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The Good Schools Guide

Good Schools Guide Review


The Good Schools Guide is the recognised ‘go to’ guide for families in search of the right school for their children.

Since 2009, Dr Richard Maloney MA (theology at St Andrew’s) PGCE (Cantab), early 40s. An alumnus of Latymer Upper School, Dr Maloney began his career in West Yorkshire. In 1997, he became head of RS and, later, head of sixth, at Chigwell School, during which period he completed an MA at King’s College, London. In 2006, he was appointed deputy headmaster of Sutton Valence. During his tenure there he became a PhD but left after three years to take up this headship–whilst still in his 30s. An impressive start.

The Guide is an important reference for parents because it is the only publication that researches and publishes impartial and independent reports on schools, consulting with parents, pupils and staff. The following is the review published by the Good Schools Guide resulting from their visit to Bede’s in June 2015:

Our View Head says, ‘What I want parents to know is that their children will be well taught and we are doing great things with them.’ Parent says, ‘Look at it seriously–whoever your child is’. Pupil says, ‘I am so lucky to be here.’

Remember ‘impressive’ and ‘start’. A man of palpable energy–physical and intellectual–complemented by equal measures of compassion, dedication, ambition and vision. A very attractive, very modern, head. Modern in that he understands the potential of the virtual, business and academic worlds and is busy threading this through Bede’s educational provision, but also modern in that his focus is less on what is provided and more on maximising the potential of every pupil and of every member of his staff. His philosophy is for all to be the best they can, in whatever sphere is right for them. So elite academics, while central, are not elevated above eg elite art, cricket, dance, ceramics. And, increasingly, the staff is composed of his own, outstanding, appointees. Pupils somewhat in awe but not intimidated. ‘He knows more than he shows. He is a real presence when he walks in the room,’ we were told. ‘His assemblies are brilliant – he’s the best speaker I have ever heard.’ His colleagues tell us, ‘He’s very demanding. He always expects to move things up a gear and the staff are up for it.’ ‘Amazing foresight – he is always thinking ahead so that he can leave a brilliant legacy for future generations.’ And parents trust him – ‘He celebrates the individual’. Yes, he talks the talk and does so eloquently, persuasively, lucidly. But it’s not just buzz – he means it. He has turned around this school, and anyone who visits cannot fail to be both impressed and moved. Of course there is still plenty to do, and he clearly loves the school, its situation and its community. But, by any standards, he is hot property and there will be head hunters and governing bodies aplenty luring him to pastures which, if not new, may well be lusher and more illustrious. Though, given time and consistency, Bede’s will be up there with the big boys, and Dr Maloney, were he to stay and continue to build, could leave a legacy which would leave them standing.

Academic Matters ‘We prove you can have great results with inspired, holistic teaching.’

Unusually large range of GCSE options includes two popular business courses, Mandarin, dance and PE alongside all the more predictable options. Also popular are art, history and geography. Impressive results in art and the sciences in particular. BTecs on offer in a nine subjects. Similarly impressive list of A level subjects includes accounting and computer science. Pre-U rather than A levels offered now in English and music – wise choices. Art, again, the stand-out subject in terms of results, but this is not – thankfully – a results-driven school. The point here is to be ‘better’ – a word Dr Maloney uses all the time. He is unfussed about league tables save those which measure value added – and Bede’s scores very highly here. ‘We prove you can have great results with inspired, holistic teaching.’ Parents agree. One – a parent of three – told us: ‘It’s ridiculous to say it’s not academic. My exceptionally bright son is brilliantly taught and is flying. And my other two, who are very different, are well-supported and are equally happy and successful.’ Learning enhancement in its own block and central to the ethos of the school. Lots of screening. Years 9-11 have effective revision technique classes, and ‘anyone can have learning support in individual subjects or just help with learning in general’ – a useful approach. Year 9s also have ‘prep project’ to learn study techniques.Some 25 per cent

of entrants to the earlier years and 12-15 per cent of sixth form entrants come with some kind of, usually mild, SEN. So, additional help is normal here and, as several grateful parents told us, with ‘absolutely no stigma’. One parent typified the rest. ‘My son has mild SEN problems – I looked at 25 schools and then made a shortlist. They all promised everything but there were cracks in what they said. Bede’s learning support finds what they’re good at – the teaching is multi-sensory, the classes are alive, the teachers are passionate. My son has grown in independence. He doesn’t need support any more.’ Others agree: ‘They find ways to ensure you don’t fail though, on occasions, some more constructive criticism wouldn’t be bad,’ we heard. Separate EAL dept. Library not the most impressive aspect of school’s provision, though modern fiction stock is good. But why a whole set of Hugh Walpole and no Thackeray? Or were Barry Lyndon and The Newcomes etc out on loan?

Games, Options, the Arts ‘No strait-jacketing here but evidence everywhere of imaginations encouraged to flow and flourish.’

Dance is big. Bede’s is home to the Legat School of Dance and dance attracts much young talent to the school. One large and two smaller studios – the large one is light and lined with photos from the school’s history. For some, dance increases in importance and they leave to pursue careers in this area. For others, academics or other pursuits take over and dance becomes a passionate hobby. Teaching is dedicated and inspirational. Dancers work. ‘It has been hard at times but it’s so convenient having everything in the same place,’ one young hopeful explained. ‘Dance can be stressful but the pastoral care here is amazing.’ Very good drama, led by lively staff in excellent theatre and studio, encompasses the conventional to the experimental. And not just musicals. Technicians from Glyndebourne help and guide, and major productions shown in Eastbourne theatres. Let us know if you find more inspired, better equipped or more varied ceramics anywhere. It’s a real feature of the school, led by veteran potter in the Old Kennels, with three kilns, a spray glazer, electric wheels and a kick wheel dating from 1945 which he found on eBay. Graduates of this A level go on to product design, architecture, fashion, photography, interior design and textiles – a fabulous hand and eye education. Good music, super art – as good as anywhere we know. Photography, mixed media – all impress. No strait-

jacketing here but evidence everywhere of imaginations encouraged to flow and flourish. Endless other activities from bee-keeping to the breeding of small animals in the unique Animal Management Centre, where we met some of the 500 inhabitants including a common plec, a sun beetle and a lesser hedgehog tenrec. Links with several zoos. All go to support pupils’ studies in the practicalities of animal care. And then there’s the sport. Cricket on glorious pitches – now embellished by the Martin-Jenkins Pavilion celebrating the family’s links with the school. Elite sportsmen and women on the staff; many a young sports star in the making stays on here rather than joining some club programme or other, ‘because it’s just as good and I can do my academics too’. They do anything from athletics to water polo – huge range and super facilities. They don’t necessarily win everything but some sports, eg boys’ U18 tennis and football, are hard to beat. Everything done with verve and energy.

Background and Atmosphere ‘Bio-mass boilers and solar panels – school runs almost entirely on sustainable energy.’

Unusually, Bede’s Senior grew out of a prep. The prep, founded in 1895, was thriving and, in the 1970s, its then head was urged by parents to provide continuation and the search for premises was on. Could they have done better? They found a house – The Dicker – around 12 miles inland – which had belonged to the extraordinary Horatio Bottomley (well worth looking up if you don’t know) – a splendid, early 20th century, arts and crafts-cum-mock-medieval-Tudor extravaganza with a splendid landscaped park surrounded by stunning countryside. Dr Maloney’s own ‘salon’ is an exquisite blend of the Victorian at its best and the ultra modern. Gorgeous ‘old’ dining room. The school opened in 1979 and has, since then, spawned around 40 lesser buildings – everything from pre-fabs to what Dr Maloney described as a Kenyan Safari Lodge, atop of which, in an improbable eyrie, sits the school library. Huge ‘MPH’ houses gym, pool, vast assembly space etc. Plans to lose several lesser buildings and construct a major, multi-flexible, classroom block – pupils are involved in the planning of the project and Dr Maloney pays tribute to their insights and ideas. All nestles in the park – extensive fields, meadows, gardens, plus a large, lilied lake and all, seemingly, in terrific nick. All this and train connections to London are close and quick.

Five boarding houses, are, of course, mostly recent and cleverly designed with large, light and airy atria which act as common rooms and off which rooms radiate. This system ‘produces community right away – no long corridors in which people can get lost or hide away.’ No mixed houses. Younger years in rooms with four beds, later in twos or singles. Good shared bathrooms, no en-suites. Houses staffed mostly by couples/families, their cats and dogs being house pets adored by all but asthmatics. Everyone ‘patriotic’ about their houses. Most enthuse about the food and all like the range of choice. Sussex flint, free-standing chapel used for talks by Chaplain but no heavy-duty religion practised here. Bio-mass boilers and solar panels – school runs almost entirely on sustainable energy.

Pastoral Care and Discipline Entrance ‘They allow you to be who you are without mortifying you as other schools do.’

Transition from preps and primaries handled well. Integration of new pupils from different cultures, likewise. Integration of day pupils and boarders to be supported by new system of mixing up the houses. Day pupils able to stay until late and each house will have boarding, day and late-staying pupils. Pupils consulted at each stage. ‘I’m a real believer in pupil leadership,’ says Dr Maloney. ‘They make real decisions and decide on their legacy to the school.’ Tartan skirt and blouse for girls, who wear suits in the sixth; boys wear dark suits but can move into chinos in the sixth. Parents testify to the absence of bullying and say that anything more than light banter between pupils is handled sensitively. ‘And they don’t force you to do things you’re uncomfortable with,’ a parent averred. ‘They allow you to be who you are without mortifying you as other schools do.’ Tutors, houseparents and a thoroughly understood system of rules and sanctions maintain the school’s tangible peace. Few serious misdemeanours – those few handled ‘both formally and personally’, according to pupils. Permanent exclusions a rarity. Dr Maloney well up on ‘safe’ internet use and says, wisely, ‘We have a group of kids advising us on what we need to know.’

Pupils and Parents From an ever-widening arc – Bognor to Hastings. The vast majority are local or local-ish. Boarders from hither and yon and likely to grow in number. Everyone from wealthy Sussex farmers, to London refusniks, to looked-after children in care of the LA – seamlessly and sensitively integrated. United in being smiley, fulfilled and grateful.

Over-subscribed at all points but not by much. This is set to change and far-sighted parents need to get down and register. Currently, for sixth form, five B grades at GCSE are required with As in key subjects. Five Cs needed for entry to BTec courses

Exit Far fewer now leave after GCSE and most who do go locally to sixth form colleges. Post-sixth leavers to a great range of places and courses. Lots to vocational courses eg sports management, advertising, accounting but also maths, medicine, English at Russell group universities and a few each year to Oxbridge (one in 2014). Alumni of either the prep and/or the senior branch include Eddie Izzard, Nicky Henson, Jamie Lloyd, footballers Dan Harding and Soloman March and a growing stream of cricketers including Ollie Rayner, Luke Wells and, newbie, Shai Hope.

Money Matters Scholarships of up to 25 per cent and a good and growing bursary fund. But – being a newish school – without massive endowments etc, of course.

Bede’s Senior School Upper Dicker East Sussex BN27 3QH

T 01323 843252

Profile for Bede's

The Good Schools Guide Review for Bede's Senior School  

Read the 2015 review of Bede's Senior School from The Good Schools Guide.

The Good Schools Guide Review for Bede's Senior School  

Read the 2015 review of Bede's Senior School from The Good Schools Guide.