What makes for an excellent lesson?

Intriguing training session at Bedales with a schools’ inspector on what makes for an excellent lesson. Two 20 minute clips of contrasting lessons are at the centre of this. Much good discussion then follows on what works well and what doesn’t: how actively engaged are the students? Does the lesson make them feel more confident about the subject? Is it clear what the teacher is trying to achieve? How successfully is the teacher catering for the brightest and the least bright? How carefully is she assessing what they know and what they have learnt by the end of the lesson? How good is the interaction with each individual student and to what degree do they feel their opinion counts? Is there variety? The ideal is that this level of demanding but good lesson observation and feedback becomes standard practice, primarily by heads of departments, but also peer to peer. Happily Michael Gove has responded to the danger of an over-emphasis on technique at the expense of subject knowledge through signalling that the quality of the teacher’s subject knowledge, which the independent sector has always stuck to, will be properly recognised. 

Meanwhile, at a more homely level, dogs Ailsa and Zazu, carefully looked after by deputy head students, Laura S and Richard W, perform their leading role in my annual dog-based assembly; shamelessly deploying sentiment, I have the dogs feature as a curtain-raiser for the main topic which is reading, and how important it is. On my list is Peter Atkins’ On Being, which I am resolving to make some headway on before we hear him at Tuesday’s Eckersley lecture.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster Bedales Schools


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music school. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.