Excellence for everyone and specialism without compromise are strong messages at Bede’s. This ambitious, inclusive independent school strives for holistic achievement and also offers outstanding facilities.
Set in 175 acres of stunning Weald countryside, Bede’s houses 800 students split between 10 houses where pastoral care is second to none. 300 students board including 120 from overseas.
Headmaster Dr Richard Maloney says school life is about ensuring all pupils have an equally fulfilling experience. “Those children who excel and want to specialise in cricket, tennis or dance have the coaching they need to reach the top. But plenty of pupils not in that elite still have the same opportunities and experiences. Everyone will excel at something: we’re not a sausage factory merely grinding out good results. Staff know every pupil and know them well, so they can find the best approach for each of them.”
This holistic philosophy is popular with parents, and now academic results are soaring. A-level results have improved by 15% in three years with nearly three-quarters graded at A*-B, outperforming many overtly selective independent schools.
Great care is taken to help pupils choose the right path. Principal Deputy Head Jerry Lewis says, “We find out what makes pupils tick and make sure they all achieve their potential. This is a school full of energy, movement and dynamism.”
The older Bede’s Prep School is based in nearby Eastbourne while the Senior School has evolved around the original manor house at Upper Dicker, moving from open fires and wood panelling to contemporary interiors. The campus architecturally mirrors the surrounding village. Fields reach the horizon, providing sports pitches alongside tennis courts and astroturf. The school’s horses graze onsite and students have their own golf course. Huge Sports Complex boasts squash courts, gym and swimming pool, well used by all pupils and open to local residents and alumni. Modern Science Block contains numerous labs, lecture theatre and observatory for night-time lessons. The Art School is recognised as one of the best in the country and the media and film departments are very well equipped.
Bede’s Drama department and Legat School of Dance, the oldest residential dance school in the country, offer excellent training. “We experience every type of dance you can think of, and it’s a very demanding programme,” one dancer said. “We can sing and be involved in music as well, and study academic as well as creative subjects. It’s tough and you have to be very committed, but it’s great.”
The bonus of Bede’s is such gifts are polished without compromising on academic education; over 70 courses are on offer, including Cambridge Pre-U, traditional A Levels and GCSES and BTECS, allowing all students to find a love for academia regardless of perceived ability.
Fun and challenging activities are built into the daily timetable, with 130 to choose from. “You can do pretty much anything you can think of,” a Sixth Former said. “Diving, windsurfing, sewing, first aid, cooking, sailing. A friend of mine discovered she was really good at shooting. She found a talent she didn’t know she had.”
Bede’s one-of-a-kind Animal Management Centre houses weird and wonderful creatures; snakes, birds, guinea pigs, aquaria and even a skunk. Students learn how to handle, feed, look after them and can gain a BTEC qualification in addition to breeding endangered species after school.
Drama productions are big business with 11-12 each year, from small studio pieces to an all-school show. “The drama space is really incredible,” said one student who’s been so inspired he’s heading on to drama college. “We really use it to its full potential and that’s down to our amazing teachers. They are the beating heart of the drama department.”
The newest boarding houses opened in 2012 and are light with vibrant decor and spacious open-plan communal areas, recognised by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors as having outstanding design and innovation. Other dormitories resemble family homes. “I’ve boarded here for five years,” said one student. “I live an hour away so I could go home, but I much prefer to stay here where I have my friends and all the facilities at my fingertips.”
“We’re a values-based school, but the ideas and energy for our community projects have come from pupils, and it’s wonderful to see.”
Dr Richard Maloney
Charity and community projects have flourished in recent years with students working with local care homes and primary schools. Headmaster Dr Maloney said: “We’re a values-based school, but the ideas and energy for our community projects have come from pupils, and it’s wonderful to see.”
Students give their teachers glowing reports. “They’re always happy to give you extra help at break, lunch or after school,” one student said. “If I need to do extra work I can get the late bus home at 7pm. I know my grades will be good because I’ve had that support. Every subject and department is taken seriously, there’s no feeling that it’s better to be good at one thing than another.”
If all that isn’t enough to impress discerning parents, the school has another highlight, summed up by one amazed visitor who exclaimed, “This is the cleanest school I’ve ever seen!” Top marks for Bede’s.