Curriculum – first 100 years

In his last term after 17 years as Headmaster of Bedales, Keith Budge is writing a series of six reflections on the school. The theme of this fourth blog is ‘Curriculum – first 100 years’.

When Bedales began in 1893, it was the second of the so-called New Schools, Abbotsholme, where John Badley had begun his teaching career, being the first. Reacting against something (the rigidities and classical basis of the Victorian public school curriculum) was fair enough, but a New School needed to answer two crucial questions: What should be taught? How should it be taught?

My previous reflections on place and relationships show the importance of individuality, personal growth, the influence of environment and balancing the work of head, hand and heart.

So, first of all what do you teach? Move away from dominance of the Classics (Greek and Latin) as the primary way both of teaching your own languages and for training the young brain. In the chapter on The Middle Years in Memories and Reflections (1955) Badley focuses in particular on what would be taught in the Middle Years, before the specialisation required for the School Certificate at 15 or 16. Here just under half of the time was spent on languages (including English) and history. Just over half was taken with Maths, Science and practical training in wood and metal work, domestic economy, music and drawing.

Secondly, how? Have the formal curriculum occupy a smaller proportion of time, but create more variety and increase the pace at which the pupils learn by what we would call now active learning – learning through doing. As a result (again from The Middle Years) teaching would be “as varied as possible, both in subject matter and in manner of treatment”.

Central to the method, the How, was the organisation of the day: the morning given over to “school work” HEAD; the afternoon to “outdoor activities” (farm work and games) HAND; and the evening to “social interaction” HEART.

See below the digest from the start of Badley’s Bedales; A Pioneer School (1923) which gives a handy overview and the brightly coloured timetable from 1903.

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Timetable 1903

 

Pioneer, experimental, new – they are all involve trying things out: and that’s what they did.

Whilst at the Old Bedales, they experimented with extending the usual public school custom of an hour’s work before breakfast to two hours. Result? They abandoned even the one hour, discovering that this led to “so much increased vigour in the rest of the day’s work”. Modern research agrees.

In 1920 Dr Montessori herself visited Dunhurst and admired the work of her protégée, Amy Clarke, the Dunhurst Head. The “project method” (an outcome of John Dewey’s “experimental work”) became an established thing with the older classes at Dunhurst – Badley cites the “building of a Viking ship” as an example: a brilliant example of cross-curricular, learning-through-doing work: “a practical demonstration of the need of various kinds of knowledge and of their inter-relatedness”.

The Dalton Plan was tried for two years in the early 1920s; although it was formally abandoned, the balance between what you were taught in “class work” and what you were expected to do in “individual work” had shifted as a result of the experiment towards the latter.

Other innovations included taking English seriously as a subject: Geoffrey Crump, appointed Senior English Master in 1919, was said to be one of the first of his kind in an English Public School.

Turning to the national educational scene, the role of Bedales in establishing the first Design O Level in the 1970s resulted from the school’s unusual position in combining Craft, Design and Technology and in the inspirational work of Biff Barker and David Butcher. In the mid 1970s over 80% of a year group took Design O Level.

In summary, in 1911 in one of his Talks in Peace and War on “the intellectual side of school work”, Badley gives three reasons for this kind of work: use (ie. the practical benefit your subjects give you), pleasure and training. It is unsurprising that in the rest of the talk he majors on pleasure: “true ambrosial food” can as naturally come from Science as from literature and great art. The educational experience should shape each pupil’s life through the New School being “a place full of active and joyous life”. (Bedales: A Pioneer School)

Next week – Bedales Assessed Courses.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Live things

Being away can be stimulating; being back always is.  Evening events and livestock seem to be the two themes of the last few days.

Take last night’s Global Awareness Jaw. Led by Block 5 reporting back on their visit to Woodstock School, Mussourie, India; it began with an extraordinary piece of music composed by Richie and music teacher Giacomo Pozzuto, with Richie on the tabla* and Giacomo on the oboe.  All of the students who went to this remarkable spot, perched on the Himalaya, have a hand in the composition of the presentation and three head it up.  Amongst the various memories that will anchor in the young minds watching, I suspect the spell cast by the sight and sound of tabla and oboe – the interplay of  East and Western musical traditions – will feature most.

Other evening excitements included Sunday’s Professional Guidance department presentation to 6.1 parents on Higher Education: primarily about university entry, it’s an encouraging picture that we present – not only of some of the most sought after universities being able to offer more places to candidates who gain ABB or above at A Level, but of the increasing proportion of our students gaining places at Russell Group universities.  It is the start of the cycle for the new 6.1s.  Next week I will give my annual assembly to the school on higher education, as the most important message is the old adage:  hard work + passion for your chosen subjects + working closely with your teachers = success; and the earlier that starts, the greater the success – and the more enjoyable the journey.

Tuesday evening and I am entertaining a group of fellow headteachers (collective name possibilities, a swelling of heads or a lakh of principals), initially to a meeting and then to dinner at 50 Church Road.  The 86 Group, 20 years old now, comprises 16 schools from across the south east who have enough in common and who enjoy each other’s company enough to meet termly to discuss things of common interest.  Trust and humour are the glue. Meetings of heads of 86 group schools’ departments also happen and are generally handy.  Sitting in the alcove at No 50, the evening light on the great oak tree is particularly wonderful and the birdsong stunning.

Which takes me on to livestock.  The new lambs are in Butts’ Field now and (yes, honestly) are gambolling in the evening sunlight as I walk back from home after Jaw and chat to some Block 3 boys about why lambs like going into the wooden shelter that our alpacas so scorned.  We will all feel easier about the lambs’ transition along the food chain (mint sauce is the clue here) when the time comes, because they have not been named.

This is not the case with the new quartet of 50 Church Road hens, who have recently been named.  Unlike their predecessors, who were uniformly brown, either Waitrose rejects or rescue hens, depending on how you spin it, these are proper, svelte and gorgeous young creatures, a mere few weeks old and full of adolescent preening, with a good three of four years of productive laying ahead.   Given the hopes that we pin on them, the capital outlay (x 6 of their predecessors) and their splendid distinguishing plumage and general pomp, we take the bold step of naming.  Following a brief and entirely frivolous What’s App consultation with our own offspring, they are named: Snowy (the white one), Bluebell (bluish and that’s her breed and its bluebell time in Steep woods), Chicken (brown and looks like one) and Chardonnay, after the memorable character in Footballers’ Wives, Series 1, who was herself named after the over-worked varietal type of the extravagant 80s.  I trust that they are all going to behave, especially Chardonnay.

 

*NB The left hand plays the bass on the wider drum called the “dugga” and the right hand plays the lead drums on the “tabla”. Together, the drums are also called “tabla”.

Sports Pavilion shingling day

Sunday is shingling day as the almost-finished roof of the Sam Banks Pavilion resounds with the tap of hammers: most roofs aren’t made of wood, but this one is – of Red Cedar shingles, which need to be carefully fixed in place so that they overlap cunningly. Not only do they look, feel and smell nice, but they are very practical, lasting up to 40 years. The weekend is billed as one members of the community, current and past, can come and lend a hand; so there is a good social buzz as we clamber over this beautiful looking and fragrant roof that rests gracefully on its Douglas fir and oak frame. For those of us who are deeply cack-handed but doggedly determined, it’s the kind of job we like: sufficiently manageable so we can get it done but with just enough skill to make us feel that we are, well, skilled. OBs John Russell and Gabriel Langlands are there to guide us, with admirable patience. Planes and knives are deployed to ensure that the shingles fit and don’t go wonky. I like being perched up there on the roof, looking out to one side over the astroturf  at Fairhaven, where John Badley spent his final years; and to the other side at the Cricket Pavilion, built primarily by students in the early 1900s and used as a rallying cry to shake students into action  (“the spirit that built the Pav…”).   The day finishes with the final shingle hammered in by Graham Banks and a celebratory toast.  Much remains to be done at ground level but the roof looks stunning and it is satisfying to know it will be more or less weatherproof now. On the way home, drawn in by the pulsating melody coming from the theatre, I find an equally committed gang of students, marshalled by supremo Neil Hornsby.  Work started at 9 on Sunday morning (and go on till 9 in the evening) shaping this week’s annual school Rock Show. On Thursday and Friday and already sold out, It will be quite something.
Sam Banks Pavilion
 By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music school. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

900 year old craft

Conversations with Henry and John Russell and Gabriel Langlands, our OB craftsmen, take you into a world of wood, oak above all, of dowel joints and grain. Hearing them talk about their work, instruct me and the students working to prepare the oak skeleton currently lying in the Barnyard that will become the Sam Banks Pavilion, is a reminder of how timeless this craft of vernacular green oak building is. OK, some of those robust Saxon techniques and customs, such as always using an axe, rather than a saw (“Saws are for sissies, son, here’s an axe…”) have been overtaken, and, yes, the Normans had some half decent ideas about constructing with wood, but most of the techniques we are using are a good 900 years old. With Badley Celebration Weekend imminent, this is a great way to be reminded of how central making and doing need to be to our school’s lives.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster Bedales Schools


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music school. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Answer to the Bedales lambs probability poser

OK, here it is: probability of 16 ewe lambs and 22 ram lambs from 19 ewes:
 
P(16/38) = 11,119,987,215/137,438,953,472
 
This comes out at approximately 0.08 or (if you will allow probability to be expressed as an approximate percentage, a double heresy as far as many mathematicians are concerned) 8%.
 
The winner of the approximate figure was Luke A. The winner of the exact figure was Michael Truss.
 
By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music school. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

News from the Bedales farm

The dogs and I meet the lambers by the Black Barn on these rainy early mornings: students, Peter and Rebecca herding/carrying lambs and ewes out to the field for the lambs’ first soggy gambol.  Last year fecundity was thwarted, with the cold snap of February 2011 causing the Jacob’s ram to underperform. This year, there’s no problem on that score – 17 lambs so far – but persistent rain is making some of the ewes reluctant to give birth. Pondering on the role of the farm for a moment, it should be difficult for any student, however urbanised, to conclude their time at this school without some element of the farm and agricultural cycles impinging on them – the lambing, haymaking, Hector’s and Spartan’s travails. Good stuff, but as ever, there’s always more to do, especially with gardening. The activity in the large, warm polytunnel out at the back of Outdoor Work– where I saw outdoor workers tying up our homegrown sweetpeas earlier in the week –  is a sign of things to come: making gardens and gardening more part of the school’s consciousness will be the next step.
 
By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music school. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.