Digital divergence

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Get 15 heads in discussion about the use of mobile phones in their schools and you will get 15 views; get 467 Bedales students in a symposium and you will certainly have plenty of divergent views.

On Tuesday, at the meeting of our heads’ cluster group (the 86 Group) each head described the policy towards daytime use in each of their schools: the range is from prohibition to full acceptance.

On Wednesday, we had our first whole school symposium for a long time.  I started symposiums off here as a replacement to the whole school meetings which had taken place from time to time. The shortcomings of the whole school meetings was that there was no method to garnering the views of all and the voices of the most confident and vocal older students would be bound to predominate.  This symposium, led by Head Students Maisie, Ritchie, James and Scarlett, was preceded by an online questionnaire which engaged students in the issues and provided some very useful findings which were produced at the start of the plenary session and helped shape the debate that ensued.

The next stage will be for some of the key proposals to be discussed in School Council over the next few weeks.  What is clear is that there is sufficient  appetite for some change.  As with the best change here, it will occur because there has been informed discussion with the community’s welfare at its heart – in this case through the questionnaire, symposium and the resulting discussions.

The best kind of behavioural change happens when there is a consensus about what is reasonable, considerate and decent behaviour towards other members of the community.  At the heart of this must be the primacy of the living, breathing people that surround you in the flesh, not the distracting digital image or text.

The people speak

The tide of big ideas has continued to flow: the Scottish independence debate on the eve of the poll, the vote (Scotland’s and Bedales’), local MP Damian Hinds’  Friday evening Civics on Social Mobility (which stirred up a good amount of fervent chat and thought), followed by Head of Economics and Politics Ruth Tarrant‘s assembly on devolution  (the Bedales model as an illustration of the UK one) have all been grist to the ideas mill.

Friday morning’s result, its ramifications for the UK and the awareness amongst our sixth formers that their contemporaries in Scotland have become politically engaged like no other recent group of UK teenagers have certainly lent an urgency to discussions about consensus, nationality and government.  It will be intriguing to see how this is translated into a broader interest in politics and next year’s election.

At a more local level here, the 2014/15 School Council is elected and has met.  The BDaily’s new team is in place, so, with strong year group representatives and a trenchant independent-minded Press, all should be well.


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. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.