Students reflect on presenting their EPQs

By Jo Mayhook-Walker, Head of EAL and Extended Projects Coordinator

Last week, 18 Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) projects were presented to an audience made up of students and staff. For me, it was an educational and invigorating experience, but how was it for the students? This week, five students who gave presentations share their thoughts.

Nina Jones, 6.1

Last week I presented my EPQ, titled A Thoroughbred’s life, how dangerous is it really? The process of presenting was much more rewarding and less stressful than I had initially thought; I felt that it was an important experience for me in order to build my public speaking skills and conclude my project. Prior to writing my dissertation, I put in a lot of time to research, ensuring that I was confident in the topic. This allowed me to answer the questions with ease. Within my presentation, I talked about my inspiration for my project, how I completed my research, the development, the content, and finally, an evaluation. The evaluation in particular helped me see the strengths and weaknesses of the process and the project itself and taught me valuable skills such as time management and sticking to a word count. I found that the feedback which I received after presenting was very beneficial, and I hope that I can transfer these skills into diverse areas of my academic and work life.  

Jamie Loudon, 6.1

For my EPQ I decided to record and write a song. When I started, I was completely new to the process so I had to learn how to do everything. The first thing I had to do was choose a music production software. I did this by looking at reviews of lots of really good music software packages. I ended up picking a software called Ableton and I then learned how to use it using YouTube tutorials. I took what I learned and used it to write a song. I really enjoyed writing a song as I found it rewarding when I had a finished the song to be able to say I made it myself. Hearing people’s opinions of it after was also really nice. I found the presenting experience really fun because I got to show everyone what I had done. I found it fascinating listening to everyone else’s projects as there was a huge variety of topics covered. I was especially interested in the projects related to music, learning about the path their project took in comparison to mine.

Ben Bradberry, 6.1

For my EPQ project, I chose to focus on Singapore and how it achieved its importance in the modern world. I was inspired to do this having lived there for six years and noticing the differences to the UK. I found it frightening to be one of the first to give my presentation, but instantly felt more reassured as I got into the flow of it. I found the other presentations to be extremely interesting to listen to, but also valuable as a learning experience for myself as I could see how other people went about the process in comparison to how I had done so. Overall, it was an extremely worthwhile experience and I strongly encourage anyone considering an EPQ to pursue it.

Gemini Wang, 6.2

In last Wednesday’s EPQ presentation, 6.1 and 6.2 students presented their projects to an audience. In my group, there was a wide range of subjects from horse racing to time traveling. I was the first one to present in our group and although I was quite nervous before the presentation, from the moment I started talking about my project, I felt no stress at all. Talking to people about my interests and research was really enjoyable. At the end of each presentation, there was a chance to ask questions and the audience took this chance very well. They asked me interesting questions which challenged me as the presenter. Overall this presentation was a great opportunity for us all to share our research and listen to other people’s passions. It was also the moment when months of hard work finally paid off and I could see and hear that I had achieved my goals with my project.

Ernie Allesch-Taylor, 6.2

The opportunity to present an EPQ to Bedales staff and students was such a nice event to be a part of. What could have been a nerve-racking experience turned out to be a very good opportunity to share our projects. Despite differing topics, this enabled people from both Sixth Form year groups with ranging interests to showcase their passions. I for one thoroughly enjoyed the inclusive and welcoming atmosphere that everyone in the audience contributed to. Being able to ask in depth questions to my peers and having questions being asked to me about my project was a great way to properly engage with each individual projects. As well as this, being given the opportunity to ask for feedback after the presentations had ended was also a great way to learn how we could improve whilst also receiving positive praise.

‘Engaging’ Sixth Form Extended Projects

By Gordon Dale, Head of Sixth Form

Once again Bedales Sixth Form students have impressed us with their Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) submissions. These project topics are selected by the students based on their passions and interests, with the final submission being either a 5000-word dissertation or an artefact.

On Wednesday, we were treated to a smorgasboard of material presented with enthusiasm, humour and impressive depth of knowledge. Topics included the production of movie and play scripts, and music, where the students wrote and recorded original scores. Architecture was represented, as was art and fashion. Equally impressive were submissions covering economics, sustainability, social issues, animal welfare, genetics, time travel, historical figures and artificial intelligence; all engaged, educated and entertained the audience.

The students who have presented their EPQ this year, and their project titles, are listed below:

  • Ruben Alexander – The Middle Eastern Museum of Problem Solving and Beauty
  • Ernie Allesch-Taylor – To make a short film
  • Emilia Bansdale-Ward – Female Roles in Celtic Britain, with Specific Reference to Cartimandua and Boudicca
  • Ben Bradberry – What are the major factors that lead to Singapore being a dominant force in the Asia-Pacific Region?
  • Hugo Burnett-Armstrong – How did the media affect the Rise and Fall of Pablo Escobar?
  • Iris Campbell-Lange – 1, 2 A Play
  • Zazie Cazac – How can the fashion industry become more sustainable? (Group project)
  • Eloise Cooper – What is the difference between a religion and a cult?
  • Oskar de Aragues – How and why does architecture incorporate nature?
  • Monty de la Guerra – The History of the Circus
  • Freya Hannan-Mills – Creation of a Screenplay and a Website
  • Alice Hockey – Time Travel
  • Nina Jones – A Racehorse’s Life: how dangerous is it really?
  • Jamie Loudon – Writing and recording a song
  • Holly Marsden – How can the fashion industry become more sustainable? (Group project)
  • Molly Montagu – To design and build a sustainable treehouse
  • Isabella Montero – To write and record an EP
  • Anne Novak – Genes and Genomics
  • Roo Trim – Writing and recording an EP
  • Maddy Upton – To what extent is Bedales doing all that it can to reduce the environmental impact of their food waste?
  • Grace Vernor-Miles – The effects and dangers of different drugs on the teenager
  • Gemini Wang – To what extent should AI have rights?

EPQ presentations go digital

By Jo Mayhook-Walker, Head of EAL and Extended Projects Coordinator

COVID has encouraged a huge reliance on technology both in school and in the wider world. Last Wednesday afternoon saw a small and select audience settle down in front of their computers to form the audience for two Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) presentations given over Teams by Isabella Montero and Eloise Cooper, both 6.2 students.

As the new Extended Projects Coordinator, I felt incredibly privileged to be part of the audience.  Previously, projects have been presented in the Library, giving students, staff and parents an opportunity to wander from stand to stand, dipping in and out of a smorgasbord of projects and being able to question each student about the inspiration behind their projects, the challenges they encountered and what they had learnt. The current situation, however, has meant that we have had to rethink. 

All the way from Barcelona, Isabella (pictured above in last year’s Rock Show) presented her project, her EP entitled A White Picket Dream. She gave us an insight into her musical inspirations and how her experience of living in different parts of the USA, as well as being an American living and being schooled outside the US, has coloured her musical journey. 

In contrast, Eloise, from her dorm in 6.2, presented her project: Is there a Difference between a Cult and a Religion? She explained why this was a topic that had appealed to her, presented the issue of bias when conducting her research and explored how her own personal relationship to religion had coloured her choice of topic and approach.

Both presentations were insightful, confidently given and complimentary to each other.  We, as the audience, were given a unique opportunity to focus entirely on each individual project with a chance to question the students at the end of their presentation.  Although a very different experience to the Expo of old, the use of this new technology allowed us a more concentrated and intimate glimpse into the story behind the project.

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.

Competitive sport makes a comeback at Bedales

Block 5 v Block 4 football

By Spencer Leach, Director of Sport

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.

New course update: Living with the Land

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

Living with the Land is our new Sixth Form course, which was written by Feline and me, and introduced to the curriculum this year. The course aims to equip students with the necessary practical skills to live lightly off the land, and enable them to look at the issues surrounding the environment and our impact upon it. It is a natural progression from our Outdoor Work Bedales Assessed Course (BAC), however it goes into far greater depth and includes significant self-directed work, including a portfolio and a ‘major’ project in the final year.

Living with the Land around us means having a greater awareness of our environment, living in rhythm with the seasons, trying to reduce our footprint and applying our new-found knowledge to other aspects of our lives and our community. This term we have been focusing on getting students to really think about their immediate surroundings. We have encouraged them to take a step back and take time to really consider the impact we are having on the natural environment. 

So far this term students have spent time looking at and observing our beautiful estate. This has meant a lot of walking and talking, as well as just sitting in a field, letting our senses tell us more about the land around us. We have been looking at permaculture and how its principles might be applied to ourselves, our community and beyond. We have built wattle and daub walls and started looking at natural building and how empowering and beautiful it is. Bread baking, foraging, making hedgerow preserves and site surveying are just some of the topics we have already touched upon over the past three weeks on this exciting and enriching course.

Innovation at Bedales

By Alistair McConville, Director of Learning and Innovation

Outdoor work at Bedales

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.  

Alistair McConville and Bedales students

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…  

New ‘Living with the Land’ course launching September 2020

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By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work, and Feline Charpentier, Teacher of Outdoor Work

From September 2020, students in 6.1 will be able to choose a new Outdoor Work (ODW) course as one of their sixth form options. ‘Living with the Land’ is a two-year course which will equip students with the practical skills to live lightly off the land, enabling them to look at the wider context for the issues surrounding the environment and our impact upon it. Living with the land around us means having a greater awareness of our environment, living with the seasons, trying to reduce our footprint and applying our new-found knowledge to other aspects of our lives and the community.

It is a natural progression from all aspects covered in the ODW BAC, however it goes into far greater depth and includes significant self-directed work, including a portfolio and a ‘major’ project in the final year. There is currently no clear pathway for a student wishing to take a more practical course at sixth form in environmental subjects. The closest comparable courses are Countryside Management, Food Skills, Sustainability or the planned Natural History GCSE. No courses combine traditional building, cooking and craft skills with aspects of ecology, sustainability and community.

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