Never work with animals or children, they said. Forget that! We’ve been so excited to hear all about Bede’s zoo.

If you go down to Bede’s Senior school, you’re in for a big surprise. In the heart of its 120-acre campus, in the rural village of Upper Dicker, East Sussex, is something rather unexpected and it’s actually the first of its kind – a zoo within a school!

Bede’s Zoo is the culmination of Bede’s mission to do things differently. Set up 10 years ago, it became a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2020 and has grown over the years to include sixteen separate enclosures with 70 species of mammal, reptile, amphibian and bird.
Species include Meerkats, Ring-tailed Lemurs, Binturongs, Lemon Doves and the most recent arrivals, a pair of Rankin’s Dragons. The rarest animals in the zoo are three Grandidier’s Vontsira – a little-known species of Mongoose from a small corner of Madagascar. There are just 1,000 remaining in the wild and, as part of a drive to save the species, nine are held in captivity in Europe with the hope that they will breed. Four are at Chester Zoo, a further two at Magdeburg Zoo in Germany, and three are living at Bede’s School. This special project is one of many conservation projects that the Bede’s Zoo team and pupils are involved in.
The zoo provides a teaching resource, which enables pupils to learn and to pursue their interests, and allows them to participate in national and international programmes for the benefit of wildlife. About 18 sixth formers every year study BTEC Animal Management at the school – a course usually only available at specialist colleges. The course studies topics including animal welfare and ethics, health and disease, animal behaviour, practical animal husbandry and work experience in the land-based sector.

Bede’s has a passionate teaching team who ensure that pupils receive hands-on learning working within the zoo. That zoo doesn’t just enrich the learning experiences of pupils who study BTEC Animal Management, it also hosts one of the school’s most popular activities – the Zoological Society – and often welcomes visits from local primary schools and other community organisations and groups. Connecting with animals is enriching, calming and fulfilling for all those who visit the zoo. Interacting, feeding and gaining the animals’ trust brings a sense of purpose and joy to Bede’s young people who get to enjoy these opportunities within their school day.

Deputy Head at Bede’s, John Tuson, who has overseen the development of the zoo and recently published a book about the zoos of Britain and Ireland, says, “Our school zoo, in which a small but significant number of pupils study and a greater number come in order to benefit from being able to spend time with animals, is the embodiment of our belief that all pupils should be given the opportunity to find their niche. As a school, we are enormously lucky to have such a facility in our midst.”

Find out more about Bede’s unique schooling opportunities at

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