Discarded silk has been given a new lease of life by pupils at Bedales and Bedales Prep, Dunhurst this year. Off-cuts of silk from premium homeware designer Porta Romana have been recycled and used in pupils’ fashion creations, including garments created by A Level Fashion & Textiles students at Bedales Senior (like this bomber jacket by Gala Pearson) and Block 2 (Year 8) pupils at Dunhurst. The silk, which would otherwise be thrown away, is rescued from Porta Romana by my wife Sian, who has worked for the Farnham-based company for four years.
See photos of the garments created with the silk below.
On Thursday, students and staff came together for Garrett Day, our Summer term community day named after Amy Garrett Badley, one of the key figures in the founding of the school. Amy was a suffragist and the cousin of Millicent Garrett Fawcett and was, we believe, instrumental in ensuring the school was co-educational when almost no other public schools were. United by the theme of a freedom to learn, we created a day of learning away from conventional classroom structures, giving everyone the opportunity to discover and create something new and to enjoy the freedom and liberty we all have to learn in our school.
Activities included writing and recording (suitably edgy) protest music (and accompanying music videos, which you can watch here), building a Blooklet, creating art with chemical indicators, exploring historical events in poetry, investigating and designing an individual fitness programme, animating Newton’s Three Laws, producing art inspired by the outdoors and even creating a new language.
Students in Kirsten McLintock’s group was joined by visiting author Winnie Mi Li, who came to discuss gender-based violence and feminist activism, in honour of Amy Garrett Badley herself. Students were fascinated by Winnie’s own story which can be viewed in her TED talk here, whilst learning how to create characters and write a collective poem. Winnie’s new book, Complicit, is published this week.
The day culminated in an exhibition in the Library, coordinated by Head of Design Alex McNaughton, which showcased everyone’s creative efforts. The exhibition will also be available to view on Parents’ Day to allow parents to share in the students’ achievements. Thank you to everyone who made the day a success.
On Tuesday evening, a group of pupils ranging from Block 3 to Sixth Form had the opportunity to discuss eco-critical approaches to reading literature with Will Goldsmith as part of the 3i programme. Will was kind enough to host the chat at his house, giving an intimate atmosphere similar to what we might expect later in life at university tutorials. Having shared a tasty variety of Domino’s pizzas and wedges, we made ourselves comfortable on the sofas in Will’s living room – the walls lined with an impressive array of books and the lit fireplace keeping us warm – and began our discussion, with The Lost Words: Spell Sounds adding to the eco-centric ambiance of the evening.
Taking us right through from the idyllic Garden of Eden described in the Bible to Wordsworth’s romantic view of London in Composed Upon Westminster Bridge to Ursula Le Guin’s post-apocalyptic wasteland explored in The World for World is Forest. I was particularly impressed by the diversity of the literary extracts Will had selected, as we were able to hold an eco-critical lens up to poetry and prose written throughout time from a wide range of different ethnic, gender and sexuality-based frames of reference. Moreover, looking at how ecosystems and the natural world are presented and conveyed in different pieces of literature, and how this has evolved throughout time, provided me with a fascinating insight into an aspect I had never properly considered while reading.
Most interesting to me, however, was the point of our discussion where Will spoke to us about ecofeminist criticism, a way of reading natural imagery where aspects of the wilderness are given stereotypically feminine traits and categorised into a traditional gender binary system, with Armitage’s Chainsaw Versus the Pampas Grass (one of the poems in our A Level anthology) immediately springing to mind when this topic arose.
Overall, it was a real pleasure to be able to converse in such close proximity post-COVID – especially with pupils from other year groups who I would not usually have the opportunity to exchange intellectual thoughts with – and I left Will’s house with a greater appreciation for the world around me and a desire to look back with an eco-critical eye at some of my favourite pieces of literature. A huge thank you to Will for hosting, my peers for attending and contributing to such a fascinating discussion, and to Jess Warren for organising the 3i events.
At Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, pupils will mark Mental Health Awareness Week with a Pupil Voice Conference on the topic of this year’s theme – loneliness. Like Bedales Senior, where the School Council was one of the first in the country when it was established in 1916, Dunhurst has a long tradition of listening to pupils’ views. Today, empowering children to find their voice and put forward their views is just one of the school’s initiatives designed to support pupils’ wellbeing and mental health – but it is far from a tick-box exercise. At Dunhurst, the wellbeing of its pupils is at the heart of everything the school does.
It is especially noticeable at this time of year, when most prep school pupils around the country are preparing themselves to sit the Common Entrance exam. Head of Dunhurst Colin Baty considers Common Entrance “an antiquated way to select” and cites evidence around adolescent mental health as a reason to exercise caution when forcing prep school children to jump through such hoops in preparation for senior school. As such, Dunhurst pupils do not sit the Common Entrance exam – and instead use the time to head off on ‘Camps Week’, a whole school residential trip to different areas of the UK, where they take part in a plethora of outdoor activities, including mountain biking, moor walking, cycling, kayaking and horse riding. As Dunhurst’s Deputy Head (Pastoral) Graeme Thompson explains: “We give our pupils the space and time to grow. Each child experiences childhood at their own pace.”
Camps Week is an example of pupils’ access to green and blue spaces – such as parks, meadows, woods, rivers, lakes and sea – which, as studies show, have a positive, immediate and long-lasting effect on people’s health and wellbeing. At Dunhurst, however, pupils don’t need to leave the school grounds to access green spaces; the school, along with Bedales’ senior and pre-prep schools, is set in 120 acres of South Downs National Park, and pupils are encouraged to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Uniquely, the school’s Outdoor Work curriculum – a core subject which incorporates nature and conservation, horticulture, animal husbandry, bushcraft and country crafts – enables pupils to develop an awareness, appreciation and knowledge of the natural environment in line with Bedales’ founder John Badley’s original aims, whilst developing self-confidence, passion, empathy and teamwork.
As part of the curriculum, Dunhurst pupils are actively involved in the care of the Outdoor Work department’s chickens, ducks, guinea pigs and bees, and there are opportunities to feed and care for other livestock on the Bedales estate, including pigs, sheep, goats and ponies. But interaction with animals – which is proven to have a calming and de-stressing effect – isn’t limited to the school farm. As a dog friendly school, staff dogs – or the ‘pastoral pups’ as they are affectionately known – are a familiar fixture. From Colin’s Goldendoodle to the boarding house’s resident Black Labrador, the dogs are an integral part of school life and provide pupils with an array of cognitive, social, emotional, physical and environmental benefits.
Fundamental to Dunhurst’s approach to wellbeing is relationships, which is ingrained in Bedales’ distinctive ethos. The school’s founding motto, ‘Work of Each for Weal of All’, may be over 100 years old, but it hasn’t faded in relevance. “The school motto underpins everything we do,” says Head of Wellbeing Debbie Baty. “Every pupil has the right to enjoy a childhood at school, but this right comes with a responsibility to be a positive influence within the Dunhurst jigsaw.” The ethos offers opportunities for pupils to support fellow pupils – for instance, peer to peer listeners, known at Dunhurst as ‘RAKtivators’, promote ‘Random Acts of Kindness’.
In contrast with other schools, staff and pupils address each other by first names, and pupils shake the hands of all staff after assemblies and talks – features of a culture that values the individual and celebrates relationships with one another and the school. Such an approach allows for a closer collaborative relationship between teachers and pupils, and this collegiate approach is extended to parents through three-way communication between teachers, parents and pupils known as the ‘Dunhurst triangle’. Debbie has recently launched a ‘Let’s talk about…’ series for parents, which will focus on teenagers’ development as well as sharing the content of pupils’ Wellbeing lessons, which supports and teaches skills to enable children to increase their awareness of emotional health and wellbeing.
Whilst wellbeing is at the heart of everything Dunhurst does, it isn’t at the expense of academic success. In fact, Deputy Head (Academic) Andy Wiggins says: “It’s always been borne out, year after year, when we look at how Dunhurstians perform when they take their GCSEs and A Levels, and compare them with students who have been academically ‘hot housed’. Time and time again, Dunhurstians prove that they get comparative or better results – and they’ve had a much richer, holistic experience.”
Last Saturday 23 singers from the chamber choir joined the choir of Somerville College Oxford to sing choral contemplation. Somerville College is a little different from other Oxbridge colleges as although they have a chapel, they are non-denominational, which means the services are not religious but are a bit like the Jaws we have at Bedales. In fact, there are many similarities between our two communities and we share many of the same values, which meant that we felt quite at home when we arrived.
The choirs sang a challenging programme of music depicting the passing of the hours throughout the day, from the darkness before the dawn to daybreak, noon and evening. Block 5 student Joel Edgeworth started the service with a piano solo based on the jazz standard Stella by Starlight, and then the combined choirs sang Sure on this Shining Night by the American composer Morten Lauridsen, O Radiant Dawn by the Scottish composer James MacMillan, Silent Noon (with a stunning solo by Florence Pohlschmidt) by Vaughan Williams, My Spirit Sang all Day by Old Bedalian parent Gerald Finzi, before finishing with Evening Hymn by the Victorian composer Henry Balfour-Gardiner.
The music was interspersed with poetry readings of works by Shakespeare, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Jenny Joseph, Eleanor Wilner and Emily Dickinson, and Joel and Block 4 student Siena Marcos Bancroft Cooke performed these with confidence. Will Goldsmith also gave a reading and sang with choirs alongside Natalie and Doug, and many thanks to Matilda McMorrow for accompanying us on the trip.
It was inspiring to sing with the Somerville undergraduates and we had a chance to talk to them over coffee and find out a bit more about college life. For all those thinking about choosing a university, it was good to reflect on how a community supports its students and the intimate confines of Somerville College reminded us of the supportive community we have here at Bedales.
For the last eight months a team of approximately 20 students from Block 3 to 6.1 have been building and electric race car in the Design workshop. We have been doing this with the aim of competing in the national Greenpower competition. It would not have been possible to even start this undertaking without the very generous granting of funds by the Bedales Parents’ Association (BPA) nearly a year ago.
The Greenpower Educational Trust organise this annual competition each year with the aim of engaging young people about science and engineering by challenging them to design, build and race an electric race car which the students drive themselves.
It was with great excitement, and trepidation, that 12 students from Block 3, Block 5 and 6.1 accompanied by three staff entered our first ever event last Sunday (8 May) at one of the spiritual homes of motorsport in the UK – the glorious Goodwood Motor Circuit. It was a fantastic day in which we experienced the full range of emotions associated with any form of motorsport.
The day started off well with a few practice laps to fine tune the car and clock up some all-important driver experience. Unfortunately however our hopes seemed dashed moments into the first actual race of the day. The car suffered a power failure resulting in only about half our power making to the wheels. Our drivers persevered for a few laps until we decided to pit the car and remedy the issue. After nearly two and half hours of trouble shooting, maintenance and stress we managed to get the car back up and running. We were very fortunate that a couple of Greenpower volunteers and one of our competition, in the spirit of our shared endeavour, provided us with some assistance. Many many thanks to those who helped us in our hours of need. Frustratingly no one could accurately diagnose the mystery gremlin so we prepared the car as best we could and entered the second round.
Thankfully the period of doubt and anxiety was swiftly replaced by heart racing joy, elation and exuberance as the car and drivers performed fantastically well in the second round. Our car was fixed, it leapt to life as it should and sped away clocking up an above average 28 miles of racing in the afternoon. The relief was wiped from every face – we had succeeded and were competitively racing! It was an awesome feeling to be able to share in this success and reap the rewards of our many hours of hard work in building our first race car.
It was a long but utterly worthwhile day spent in the wonderful sunshine at Goodwood culminating in an incredibly successful first outing for the car and team. I am so incredibly proud of all who helped build the car, those who raced it and to all those who accompanied and supported us on the day.
I would like to say an enormous and heartfelt thank you to the BPA on behalf of the entire team for the opportunity to get this far and for the many races ahead. We are already planning ways to improve and prepare the car for our next race in September at Dunsfold.
By Julia Bevan, 6.2 Houseparent and Teacher of English
Before half term, British recreational mountaineer David Potter visited Bedales to demonstrate climbing gear for both rock and mountain climbing to my Block 4 English elective group, who have been studying Mountains of the Mind by Robert McFarlane, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd and Touching the Void by Joe Simpson.
Meeting in the Sam Banks Pavilion, students gathered in a circle and listened as David – who first climbed in South America and whose love of the natural world has led him into work within climate change – spoke about the kit laid out in front of them. They were fascinated as they held crampons and ice axes and learnt when they might need to use a snow anchor, held karabiners and watched how to clip themselves correctly to a rope.
After David’s visit, students reflected on the experience.
Zeb Jay said: “David does mountaineering because he likes being outside, having an amazing experience with his mates. He eats tinned and packaged food, like on Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) expeditions. He first climbed a mountain after university and it is an amazing life skill, which his family also profits from. Mountaineering is all about risk – if you have a good sense of risk you are guaranteed to be a good mountaineer.”
Orson Farley said: “I learnt that the big reason for mountaineering is getting into the depths and corners of landscapes. You can look at a mountain and maybe even hike up a bit of it, but to really understand it is to mountaineer. I’ve learnt about food and sources of energy. You have to have a high calorie count in order to function.”
Seb Stewart commented: “I learnt that in life great things take time – you can’t just run head first into climbing K2 or Everest, you start small and work your way to greatness with the support of your friends and people you trust. You don’t need to read The Top of the World just to be a successful climber. The kit used by mountaineers is so small and detailed that one may wonder how such a small thing supports such a massive thing – that being your life, and the wellbeing of your family.”
Margot Gwyer: “I learnt that you have to have masses of trust between you and the person you are climbing with. You have to listen to each other and work as a team always.”
Jack Bowdery: “Safety is the main concern in climbing. I learnt how much kit you need to bring and use. Climbing is always a risk.”
Gordon Thistleton-Smith: “I learnt that walking, hiking, climbing and mountaineering are all different levels of the spectrum of being in the environment.”
I don’t really know a lot about politics and I have never expressed an interest in it, but last summer I was delighted to be elected onto Steep Parish Council. It’s not the start of a new career – or a midlife crisis – but a way of getting to know the community I have lived in for eight years, and trying to help it in some small way.
Most people have heard about the famous ‘Jackie Weaver’ moment during a lockdown council meeting (if you haven’t, YouTube it). We haven’t had anything quite so dramatic, but sometimes it’s not far off! What I have seen though has been really humbling. I’m in awe of the time and effort that my fellow councillors put into their roles. It is a voluntary role and we officially meet once a month, but it is all the work that goes on between meetings that I’m not sure many people are aware of. I’m limited in what I can do, and volunteer for only one area, which is encouraging the young people in the community to be seen, and to take an active role in it.
On Tuesday 8 March I spent the morning with five students from Bedales, pressure washing the play equipment on the common. They had a great time removing the dirt that had built up over the years and the equipment is now ready for a coat of wood preserver, which we hope to do in the Summer Term. Pressure washing the swing set is next on our to-do list.
On Thursday 24 March we were back on the common for the morning with four different groups of students. With the help of my colleagues Stu Barilli and Katie McBride, we planted 34 trees complete with tree guards and supporting stakes. This was funded with a grant from East Hampshire District Council, with the aim of replanting the area which has suffered from ash dieback.
Our students got a great deal from it; they connected with something outside Bedales, they contributed something to their community, and learnt a bit about tree planting along the way.
During the Easter break, I was part of a group of students who – along with Head of English David Anson and Lucy McIlwraith – visited The Hurst, playwright John Osborne’s former home in Shropshire, for a creative writing residential course with Arvon.
The trip was an enjoyable experience for us all. We spent the mornings doing writing workshops with the tutors, writers Chris Wakling and Cecilia Knapp. In the workshops we would do free writes, learn about different styles of poetry and try them, as well as working on short stories with Chris. In Cecilia’s workshops, some of the kinds of poems we tried were poems with stanzas that were haikus and golden shovel poems as well as responding to different prompts that she gave us. For our short stories with Chris, we would write parts of it in workshops, such as introductions and dialogue, with Chris giving us advice along the way. Both the tutors were really encouraging and we all felt increasing confidence during the week to share our work.
We had lots of free time in the afternoons that we spent continuing our work from the mornings and having tutorials with each of the tutors, which was a great opportunity to get feedback on what we had been doing. We all took turns cooking the dinner for everyone and getting slightly competitive about our napkin origami between the groups. For our first evening, we played a variety of games together, such as the hat game and wink murder. The next two evenings were readings from the tutors and then a guest reader, Melody Razak, read from her book Moth. On our final evening we gave a reading of work we had produced on the trip, which we were all nervous about, but we ended up having fun.
The trip gave me a chance to develop my writing skills as well as my confidence when sharing my work. It was a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere to learn and grow as writers.
On Friday 25 March, as the Block 3 parents’ evening was underway in the Quad, the catering team were busy on the other side of the wall, stripping out the kitchen and servery ready for the workforce to arrive the following morning and the refurbishment to begin. The existing servery and salad bar had served its purpose for many years, but the time had come to renovate the facilities and ease the flow for hungry students during busy lunchtimes.
It was an interesting but nerve-racking three weeks watching the progress. In its bare state, the team uncovered some wonderful hidden features that are now proudly on display. Emotions ran high, worrying if it would be completed on time – but there was no need. On Good Friday, work was complete, ready for the start of the Summer Term. I’m sure you will all agree that it is a wonderful transformation, and I look forward to seeing you here very soon. A huge thank you to all involved in this project.