Thomas-y ramblings

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Out early this morning into the Ashford Hangers – daguerreotype shades initially as I climb up the muddy path, past black dog’s favourite pond (good dipping here) into the other green world where Edward Thomas loved to tramp.  A half hour’s climb in the half light is a tonic: imagine never wanting to come back to your home – to a cup of jasmine tea, the prospect of whatever ingenious notices our students will surprise me and my colleagues with and a varied, engaging day.

Walk in the Hangers to feel a bit Thomas-y;  saunter from Winchester to St Cross to feel a bit Keatsian, especially in this season hoping  that Autumn’s defining poem (“season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” etc) really was composed on that walk.  Having been born in the most unpoetic part of Britain (Fylde Coast), it is a constant delight to find myself in one of the most poetic places.  As usual, I wonder why I don’t do this every day.

A couple of weeks ago I couldn’t stop myself thinking about Thomas as I pick up an apple crossing the Orchard on the way to talk to the recently arrived Block 3s about some of the dos and don’ts of Bedales life.  Picking up the apple, a half-remembered line from a Thomas poem, which I taught decades ago, comes back into my head: “I cannot bite the day to the core”.  The Block 3s, being a responsive lot, come up with all available symbolic associations for the apple when I bring it into my talk – Apple (of course), temptation and experience.  Re-reading the E.T poem in question (The Glory) I am taken by his description of time – what sort of life must you be living if you find time “dreary-swift”?

But it is with the experience bit in mind, and the hope that the weekend really will be bitten to the core, that we set out on Badley Weekend – a combination of whole school efforts on Saturday at each of the three schools and the big community fair on Sunday, the weekend aims to be an example of John Badley’s founding principle of ‘Head, Hand and Heart’ in action.   It is an ambitious idea and each year we sit back and think hard about what worked and what didn’t.

Some of us would love to do more work in the whole school effort – once you get your method for filling your wheelbarrow with sand and steering it along the path, you do want to keep going.  Seeing the finished path (the Roman Road) and admiring not only what we did this year but also the fruits of our labours from last year, it is satisfying.   The community fair passes off very well – a big, different kind of effort where the work falls more on the staff than the students, but a good deal of money is raised for our three charities – Mencap, the King’s Arms and our own bursary fund, the John Badley Foundation.  Here are some photos to give you a flavour.

Next week, the big HMC (Headmasters and Headmistresses) conference that I have put together takes place in Belfast.  There are already some by-products of that event which will benefit Bedales  – more from there as the three days evolve.

The Glory

The glory of the beauty of the morning, –
The cuckoo crying over the untouched dew;
The blackbird that has found it, and the dove
That tempts me on to something sweeter than love;
White clouds ranged even and fair as new-mown hay;
The heat, the stir, the sublime vacancy
Of sky and meadow and forest and my own heart: –
The glory invites me, yet it leaves me scorning
All I can ever do, all I can be,
Beside the lovely of motion, shape, and hue,
The happiness I fancy fit to dwell
In beauty’s presence. Shall I now this day
Begin to seek as far as heaven, as hell,
Wisdom or strength to match this beauty, start
And tread the pale dust pitted with small dark drops,
In hope to find whatever it is I seek,
Hearkening to short-lived happy-seeming things
That we know naught of, in the hazel copse?
Or must I be content with discontent
As larks and swallows are perhaps with wings?
And shall I ask at the day’s end once more
What beauty is, and what I can have meant
By happiness? And shall I let all go,
Glad, weary, or both? Or shall I perhaps know
That I was happy oft and oft before,
Awhile forgetting how I am fast pent,
How dreary-swift, with naught to travel to,
Is Time? I cannot bite the day to the core.

– Edward Thomas

Schooling without tears

Searching questions at Saturday’s open morning panel have the healthy effect of making all of us think about what makes up that vital, complex fabric that we blithely call atmosphere and ethos. How do we strive to have the best bits of a liberal education without the lax bits? How do we rely sufficiently on the motor that is inspiration whilst having things we can deploy if student motivation wanes?

Pondering these weighty matters and thinking about where the school might currently lie in its 122 year journey, I found myself reading an article from the front page of the Pall Mall Gazette (October 5, 1892). So, this is before the school started in its first location near Hayward’s Heath in 1893. The article is entitled:

SCHOOLING WITHOUT TEARS
A CHAT ABOUT “BEDALES”

It begins: “It’s pretty; but will it work?” and goes on to talk about how the headmaster of the new school, Abbotsholme, Dr Reddie is releasing his lieutenant, Mr J. H. Badley to start “yet another New school on his own account”.

The article then consists of an interview with John Badley in which he outlines some of the founding principles of the school. Alluding to the “narrowing influence” of early specialization, the “monopoly of Latin grammar and the all-pervading atmosphere of individual competition, with its machinery of marks and prizes and scholarships, subordinating the higher ideals of education to what will ‘pay’ and the interests of the majority to those of the few who are to swell the school honour lists.”

All interesting stuff, but above all it is the reference to what he calls “character – training, general culture, the humanizing side of life” that rings a strong chord, as does his vision that the evenings should be taken up with music, reading and the ‘humanities’. Liberal becomes a yet more loaded word by the day – humane has legs, perhaps. It has good provenance here.

The additional curiosity arising from this article is that it was probably written by Edmund Garrett, Badley’s brother in law (who went to the same windswept school as I did) and whose sister was a strong voice in the suffragette movement. It was probably this article that was read by Constance Wilde, Oscar’s wife, who wrote a letter in October the following year saying that she had persuaded her husband that they should send their eldest child, Cyril, to the new Bedales. Badley and Wilde would have been part of the same Cambridge circle.  Cyril Wilde, aged 9, arrived in Summer 1894 and spent just three terms at Bedales before scandal engulfed his family and he went to Radley under an assumed name.


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.

Anti-feebleness dictum

Bedales-Science-MagazineThe-B-Daily

With an assembly coming up tonight on student-led initiatives, I have been dwelling on this strand of life: thinking of examples is easy; thinking about what makes this impulse so strong within our culture is trickier but interesting. So, here are some thoughts.

The impulse to want to do things yourself, rather than watch someone, usually older, do things on your behalf, is a natural one. It may well be that an environment like ours here simply allows this natural impulse greater rein than is the case in many schools. Indeed, arguably in this respect we merely sit at the homespun sandals of our Arts & Crafts forebears: learn to do things yourselves, rather than relying on others (servants, often) to do things for you, was the Badleyan message. Paired with this powerful anti-feebleness dictum was the underpinning educational conviction that we all learn best through doing. It is no accident that these two threads are connected in our second school aim which extols the virtue of doing and making.

But there is something else which connects with what’s above but which may have its genesis more in the changes that occurred in the second half of the last century with the increased expectations of that young people had of personal happiness and self-fulfilment. It seems to me that this school, temperamentally receptive to the ideas that flooded school and university campuses in the ’60s, took on much of what those heady times brought with them: above all a strong belief that individual idealism, initiative and aspiration needed to be fostered and channelled.

These head winds rocked public schools in general – the If generation knew it. Questioning, choice and individuality were in; obedience, conformity and being peas-in-a-pod were out. For Bedales it was the time when the prefect system and the remnants of school uniform went – collective responsibility and mufti replaced them: there was a different expectation about the individual’s capacity to choose. Whilst many public schools looked to throttle back on as many of the changes as they could and some staunchly marched on, this strain was grafted into the Bedales soul and has – happily from my point of view – remained a potent force. Indeed, the reforms made to the curriculum – both with the BACs and the recent changes to the Block 3 curriculum – put individual student initiative at the heart of the curriculum. There is plenty of educational research which supports the idea that allowing students to have scope for individual choice over their work spurs on motivation. Instinctively we all know this.

So, whether it is a particular take that a student takes on his or her extended project, an idea to build an octagonal shed, that quirky plan for a new publication (The BDaily after all was once a glint in a student’s eye..) or a dream of running a conference, these are central to what we do and what we are.


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.

Opportunities for teachers to refresh themselves personally and professionally

Sabbatical terms for teachers give us excellent opportunities to refresh ourselves personally and professionally; for me, just over three years ago, my sabbatical summer term was split between China and the Middle East, with the latter involving an eight week stay in Cairo (doing an Arabic course) and subsequent travel in Egypt, Jordan and Syria – a precious and wonderful time that affected what I brought back to the job and which still informs my work. The additional, usually good, consequence of sabbaticals is that they bring new teachers into the community for a term. Such people, with their fresh viewpoint and need to find their feet quickly, have their own distinct contribution. Such has been the case this term with Physics teacher Ransi Jayatissa’s sabbatical replacement, Chris Schembri. Not only has Chris thrown himself into every aspect of the community beyond his teaching, whether that is giving classes in Arabic on Boys’ Flat or attending every possible school event, but he has also got to know students and staff very well. Monday evening’s Assembly by Chris was a fitting reminder of what he has has brought to our community. Giving us a perspective from his native Malta and comparing some of the qualities that he has found within the Bedales community to those of the Knights of Malta, Chris gave an inspiring talk on how Badley’s vision of a community based on affection and mutual respect between students and teachers, symbolised in hand-shaking, creates a climate which should inspire students to emulate Badley’s desire to effect change. Refreshing to hear someone talk so powerfully and unashamedly about virtues like nobility – a really touching, affirming and inspiring occasion.

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.

A weekend of re-affirmation and celebration of Badley’s values

A weekend of re-affirmation and celebration of Badley’s values kicks off for me with my Badley Jaw at Dunhurst. Tweed and a scythe are my main props: tweed breeches because they are the nearest thing I have to John Badley’s customary Norfolk breeks with their rural practicality; scythe because of the strong culture of hands-on agricultural engagement. Then it’s on to the Ed Hall (OB) production of Henry V – a pocket one but with palpable energy and ingenuity. For me as for most of the students the rest of the weekend is a varied mixture of hands on work – the re-surfacing of the section of the Hanger’s Way that goes from the school to Petersfield, outreach (in the warehouse of homeless charity Stonepillow for me) and workshops on everything from African Drumming through to Amnesty International. For many the culmination to Saturday night’s entertainment – Bourgeois and Maurice – was a difficult to beat highlight. Now, am in Belfast with HMC ranks massing. More on this on Wednesday.

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.

Helping the humanities in their hour of need

Three cheers for philanthropy and for visionary support for the humanities: the largest gift to humanities students in Oxford’s history – more than £26 million – was announced yesterday. The money, which has been given by Mica Ertegun, the widow of Ahmet Ertegun, who founded Atlantic Records and whose wealth grew with the success of musicians such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, will pay for 15 people a year to study literature, history, music, archaeology, art history, Asian and Middle Eastern studies. Cheering too to hear Mica saying that she is doing this because for her and her late husband the study of these areas has been “one of the great joys of life”. Relating it to the Badley‘s inheritance, intriguing to think that Bedales was founded on Victorian industrial wealth (for the Badleys it was coal, found under country retreat) and that new sources of wealth are helping the humanities in their hour of need.

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.