Bedalians head to Oxford

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy and Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge, Bedales

Every year, 6.1 students at Bedales have the opportunity to attend the Oxford University Open Day. This gives them the chance to attend lectures, see some of the colleges, and get a feel for what an Oxford education, and the application process, would be like. This year, as part of the 3i programme, students in Block 3 and 4 were invited to hop on the bus for a trip that we ran in parallel: an Oxford experience that introduced them to a top university, and to find out the differences that Oxford and Cambridge present, compared with other universities. For the youngest students, it was a chance to iron out some misconceptions ‘If I’m at this college, am I still at Oxford?’ or ‘Which college does English?’ For some, it was a chance to start setting their sights high for study after Bedales.

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Whilst the 6.1s were traipsing from college to college in the afternoon, Block 3 and 4 got a chance to see some of Oxford’s excellent museums, including the Museum of the History of Science, and the Natural History Museum (including the shrunken heads in the Pitt Rivers). The Block 3s had a photo competition, with categories such as ‘most intriguing object’ which you can see above.

This is just one of the many opportunities that students in 3i get. 3i (after Badley’s happy phrase ‘intelligence, initiative and individuality’) is a community of engaged, interested learners at Bedales. It includes academic scholars, those nominated by staff, and those who nominate themselves. 3i runs a regular bulletin, which publicises events, competitions and trips.


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

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

Science at Bedales – A distinctive approach

CERN trip 3

Bedales – that’s the school for people who are into arts and humanities, right? Well, yes and no. It is true that Bedales offers a distinctive education in those areas, with plenty of notable careers made subsequently to prove it. However, Bedales also has a very successful Science Department whose courses are well subscribed, that gets excellent examination results, and whose students go on to pursue further academic study in the sciences and related subjects, and successful careers.

To a certain extent, Bedales’ reputation as a school devoted to the arts and humanities is justified – English, History, Religious Studies and Art are all very popular at A level. However, Mathematics (and Further Mathematics) is often the most popular A Level choice for Bedalians and amongst the current 6.2s (upper sixth) over half the block study at least one of Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Psychology, with an almost even uptake for each.

The study of sciences at A level, then, is an attractive option. For some, this is undertaken with an expectation of further study and a related career. Supported by extensive careers advice, these students will typically study traditional subject combinations – for example, linking Mathematics with Physics, or Biology with Chemistry. The Department has developed a particular expertise, thanks to Cheryl Osborne, in preparing students of natural sciences for further study in Medicine, and to this end has introduced a Sixth Form enrichment course in Medical Ethics. Of the students that have left Bedales for Oxford and Cambridge since 2009, over a third have gone on to study Mathematics or one of the sciences and last year three out of seven places went to the sciences: there is a proven and consistent track record for our Oxbridge applicants. The list below of degree subjects taken up by Bedales leavers over the last three years shows an impressive range and quantity of courses.

However, at Bedales science subjects are also successfully pursued alongside others beyond the traditional combinations – for example, over a third of 6.2 (upper sixth) Science students are also studying either Art or English and most students will choose a third or sometimes fourth A level from the arts, humanities and languages in the interests of subject diversity. At Bedales we take the view that these different areas of study, and their respective orthodoxies and methods, have much to offer in combination. There are powerful precedents for this approach: the late Steve Jobs saw artistic sensibilities as central to Apple’s business and, perhaps more dramatically, Albert Einstein was convinced that music was a guiding principle in the search for important results in theoretical physics. In addition, various researchers have found a positive relationship between participation in arts, crafts and music and success in scientific and technological careers. There are many Old Bedalians who have combined science with arts and humanities subjects, and who have brought to bear both scientific expertise and alternative literacies in service of innovation, and in communicating relevant ideas through policy advice to industry and government, or within companies.

“Art can be a way of capturing the essence of something while filtering out small details – a very useful skill in any kind of research, whether in the humanities or in the sciences.”

Alexei Yavlinsky, computer software engineer and entrepreneur (Bedales 1994-99)

Bedales Approach to the teaching and learning of Science

Bedales’ approach to the teaching and learning of Science is laudably distinctive. We encourage inquisitiveness and independent learning, for example, by making the room for students to exercise, experiment, innovate, reflect and discuss. In 2014, the school introduced a student-inspired initiative – the Dons – giving 6.2 (upper sixth) students the opportunity to represent subjects and mentor younger pupils. Last year, the Chemistry Don successfully promoted the subject to both parents and students, and helped with the science education of lower year groups. This year we have expanded the role of our Dons to organising science events for lower schools and developing and recruiting for scientific societies. Bedales has high expectations of students, and employs tried and trusted principles (such as Assessment for Learning) in seeking to ensure that each student knows where they are with their learning, where they need to go, and how they are going to get there.

The commitment of the Science Department to the school’s educational credo – specifically Aim 2’s ‘doing and making’ – is expressed significantly through a commitment to practical work. In teaching the natural sciences, we believe that students must experience events, substances and changes in order to properly understand them; that such work can help develop an understanding of both the value and problems associated with measurement; and that practical work can be the doorway to a deeper understanding of the concepts and ideas that underpin scientific theory. No less importantly, students typically enjoy practical work, and for those who go on to further study the skills they develop in this way are a vital asset.

The Bedales Science Department prides itself on the quality of its staff, and of its collective practice. We draw upon doctoral-level expertise (with two PhDs in the Department), and every subject area is taught by specialists for whom it is their primary discipline. Science is taught in all three Bedales Schools with great attention paid to complementary curricula. The curriculum at our junior schools is an excellent foundation for subsequent study at Bedales, with the relationship strengthened by Science Department staff giving assemblies, talks and demonstrations to younger students.

Science provision at Bedales also benefits from excellent external input. The annual Eckersley Science Lecture is delivered by some of the world’s most prominent scientists. Speaker for the 2014-15 academic year was cosmologist Prof. Tony Readhead of Caltech, with Prof. Jim Al-Khalili of the University of Surrey to speak (on 19 April 2016) on the developing discipline of Quantum Biology. Bedales science students also benefit from links with local universities and guest lectures. Recent events include a ‘Brain Day’ with Dr Guy Sutton, whilst an ‘Infra-Red Spectroscopy Day‘ gave sixth form students hands-on experience of the latest equipment. Field trips include regular visits to the CERN Large Hadron Collider for physicists.

We also encourage our students to take up opportunities beyond the confines of the classroom, and to exercise leadership in the area of science. Bedales Block 3 and 4 students (Years 9-10) compete in the Biology Challenge (Society of Biology), and are regularly awarded gold certificates. Older students represent the school in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Olympiad, and individual students give scientific presentations to external audiences. Bedales science students also help with lessons in our junior schools.

To conclude, Bedales is associated in the popular imagination with excellence in the arts and humanities. Whilst the Science Department may sometimes cede the spotlight to its more overtly glamorous cousins, its pursuit of excellence is treated with equal seriousness, is borne of the same educational ethos, and sees impressive returns. Indeed science at Bedales is rendered all the more distinctive for being pursued in an environment in which the arts and humanities are so important – a point that resonates with the many Old Bedalians who have gone on to become accomplished scientists and innovators.

By Richard Sinclair, Head of Science, Bedales

Maths and Science related degree choices: 2013 – 2015

Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh
Biochemistry, Oxford University (Sommerville)
Biological Anthropology, University of Kent
Chemistry, Oxford University (Worcester)
Chemistry, University of Warwick
Chemistry, University of Edinburgh
Economics, Kingston University
Economics and Economic History, London School of Economics
Environmental Management, Kingston University
Marine Biology, University of Southampton
Mechanical Engineering, University of Exeter
Medicine, Oxford University (New College)
Midwifery, Plymouth University
Natural Sciences, Durham University
Psychology, Anglia Ruskin University
Social Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies

Automotive and Transport Design, Coventry University
Biological and Medical Sciences, University of Liverpool
Biological Sciences Foundation, Fanshawe College Ontario
Chemistry, University of Bristol
Economics and Finance, University of Exeter
Human, Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge
International Relations and Anthropology, University of Sussex
Medicine, University of Exeter
Nursing, University of Liverpool
Physics, University of Bristol
Physiotherapy, Oxford Brookes University
Psychology, Anglia Ruskin University
Social Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies
Zoology, University of Glasgow

Aerospace Engineering, TU Delft – Netherlands
Agriculture, Royal Agricultural University Cirencester
Biochemistry, University of Sheffield
Biological Sciences, University of Exeter
Economics, University College London
Economics and Politics, University of Leeds
Materials Science & Engineering, Swansea University
Mathematics, Imperial College London
Mathematics, University of York
Mathematics, Loughborough University
Medicine, University of Cambridge (Murray Edwards)
Natural Sciences, University of Exeter
Physics, Oxford University (Oriel)
Product Design Engineering, Brunel University
Psychology, Newcastle University
Veterinary Nursing, Royal Veterinary College (University of London)

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.

View photos

6.1s well informed and ready to apply Stateside

Eager 6.1s gave up their long leave to attend the Fulbright Commission’s increasingly popular College Day. This is the forum for those who think they may like to study in the US to get a taste of US college life and for those who know they wish to study across the pond it is a chance to refine their search by quizzing the International Admissions Officers of the schools and colleges (universities in the UK!) they are interested in applying to. Over 300 institutions were represented, from the Ivy League Colleges to small specialist technical schools such as the New York Film School, with just about everything in-between. The students found the process informative and exciting but were a little overwhelmed by the choice. However, everyone managed to utilise their maps to make targeted assaults and they feel better informed as to the opportunities open to them Stateside and are now ready to take the next steps towards application.

By Alison Mason, Head of Careers and North American Applications

Fulbright Commission


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.