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.
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’.
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.
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!
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.
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.
By Alistair McConville, Director of Learning and Innovation
Another way is possible. At Bedales we have long eschewed a narrow focus on preparing students for terminal exams. A nourishing educational experience must do much more than fill heads with knowledge for the sake of supervised regurgitation. We live out our Ruskin-inspired motto: “Head, Hand and Heart”. Every day at school should strike a balance between intellectual stimulation, creative work, and service to the community. We have recently re-structured our school day around this principle. There is choice about when to get up, since we know that autonomy is motivating, and that not all adolescents are designed for early mornings. Lots of students will opt to start the day with a co-curricular activity: meditation, feeding sheep, baking bread, a country walk; they might get into the kitchens to help serve and clear breakfast; others will choose a little more slumber before academic lessons and plan their activities for later. We know that an under-slept student is an inefficient one. Lessons start at 9.45. A full hour later than they used to be. We know that it’s refreshing for students to take breaks and to switch activity, so we have built a further blast of non-academic activity into the middle of the day. Music ensembles, drama rehearsals, service activities with local community partners, tending the vegetable garden, or a tennis lesson, for example. More lessons in the afternoon, followed by a final raft of optional activities in the evening. But, crucially, lots of choice about when to be active and when to rest. So, everyone chooses co-curricular activities, but by no means in every slot. It’s really important for young people to be able to opt for unstructured leisure, too, and they can choose when to get their homework done as long as they hit the deadline. No compulsory ‘prep’ times here.
We have baked our “Head, Hand, Heart” principles into curriculum and assessment. For a dozen years Bedales has been issuing the now famous ‘Centre Assessed Grades’ for its own GCSE-equivalent courses, the Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs). We have trusted teachers to report reliably and constructively on the broad range of work that students do, and so have universities. And we have been able to assess in a much broader way than GCSEs permit. As part of our Outdoor Work BAC, for example, a student’s ability to work in a team whilst renovating a tractor is as much a part of their assessment as writing about the process. Their ability to explain and defend their project to an audience counts towards their grade. This is ‘work that matters’ to paraphrase Ron Berger. We’re rolling out a Level 3 equivalent course in Living With the Land this September to teach students how to live in a radically sustainable way. Watch out for a proliferation of cob houses and hemp-clad foragers in the Hampshire hills!
We’re adopting a rigorous project-based learning approach in year 9, inspired by the Expeditionary Learning Movement and our friends at the XP School in Doncaster. Students will work on real-life enquiry questions and study across disciplines in order to respond practically to real-world issues. For example, we will look at the contemporary refugee crisis through the lenses of history, geography, religious studies and literature at the same time as planning practical responses to support our partners at the Rural Refugee Network.
It’s an enviable experience for our students and they know it, but we don’t want to keep it all to ourselves. We are eager to share this kind of rounded, enriching approach to education with others, knowing that far too many languish in an unfulfilling exam-obsessed rut. We’re working with a small number of independent schools to build a partnership with our innovative colleagues and friends in the maintained sector at Bohunt School, Gosport’s Key Education Centre, School 21 and the XP School to make the case for significant national assessment reform. Watch this space, but the time has never felt more ripe for a thorough re-thinking of the drudgerous, purgatorial treadmill of an education system obsessed with terminal exam results…
The River Teifi is the longest river in Wales; 73 miles in length from its source in the vast and barren Cambrian Mountains to the wide, slow flowing scenic estuary as it meets the sea just west of Cardigan. The stunning and unique locations it flows through inspired me to make a film, A Journey Along the River Teifi, as it seemed like a challenge to try and convey its beauty onto film. I co-wrote and co-produced the film with my father, Old Bedalian Gyles Morris, as we had started to make a river documentary a couple of years ago. That project didn’t go the way we wanted it to, so we re-approached the film with a new set of ideas. Instead of just making it with the idea of people and history, I wanted to make sure we followed some of the natural occurrences on the river as well as balancing the ‘people’ element of the film, which provided the perfect storyline to follow.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of making this film, visiting the beautiful locations and trying to portray the beauty of the River Teifi and those who live in and around it, as well as the editing and choosing different music to highlight different emotions one might feel when watching a particular sequence of imagery.
A day which stood out for me in particular was filming water buffalos. The initial reaction for that is: “What?! There are Water Buffalos in Wales?!” and indeed there are. Cattle cannot graze on marshy ground partly because they don’t want to but also they can suffer from red water fever, so to keep the Teifi Marshes intact, water buffalos are brought in for a couple of months in the summer from a nearby farm. When filming big animals, you always have to be careful. We had achieved the drone shots successfully, but I wanted to make sure we also got some close up/intimate shots of the animals. The field they were in stretched a couple of acres and we could only see two buffalo out of the three who were in the field. As we tiptoed around the corner of this mound, in the middle of the field – 400 metres away – two females we looking at us down their noses. But where was the third male? Suddenly a metre or two in front of the females, the male erupted out of the foliage. We knew instantly that our presence was not wanted! Slowly they began to walk towards us, I stopped filmed for 30 seconds and then quickly rushed back and repeated the same as before. Finally, I got the shots I needed, but what an incredible experience. Looking deep into its eyes, it felt like I could be somewhere in Africa filming this amazing animal.
The most challenging aspect of the film was the sound recording and balancing it to the imagery. A lot of inspiration came from the major BBC shows of Blue Planet 2, Planet Earth 2 or Seven Worlds, One Planet.
The hardest thing about making this film was noticing the effects we are having on the river. Increasing intensification of agriculture has resulted in three major slurry spillages and poisonings in the last five years. We searched for the dead fish because I felt it was important for the story to be told and put the reality of the river into perspective. As we turned a corner, a cloud of flies engulfed the air around us and when they cleared, the true devastation was revealed. Around 60-70 fish were on the stones next to the river with around 10 which were visible on the surface. This was only a small river, the incidents on the river Teifi have killed over 1,000 fish. That was the most difficult aspect to film because it was heart breaking to see this had happened.
This film was such a joy to make and I’m looking forward to see what I can do for my next project.
Watch Jake’s film, A Journey Along the River Teifi on YouTube here.
Quoting the German General Moltke rather than John Badley in a ‘beginning of the new school year’ blog might seem unusual, but given the exhaustive planning that has gone into re-opening the Bedales schools this week, an acknowledgement of the importance of planning and strategy seems appropriate. ‘No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength’ is often represented in snappier form as ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’. Having stepped unbidden into the role of senior mask monitor I share Moltke’s view. Day 1 of this much anticipated and much heralded term demonstrated the clash between plans and reality. Badley’s ‘work of each for weal of all’ has been prominently presented at all our beginning of term gatherings to underline how individual actions and decisions can have community wide resonance and consequence. With studied patience I say to an unmasked student squeezing their way through a crowded door, ‘Where’s your mask?’. To which they reply, ‘I don’t have one. I thought the school were supplying them’. Or rather, ‘Work of you for weal of me.’ I reach for my handy stash of disposable medical face masks and hope it might last beyond the end of the lesson.
The essence of the Bedales School rules are enshrined on a board in the corridor around the Quad that all Bedalians shuffle past on their way into the dining room. Badley’s stricture that whatever causes ‘Needless exposure of oneself or others to danger or infection’ has suddenly received extra historic resonance. Those rules pre-date 1942 and the development of penicillin by 40 years. Infection in 1893 could mean death, and the 1918 Spanish ‘Flu pandemic would not have left the Bedales community unscathed. There isn’t any direct reference to Bedales’ students losing their lives due to Spanish ‘Flu, but the fear of the spread of infection, as all seasonal winter ‘flu epidemics can spread, would have been very profound. ‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ would have been as relevant and true then as it is now. So everyone in the Bedales School community: students, teaching staff and support staff across all three schools, some 1,300 souls all in all, have to safeguard and protect each other, from the immune to the vulnerable (who won’t necessarily know who they are).
Students, parents and teachers have had so much to endure since the end of March. The panicked decision to close schools and cancel exams, the A level results’ fiasco, and the uncertainty about when and how schools could re-open, were all caused by a dysfunctional government found wanting. At least now within our own school campus, re-imagined as a self-governed city state, we have the opportunity to return to that sacred exchange of teaching and learning that seeks to link ‘head, hand and heart.’
We recently took a virtual school trip to go and see Hussein Chalayan’s Gravity Fatigue at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Gravity Fatigue is a mixture of a dance and fashion show all in one, and this is what makes this show so unique.
As Chalayan is a fashion designer, not a choreographer himself, he worked with Damien Jalet to create the show. Chalayan wanted to show the connection between clothes and movement, and how they work together in space. He uses other ways as well as movement to portray the message to the audience; for example, he explores different floorwork and how the dancers engage with their costumes.
Throughout the show, the lighting stood out to me, as it was used to show a change of dancer or the emotion that Chalayan was trying to embody. Lighting was also used to highlight the direction that dancers moved in – for instance, when a circular spotlight lit up, the dancers turned in a circle as if in a trance, reflecting the shape of the lighting.