Match report: Block 3 vs Block 4 girls’ hockey

By Kevin Boniface, Head of Hockey

Wednesday was the first competitive hockey fixture of the season with the Block 3 side (pictured above) taking on Block 4. Both sides had started to show some good improvement during their training sessions, so this game arrived at a perfect time and the girls did not disappoint.
 
A competitive game in the best sense of the word saw both teams play with attacking intent and impressive levels of intensity, but ultimately it was the Block 4s’ ability to retain more possession and a better understanding of their team structure that saw them home as deserved winners. However, a re-match is in the pipeline, and with more exposure to the 11-a-side version of the game, it is likely that the Block 3s will pose an increasing level of challenge.

Diversity and Inclusion update

By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Awareness and Inclusion Working Group Lead

In recent weeks, I have been asked – and asked myself – some deeply uncomfortable questions around the issues of diversity and inclusion within our school and society at large. However, I am learning to embrace the opportunity to feel uncomfortable as it is the only way we will be able to move forward and address the issues confronting us all. We are all aware that the past few months have been a period of seismic reckoning in relation to both equality and representation.

Many Independent Schools Council (ISC) schools were called out, quite rightly, by current students and alumni, in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter movement. Bedales is not alone in grappling with what this means in the long term for how we address these encompassing issues and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with colleagues on a micro and macro scale to understand how we all can contribute to calling out systemic inequalities within our society.

Crucially, we must be committed to sustained change with a clear understanding of what our aims and values are. This involves open and honest conversations with all members of our community about where we currently sit and clear clarification of our aims. We need to work both genuinely and collaboratively to understand where conscious and unconscious bias exists and ensure that we are accountable with a commitment to consistently engage in challenging conversations. This will lead us in our goal to develop a positive and inclusive culture open to different ways of working.

Therefore, our actions must match our words and impact must be embedded into the culture of Bedales. Our approach cannot be generalised, hence why I am spending time on understanding what our starting point is. This relates back to asking these uncomfortable questions so we can actively measure our progress. Our intention is to ‘pulse-check’ on a regular basis which involves asking our parents, students, alumni and teachers how we are doing and asking you all to feed in to the progress we are making in creating harmony in uniqueness. As ever, please do get in touch with me if you would like to join this conversation.

One immediate initiative in developing this conversation is ‘We all have relevant things to say’.

Spreading cheer at annual Block 3 Fireside Night

By Lucy McIlwraith, Teacher of English

As the nights draw in and we all remember the reason for the winter festivals that feature lots of fire and warmth, it’s time for the English department to spread some cheer, as we did at the Block 3 Fireside Night last Friday. This is an evening event, at which students and staff are invited to perform memorised poetry, stories and songs in the great hall of the Bedales Dining Room, lit only by fire from the enormous fireplace and a few candles. As it is difficult to photograph an event held in near total darkness, it must retain its mystery, but here is what it’s all about…

The students had been asked to think about life without phones, TVs and electricity, and what homegrown entertainment would look like without those things. Before the Fireside Night, Bedales English teachers had shared their own feelings about performance and how nerve-wracking it generally is. I had also been to the Block 3 assembly to reassure students that no one would be looking for perfection in this kind of performance, and remind them that we all need to forget what we see on our screens everyday, as it is not a fair representation of a live performance.

So, with the fire crackling and candles twinkling, students arrived at a dark hall last Friday to recreate the kind of entertainment enjoyed by our ancestors. Julia started the evening with a haunting rendition of Where the Boats Go by Robert Lewis Stevenson  and then introduced her students: Ivan reciting a Robert Frost poem called Nothing Gold Can Stay and Grace with Babysitting by Gillian Clarke.

The bravery of these first performances was a wonderful catalyst for the others. Later on – having decided they were brave enough –  others from Julia’s class also performed: Freya, with Anne Hathaway by Carol Ann Duffy and Lotty, who chose a powerful poem about Greta Thumberg. Our special guest, Clive, spoke the words of an ’80s rock ballad, making them far more profound in the process, and was, of course, cheered to the rafters.

Mary-Liz’s stand-out performances were from Caspar with Do Not Go Gentle by Dylan Thomas, which was impressive in its sophistication, and Seb, who confidently gave us two contrasting poems – one about death and a comic piece written by himself. As head of department, David might be expected to give the most impressive performance of all but, with terrible irony, his carefully rehearsed speech from Hamlet (in which the title character muses on the excellence of human-kind) flew out of his head. Thankfully, his students made up for his memory loss with faultless performances including raucous group singing from Bay, Leo and Kit.

Louise’s rendition of The Raven was followed by some keen performances from her class. Eliza performed Leisure by WH Davis, fully exploring the poignancy of the poem through her interpretation; Sienna gave a powerful version of one of her favourite poems, A Day by Emily Dickenson with confidence and poise; Hendrix lifted our spirits with his confident performance of the amusing poem, The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay and Alex approached the task with his signature confidence and performed his poem to great applause.

My own class was represented by Shoshana and Xander, both performing classics of the nonsense genre, The Jabberwocky and The Jumblies which provided welcome relief, I’m sure, after my own version of Jolene, a song I might not have performed quite as well as Dolly Parton herself, though not for want of practice. Jen’s classes were last with honourable mention going in particular to Oscar and his hilarious performance of My New Pet and Roan’s stirring and dramatic version of Dulce et Decorum est.

The evening was rounded off with a soulful Let it Be from Zeb, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar which gave us all a wonderful atmosphere to go out on.

Please do take the opportunity to ask students about their experience of the Fireside Night – they were an amazing and appreciative audience and deserve praise for this as well as their bravery in performing.

Block 5 vs. 6.2 Football

Jac Wheeler converts his penalty in the inaugural Block 5 vs 6.2 football match

By Kevin Boniface, Head of Hockey

Wednesday saw the inaugural Block 5 vs. 6.2 football match take place, with two contrasting match preparation techniques clearly in evidence. The Block 5s arrived early in a ‘fresh out of the packet’ kit and warmed up well as a team. The 6.2s took a different approach, choosing to conserve energy pre-game before being shepherded into position by player-manager Sam Wheeler.

This approach from the 6.2s paid dividends in the early part of the game as Guido Sforni slammed the ball home from a goal mouth melee. The game ebbed and flowed from this point but an over-enthusiastic challenge in the box from 6.2 Charlie Abbott left little choice for League 1 referee Greg Read to point to the spot. Jac Wheeler duly stepped up and calmly slotted the ball home.

Block 5 started to gain increasing control of the game and Jac Wheeler weaved out an opportunity to create a 1 vs. 1 against the keeper before coolly sliding a pass to Huw Wheeler to take the easy finish.

With the score 2-1 to the Block 5 team with 20 minutes left and with the threat of Ivan Ogilvie-Grant and Ed Marshall Smith up front, the 6.2s were never out of the game, but a sustained period of attack from the Block 5 team eventually created a rebound opportunity which fell to Josh Baty who drilled the ball home to leave the result in little doubt. Some fine keeping from 6.2 goalkeeper Theo Paul ensured the game stayed at 3-1.

Overall a competitive and enjoyable game. There are already calls for a re-match from the 6.2s so watch this space!

New course update: Music Technology A Level

By Neil Hornsby, Head of Contemporary Music

One of the most exciting things about the Music Technology A Level that we are now offering is that a significant amount of the course can be specifically tailored to each individual student’s musical passions. Whilst the final practical projects in 6.2 are set to structured briefs, there is a lot of leeway within that structure to explore different genres of music.

So far this term we have listened to and analysed lots of music recorded by successful Old Bedalians who started their musical journeys in the very studio our current students have their lessons in. Each student has also begun working on two personal projects: recording a cover of a classic song and composing a piece of music using all of the new equipment available to use in the Bedales recording studio, including a classic Moog Grandmother synthesizer. Although every project is unique to each student, there has been a real sense of collaboration with everyone sharing their particular musical skills to contribute to each other’s tracks.

Students have also begun to explore the most challenging part of the course – mixing large multi-track projects, and we have been lucky enough to source some amazing material to practice on featuring multi-tracks of classic songs by legendary artists. There is a real sense of enjoyment coming from the creation of exciting music and it is often forgotten that this all counts as actual schoolwork working towards a formal A Level as there is so much fun to be had.

Find out more about Music Technology A Level here.

Students hear from leading Oxford researcher on cell regeneration

By Liz Stacy, Head of Chemistry

Giving students the opportunity to see science in action is not easy during these strange times, but the University of Oxford did a brilliant job this week by holding a virtual chemistry conference.

Sixth Form chemists and biologists were treated to an excellent talk by Professor Angela Russell, on the subject of ‘Cures from within: can we use chemistry to teach the body to heal itself?’ Her research is looking into creating a molecule that can stimulate the body’s own ability to regenerate cells. Her target disease is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which primarily affects boys; those with the condition are unlikely to live beyond their early twenties due to the muscle degeneration that affects organs, including the heart and diaphragm.

Angela took us through the breakthroughs and setbacks she has experienced, as well as the direction in which the research is currently heading, which looks very positive. It is a hugely significant area of research as it opens up the door to being able to use the same kind of treatment for diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Angela talked about setting up a private company, highlighting the importance of the link between academia and the private sector in being able to bring this kind of research to life.  Most importantly, when asked about which degree is best to study, she said that in her opinion Chemistry was much more useful than Biochemistry or Medicine for this particular area of research. Please make a note of that all Sixth Form chemists!

Competitive sport makes a comeback at Bedales

Block 5 v Block 4 football

By Spencer Leach, Director of Sport

With the necessary precautions in place, the first tentative steps were taken to get some competitive sport up and running this week, starting with a hugely enjoyable Block 5 v Block 4 football match. Cheered on by a small number of good humoured spectators, the more direct style of play of Block 4 looked like it might create an early breakthrough, but they were denied by some fine goalkeeping and dogged defending. As the match progressed, the more posession based style of Block 5 became more dominant, and with some fine team play and a few longer range efforts, they gained a deserved lead. The best moments of the matches both involved Danilo supplying two pinpoint crosses to Connor to finish confidently from close range. Huge credit to Block 4 for their determination throughout the match.

The Block 4 v Block 3 football match also proved to be quite a showstopper. A large crowd including cheerleaders were witness to a number of high quality goals and some very slick and accurate passing, particularly from the Block 3s. The older students ultimately ran out comfortable winners but I think they would be the first to agree that Block 3 have some exciting talent and the potential to be a very potent force.

Block 5 v Sixth Form basketball was up next. The key question was how big a factor was the small bench of the Sixth Form was going to affect their ability to compete through all four quarters against the considerable depth of talent available to Block 5. The answer was pretty well, but Block 5 proved to be a defensively more organised unit and far more able to execute an effective fast break. The Sixth Form countered this by dominating the boards and winning the ‘inside game’. Ultimately, the Block 5 style and larger bench was victorious but the Sixth Form will feel confident in the rematch when they are bolstered by the return of some key absentees.

Learning from History – from Hitler to pandemics

By Magnus Bashaarat, Head of Bedales

On Monday evening, historian Tim Bouverie came to Bedales for our second ‘real live’ Civics of the term. It was Tim’s first live gig since lockdown, and he was visibly pleased to be speaking to a real rather than virtual audience. It was a socially distanced audience, but a well- attended talk, and showed Bedales living with COVID, and not cancelling.

Tim’s 2019 book, Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War was what he came to talk about, but the questions in the second part of the talk ranged far and wide. Was there any similarity between the democratic world’s approach to Germany in the 30s and democratic Europe’s current approach to China? To what extent does personality rather than political pragmatism drive the decision-making that elected leaders execute on our behalf? To what extent did public schoolboy rivalries drive geo-political decision making: Eden was an Old Etonian, Churchill an Old Harrovian, Chamberlain an Old Rugbeian (I made that last one up, but let’s look at the current Cabinet).

If Germany had ‘invaded’ Czechoslovakia in 1938 to annex the Sudetenland and then called a halt to its well established agenda of righting the perceived wrongs of the Treaty of Versailles, then Chamberlain would have been hailed as a hero, another world war averted, and his statue would be in Parliament Square, not Churchill’s. The appeasers would have been vindicated; the anti-appeasers cast into the dustbin of politics to write their memoirs in whatever was the acceptable equivalent for a shepherd’s hut in 1940.

History will judge our politicians’ reactions to COVID-19 similarly. Perhaps the lockdown sceptics will be vindicated; it was all a massive over-reaction to bad ‘flu’ and 10% of GDP was an unnecessary loss to the country. Or the COVID paranoiacs might feel, like Cassandra, that had their prophecies been heeded, the dead would be alive. Whatever position on the spectrum one chooses to adopt, there is evidence available to support one’s view. The weight of evidence doesn’t equate to the weight of argument, and its validity. Rather like the Brexit debate, the vehemence of commitment to a position is fast becoming a substitute for veracity.

Returning from long leave we’ve outlined our plan for two more closed weekends before our two week half term. I understand Churcher’s College, our close neighbours in Petersfield, have shortened their half term from two weeks to just one, and are operating the second week of half term as an online teaching week to have a sort of ‘semain sanitaire’ prior to the second half of term. This would go down like a rat sandwich, I know, at Bedales, amongst students and staff battling to keep it all together during these next two weeks. But it reflects the range of responses to COVID-19 restrictions that schools across the country are exercising.

Bedales’ current COVID restrictions aren’t as restrictive as those operated by some schools, and we’re positioned broadly in the middle of the spectrum. Our SAMBA II testing machine, which arrived on Thursday this week, should be transformative in how we can test students and speed up the awful and open-ended wait for the test result to arrive. And the wider school community of staff and their families can benefit from it too. Gavin Williamson’s avowed intent to keep schools open is predictably fatuous because illness, if it does strike in a school community, will mean teachers unable to teach, as opposed to students unable to attend.

If the dreaded 14 day isolation is visited on anyone over the next few weeks then Bedales parent Adrian Wooldridge’s book, The Wake Up Call: Why the pandemic has exposed the weakness of the West and how to fix it, would be a good read. As a global index, the bigger the state machinery: the lower the death toll.

Fascinating Civics with historian Tim Bouverie

By Eben Macdonald, Block 5

On Tuesday we had the pleasure of attending a talk by the young historian Tim Bouverie, author of the book Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill and the Road to War. Bedales’ Head of History Matt Yeo asked Bouverie a variety of interesting questions about appeasement, Neville Chamberlain’s character and how the lessons of appeasement relate to today’s political environment. Although only students could attend the event in person, it is available to watch in full on the Bedales Vimeo channel here.

Bouverie stressed that politicians have simply taken the wrong lessons from Chamberlain’s disasterous attempt to woo Adolf Hitler in 1938 by getting him to sign a doomed agreement promising no further territorial demands in Europe. Opposition to appeasement, Bouverie argued, has instilled belligerence in politicians – leading to Anthony Eden’s Suez Canal debacle in 1956, the invasion of Iraq in the 1980s and the second invasion of Iraq in 2003. Hawkishness, Bush made clear, can be no substitute for appeasement. The two are simply a false dichotomy. 

Matt also asked Tim about his personal life and what inspired his interest in history, and appeasement specifically. Tim had worked for Channel 4 News for a few years, and as a journalist. He covered various political events, such as the Brexit campaign, requiring him to travel across the country. Although he got the contract to write the book long before any of these events happened, he describes the EU Referendum and the election of Donald Trump in 2016 as occurrences which seemed to validate the importance of the matter about which he was writing.

Tim’s interest in appeasement seemed to revolve around Neville Chamberlain’s character and the naïve attitude at the time regarding Hitler. The 1930s were a wonderful decade for political diaries, he informed us, and they were often witty – as well as deeply ironic. In his research, he documented how many diaries of MPs seemed to believe that Adolf Hitler was under control (the big exception, of course, was Winston Churchill, who vocally warned of the dangers of Nazism). Then again, politicians tended to overestimate the damage of the Blitz. Churchill warned that within the first few months of the Blitz, there would be up to 40,000 casualties (the number was nothing close to that). One politician, Tim noted, warned that bombing could destroy the entire city of Leeds within 45 minutes. Matt wittingly commented that as a man from Manchester, such an event did not seem so bad to him.

Tim was interested in the character of Chamberlain – and the talk was made interesting because his character was not dissimilar to that of the incumbent’s. Chamberlain was known for his arrogance and extraordinary stubbornness (do any of those characteristics ring a bell?). He insisted that appeasement was the correct policy and refused to listen to any dissenting view. Although, this view was understandably shared amongst many politicians and voters, many of whom had relatives who had been victims of the First World War – nobody wanted war.

The audience asked very questions, and Tim returned them with very interesting responses. Questions ranged from how the principles of appeasement can be applied to the world’s post-Covid relationship with China, to if Chamberlain’s age affected his policy decisions. Tim stressed that the principles of international cooperation are necessitous and imperative to fighting climate change, a global pandemic and taking on an ever-more aggressive Chinese Communist Party. Tim’s answers to questions, ideas and unique historical perspectives made his talk incredibly interesting and worth the night.

New course update: Living with the Land

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

Living with the Land is our new Sixth Form course, which was written by Feline and me, and introduced to the curriculum this year. The course aims to equip students with the necessary practical skills to live lightly off the land, and enable them to look at the issues surrounding the environment and our impact upon it. It is a natural progression from our Outdoor Work Bedales Assessed Course (BAC), however it goes into far greater depth and includes significant self-directed work, including a portfolio and a ‘major’ project in the final year.

Living with the Land around us means having a greater awareness of our environment, living in rhythm with the seasons, trying to reduce our footprint and applying our new-found knowledge to other aspects of our lives and our community. This term we have been focusing on getting students to really think about their immediate surroundings. We have encouraged them to take a step back and take time to really consider the impact we are having on the natural environment. 

So far this term students have spent time looking at and observing our beautiful estate. This has meant a lot of walking and talking, as well as just sitting in a field, letting our senses tell us more about the land around us. We have been looking at permaculture and how its principles might be applied to ourselves, our community and beyond. We have built wattle and daub walls and started looking at natural building and how empowering and beautiful it is. Bread baking, foraging, making hedgerow preserves and site surveying are just some of the topics we have already touched upon over the past three weeks on this exciting and enriching course.