From a young age, Bede’s students are offered a great arts education and a strong academic programme that works towards Common Entrance exams – and it is one of only a few schools in the UK with its own zoo.
Bede’s is a mid-sized all-through school with around 800 pupils – 300 of them boarders – and around 18% are international students. Class sizes are average for a public school, with around 15-20 students, which helps teachers to deliver a high degree of personalised learning. While miles apart, Bede’s prep and senior are very much run as one school, and students are brought together through various co-curricular and community activities.
Private schools worldwide have a reputation for championing the arts, whether that’s music, drama, dance, film, or art. But Bede’s really does make extra space for the creative and performing arts in its curriculum. Year 9 students study fine art, ceramics, photography, and graphics. There is a wide choice of arts subjects for Year 10 - 13 students to study at GCSE, A Level, and BTEC – with outstanding results year after year. And there are specialist Year 7 and 8 drama masterclasses to prepare them for scholarship auditions. A third of Bede’s pupils go on to study art-related degrees, and it’s certainly one to watch for students looking for a push towards getting into the creative industries.
Bede’s is justly proud of its outstanding reputation for pastoral care across the school – and it’s the house system that fosters such a strong sense of community spirit and belonging (as well as plenty of friendly rivalry in house competitions, we hear). While two thirds of the school are day pupils, they equally enjoy the benefits of wrap-around care, support, and activities offered within the boarding houses.
The most recent addition to Bede’s pastoral team is a four-legged friend for the students – Lottie the Labrador, who sits in on one-to-one therapy sessions and helps to break down barriers to reading – “Lottie has been trained to rest her head on the pupil’s lap while they read and press a buzzer to signify the end of their session".
Learning also goes beyond the classroom with Bede’s on the Beach programme (when there are rock pools and a vast shingle beach on your doorstep, there’s no excuse not to use them), and investigations on the South Downs, as well as lessons in its own outdoor classroom. There’s plenty to do after school, whether planting trees in the school orchard or wakeboarding in Hove Lagoon, wine-making (sixth form only) or target rifle shooting. The zoological society, which helps to care for many of the 70 different species in the school’s on-campus zoo, is unsurprisingly popular! (If that all sounds too much, there is the chance to read quietly with a cup of tea and biscuits in the Reading for Pleasure club).
Bede's Prep School was rated Excellent in its most recently available ISI Educational Quality report (2018).
Bede’s follows an expanded National Curriculum for England throughout prep, which includes specialist lessons in computing, French, art, drama, music, PE, games, and swimming, each taught by teachers who know their subject inside out and are passionate about it. It’s a school that brings learning to life – whether enjoying a spit roast lunch and trying on real armour to learn about history; making rockets from scratch and firing them from the top of the cliffs in Eastbourne; or programming robots to explore the school’s corridors. And don’t forget that students can spend their break times feeding chipmunks, cleaning out the pythons’ vivarium, or simply smiling at the meerkat – all at the school’s zoo. (Knowing how excited children get with the traditional class pet hamster, this zoo will attract many squeal of excitement!)
The First Year of senior school (Year 9) is its most dynamic and challenging – and as the deputy head John Tuson says, “…the First Year needs to be the very best year a child has ever had at school”. Designed to fill in what it sees as “cracks of the modern education system”, Bede’s secondary curriculum devotes half the timetable to core subjects and the other half to a ‘carousel’ of humanities and arts subjects, 21st Century studies, and also sport, tutorials, and co-curricular activities. It’s a year when your child can learn how to make spaghetti bolognese, get a full gym induction, help to produce a junior play, learn darkroom and Adobe Photoshop skills, manufacture a wooden storage box, and even breed endangered species.
It’s a fulfilling curriculum that opens students’ eyes up to the wide choice of GCSE/IGCSE, BTEC, Pre-U courses, and A Level subjects on offer: these include sport, dance and music performance, classics, further maths, government and politics, and animal management. Headmaster Peter Goodyer says that Bede’s “champions choice at every turn” and will unearth your child’s “hidden talents”. Although A-levels are the most common choice for students applying to university, they aren’t the only option – and Bede’s is certainly unique in its broad offering of college courses.
All sixth formers also study a Bede’s Diploma, an enrichment programme that is designed to bolster any university or job applications. Students must complete the Extended Project Qualification, attend talks, trips and workshops, and complete community service. As well as walking away with exam grades, this diploma should give Bedians the answers to the difference between the Socratic Method and Platonic Love, how to work a washing machine, and how to succeed in a formal interview.
There are plenty of schools in the UK that recognise the value of a creative curriculum – but Bede’s really does bring it to the fore in the daily timetable. Throughout the school there is an emphasis on creative subjects such as ceramics and photography, and Bede’s manages to maintain this focus on the arts without compromising in other areas of the curriculum.
Bede's Art School has a national reputation as a centre of excellence. Almost a school within a school, the arts department has impressive facilities including fine art studios, a Mac graphics suite, a Victorian printing press, life drawing studio, ceramics studios, and darkrooms.
It’s a school that encourages students to discover artistic talents from a young age; for example, dance is taught as part of the curriculum through to Year 8, and all Year 7 students produce a work of art to display in the annual Towner Gallery Schools Exhibition held locally. It’s also a school that gives students the platform to excel in music, art, and performance: they can study LAMDA qualifications, audition for the UK-leading Legat Dance Academy, which is based at the senior school, and go on to take RAD and ISTD vocational examinations including BTEC Level 2 and 3 Performing Arts.
There are also plenty of opportunities for students to perform and exhibit their work; the freedom to do this is highlighted by one student's decision to curate an open-air 'Lockdown' art exhibition of all student work last year.
Bede’s opens up access to arts education and qualifications, and a third of its students go on to study art-related subjects. The school is performing well – in 2020, 94% of GCSE candidates achieved an A* - A for art, photography, or ceramics GCSE; in A Level art and design, 100% of Bede’s students have achieved A* - C over the past decade. For students hoping to apply to some of the top art universities, including Central Saint Martins, UCL, Goldsmiths, Leeds, and Falmouth, Bede’s is a good stepping-stone.
There’s heavy investment in sport too, with all lessons being taught by an expert coach. Bede’s offers three core sports – cricket, football, and hockey – as well as competitive sports including netball, tennis, and swimming. The BTEC in sport is really popular, there is an excellent tennis academy (which trains on courts in the green and purple colours of Wimbledon), and the sports facilities are impressive (particularly at the senior school, which is used by students of all ages).
While Bede’s may not have the reputation for being the most academic school, results are strong and sometimes outstanding. In 2020, A Level students achieved 82% A* - B grades and 54% A* - A grades, and in GCSEs 82% of grades were 9 – 5 (the equivalent of A* - B) and 23% were 9 – 8 (equivalent to an A).
These results do not reflect the school’s performance overall, however. There are many students taking BTEC diplomas (in 2019, this was around 20%) and a large majority achieving grades equivalent to A* - A.
Perched on a clifftop, the prep school has truly remarkable views – one you won’t find in many classrooms across England. Further inland, the senior school also has terrific views of the Downs. It’s a school that looks as good as it feels, with some impressive facilities including a performing arts centre, huge arts department, an eight-court sports hall, squash courts, fitness suite and swimming pool, and its one-of-a-kind animal care centre.
The school is not highly selective academically, except for in sixth form; rather, admissions is based on English, maths, reading, writing, and cognitive tests, reports from feeder schools, and how students get involved in group activities during Bede’s taster day.
Annual tuition fees for day students range from £10,440 for Reception and £17,760 for Year 7 through to £22,800 for Years 8 - 12.
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