Speaking at HMC Conference

By Blossom Gottlieb, 6.2

I had the pleasure of assisting Alistair McConville last Friday at the Conference for Academic Deputy Heads and Directors of Studies in Brighton.

Al invited me to speak for around five minutes about my experience in education, with the view of how institution-led learning could improve our current curriculum. We ran two sessions, each addressing around 25 people for an hour and a half.

Supporting the concept of internally moderated assessments and our own Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs) in front of a somewhat sceptical audience was more challenging than I had expected. However, Al’s eloquent and inspirational arguments encouraged innovation in the vast majority of our attendees.

It was enlightening to meet so many influencers in the educational field and hear their opinions on what improvements could be made. I learnt some valuable oratory skills from listening to Al’s presentation and thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it.

I am incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity – thank you Al.

By Alistair McConville, Director of Learning and Innovation

It’s daunting having ‘innovation’ in your job title… People expect you to be working on something earth-shattering!

No trips to Mars (yet), but Blossom Gottlieb and I did venture out to Brighton last week to address the Academic Deputy Heads of the Headmasters’ Conference on the subject of running your own innovative courses.

Blossom gave the Deputies a heart-felt blast about the damaging nature of metric-obsessed approaches to education, and the tedious treadmill of nine or ten GCSEs. I weighed in with our story of doing things more imaginatively through BACs and Enrichment.

We highlighted the ongoing gap between the skills that GCSEs test – memorisation; speed-writing; endurance – and the skills that young people really need for the world beyond: collaboration; communication; creativity, to name but a few, and showed how we had been able to incorporate these into our programme.

We hinted at what might come next: an even greater degree of inter-disciplinary, real-life, project-based work, which is what employers are crying out for, and by happy coincidence, what young people are engaged by!

Watch this space for Mars-based projects…

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Conference season

By Magnus Bashaarat, Head of Bedales

This year’s annual HMC Conference was held at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. The hotel was built on the site of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, a bloody milestone along the treacherous road towards universal suffrage. It’s a stone’s throw away from what was the legendary club The Hacienda, now a block of luxury flats (sic transit gloria). But it’s most compelling claim to shaping history as opposed to having history happen on its doorstep was that Mr Rolls and Mr Royce had their first ever meeting in the hotel and decided that they would go into partnership: the engineer and the money man realising that each had something the other didn’t.

The theme of this year’s conference has been ‘Together to Learn’ – a title which is meant to work in all sorts of clever ways, of course, as we have all come together to learn from each other, from the long list of eminent speakers that have given presentations, and of course it’s a statement about how all teachers and all schools, whether independent or maintained sector, can learn from each other.

The 2018 HMC buzzword bingo was not particularly challenging. ‘Bursary provision’, ‘public benefit’ and ‘partnerships’ were the ‘go to’ mentions and proliferated the discourse whenever the lights were dimmed. Because of the political discourse in another conference going on in Birmingham, a conference even more important than a bunch of Heads of schools coming together to talk school stuff, much of the energy and talk in Manchester was about anticipating political change that might adversely affect the independent sector. The Labour Party conference that took place last week in Liverpool was a more important conference to watch from our school perspective because we can pretty safely assume that a Labour government taking office after the next general election would introduce legislation that would present real existential challenges to many schools in the independent sector.

So whilst we wait for the current Conservative administration to lead the country out of Europe into a post-Brexit world of complete uncertainty, we also have to plan for what Mr Corbyn might do when he gets the keys to No. 10. At Bedales we can speak loudly and proudly about what we do in terms of public benefit, bursary provision and partnership forming. The timing of Patrick Derham’s visit to Bedales last week when he spoke at Jaw about his own journey as a recipient of a bursary could not have been better timed as an example of what Bedales does through its John Badley Foundation to make a Bedales education available to aspiring students whose families just don’t have the means to meet the fees. We also have a range of exemplar partnerships with our local schools, and in particular a successful partnership with Bohunt School in Liphook. And last week the Outdoor Work department welcomed a group of young people from a pupil referral unit in Gosport who came to share our facilities. And there is so much more.

Patrick’s mantra about the ‘transformative power of education’ still resonates in my mind, and I have heard that phrase again this week in Manchester. Once we are through the conference season; Conservative, Labour and HMC, then teaching and learning comes centre stage again, and the classroom rather than the podium, rightly, is where the action is.