Teaching: place and people

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Teaching’s especially on my mind as the term’s start coincides with summer warmth.  Sunday’s assembly for freshly returned boarders allows me to talk about the way this place can spur us to engage both with each other and to think differently.  My seasonal higher education talk mid week is about how inquisitiveness – fostered here and then furthered in higher education – is the motor for lifelong learning: being interested in stuff makes you more interesting, both to yourself and to others.  Take advantage of these amazing opportunities – Roger Penrose ‘n all.

Teaching is important to headship – for your own wellbeing as well as showing others that you are as much a teacher yourself as someone gesturing in the distance in order to get others to do things and (you trust) make the right things happen.  So by Thursday lunchtime, I have met two new classes (a Block 3 and a Block 1) and taught some Chaucer (suitably enough “When April with his shoures soote…) and some Larkin  (Cut Grass).

I have also done some learning as finally I manage to coincide with sausage-making, seeing the outdoor work team and a Block 5 student in action in the Bakehouse.   Here is the pork (double minced), the rusk (gluten-free) and the seasoning – all nicely mixed in water and ready to be fed into the proverbial sausage machine – delicate job this bit and best not described too intricately so I will move on.

Last thing and I am watching Living with the Brainy Bunch (BBC), which, although billed as an interesting account of the effect of parental influence on students’ progress, is as much about the power of patient, encouraging, determined teaching.  Jack is something of a detention king (105 last year, he says with a smile) and Holly goes walkabout in her lessons, more through fear of failure than anything else.  Both are moved from their low expectation homes to the homes of high-performing students with whose parents have high expectations.  Academic achievement and self-esteem improve.  Jack’s smile and demeanour at the end say as much as his much improved Maths score.

But most on my mind is the telling conjunction of two extraordinary Bedales teachers, sadly now dead, who were Bedales teaching colossi and who inspired generations of students:  Ruth Whiting, who died last Friday and who taught History here from 1963 to 2000, returning after that to invigilate and do amazing work with the archives, in particular commemorating the OB dead of the First World War; and John Batstone,  Head of English from 1968-1993, who died in December but whose memorial service takes place tomorrow.   Testimony to the power of great teaching abounds in the way in which these two are remembered by their students.

Grit, talent, tuition, application = Success!

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Congratulations to  PPE student, Juliette Perry (Dunhurst and Bedales, 2008-15): she has been selected to row for Oxford University against Cambridge in the Women’s Boat Race on 24 March.  See here for the details of the crew and here for an article on the admirable diversity project that the two universities are championing.  An interesting footnote here is that, unlike (I surmise) most of the other women in these two eights, Juliette did not row here at Bedales: she has gone from a standing start to this amazing achievement with extraordinary speed, clearly with a good basis for natural athleticism, and has developed her craft as a rower so quickly and so well.

Trial Eights-19 Juliette Perry credit Simon Perry

Juliette Perry (seated 7). Photo credit: Simon Perry

Here is another example in a different discipline, coincidentally also at Somerville College, Oxford. Disproving the orthodox view that musicians must start when tiny, Josh Grubb (Bedales 2010-14)  started playing the clarinet aged 14 when he started at Bedales in Block 4.  Now in his third year  reading Biochemistry at Oxford, he has played with the University Orchestra, Wind Orchestra, Sinfonietta, Ripieno Players and Consortium Novum. During his time at Somerville, Josh also formed the Woodstock Quintet, which has performed clarinet quintet repertoire throughout Oxford.  Again, it was the magic formula above that enabled his success, with Keir Rowe as his clarinet inspirational teacher.

Aside from the main thing, which is the intrinsic merit in the activity itself (rowing or music), there’s the deep imprint (or deep learning you could say) that comes from that sense of teamwork which gives results from feeling part of something which is far greater than the sum of its parts.  Although I can lay no claim to having experienced this within an orchestra, I did some rowing at a lowly level: even if I and my brawny colleagues rarely experienced the out of body sense you have when an eight pulls exactly together and the boat shoots forward, I would vouch for it being one of the best feelings you can have.

 

 

Professional Guidance

So, we have a new department, I tell the Bedales students last Friday, and it is called Professional Guidance. Conveniently, if unflashily, situated in the bit of the Academic Village that looks out (enviously) on the Lupton Hall, it comprises Higher Education, University Liaison, Careers and Alumni matters. Through putting these overlapping functions under one roof under the leadership of our Higher Education Advisor, Vikki Alderson-Smart, we should help all the different elements work yet better together and be able to offer a range of new opportunities to students. There we have these people and functions: Sarah Oakley (overseeing Art College applications and also academic departments’ liaison with university departments in the UK and non-UK universities – apart from North American ones); Alison Mason (Careers and North American university liaison); and, new person on the block, Leana Seriau, our Alumni Officer. Leana will lead a significant expansion in our contact with Old Bedalians – in particular, she will be organising events when OBs in a particular career sector – let’s say, careers to do with Art and Design – can meet in a festive contact; such occasions and the contacts they provide will also be excellent opportunities for current sixth formers – or young OBs who are studying Design or Art at university – to meet people who are further down the career track.

Turning back to the name of this newly fledged department, it is both about guidance given professionally whilst at school and about guidance from outside school – from the professions that a student is interested in pursuing.

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. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Bedales sixth formers meet OBs from a decade ago..and more

Last Friday saw a gathering between our 6.2s and 11 OBs (Old Bedalians) who had left 10 years ago. Unusually, this is not a first-hand account as tradition has it that the head’s presence would make the OBs less candid, so I stay dutifully away, but always enjoy the accounts received. The 11 OBs talk about what they have done since leaving school – how university was for them and how working life has been – the routes they have taken to doing what they are now. The presentations are followed by plenty of time in the sixth form common room when students can quiz them individually. So, we had a Met police officer, a production assistant from the Harry Potter films, a political researcher and speechwriter-turned producer, a rock band member, a regional manager for Tesco, a financial outsourcer, a photographer, dancer and yoga teacher, accountant, digital designer for Mercedes Benz and a film maker working for Paul McCartney. Not only was there plenty of good down to earth advice but also inspiration, especially through that combination of passion and confidence that is so often the hallmark of the best Bedalian characters. To cap it all it emerged during the course of the evening that two – OBs that is –  had married each other this summer.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools