There’s an unmistakable feeling that this is a school that has really found its stride. With a smidgen of what the school’s founder Lt. Col. Sharp would have termed ‘mission creep’, Bredon was perhaps a victim of its own success, building a reputation for doing brilliantly with all children who need more nurture. And so it did, but a swathe of new and clear marketing and the singular focus of Bredon’s superb headmaster now leaves visitors in no doubt as to Bredon’s raison d'être which, in the words of the head, is ‘to enhance the superpower of dyslexia’.
Since his appointment in 2019, headmaster Nick Oldham (previously deputy principal at West Heath School) has worked wonders at Bredon – from refurbishing and rebranding to fully overhauling the house system and installing a new Astro. He’s friendly, busy and dynamic, and his drive and determination (perhaps in part thanks to his time playing rugby for England throughout the age groups) has been key to his goal of building new classrooms and a sixth-form block, which in turn will allow the school to grow to his target of 300 pupils. It’s safe to say he has a crystal-clear vision for Bredon School – and parents are impressed.
Having made his initial raft of changes and plotted a clear onward course, Mr Oldham has now set his sights on the curriculum, about which he feels that there has not historically been ‘the right level of positivity’. ‘Bredon isn’t all things to all people, it’s a dyslexia specialist’, he says, and the expertise within these four walls is almost unrivalled in this sphere. Last year’s leavers smashed out a 100 per cent BTec pass rate along with a ‘cracking’ set of A-level results – something which he feels they need to broadcast more overtly.
Sustainability and ecology are woven throughout Bredon’s fabric – an area that has ‘really got its heartbeat back’, in the words of Mr Oldham, who also finds time to help out with agriculture lessons. Bredon has already begun to sell farm produce at school events and potatoes gleaned from the adjacent field after harvest are used by the catering team to teach pupils how to cook the perfect chips.
‘It was the ethos that attracted me to Bredon,’ says the head, ‘and it continues to be a breath of fresh air’.
Bredon has seen a massive influx of enquiries in recent years. Currently, two-thirds of pupils are boys, who are more affected by dyslexia than girls. From Year 5, numbers take a leap upwards, and Year 6 currently has two classes.
Bredon School is wonderfully flexible and welcomes newcomers at any time in any year – but there’s also an enthusiastic sense of ‘the earlier the better’ in order to soak up the advantages of its tailored offering. There’s also a significant intake of pupils who found larger public schools too taxing and for whom a school farm, a focus on the outdoors and an equal weighting of success and effort are far more up their street. Minibuses to local train stations make the school more doable for many. It’s all about the right child and for pupils with dyslexia, you’d be hard pushed to find a more bespoke package.
Bredon makes full use of its glorious rural setting, and afternoons are reserved for making the most of the extensive grounds by beetling around in sports kit and donning boiler suits for engineering or working on the farm. Pupils in Years 4 to 9 have timetabled outdoor education lessons each week, which might include archery, kayaking or orienteering.
The metalwork and engineering experience at Bredon is outstanding, leading to apprenticeships in automotive engineering, agricultural engineering, blacksmithing, plumbing or a higher level of engineering qualification. A highly professional selection of metalworking machines are on offer: mills, lathes, surface grinders, smelting and shot-blasting – by Year 9, pupils will have used every piece of equipment. Similarly, the photography department is an enthusiastic buzz of Macs, drones and darkrooms, and the mind-blowingly awe-inspiring art department recently helped pupils create an elephant for Worcester’s Big Parade.
Music and drama had not previously taken centre stage, but this aspect too is being swept up and along in Bredon’s positive tide.
Sport is taking back a higher billing with some impressive fixtures and some recent notable wins have definitely nailed sporting colours to Bredon’s mast. The relatively new sports kit promotes a far stronger feeling of unity within and a professional first impression to opponents, but the pièce de résistance is the floodlit Astro, which took the place of the original walled garden of Pull Court while rugby pitches have been moved to the front of the school and away from the flood-prone original site. But team sports are only a part of the fabulously outdoorsy provision at Bredon, and a climbing wall, canoeing, clay-pigeon shooting, DofE, outdoor pool, bushcraft sessions, horse riding, mountain biking and more than 84 acres of beautiful grounds are more than enough to keep children challenged, inspired and busy.
Bredon is an Armed Services Covenant School and CCF is a really big deal (the military aspect runs through its DNA). The school has its own unit under the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers which has grown exponentially. Everyone in Year 9 and above has the opportunity to take part and, by doing so, pupils sign up to life-changing experiences, developing leadership qualities, courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity and selfless commitment – all very much the embodiment of the school’s founder who envisaged a place where it was not just about academics, but rather learning how you learn and learning how to lead.
The farm is remarkable, and an integral part of school life and the skills learnt here extend far beyond the farmyard. Agriculture is offered at GCSE and BTec, and environmental science is on offer for A-level. Pupils learn valuable practical lessons in tractor driving, shearing, fencing, maintenance skills and general husbandry of pigs, cows and sheep (the girls have raised a confusion of 20 guinea fowl from the incubator in their boarding house). The school has its own farm shop, selling veg and eggs and serving coffee – and providing a real-life learning opportunity for pupils studying business skills.
Bredon’s Wainwright Lectures form an integral part of the programme for sixth-formers, offering a variety of external speakers on a weekly basis. The lectures aim to broaden students’ understanding of the wider world and offer insights into a range of subjects or career choices – there is most definitely something for everyone.
There are two boarding houses: Tyndale House for Years 4 to 11, occupying the top floors of Pull Court and with high ceilings and great views; and Stable House for sixth-formers, which is geographically closer to the sixth-form common room and study areas, designed as a stepping stone between school and further education. Stable House feels more spartan and ‘university’ than the homely Tyndale, but students are taught to do all their own washing and really gain a sense of independence before making the leap into further education, apprenticeships or work.
Pupils sign up to at least three in-house activities per week and weekend activities (for which both houses usually combine) range from cinema to bouncy castles, laser tag and paddleboarding, as well as local shopping trips, but Bredon’s boarding staff are also highly experienced in supporting pupils with specific learning needs so that they can assist with their academic progress.
Above all else, it was the testimony of pupils that struck us here. A sixth-former who had been told elsewhere that they wouldn’t get a single GCSE is now confidently approaching his A-levels, while another hails the passing of his maths GCSE as one of his proudest achievements. The head described dyslexia as a superpower - and Bredon makes children believe it.
Don’t panic! We have more than ten years’ experience of visiting schools and advising parents, and we are all parents ourselves – we can make this easier for you.