John Badley Foundation

By Mark Hanson, Old Bedalian (1977-84) and John Badley Foundation Chair of Trustees

This year the John Badley Foundation (JBF) has funded full bursaries for seven students and is planning to welcome five new scholars to the school in September 2022. That is only possible because of the continued generosity of Bedales parents, OBs and friends of the school. As I reflect on the progress we’ve made over the last 12 months – including breaking through the £1 million mark for the first time – the overwhelming sense is one of gratitude to those who have recognised the importance of the work of JBF even amid the never-ending turmoil of the global pandemic and the personal challenges that have gone with that.

As Omicron rages like a forest fire across the UK, and we batten down the hatches yet again, we are ever more conscious of the elements of life that matter most; our health, family, community, freedom, fresh air and the outdoors. Most of us have had enough of ‘virtual’ life. As I wandered around Bedales in the autumn, taking in the beautiful buildings, open natural spaces and vibrant community, it reinforced my own sense of the extraordinary opportunity JBF gives to young people who may be in challenging circumstances and for whom a Bedales education may be genuinely life changing. A place at Dunhurst or Bedales represents so much more than an education; security, space, the encouragement and freedom to speak, the aspiration and support to succeed.

With community at the centre of our thinking, we’ve brought in four new trustees to bring JBF even closer to everyday life at school. Past and present parents Chris Campbell, Victoria Bonham Carter and Anna Land are already making a big difference and we also welcome Esme Allman (2013-15), an early JBF scholar who sets an inspiring example and is working with the admissions team to make the assessment and onboarding process for new scholars a brilliant one. We are also hoping to build stronger relationships with schools locally to identify great candidates closer to home.

Despite the restrictions, we’ve had some wonderful JBF events this year including a talk with Gyles Brandreth (1961-66) and there are more planned during 2022. One of those will be at the Special Forces Club and if he is feeling up to it, Old Bedalian and 22 SAS Original Mike Sadler (1933-37) will be in attendance. Mike speaks so fondly of his time at Bedales in the 1930s and it’s fair to say that his life path was never a conventional one! That’s one of the great things about Bedales; the encouragement to follow your passion with energy, whatever direction that might take you in.

Although we’ve made wonderful progress over the last decade, JBF is still in the foothills of the impact we can make. And we really need your support to make that happen. Please do consider setting up a regular gift to the JBF by clicking here. If just 50 of us donate £25 a month (+ gift aid), with match-funding from Bedales that will give one young person the opportunity to change their life circumstances. The need in our society has never been greater.

Building the theatre – a brief history

By Ian Newton, former Head of Bedales (1992-94)

Before I arrived in September 1992, I attended a number of early appeal meetings. The governors’ intention was to build a new theatre as a centenary building and to finance it half by appeal and half from school funds. There was a good deal of enthusiasm for the project, though I remember some disagreement between professional actors in the Bedales diaspora, who favoured a less intimidating proscenium arch design, and those more familiar with school drama who largely favoured a more thrust approach, placing less reliance on the power of young voices.

The ambition was for a theatre of ‘wigwam’ design by Ian Templeton, of award-winning Hampshire County Architects. It was to cost £2m, and this required the appeal to raise around £1m. This was set against the construction of New Boys’ Flat, which started in September 1992, and cost £1.8m from the school’s own resources. It was designed by (Sir) Colin Stansfield Smith who led the Hampshire team.

As the appeal progressed, it became clear that it was unlikely to raise the necessary sums, and that the school would be in difficulty if it proceeded with the theatre without that income. Coincidentally, Alison Willcocks (staff, from 1983; head, 1994-2001) and I were working with Matthew Rice (1975-80) on a new prospectus and, in one of our visits to his studio in Fulham, he sketched a much simpler and cheaper approach, involving a courtyard set against the existing drama studio completed on the fourth side with a Hampshire barn, to be moved from an existing site. Unlikely as it was that this would gain planning approval (moving barns being less acceptable than when the original barns were moved), it set us thinking and Matthew suggested we talk to Charley Brentnall at Carpenter Oak who had been responsible for moving the original barns. Charley Brentnall put us in touch with Roderick James (timber frame specialist architect) and Peter Clegg (specialist architect in ventilation), who started developing designs. The theatre was to be timber framed and draw, not on artificial ventilation, but on natural ventilation through the tall ‘chimney’ in the centre. This fitted with the school’s environment ambitions.

The change in plan caused difficulty with some who had already contributed to the appeal. It led to a difficult opening meeting addressed by Sir Hugh Beach (Chair of Governors, 1990-96) which was expertly chaired by Kiffer Weisselberg (1954-61).

In due course, construction started with framing done on site and pegs made in part by Dunannie pupils. It was opened in 1996 and named after Lord Olivier. I gathered later from Sir Hugh that in fact it cost about £2m of which the governors contributed £1m from school funds – so no different from the original! This was apparently due in part to the insistence of building control, unfamiliar with this type of construction, on what they were thought by the architects to be unnecessary additional features.

A key contribution to the success of the project was the appointment of Mike Morrison (staff, 1993-2000), who came from Monmouth School in 1993, to be the first head of drama. While the theatre debate raged, in the term before he took up his post, he brought a small play from Monmouth, performed in the Reading Room, which led at least this observer to question why we needed a new theatre at all if he could create such magic in the simplest of rooms!

Buildings of Bedales

By Alastair Langlands, former staff (1973-2001)

I plan to produce an illustrated book of the school’s history by examining what buildings have been bought, modified, extended, erected, demolished or projected over the 125 years of its existence. The book will be illustrated with photographs dating from 1893 and will include building ventures which have outlived their usefulness and have been pulled down, as well as those that have curiously vanished. An example of this latter is Wavy Lodge; it was the brain child of Peter Eckersley (1902-11) who, with friends, built and equipped the Lodge.

Wavy Lodge and its establishing committee

From here these pupils received radio signals and communicated with the world beyond Steep from about 1904. Eckersley was a pioneer of British broadcasting, the first Chief Engineer of the British Broadcasting Company Limited from 1922-1927 and Chief Engineer of the British Broadcasting Corporation until 1929.

Photographs of the shed are numerous, but even after close study, Ian Douglas (Bedales Librarian) and I cannot agree on Wavy Lodge’s exact position on the estate. Robert Best (1902-10) whom I met in 1974 could have told me but by the time I had learned that no one else alive knew of its location, Robert could not speak. This disintegrated Lodge will be included because it is a significant moment in the history of the school and the characteristic enterprise of its pupils.

To appreciate the value of these buildings it is worth having as a background even some little acquaintance with architectural history. To this end, 30 years ago, Ruth Whiting (staff, 1963-2000) was *given money to spend on books for the Memorial Library and among others she purchased Nikolaus Pevsner’s The Buildings of England: London in six volumes.

You can find them in the last but one bay on the right. We agreed that these would satisfy the historians as well as those interested in furthering their enthusiasm for architecture. The title of this introductory article is intended to echo that extraordinary and unique study of all English architecture, published by Allen Lane of Penguin Books beginning with Cornwall in 1951.**

The Apple House

Another remembered building is the Apple House, built from wattle and daub by pupils in 1935 for the storage of the fruit of the orchards about the estate; it was severely damaged in the Great Storm of 1987, used for a short time, at the request of pupils, as a space for contemplation, then declared unsafe, and scattered.

The book will give an account of why buildings are proposed, how and by whom they are designed and when it becomes possible to complete them. There are the Memorial Library and the Memorial Pitch: both are the result of a desire to remember the sacrifice of pupils and staff who fell in the two World Wars which it has been the fate of Bedales to witness and the memorials are gifts from a wide collection of donors which are one major source of enrichment of the school’s surroundings.

Diving facility before the later covered pool

There is an effect of buildings which enclose a vulnerable and impressionable pupil, the appearance and spirit of the architecture.

Sheena Meier, the wife of the Head (1935-46) who succeeded Mr Badley, writes, “I am always reminded of the opening of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities when I think of 1940. For us it was the worst of years and it was the best of years. It was a time of fear and a time of exaltation. We lost at Bedales a third of the pupils and the school recovered the spirit of community of the early years”.

Throughout the long six years of war, the Meiers always supposed that after victory in 1945 numbers would rise again (as indeed they did) and a necessary programme of renovation and modernisation would begin. But although applications for entry to Bedales increased and there was increased money from income, restrictions on construction and requirement of licence made any expansion or development difficult to achieve.

It is not until, like the alignment of the planets which occurs only in special predictable circumstances***, three principles are simultaneously satisfied that these enterprises can easily be achieved:

  1. The need for expansion because of the increase in the number of pupils or change of arrangements, like the introduction of the 6.2 boarding house
  2. The increase in income from fees to finance the construction which may lead to the bank loan which enables the £7.5 million to build the Orchard Block
  3. The determination to modernise domestic, sporting and teaching amenities according to expectations of pupils and (especially) parents.

Large scale architectural enlargement had to wait for 50 years. During the 1930s and 1950s the architect Vyv Trubshawe (1905-12) was given the task of making the school a more comfortable and therefore more efficient institution.

Hector Jacks (Head, 1946-62) writes, “There was the plan for large scale reconstruction that had been drawn up during the war years, which some hoped would be put into operation as soon as conditions were favourable, once the war was over. But all thoughts of that were soon abandoned; quite apart from the fact that building licences, the need for which was to be with us for several years to come, would never have been obtained for most of the work that would have been involved, the money was not available and was not likely to be raised by even the most successful of appeals…

“Vyv Trubshawe was a good architect and a devoted OB whose lot it was to serve a Board of Governors who, for obvious reasons, had no alternative but to tell him to watch every penny that he proposed to spend … so we had some austerity of design, flat roofs and no frills.

“Payment for the eventual Music School was completed on the morning of the day it was opened in the summer of 1960; (the gift of) a cheque was received from Nelson Haden, father of four Bedalians and Chairman of Governors 1947-49.”

This Music School was unrealised

Later, in the same restrictive atmosphere, Greville Rhodes (1926-33) designed the “N” (north) block and Jon Barnsley (1941-47) the “S” (south) block.

Entrance to Reception, 1970

Jack Walesby (first Bursar, 1948-72) sees the evolution as “the autocratic years of the founder and the inhibited years of his successor which gave way to the post-war years of participation: every problem, every new idea, every proposed alteration was debated … all the staff felt they needed to contribute to the discussions”.

There are two important building phases: Edwardian confidence (1893-1922) and 21st century enthusiasm for devotion to making proper use of neglected Lupton Hall and a further purpose of the 18th century Steephurst Barn as well as launching into new facilities for Art and Design.

Covered Quad with fives courts in 1904

Since the appearance of the Memorial Library, redbrick and timber have been the prevailing building materials.

And, for the future, the adventure of a new assembly hall based in the gymnasium in order to redeem the loss of the Quad (Sheena Meier’s “Nerve Centre of the School”).

*By Cecilia Brayfield (parent) for Ruth and me to share.

**Over the decades Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been included. No other country in the world has this amazing expert study of its architecture, making every journey a potentially fascinating pleasure. Pevsner’s aim, in which he, to a large extent, succeeded, was to visit and record every architectural feature throughout the land. His notes will be quoted, and credited, in my book.

***May AD 2492.

Alastair Langlands would be grateful for any good photographs of buildings at Bedales from the years before 1940 (to add to those from the school archive) and an answer to these questions:

  • Where were the stables and riding school?
  • Where was Wavy Lodge?
  • When was the term ‘Block’ first used for our buildings and class years, and why?

Alastair’s book, Buildings of Bedales, will be published in 2022. Cost is £10 with all profits going to the John Badley Foundation. If you would like to reserve a copy, please email alumni@bedales.org.uk.

Spring Term – a pastoral reflection

By Peter Thackrey, Deputy Head (Pastoral)

I am very proud of students and colleagues for having successfully navigated the Spring Term together. It is always the most intense term and this term had the added rollercoaster of ever changing goalposts around COVID restrictions both nationally and on a school level. Over this short second half of term, there has certainly been a sense of students re-finding their way with all restrictions lifted, enabling them to gather together as a community in assemblies and experience handshaking. This week, students have particularly enjoyed the beautiful environment in which we live and learn, thanks to the glorious spring weather.

I am very grateful to all colleagues, but especially the teachers, tutors, counsellors, the Sports and Outdoor work teams, the cleaners, catering team, Health Centre team, school GPs, House Assistants, Head of Wellbeing Kirsten McLintock and Houseparents for supporting each child pastorally through the past two terms. Much of the pandemic for everyone has been necessarily reactive, but this term it has felt good to get back to proactive pastoral care with talks for parents on how to support young people around self-harm, raising awareness and how to work with the school around drugs, and most recently, study and revision techniques.

Last week I was able to build rapports with our local police liaison officers who had not been able to visit for two years. We went round the school and the boarding houses saying hello to students as we walked, discussing some of the challenges young people faced at Bedales and how we approach these challenges as a school. It was reassuring to hear that the volume we faced was much lower that elsewhere and the way in which we approached our behaviour policy with dialogue and clear boundaries was effective.

School Council have continued to meet each week to discuss both day to day issues as well as having a voice in strategic planning. Students also have a key part to play in recruitment where they have been interviewing new teachers – often asking harder questions than the adults! Finally, the stand out day was the rural refugee walk on Powell Day when we were able to come together as a school to walk, have space and time to talk and reflect on the world beyond us. This was a turning point from being often necessarily inward looking during the pandemic to now looking beyond ourselves and our community once more as we move forward.

I hope everyone has a very restful, enjoyable and productive (especially for the exam years) Easter holiday.

Ukraine appeal update

By Marcin Adamski, Head Kitchen Porter & Assistant Chef

Thank you for the huge support for our recent appeal for clothes and other items to be sent to Ukrainian refugees in Poland. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the school community as we were inundated with donations – anyone who visited Reception will have seen the mountain of bags and boxes! We have so far made five deliveries of essential to my hometown of Ożarów, where items are being distributed.

While we have asked you to hold off further donations for now, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who donated. Every donation helps Ukrainians receive the support they urgently need. Particular thanks must go to to those who helped to coordinate the appeal, helped sort and pack donations and made the transport of items possible – Rob Reynolds, Richard Lushington, Helen McBrown, Ellie Thackrey, Spencer Leach, Patrick Tsang, Sarah Wright, Kinga Adamska and Matt Potts.

‘I See Red’ Day

By Bella Cutts, 6.1
Photos by Kipp Bryan, 6.1

On Tuesday I invited the Bedales community to wear red for my campaign, ‘I See Red’. I started the campaign this time last year, shortly after the tragic death of Sarah Everard. The campaign aims to raise awareness and encourage not only students but all people to stand in unity and speak up against sexual harassment, assault and violence. 

While statistics vary around how many people have experienced sexual assault in the UK, it’s a serious problem our society needs to face and it’s time we said “enough is enough”. Raising awareness is the first step in addressing this and ensuring victims do not feel shame but rather support from those around them. I chose the colour red for many reasons, the first being the official sexual assault colour is teal. Red, however, is a powerful, bold colour, representing anger, love and blood.

This is, of course, a sensitive issue and to many, a triggering topic. Therefore, I asked every school that officially participated this year – including Wellington, Emmanuel, Teddies and Marlborough – to ensure that support was available and their pastoral team was made aware, as well as teaching staff, just as we did at Bedales.

There was no pressure for staff to wear red, but many did, which was appreciated. Bedales is an amazing school and this year it has been so supportive in helping me prepare for ‘I See Red’ Day. Students should feel they can approach any trusted member of staff. Sexual assault is not an easy discussion for anyone. By wearing red and showing their support, staff showed students they are in a safe environment and students will find it easier to talk if they need to, in the belief that what they say will not be dismissed.

Our world is forever changing and developing. Although we have improved as a society, we probably believe it has changed more than it actually has. Sexual assault remains a serious challenge for all of us, however privileged we are.

I am happy to say Bedales has been a leading example of a community that is trying to address this issue. Thanks to social media, hundreds of schools participated in ‘I See Red’ Day last year, and many did again this year too. While this is not (yet!) an official international day, I believe Bedales should be proud that something that started by printing off posters in our Art department has not only spread to other schools around the UK, but also around the world.

My biggest fear this year was that momentum might have dropped since last March and people wouldn’t participate. I was proved wrong – the Bedales community stood together once again to stand up against sexual assault and harassment. The response from other schools and students has been amazing and I hope we continue to wear red for years to come.

Downland wildlife on the Powell Day walk

By Mary Shotter, Biology Technician

The wooded slopes and rolling hills of the South Downs are a very special landscape and provide a habitat for a wide and interesting variety of species, so Powell Day provided a perfect opportunity to see them at their best in the early spring sunshine.

Not far from the start point in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, as we climbed gradually along a valley between War and Holt Downs, the browns and greens of the landscape were punctuated by a large patch of bright yellow coltsfoot, one of a few plants with the unusual habit of flowering before any leaves emerge. It is the leaves from which its name derives – when they do eventually unfurl in April they are large and hoof shaped.

Along the track were also patches of Juniper, the berries of which are used for flavouring gin. Once common, it is now a rare sight, due to habitat loss.

The colourful bracket fungus, turkeytails, covered piles of logs besides the chalky tracks. Further along between Buriton and Ditcham, at Coulters Dean, the path turned off the South Downs Way and past a field and grassy bank which was dotted with huge mounds of yellow meadow ant nests. Each one will house between 8,000 and 40,000 ants, feeding their larvae on the roots of Downland plants such as wild thyme. From here the track wound uphill through beech woodland, carpeted with wild garlic, the smell of which became obvious as it was crushed beneath our feet.

On the open grassland of Ditcham Park, skylarks were singing, hovering effortlessly, high above the ground, then parachuting down onto the fields, before ascending again. A lone red admiral butterfly flew past – most red admirals are migratory but a few like this one, will have hibernated and emerged into the early spring warmth in search of nectar. In the more open landscape around Chalton, buzzards and a lone red kite flew overhead, watching as we re-entered the Queen Elizabeth Park and after three hours made our way past yew and pine trees down to the finish.

Block 3 Projects referendum – should we abolish the Royal Family?

Two Block 3 Projects classes are acting as the two opposing campaign groups in a school-wide referendum next Thursday, 24 March, on the question of whether the Royal Family should be abolished. Here, both sides of the campaign have set out their arguments as they each appeal to students and staff to vote in their favour.  

Yes, Revoke the Royals
By Lolo Gaio, Wulfie Smith Pink and Anthony Harvey, Block 3
We are campaigning to remove the Royal Family and revoke the Queen’s power as Head of State. We believe that the monarchy is not needed in our democracy, as it is exactly the opposite of democracy; you are born into power, which means achieving or gaining power is based on who you are or who you know or which family you were born into, rather than what you know and what you have done. Here are a few arguments for removing the Royal Family.

One of the main criticisms against the Royal Family is their cost. The Royal Family’s lifestyle is just too expensive to maintain. Staffing costs, catering, hospitality, executive management and any ceremonial functions cost £85.9m of taxpayer’s money. That could be spent on things like education, housing, policing and countless other things.

Monarchs can also be unfit to be heads of state. They shouldn’t be chosen by birth to have huge responsibilities over a country; it seems unfair for someone who could be an incredibly good leader to not have the chance to become a head of state, instead to be replaced by someone who was born into the job, who could be absolutely terrible at it.

Yet, despite the fact that the Queen is Head of State, she has no legal powers. Instead, most of her privileges are exercised by ministers acting on behalf of the Queen, who can act without parliamentary approval. The Prime Minister abuses the Crown’s entitlement, and Parliament has no jurisdiction to take away or limit these rights because they themselves are derived from the monarchy’s privilege!

A well-rehearsed argument from the monarchist’s side is that the Queen brings in tourists and promotes Britain abroad. If the Royal Family bring in tourists to visit the royal palaces, they wouldn’t be demolished if the Monarchy was abolished! And in Versailles, the palaces of the long-gone monarchy receive six million visitors per year, put against Buckingham Palace, which is only open for ten weeks during the summer. Neighbouring Paris in general also receives 35 million visitors per year, against 20 million for London. The argument just doesn’t make sense.

These are a few of the things that we believe should happen if we win the referendum, and a few reasons why keeping the monarchy is a bad idea. If you feel that you agree with any of these arguments, you should vote to revoke the royals in the referendum on 24 March.

No, Save the Queen
By Ella Foster-Hill, Miles Farmer and Owen Griffiths, Block 3
In our campaign, we are arguing for the Royal Family to stay, and in this article, we will put across our points as to why we believe this is so important.

The first and probably most crucial argument is simply the huge amount of tourism from overseas that the Royal Family bring to the UK each year. In a report from The Guardian, it was reported that they bring in over £500m every year from overseas tourism alone. Not to mention the fact that they add an overall £1.2bn to the British economy every year!

Another great thing that the Royal Family bring is their charity work. Without them, some huge charities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award and The Princes Trust wouldn’t exist at all. Two charities which both help so many young people all over the country today.

To take a look at the Queen specifically, she is such an important figure in this country. She is Head of the Commonwealth which makes such great strides towards global peace. In the UK, she provides a neutral status amongst politics in the largely divided government of today. She is the only person who can call a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss and even overrule decisions made by the government. She also provides hope and clarity to so many in all the small things she does – from her annual Christmas speech, to her messages of reassurance during the pandemic. And she is even on our currency! Getting rid of the Queen would be stripping us of a historic and greatly important figurehead of this country.

The Royal Family give us a sense of tradition but have also adapted to modern day society. We have no reason to dislike them or want them abolished. Support and enjoy the Royal Family because whether you think it or not, they do an awful lot for this country and the world around us.

Synthetic phonics – a plea for teacher autonomy

By Fiona Read, Head of Bedales Nursery & Pre-prep, Dunannie and Harriet Rhodes, Teaching Associate, University of Cambridge

All children deserve great teachers. This is something that no one can or will ever argue about, although what exactly that means in practice can be hard to pin down these days. In recent years, teachers have felt increasingly stifled by central prescription and ‘one size fits all’ approaches to teaching.

In January, researchers from the Institute of Education at UCL published the results of a study into the way that primary school children in England are taught to read, and concluded that an emphasis on synthetic phonics is inflexible, unfair and fails children. We were not surprised by this conclusion.

In synthetic phonics, children are first encouraged to pronounce the individual sounds in words, and then to blend them together to make words. Supporters claim benefits in terms of literacy, and particularly so for disadvantaged pupils. Government has been heavily invested in their use since their endorsement by (then) education minister Michael Gove, who introduced a phonics screening check for all children in year one (five or six year olds) to establish progress.

However, use of synthetic phonics, or at least the extent of their use, has been controversial. Critics have argued that phonics training only helps children to perform in tests, and that it does not develop understanding or encourage a love of reading. Research shows that teachers feel pressured by the compulsory screening check, with a survey of teachers finding that synthetic phonics was their main focus for teaching reading.

Importantly, the UCL researchers argue that claims for the effectiveness of synthetic phonics are not underpinned by the latest evidence. Their study was no light undertaking, involving analysis of multiple systematic reviews, experimental trials and data from international tests such as PISA (the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment). The results must be taken seriously, and not least the finding that the successful teaching of reading in England may have declined since the adoption of synthetic phonics.

In early years, establishing a literacy-rich play environment is a prerequisite to pre-literacy skills – young children develop literacy such as listening to others, representing their ideas, narrating their play and experiencing the pleasure of seeing their thoughts transformed into a structure populated by their imagination.  Phonics is a useful tool as a part of a greater whole, but limiting childrens’ experiences of learning to read to an adult-directed, dry and reductive approach is counter intuitive. 

Instead, the educationalist Helen Tovey says “Learning should be joyous, meaningful and relevant. It should inspire further learning, or it is nothing”. And this is particularly true of learning to read. Through the use of techniques such as Helicopter Stories (Trisha Lee’s interpretation of Vivian Gussin Paley’s Storytelling and Story Acting curriculum), young children become sensitive to narrative structures and develop new vocabulary, helping their reading development and comprehension skills.

We know that children learn best when something pricks their curiosity and is playful – using real children’s books that speak to their experiences and enable them to encounter different emotions, subjects, vocabulary, rhyme and rhythm will unlock a lifetime love of reading far more effectively than any reading scheme. Children are motivated to read if it is fun. Dr Seuss wrote The Cat in The Hat in response to concerns about children’s literacy. His imaginative and silly stories are still effective ways of teaching children how to play with language and learn to read. 

The report’s authors acknowledge that there are some strengths to England’s current approach, but they are concerned – as are we – by the demise of a balanced approach to the teaching of reading, and by the straitjacket government’s enthusiasm for phonics places upon teachers. Prof Dominic Wyse, one of the authors, explains: “Our view is that the system doesn’t give teachers enough flexibility to do what they think is best for their pupils, nor to encourage pupils to enjoy reading.” There are many studies suggesting that children who are taught to read through synthetic phonics can be turned off reading for pleasure and meaning.

No less worrying is that all of this is symptomatic of a wider trend. The profession as a whole is consistently excluded from policy making by a DfE which relies on consultation with very few educationalists. Meanwhile, teachers routinely report that they are disempowered, and unable to make decisions affecting their children. In this case, teachers are aware of the best reading strategy for each child, but as they feel compelled to replace broader English lessons with narrower phonics in order for children to meet the tests so they take another step towards becoming professionals without agency (and a far cry from the great teachers we all agree that children deserve).

The UCL report underlines the urgent need for those in the DfE to listen to the experts, and the open letter to the Education Secretary from educators and academics, urging a reassessment of the place of phonics based on the evidence and the greater autonomy of teachers, is one we wholeheartedly endorse. Teachers should be able to apply their own judgement as to whether phonics and other balanced reading approaches are best for their students. Pupils’ comprehension and enjoyment of texts, as well as phonics, should be the focus of our efforts in the classroom – a place where we, not politicians, should be making the calls.

Return of the Three Schools’ Concert

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

One of the most difficult music events to organise during the pandemic was the Three Schools’ Concert. However, we managed to find time for musicians and singers from all three schools to meet and work together this week and the result was a very enjoyable concert with some wonderful music and a great feeling of community spirit.

Ben Harlan was inspirational in leading the orchestra in music by Purcell and Dvorak and this included many players form Dunhurst and Bedales. Dunhurst music scholars Tommy Hornsby and Eliot Santos (both Block 2) gave stunning solo performances on the cello and violin, demonstrating the musical ambition inherent in the artistic ethos at Bedales, and Bedales music scholar Leela Walton (6.1) gave a very mature and emotional rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Canzonettafrom his Violin Concerto. It was particularly wonderful to hear from Leela as she is one of our many musicians who joined in Dunannie and now lead the music in the senior school.

Music from our contemporary musicians demonstrated the variety of musical interests that we nurture at Bedales and Dunannie brought the house down with their song Baby Beluga which told the story of a little white whale. Singers form all schools then joined to sing Stand By Me by Ben E King with a solo from Joel Edgeworth and the concert ended with some rousing singing by everyone of the four gospel favourites.  

We thought it was important for the Bedalians to inspire the younger musicians but it was clear on this occasion that that influence worked from the bottom up and the talents and enthusiasms of the Dunhurst and Dunannie pupils had a miraculous and enervating effect on our older musicians. We look forward to more three schools events in the near future as they are a wonderful way of celebrating what the Bedales community has to offer.