Appreciation of The Beautiful

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

This was the sole school aim for a long time.  When the current five aims were framed early in my time, I was adamant that this nugget would find its place in the current aims, as it does in Aim 3, (To foster individuality and encourage initiative, creativity and the appreciation of the beautiful).

This awareness informs each assembly, which begins with music; it certainly informed my assembly on Wednesday, as I begin with Raphael’s Madonna della Seddia and ends with Helen Dunmore’s poem to her newly born daughter, Tess, (All The Things You Are Not Yet).  It informs daily decisions, whether those be about the curriculum, a flowerbed or the balance in an individual student’s life.  And this impulse is animating the lives of Old Bedalian scientists, writers, engineers, inventors, musicians, designers, dancers and actors daily.

But what about utility, I hear you (sensibly of course) say?  How handy (crafty too perhaps) to have our Arts & Crafts heritage, because Morris & Co reverenced what was beautiful and useful; therefore it’s unsurprising that furniture and architecture should be at the heart of the Arts & Crafts movement, with the hand crafting of wood at the centre of both its furniture and its architecture.

Good therefore to learn this week that the suite of furniture at the office for the Secretary of State for Education was designed and made at the Edward Barnsley Workshop in 1960.  I am delighted to hear this from our local MP and now Education Secretary, Damian Hinds.  Edward Barnsley, apprenticed to Lupton after leaving Bedales, made some of the Library furniture.  Edward, carrying on the proud Barnsley tradition of his father Sidney who built the Library to Gimson’s design, carried on working into the 1980s and would no doubt have had a personal hand in this important government commission.  You will recognise the distinctive design of his most famous chair, below.

Edward Barnsley chair - BedalesLeft: chair designed by Edward Barnsley in memory of Basil Gimson and used in the Bedales library. Bedales School: The First Hundred Years, by Roy Wake and Pennie Denton (1993) p.306

 

 

 

 

 

Below: the suite of furniture designed by the Barnsley Workshop and used by the Ministry for Education, reproduced by kind permission of the Edward Barnsley Workshop.

Barnsley Workshop

Trends in university applications

Usually when you triple the cost of something, fewer people want to buy it; not so with university places, it seems, as the figures for applications through UCAS are published. When the drop in the number of 18 year olds in the population is taken into account, the decline in applications from UK-based 18 year olds is minimal. Given the concerns about the new fees putting people off – the protests and the talk about the benefits of sidestepping university and going straight into work – this is surprising. However, if you remember that the product (university) is still in short supply, with demand continuing to outstrip supply, then it is perhaps less surprising. The trends within individual subject choices are predictable: medical-related courses show a less steep decline than creative arts and design (although this category remains the third most popular one). Unpicking the statistics further, the most unexpected feature is that the cost has had the least effect on the rate of applications from the poorest students. Interesting to look further at the increases and decreases of specific universities. For example, Glasgow‘s charm offensive south of the border may be paying dividends – up 11% and one of the very few to buck the trend. Final thought is an imponderable: what will happen when next year some of the stronger universities start taking the government up on its offer of expanding in order to accommodate AAB candidates? Add in the cuts that universities are currently making to some departments, especially in the Arts, and you have a complex, mobile situation.

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.