Dialogue for Change

By the Bedales Pastoral Team

Following the publication of testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website, harrowing reports in the media and student action in the Spring Term, Bedales students and staff began working on a process called ‘Dialogue for Change’.
As a school that prides itself on equality and on a strong student voice, it is so important that we ensure the many different opinions within the conversation of sexual violence and harassment are heard in a safe and honest space.
‘Dialogue for Change’ is our community response to the campaign. However, to ensure we move forward as a community with a clear direction – where all our voices are represented – we recognise that a slow, deliberate process of dialogue is required. Working on reconciliation and peace building, facilitating discussions of challenging and emotional topics, and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to speak takes time, patience and bravery.
The process has been divided into four phases. We are currently in Phase 1, of sharing and listening to differing points of view with mutual acknowledgement. ‘Dialogue for Change’ has been discussed in assembly, students have received a questionnaire, with half of all students responding, and there have been opportunities for safe conversations in different groups and forums throughout this half of the term. Next week, students in Blocks 3 and 4 will have extended tutor times to explore two key topics – ‘just a joke’ and ‘the bystander effect’ – with similar sessions for Block 5 and 6.1 before half term.
This will lead us into Phase 2, where we will reflect on each other’s experience, and set up a working party to respond to the issues raised next academic year. In Phase 3, to be completed by the end of the Summer Term, we will consider what common goals and values we share and what immediate changes can be made. Finally, in Phase 4, we will work on building the confidence of each party so all feel they are being heard. This will be an exploratory phase of trying new things and building projects, ideas and solutions, and establishing how we take this forward into the next academic year.
We believe this is a unique opportunity for us to help facilitate genuine, open and honest dialogue amongst students, for them to find their voices and engage with such an important topic, and to help drive it forward into real positive change.