Turning in ‘Othello’

By David Anson, Head of English

The first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s play Othello was on Hallowmas Day, November 1, 1604. James I had been king for just over 18 months and he had very recently overseen the Treaty of London which concluded 19 years of conflict between England and Spain. It was a time of great change, a time of unification and much longed for peace.

On Wednesday, Bedales English Literature A Level students were joined on Microsoft Teams by fellow Bohunt English Literature students to take part in a short lecture programme organised by myself and Deana Buchan, Head of English at Bohunt. We were joined remotely by Dr Kath Diamond, a Renaissance specialist who lectures at Goldsmith’s College and Queen Mary and Westfield, and who delivered a fascinating lecture on ‘Turning in Othello’.

Amongst other things, Kath’s lecture recognises the significance of this period of political and cultural change in Jacobean London and the bearing it has upon the action and motifs to be found within a play which presents a ‘spiralling vortex of change’. The play opens in the turmoil and business of a bustling Venice, centre of trade and commerce and the seat of much public debate and discussion about the ongoing war with the Ottoman Empire in Cyprus. It narrows to the defeat of the Turkish army before narrowing again to the private matters of Othello’s marriage to Desdemona and then ends with yet a further narrowing to the marital bed; site of Desdemona and Othello’s tragic end and loaded with much dramatic symbolism. The play is a play of change and a play of turmoil that leaves both its contemporary and 21st century audience somewhat unsettled (though for different reasons) and yearning for the kind of peace and order that a king like James, Shakespeare’s patron, ought to bring at the start of his reign.

The students then explored the way the masculine and the feminine may be considered in the play through shorter presentations led by myself and Deana; a useful foundation for further classroom discussion. At a time when we can’t take our students to the theatre or to lecture programmes, this was a superb opportunity for both 6.1 and 6.2 to revisit their study of Othello and it ushers in the start of more exciting joint projects between Bohunt and Bedales that Deana and I hope to be able to realise in face to face events next year.

A changing approach for Further Maths

By James Welham, Head of Maths

With around 90,000 students in the UK opting for A Level Maths, and around 15,000 of those opting for Further Maths, Maths remains a popular choice, both at Bedales and in the UK, and highly regarded by universities.
 
Up to now we have taught Further Maths distinctly from Maths: different classes ensuring that those opting for further mathematics were taught separately. In 6.1, Further Maths students completed the Maths A Level, waiting until 6.2 to start – and complete within the year – the Further Maths A Level. Whilst this approach has many merits, it also has some negative impacts on both groups of students.
 
I am deeply conscious of the challenges that the current Block 5 students have faced.  Two periods of national lockdown and the uncertainty of grades this summer has meant that students starting their studies in September will do so from a very different point than might have done under normal teaching conditions.  With that in mind, giving students the best possible chance to succeed with maths has never been more important.  Therefore we are going to change the way we teach Further Maths next year.

Students opting for Maths and Further Maths in September will learn both A Levels in parallel. In 6.1, students will start both the Maths and Further Maths A Levels, taking the full two years to complete both courses.  They will learn mathematics alongside single maths students, mixing with their peers and importantly taking time to revise and build upon their work at IGCSE.  In Further Maths classes they will study Core 1, the first of the two compulsory modules, and be introduced to topics such as Complex numbers and Matrices.  They will also study Decision Mathematics, a new area of mathematics for many and one with applications to computer science.  Studying these two modules in 6.1 offer an early opportunity for pupils to be introduced to some interesting and challenging ideas whilst exploring new areas of maths.  In 6.2, students will complete their study of Maths and study two more modules, so completing Further Maths.

For those students whom this will affect, I hope that this explanation will bring both clarity and a sense of excitement about what next year might hold.

A selection of Sixth Form Art

By Andy Cheese, Teacher of Art

In this week’s Art update, I’m sharing some work from our Sixth Form students. These pieces are part of the work set over the Christmas holiday – some are prep and others are the students’ responses to mock exam papers. While online learning comes with its challenges, Art lessons have been very positive so far. See more of the students’ artwork below.

Filmmaking, comic strip designing, podcast recording and lecturing – English students embrace online learning

By Lucy McIlwraith, Teacher of English

As teachers, we’re very aware of the problems associated with screen-time and have been looking for ways to have students present their ideas that don’t involve toiling in the blue light of their laptops. So, over the last few weeks of online learning, Bedales students have had lots of opportunities to present their work in all sorts of ways. Here are a few of the things students have been doing with the English department.

In Block 3, students have been producing their book reviews as short films, some of which you can see here.

The Block 4 English Language students have been studying a variety of 19th century fiction genres and learning about what has made novels so successful. As part of this, many of them have been asked to make comic strips or Gothic films as a way to understand just why isolated castles, terrible weather and mysterious strangers have become such integral parts of Gothic literature. You may remember this is something we did with last year’s Block 4s in the summer term so maybe we have the makings of a yearly film festival at Bedales! See some great examples from Julia’s class here.

6.1 English Literature students are currently studying A Streetcar Named Desire and have been given a choice of performance tasks. We have some students writing re-creative scenes, re-imagining Blanche, Stanley and Stella in different times and places; some aim to learn and perform a key speech of one of the main characters with costume and full dramatic effects; others are working on mini-lectures about themes and ideas in the play such as how music is integral to an audience’s experience of the play in the theatre. 

Block 5 and 6.2 students have been preparing for internal assessments but they have still been able to get away from their screens to produce useful revision materials for each other. Block 5 have produced informative documentaries about something they know well such as climate change or chicken-keeping in order to practise the skills they need for paper 2 of their GCSE English Language exam.

Meanwhile, 6.2 English Literature students have been busiest of all, making lectures about ‘Othello’ either as audio files or filming themselves (in Jago’s case, filming his hands making meticulous notes!) 

The pièce de résistance, though, will doubtless be the now traditional Eve of St Agnes Experience which this year has had to undergo some changes. Unfortunately, we can’t recreate the midnight feast enjoyed by the poem’s characters Madeline and Porphyro in the same way as in previous years, but can still wish ourselves into their world with photos re-creating key scenes and poetry workshops writing verses we think Keats would have included if he could! Look out for more on this from Julia in next week’s Bulletin.

Match report: 6.1 Girls v Boys Hockey

By Kevin Boniface, Head of Hockey

Last Thursday, the 6.1 girls played against the 6.1 boys in what has now become an annual fixture for this cohort, having originated in Block 3.

Having won the last three years, the boys approached the game with confidence, possibly neglecting some valuable preparation time and were caught on the hop as the girls came flying out the blocks. Goalkeeper Patrick Bell and the central defensive pairing of Bade George-Coker and Archie Tier were the saviours for the boys’ team. However, with relentless attacking pressure from the girls – in particular Alisia Leach, Sasha Arney and Mathilda Douglas – it was only a matter of time before the deadlock was broken, with Alisia flicking in a low, powerful shot from a short corner to the delight of a partisan crowd.

An inspirational half-time team talk from the managerial team of Joseph Thanki and Harry Hornsby saw the boys’ team start the second half with renewed vigour. Despite this, and the skilful, quick attacking exploits of Paddy Arrowsmith, Joe Withers and Jamie King, the girls remained resolute, with Esther Stewart and Shanklin Mackillop-Hall, as ever, providing a calming influence at the back. As the boys’ fitness levels began to drop the girls’ side came into the game more and more. Increasing influence from Gala Pearson and Fleur Donovan ensured the girls side retained more attacking possession. Despite one last breakaway attempt from the influential Cosmo Hurwitz, the girls’ team held their nerve to emerge victorious.

Once again a really enjoyable game. Bring on the final game in 6.2…!

Professional Guidance at Bedales – Autumn update

By Cheryl Osborne, Teacher of Biology and Careers Advisor

This term has been a busy one for the Professional Guidance department. Firstly, students from Blocks 3 to 6.1 have signed up to the online Unifrog platform. Unifog describes itself as “a one-stop-shop where students can easily explore their interests, then find and successfully apply for their next best step after school”. Students in these year groups are receiving support from their tutors to access the platform and complete tasks, such as recording their activities and hobbies, during Tutor Time. As well as this, Block 4 receive half a term of careers sessions with me during Badley Time, during which they have used Unifrog to investigate their wider interests and personality traits, search careers that match their strengths, start recording their employability skills/competencies, look at CVs and learn about apprenticeships and how to find one.

At the beginning of term, Block 5 completed their MyFutureCareers assessments and interviews to aid them with their A Level choices. I followed up on this later in the term, offering students support sessions on Wednesday afternoons. Students in 6.1 have been shown how to use Unifrog to search for degree courses, alongside advice about what they need to be doing over the coming year to prepare themselves for life after Bedales.

Many 6.2 students have been completing university applications, working closely with both their students and Head of Professional Guidance Vikki Alderson-Smart. Students have already started receiving offers and a number have had online interviews for courses that require them. Sarah Oakley has been supporting overseas applicatons and the Art, Design, Music and Drama departments have been working hard helping students with conservatoire and foundation applications.

Work with each year group will continue next term. Vikki will start interviewing all 6.1 students to find out what their post-Bedales thoughts are. These discussions will be on-going with their tutors.

Whilst we would hope that 6.1s will be able to visit universities next year, we will also be advertising virtual events. Two such events are the UK University & Apprenticeship Search Virtual Fair on 27 January, featuring a vast array of exhibitors and ten vital webinars (students and parents can find out more and sign up here) and a Meet the Russell Group virtual event on 10 February. This event will feature all 24 universities and essential webinars for students considering applications to these institutions (students and parents can find out more and sign up here).

We wish you all a restful Christmas.

Match report: 6.1 v Block 5 girls’ football

By Kevin Boniface, Head of Hockey

On Wednesday, the Mem Pitch played host to the inaugural 6.1 v Block 5 girls’ football match. Despite some tough playing conditions, both teams approached the game with tremendous enthusiasm and spirits certainly weren’t dampened by the weather!

The Block 5 team got off to a flying start, finding themselves 4-0 up inside 12 minutes. The fourth goal was particularly special, with a superb cross in from the right from Mary Whiteley that was met with an even better header from captain Romilly White, sending the ball into the top corner. The Block 5 side were a constant threat, with Kamaya Nelson-Clayton and Ava Sender Logan regularly making bursts forward, and Skylar Cazac a potent threat up-front.

Half-time was productive for the 6.1 side who regrouped and the second half saw the emergence of the influential Lila Levingston and more space opened down the right channel for the excellent Dora Wooldridge and Martha Clough. It was clear the relatively inexperienced 6.1 side were improving and starting to get used to playing as a team and creating more chances for the ever threatening Phoebe Esdaile.

However, as the final whistle blew, the Block 5 team had comfortably and deservedly picked up the victory.  A really enjoyable game with both teams eager to get back out on the pitch.

Match report: 6.1 v Block 5 girls’ hockey

By Kevin Boniface, Head of Hockey

Wednesday saw another round of internal hockey fixtures and the first game of the season ‘under the lights’. Both the Block 5 and 6.1 teams had been particularly impressive in training over the last week or so, but it was the 6.1 team who burst out of the blocks with centre forward Mathilda Douglas looking particularly threatening, putting her team 2-0 up within the opening 10 minutes. A high press from the 6.1s ensured constant attacking pressure and a cool finish from Fleur Donovan, followed by a completion of a first half hat trick from Mathilda, led the 6.1s into the break 4-0 to the good.

The game was in danger of running away from the Block 5s, but a re-group at half time saw a much improved performance and it was the Block 5s who opened the scoring, through the ever dangerous Kamaya Nelson-Clayton. Despite constant attacking pressure from the 6.1s the Block 5 side stood firm with some excellent tackling from Ava Sender Logan and always posing a threat on the counter attack from Zoe Lobbenberg and Kamaya. As the game developed we saw more and more of the increasingly impressive Lally Arengo-Jones and captain, Leela Walton.

Despite the improved performance from the Block 5s the 6.1 team deservedly scored again, once again a fantastically calm finish from Fleur.

The Block 5s are in action again next week versus the Block 4s. The 6.1s will have to wait a couple of weeks before they take on the ‘all-star’ team.

Inspiration for an EPQ – a student’s perspective

EPQ

By Eloise Cooper, 6.1

The idea for my EPQ came to me in a Religious Studies class, when we were arguing about the line between a cult and religion. The arguments from all sides (all religions are cults, there is a line between cults and religions, and that they can flow back and forth, etc) appealed to me, and as someone who’s always been interested in social dynamics, I decided to do an EPQ on it, with my title as ‘To what extent is a cult different from a religion?’

Overall, doing an EPQ has been an incredible experience. Taking a title and a few vague ideas and spinning it into a 5000-word dissertation has been very rewarding. I’ve read books, watched documentaries, interviewed people and found research papers that I would have otherwise never read.

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British Museum exhibition brings students closer to Ancient Greek epics

By August Janklow and Gus McQuillin, 6.1

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On 28 February, those of us in the 6.1 Classics class visited the British Museum’s Troy: Myth & Reality exhibition. It was an extraordinarily well curated collection of anything and everything relating to Troy, in order to help us better understand The Iliad by Homer.

The museum had lots of ancient pieces of art and stories relating to Troy. They had lots of vases and other items of treasury dating back roughly 4,000 years. The artefacts came from museums across the world and also reflected that these stories have inspired artists, sculptors, potters, writers and musicians of every century. A highlight was the massive wood-framed Trojan horse that hung over the main room to bring us into the Trojan world.

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