Tuesday brings one of my favourite evenings, which is the 86 Group Heads and Head Students’ meeting. 86 Group is the cluster group that Bedales belongs to. With 15 schools of a broad range of size and origin – for example, Christ’s Hospital, Ardingly, Churcher’s and Frensham – the heads meet three times a year to discuss the kinds of things that interest and tax us; meetings of teachers with common interests – heads of a particular department, for instance – also meet to share ideas and even the odd frustration. The glory of this recent meeting is that the heads and the head students have their parallel meetings and then mix together over dinner, in Tuesday’s case, at Reading Blue Coat School.
One of the fascinations for me is that, year by year, each head boy and head girl is struck by how much more different we are to other places – much more different than, perhaps, they realised. Even a brief look at the head students’ agenda shows how different most of the other schools’ preoccupations are – prefects’ responsibilities; prefects’ earning respect from the younger years; prefects’ privileges. All very different to the things that concern us here. Indeed the whole consensus about student behaviour and the nature of the relationships between teachers and student are very different. Of additional quasi-anthropological and timeless interest is the way that the demeanours, uniforms, outlooks and insignia of the different schools reflect the places’ values, with, of course, the Christ’s Hospital cassocks taking the biscuit. There is an element of a Renaissance meeting of ambassadors or merchants from far off lands meeting, trading and eyeing each other’s kit.
Our very own Rufus and Celeste represent our distinctiveness and style admirably, are utterly themselves and seem to find it all quite enlightening and fun. Feeling things are getting a little tired in the final stages of the dinner, I enjoy testing the water on my table with some other head students through lobbing in a question about whether white poppies should be allowed in schools at Remembrance: quickening the argumentative pulse it is quite revelatory as to the degree to which thinking discursively about things is standard fare on the head student educational diet.
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.