Schools develop through the traffic of ideas. One way in which you can trade ideas and ensure that students are at the centre of that exchange is through swapping people – students especially. Having enjoyed a thought-provoking and expert drama performance from our young visitors from Dubai College last night, here are some thoughts about exchanges, based on recent experience.
The Dubai College group – seven students and two teachers in this instance – is in the 25th year of a drama-based exchange which means that we send each other a group of sixth form drama and dance students every other year; that group performs at the main school – Bedales/Dubai College – and then several local venues as well. Interestingly, the link has led to something of a trade in teachers – some of our teachers have gone to Dubai College for full time jobs; this is pertinent at the moment as former head of Classics, Mike Lambert, went to Dubai College as head of 6th form and has now been promoted to headmaster from this September.
Other exchanges follow different models. This term we have had our two New England exchanges. Two Bedales 6.1s, Anna and Orlando, spent four weeks at Groton School, Massachusetts, whilst their two exchange partners, Malik and Noelia spent the equivalent amount of time at Bedales. These exchange places are now strongly competed for and, quite rightly, regarded as a brilliant and formative opportunity. One of last year’s students, Emma, for example, wrote her Extended Project on the differences between the two educational systems.
The other New England exchange is just drawing to a close. This is, if we are being a little mathematical, an asymmetric exchange, meaning that we send a largeish group for a short period and Putney send a small group for a long period. So we send a group of eight Block 4s plus the intrepid teacher pair of Gordon Dale and Helen Retter, to Putney School in Vermont, for two weeks surrounding half term. They sent us two students – Trevor and Susan – for the majority of this term. As with the Groton students they threw themselves into school life.
In the pipeline? Eleven Block 5s will make our first visit to Woodstock School in India in February; this extraordinary school is perched on the foothills of the Himalaya in Mussoorie. Further down the track we hope to run an exchange with Vasant Valley, a relatively new and extremely large day school in the Vasant Kunj district of Delhi.
All this is on top of individual educational visits, with the Swaziland school-building project now in its second decade.