Transformative Education

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Philosophy, Religion & Ethics

An education is a transformative thing, and a great education can lead to a great transformation. Every student at Bedales is fortunate to have so many opportunities. Being part of a school like this, someone has invested in that transformation. For many, parents make this investment. Sometimes, it is grandparents. I have even known students paying their own fees out of inherited money. Others, and I was one of them, get to come to a school like this with the support of others, through bursary programmes. I can speak as one who knows: bursaries transform lives.

Patrick Derham, OBE, the Headmaster of Westminster, and formerly Rugby, knows this better than most. We were so fortunate to have him speak at Jaw on Wednesday, and the impact his talk had on students was palpable. Having, like me, been to seven schools before the age of 12, he was an ‘Ari Boy’, educated aboard the permanently moored vessel Arethusa. One day, he was asked ‘Do you know what Public School is, Derham?’ ‘No, Sir’, he replied. The school aboard the Arethusa was disbanded overnight, and he was sent off to Pangbourne College, a beneficiary of a bursary from an anonymous donor. It changed his life, giving him opportunities beyond his wildest dreams.

He took advantage of every chance, getting to Pembroke College, Cambridge, and has spent his career determined to give back. He started the celebrated Arnold (bursary) Foundation at Rugby, and from that went on to found Springboard, a national charity linking young people to places at boarding schools. He is involved with numerous other projects, all concerned with providing excellent educational opportunities to young people in difficult circumstances.

I can see why he said this was what ‘gets him out of bed in the morning’. Last year, I was thrilled and deeply moved to be asked to be a trustee of our own John Badley Foundation. Through the work of the JBF, students with backgrounds more like mine, and those much less fortunate than I was, can get to come here, and just as happens with every child, experience the transformation that comes from a great education.

For more information about the John Badley Foundation, click here.

Advertisements

Engaging head and heart

Library interior

By Magnus Bashaarat, Head of Bedales

A report which ran in The Times on Monday was difficult reading for arts undergraduates sharpening their pencils and adding more memory to their smartphones ahead of the new university year about to start. Freshers will be worrying whether they have made the right choices, and those nearing the end of their degree courses might be facing even more than the standard amount of Brexit-tinged uncertainty laced with a thick layer of debt.

Figures previewed from The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019, which is published next weekend, found that the best-paid graduates were those who had studied computer science at Imperial College London, topping out at £50k six months after graduation. The course with the lowest average graduate salaries was drama, dance and cinematics at Liverpool Hope University, whose graduates earned a mean figure of £9,000 after six months. In this context I think ‘mean’ could mean more than average.

As an arts graduate myself (English Language and Literature, although the Language bit was scarily scientific and not what I had signed up for), I can sympathise with the frisson of doubt chilling bedsits of those undergraduates not doing the Milk Round, because there isn’t really one for actors, dancers and cameramen, when their suited and booted friends with computing, maths and physics degrees move into a world where they seem to have more choices about where to sign than Eden Hazard.

Both routes, of course, are equally valid and important to our nation’s economy. If you have a skill that is in short supply, and demand is great, then you have positive choices to make. But Polonius’s words to Laertes from Hamlet resonate at such a time, ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’. If you’re making a choice now, as so many students in their final year will be, putting the final touches to their UCAS application, then don’t opt for a degree course because you think you will be well paid when you come out at the end of it with a degree. If only life was that simple (it isn’t). Three or four year degree course study will only be rewarding, stimulating and worthwhile, if you are studying a subject about which you feel passionate and with which you have a visceral and intellectual connection. You only get one chance to do your first degree, and whilst it’s important to have an idea of what your next steps will be after university, money shouldn’t be the most important motivator. The statistic that will be most illuminating when the university guide is published, is that which shows what the completion rate for each degree course is, by subject, and by university. Drop-out rates are increasing, and there are complex social reasons why this is the case, but fundamentally there are more undergraduates on courses they don’t really want to do, and after the alcohol-fuelled enthusiasm of Freshers’ Week is over, the cold reality of study, sacrifice and cost dawns.

So make the choice with head and heart fully engaged, and leave the pound signs for later.

Journeys

DJI_0166

Keith Budge leaves Bedales at the end of this academic year. This final blog is based on his last school assembly.

As I contemplate the end of my time with Bedales, I am minded to think about journeys. Last week, in a very literal sense, I was part of a group of 24 that walked from the original Bedales home in Lindfield to Steep. This journey – all 125 km of it (I completed the first 70 of them) – marked the 125th anniversary of the school’s birth, and so I have also given thought to this rather more abstract journey.

The story of our walk from school to school is pretty straightforward. We had the idea, and it generated some enthusiasm and support. There was planning, resources, logistics, administration, risk assessments, food, water, maps, sun cream; and above all a group of people who wanted to make it happen. Substantially, that the walk was a success was the result of our teamwork.

It’s more difficult to tell the story of the first 125 years of Bedales’ existence, but two really striking things occurred to me vividly over the past week as I walked. The first of these is how very unlikely it is that the school has survived and prospered. John Badley’s idea in the early 1890s that he would start a school and that it would be based on such very different principles to the ones that enabled schools like his – Rugby – to thrive, was pretty left field.

The second striking thing, and this chimes with the story of the walk coming together, is the extent of the teamwork that enabled the fledgling creature that was early Bedales to take wing. Those of you who have followed my blogs will know that I have written regularly about John Badley. His story is well known, and so I will concentrate here a little more on the other two members of the founding triumvirate. Amy Badley, a suffragist, brought a passionate belief in women’s suffrage and women’s rights. She was, some believe, the driving force behind the introduction of girls to the school in 1898. Oswald Powell, or ‘Oz Boz’ as he was affectionately known, was multi-talented (a musician and modern linguist), and brought a great capacity for making things work.

What must it must have been like in those early days of the school’s existence in Lindfield, in Summer 1893? Fortunately, we have Oz Boz’s account to guide us – and what a fascinating read it is. You can hear in his voice the sheer daring of the school’s founding and the gamble he was taking, moving from Manchester Grammar School to join such a madcap scheme. His passion for this place “where we could all learn by doing and haply teach by being and so revolutionise English education” is both palpable and infectious. This is no po-faced account, however – he cheerfully confesses to feelings of incompetence when observed teaching History by Badley, and a comic note is struck when he talks about giving a lecture one Saturday evening on the subject of bee-keeping, despite never having kept bees. By a great quirk of fate, and with charming symmetry, his grandson, Ben Powell, joined us on Day 2 of our walk, so we heard more about Oz Boz from him.

Powell died just short of his 100th birthday; Badley reached 102. I suspect that it was this enduring partnership and the complementary qualities that they brought to it that enabled the school to be what it is today. Badley supplied that informing vision, the passion; but it would have been as nothing without the ability to deliver the goods, at which (amongst other things) Oz Boz excelled.

My final thought about the journey, and the quality that has enabled the school to thrive, is its ability to innovate and to welcome change. Whilst the school has been single-minded in preserving its founding ethos, we should remember that it is a particularly distinctive and nuanced one that invites reinterpretation by successive generations. Indeed, I particularly like Oz Boz’s take on it – that we all (staff and students alike) learn by doing, and in that process remake our idea of education. Such an approach, allied to such an ambition, is demanding: we each of us need to be part of a process of continual self-scrutiny, to share a restless determination, and to be willing to change as we each of us help shape this school’s extraordinary journey.