By Al McConville, Director of Learning and Innovation
Friend of Bedales and educational reformer, Professor Bill Lucas of Winchester University, gave a keynote speech to the Mercers’ Company in London about ‘the Future of Education’ on Monday, which I was privileged to attend.
Bedales was name-checked repeatedly as a key pioneer in the context of a pretty dreary and narrow educational landscape. Alongside School 21, collaborators of ours in the East End of London, Bedales was held up as the example of the sort of holistic, broad, practical education that more and more external agencies are clamouring for, from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry).
By Phil Tattersall-King, Deputy Head (Co-curricular)
I am pleased to announce changes to the key dates for the 2020-21 academic year. The changes have come from listening to feedback and from years of working with students and recognising the times their energy starts to dip – particularly around the first half term and long leave weekends.
For many years, Bedalians have had to show stamina in this long first term but fatigue has always been a factor, even for the many who have excelled this year. Therefore, the introduction of a two-week half term is to allow for a meaningful break and a chance to return refreshed. This will provide better support for those students going out on trips to Eswatini or the carousel of Global Awareness destinations, allowing for both exploration and recuperation. As a result, we will be teaching later into December (just as we will in Easter) but with a later return in the New Year.
For those of you who remember the 13+ assessments on 2 January, a sharp return from festivities almost as bracing as the inclement weather outside, these will now be on the more family-friendly 11 January for new students looking to join Bedales in 2021.
Last week, the Sixth Form English Literature began their week with a trip to London to attend a series of lectures given on Shakespeare’s Othello. It was a brilliant opportunity which really enhanced our understanding of the play.
The first lecture was given by Richard Marriott on Dramatic Structure and the tragic pattern of Othello. He also spoke about the idea of ‘anthropological dualism’ which is transparent throughout the play, as characters are challenged by certain aspects of their personalities.
The second lecture focused on the importance of storytelling. This provided helpful context, as Dr Mason talked about Cinthio’s play, The Story of Disdemona of Venice and the Moorish Captain, which was Shakespeare’s only source material for Othello. She highlighted the changes that Shakespeare made and the significance these had, especially presentation of female characters.
At the beginning of November, 20 students from Block 5, 6.1 and 6.2 volunteered to sit the Senior Maths Challenge.
Around 80,000 from across the UK took part in the competition; 15 Bedalians were awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze certificates, with Aidan Hall, Maggie Luo and Annabelle Snell all winning Gold. They also qualified for the next round, the Senior Kangaroo, which places them amongst the top 10% of all the mathletes that took part in the competition.
Over the past few weeks, in collaboration with a group of Block 3 Outdoor Work students and the Sustainability Group, we have begun the huge task of cataloguing the school’s biodiversity.
We started with the Lake, where we discovered 28 different species of freshwater animals, including water boatmen, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, whirlgig beetles and flatworms. A walk around the centre of the site revealed 38 species of tree and 19 birds, such as the green woodpecker and nuthatch. The use of a moth trap also showed there were 14 moth species in the wildlife garden behind the Science department, which is remarkable, considering it is late in the year.
To fend off the global warming crisis, we need to appeal to the hottest place on earth. The sun’s core is 10 million degrees, but in the Joint European Torus (JET) at Culham, the doughnut-shaped plasma in the reactor consistently reaches temperatures of over 100 million degrees to initiate nuclear fusion between hydrogen isotopes and release enormous quantities of energy. The hydrogen is sourced from seawater, and there are no harmful waste products. What is not to like? Unfortunately, it’s fiendishly difficult to achieve.
The Sixth Form physicists visited JET last week, for an inspiring tour and lectures. The scientists and engineers explained the current developments of this futuristic technology, which has come a long way since its inception in 1983, and has inspired the next generation of fusion reactors, driving the plasma science and fusion research. Ground-breaking and innovative engineering solutions are necessary for the magnetic containment, keeping the super-heated plasma just metres from the surrounding vacuum at almost zero, to harness this potentially limitless resource.
Going to Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire, Wales, has always been on my mind as somewhere I wanted to film, as it is jam packed full of puffins. I was fortunate enough to borrow a really great telephoto lens and a good, sturdy tripod from Old Bedalian Andrew Graham Brown, who went to school with my father. This made filming at Skomer Island challenging but enjoyable; trying out professional gear is always really exciting.