine Art; four have done so through this summer’s grades and three students from last year’s cohort received offers based on their A Level results from 2014. Four of these seven students were taught at Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, before progressing to Bedales Senior School and Sixth Form.

Poppy Duncan from Stroud, Petersfield will read Medicine at New College, Oxford having achieved three A*s in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, and an A in Further Mathematics; Chloe Green from Liss achieved three A*s in History, Mathematics and Further Mathematics, and an A in Chemistry, and will read Chemistry at Worcester College, Oxford; Peter Price from London achieved three A*s in English Literature, History and Religious Studies and will take up his place at Corpus Christi, Cambridge, to read English;Juliette Perry from Petersfield gained an A* in History and three As in Chemistry, English Literature and Mathematics, and will take up a place at Somerville, Oxford to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Sophia Falkner from London achieved four A*s in Economics, German, History and Mathematics; to study Economics and Economic History at the London School of Economics.Oscar Braun-White from Rowland’s Castle achieved three A*s in Physics, Mathematics and Further Mathematics and an A in Classical Greek; to study Natural Sciences at Durham University. Sophie Mills from Rowland’s Castle achieved three A*s in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics, and an A in Further Mathematics; to study Chemistry at the University of Warwick. Thomas Higginson from Chilworth, Southampton celebrated his 18th birthday on results day with three A*s in Dance, French and Psychology and an A in Mathematics; to study Dance at The Place, London.

Head boy, Rob Miller, from London achieved two A*s in English Literature and Mathematics, and an A in Latin. Head girl;  Margaret Rice, from Bampton, Oxfordshire achieved an A in Religious Studies and two Bs in Classical Greek and Latin.

Two departing Bedales students have spent the summer working with the prestigious National Youth Theatre:

  • Christi Van Clarke from London achieved two A*s in Drama and Theatre Studies, and Art and Design, and an A in French; to study a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at City and Guilds, London.
  • Deputy head boy, Roly Botha, from the Isle of White achieved three Bs in Drama and Theatre Studies, English Literature and Religious Studies; to study Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway. Roly was also awarded the school’s Gabriel Bruce Award for outstanding work in Theatre, Art and general contribution to the community.

22 Bedales students have been accepted at British art schools. Many schools find that only a select few of their art students choose to apply to leading art and design colleges and universities. The one-year Foundation Diplomas in Art and Design allows students the experience of further developing practical and conceptual skills in preparation for art and design related degrees.

The three Bedales students progressing to Oxford having taken their A Levels last summer are:

  • Olivia Brett from Petersfield who will read Theology and Religious Studies at Clare College, Cambridge. She is currently performing as Nannetta in The Black Cat Opera Company’s performance of Verdi’s Falstaff at the Camberley Theatre has also been awarded a choral scholarship at Clare College.
  • Rufus Rock, head boy in 2013/14, from East Meon, who will read Fine Art at Brasenose, Oxford. This year he has taken a six month practical filmmaking course in Berlin and also learnt German.
  • Joshua Grubb from Petersfield, who will read Biochemistry at Somerville, Oxford. He has spent this year working for Procter and Gamble in their science research labs at the Newcastle Innovation Centre as part of the ‘Year in Industry’ scheme. He was also awarded a Distinction in his Diploma (Dip.ABRSM) Clarinet examination.

Commenting on the results, Keith Budge, Headmaster of Bedales Schools, said:

“We are delighted that our students achieved Bedales’ highest percentage of top grades with 15.5% of all A Level awards at A*. Congratulations to our students whose results are worthy recognition of their hard work. I wish them well as they now progress to an impressive range of universities and art colleges in the UK and overseas.”

Other Bedales student successes include:

  • Mona Fu from Zhuhai, China achieved two A*s in Mathematics and Art and Design, and an A in Physics; to study Architecture at University College London.
  • Jojo Mosely from Hambledon achieved two A*s in Art and Design and English Literature, and an A in French; to study History of Art and French at the University of Bristol.
  • Sofia Palm from London achieved two A*s in Politics and Religious Studies, and an A in History; to study Social Anthropology at SOAS, University of London.
  • Jack Merrett from London achieved an A* in History, and two As in Politics and Religious Studies.
  • Isabelle Binney from Rogate achieved an A* in Art and Design, an A in Psychology, and a B in English Literature; to study History of Art at the University of Bristol.
  • Lizzie Compton from Rake achieved an A* in History, an A in English Literature, and a B in Mathematics; to study Law at the University of Bristol.
  • Henry McWhirter from Hindhead achieved an A* in History, an A in English Literature, and a B in Religious Studies.
  • Eleanor Soper from Hambledon achieved an A* in Mathematics, an A in Physics, and a B in Chemistry; to study Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh.
  • Alexander Yetman from Froxfield achieved a D2 (equivalent to A*) in Music Pre-U, and two Bs in English Literature and Design and Technology; to study Bespoke Tailoring at University of the Arts London.
  • Sofie Kitts from Swanmore achieved three As in English Literature, History and Spanish; to study Scandinavian Studies and History at The University of Edinburgh.
  • Phoebe Landers from Headley achieved three As in French, History and Spanish; to study History at The University of Edinburgh.
  • Laura Wise from South Harting achieved three As in English Literature, History and Religious Studies; to study Philosophy and English Literature at The University of Edinburgh.
  • Lily Brown from Liss achieved two As in Biology and Classical Civilisation, and a B in Art and Design.
  • Victoria Burnell from Sheet achieved two As in Economics and History, and a B in Classical Civilisation.
  • Saskia Church from Brentford achieved two As in Design and Technology and Psychology, and a B in Economics.
  • Jack Shannon from Steep achieved two As in Biology and Mathematics, and a B in Chemistry; to study Marine Biology at the University of Southampton.
  • Maya Wilson from Rowberrow, Somerset achieved an A in English Literature, a D3 (equivalent to an A) in Music Pre-U, and a B in History.
  • Emily Blackley from Priors Dean achieved an A in Biology, and two Bs in Geography and Mathematics; to study Biological Anthropology at The University of Kent.
  • Gabriel Curry from Steep achieved an M1 (equivalent to an A) in Music Pre-U, and two Bs in Mathematics and History; to study Law at the University of York.
  • Ruan Evans from Wimbledon achieved an A in Dance, and two Bs in Drama and Theatre Studies, and History.
  • Foxey Hardman from Langport, Somerset achieved an A in Psychology, and two Bs in Drama and Theatre Studies, and French.
  • Radheka Kumari from Ruislip achieved an A in English Literature, and two Bs in History and Religious Studies.
  • Enrico Luo from Guangdong, China achieved an A in Mathematics, and two Bs in Physics and Design and Technology; to study a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at City College Brighton and Hove.
  • Robert Murray from London achieved an A in Mathematics, and two Bs in Physics and Computing.
  • Lydia Nethercott-Garabet from Steep Marsh achieved an A in Latin, and two Bs in History and Spanish.
  • Matilda Raphael from Richmond achieved an A in Psychology, and two Bs in English Literature and Drama and Theatre Studies.
  • James Sweet from Henfield, West Sussex achieved an A in Mathematics, and two Bs in Biology and Chemistry.
  • Lily Wetherill from Midhurst achieved an A in Art and Design, and two Bs in Design and Technology and English Literature.

The full A Level statistics were as follows:

  • A* passes: 15.5%
  • A* – A passes: 43.0%
  • A* – B passes: 72.1%
  • A* – E passes: 99.2%

Cambridge Pre-U D1 and D2 grades are equivalent to an A*; a D3 is equivalent to an A; M1 is equivalent to an A grade and M2/M3 merit grades are equivalent to B grade.

Note that this data is provisional and subject to re-marks.

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