Thought-provoking talks challenge accepted orthodoxies

Two recent thought-provoking talks are on my mind: Graham Banks, Bedales Head of English (to the Bedales Parents’ Association on Saturday) and Tony Little, Head of Eton (to the Society of Heads Conference on Monday).  Both challenged accepted orthodoxies.  Graham showed the pitfalls in bringing numerical targets too much to bear on schools and in particular the complexities of measuring a subject like his (and mine).  Tony Little, struck by the way that new technologies are set to challenge the whole concept of what a school does, sees the “construct we call school” as changing radically because of the revolution in learning that online tuition is bringing with it.  Both men have nearly 35 years’ experience of independent education.  Both share a powerfully humane vision of schools’ effects, with Tony quoting John Milton’s words about schools as the “salvation of society,” places which can do things “justly, skilfully and magnanimously”.

With both areas the trick is to maintain the best of the civilizing, humane tradition of our schools whilst harnessing the benefit of the new, in the case of new technologies, combining the humanity of our schools with the barely glimpsed scope of new ways of learning.

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. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.