Boarding at Bedales Prep

Boarding at Bedales Prep is something that is thoroughly enjoyed by the pupils. From Tuesday treat nights to weekend trips, there are always activities for boarders to enjoy.

To live together and learn from each other has always been a cherished part of our communal boarding life, and it enables pupils to feel fully immersed in the Dunhurst community.

This term, the nights have drawn in and there is a cosy and seasonal feel to the boarding house. As well as relaxing with their friends after a busy school day, boarders have enjoyed a range of activities, from dodgeball and table tennis tournaments, to trips to crazy golf and Flip out.

December also brought the start of advent and resident matron Alex has created plenty of festive fun for the boarders, including tree decorating and a Christmas activities advent which started with a game of ‘Pin the Antlers on the Reindeer’.

We offer flexible boarding options to accommodate the varying needs of our families, with full, half and flexi-boarding available. At weekends, boarders can choose to stay at Dunhurst or return home, with staff accompanying children on the train to London Waterloo or Clapham.

View the Spring term boarding programme here.

Wellbeing workshops for parents at Bedales Prep and Pre-prep

At Bedales Prep and Pre-prep, wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do to ensure we nurture and nourish our pupils so they thrive to be able to be the best version of themselves. We passionately believe that a child will successfully achieve self-actualisation when teachers, pupils and parents work in unison and are on the same team, the team of the child. Our children are not born with a manual, and even if they were, I’m sure it would have been ripped up and thrown out of the window at the first parenting hurdle!

This term, Dunhurst’s Head of Wellbeing Debs Baty has introduced parent workshops. They are a safe space for parents to come together, have a coffee and share thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way. They are a supportive space where parents can ask for advice or simply hear other parents who are in the same boat as them. Somehow, it’s quite reassuring to hear that you are not the only one having trouble with a particular area of parenting.

Debs has three teenagers of her own and has worked in boarding schools for the whole of her career, starting as a nursery teacher to three-year-olds and working in a sixth form boarding house. Debs doesn’t have all the answers, but she is passionate about supporting parents on the road to creating happy, healthy children ready for life in the 21st century.

‘Let’s talk about…’ is a series of workshops that covers important stages and common issues in parenting life, whether a first time parent or not. The course aims to give parents information and step-by-step tools to create a happy home life, to manage those every day hotspots, like morning routines and sibling squabbles, and to help their children thrive.

Some of the workshops from the Autumn term include:

Child Development – building an understanding of the developmental drives of childhood and how to use this knowledge to meet the social and emotional needs of your child.

Motivation – learn how to motivate your child in ways which encourage cooperation and, allows them to fulfil their potential and build resilience.

Communication with children – learn how communication can be used to build strong relationships, help children manage difficult feelings, increase cooperation and build a culture of mutual respect.

Boundaries – strategies to help you set effective boundaries, which help children feel safe, and solve recurring problematic behaviour.

Autumn term in Sport at Bedales Prep, Dunhurst

By Will Bray, Head of Sport

The Autumn term has been a busy one for pupils at Dunhurst. For some this kicked off in the summer, as following a tough selection process last year, they represented the Prep School Lions at the Gothia Youth World Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden. Once term started, we were straight into action as our Wednesday afternoon fixture schedule got underway. With so many pupils eager to represent the school this term, just under 150 fixtures have been played, averaging at 13 teams playing each week. In addition to football, hockey and netball fixtures, pupils have impressed in a number of swimming galas and cross-country events.

We are fortunate to have fantastic sports facilities at Bedales and it wasn’t long before we made the most of these with our annual schedule of host tournaments. These began with our U9 and U11 football festivals for local state schools, before the annual ISFA U11 regional qualifier, which sees the top two teams progress to the national finals at St George’s Park. In early October a whopping 24 teams took part in the U13 football tournaments played across the site. The final event hosted by the school was our annual U13 hockey tournament in which we were delighted to see our girls team come home with silver medals.

House sport has taken off over the last two years and we often find pupils eagerly checking the leader board in the PE department to see how their House is faring against the others. This year’s competition began with a number of hotly contested dodgeball tournaments in year groups, before we moved onto football, hockey and netball. The final House event of the term was the Badley Run. Pupils took on the course with energy and determination, knowing that as a whole school event, double points were on offer, which always significantly impacts the running total.

On a personal level, it has been great to see some of our pupils excelling in sport outside of school as well. A huge congratulations to Miles, Leo and Albie in Group 2 (Year 5) for being selected to represent Hampshire at district level in cricket. Congratulations also to Martha for being selected to play for Southampton Football Academy. Finally, a big well done to Evie, Annie, Marlowe and Annabel for their efforts on the hockey pitch this term which has lead to them being put forward for Hampshire’s Junior Development Centre.

Whilst many core sports have seen some real successes this term, it has also been wonderful to see so many pupils taking up the opportunity to progress their skills in some more specialist sports such as fencing and karate, offered as part of our activities programme. We eagerly await the start of roller hockey and cheerleading in the Spring term!

Supporting mental health and wellbeing at Bedales Prep, Dunhurst

At Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, pupils will mark Mental Health Awareness Week with a Pupil Voice Conference on the topic of this year’s theme – loneliness. Like Bedales Senior, where the School Council was one of the first in the country when it was established in 1916, Dunhurst has a long tradition of listening to pupils’ views. Today, empowering children to find their voice and put forward their views is just one of the school’s initiatives designed to support pupils’ wellbeing and mental health – but it is far from a tick-box exercise. At Dunhurst, the wellbeing of its pupils is at the heart of everything the school does.

It is especially noticeable at this time of year, when most prep school pupils around the country are preparing themselves to sit the Common Entrance exam. Head of Dunhurst Colin Baty considers Common Entrance “an antiquated way to select” and cites evidence around adolescent mental health as a reason to exercise caution when forcing prep school children to jump through such hoops in preparation for senior school. As such, Dunhurst pupils do not sit the Common Entrance exam – and instead use the time to head off on ‘Camps Week’, a whole school residential trip to different areas of the UK, where they take part in a plethora of outdoor activities, including mountain biking, moor walking, cycling, kayaking and horse riding. As Dunhurst’s Deputy Head (Pastoral) Graeme Thompson explains: “We give our pupils the space and time to grow. Each child experiences childhood at their own pace.”

Camps Week is an example of pupils’ access to green and blue spaces – such as parks, meadows, woods, rivers, lakes and sea – which, as studies show, have a positive, immediate and long-lasting effect on people’s health and wellbeing. At Dunhurst, however, pupils don’t need to leave the school grounds to access green spaces; the school, along with Bedales’ senior and pre-prep schools, is set in 120 acres of South Downs National Park, and pupils are encouraged to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Uniquely, the school’s Outdoor Work curriculum – a core subject which incorporates nature and conservation, horticulture, animal husbandry, bushcraft and country crafts – enables pupils to develop an awareness, appreciation and knowledge of the natural environment in line with Bedales’ founder John Badley’s original aims, whilst developing self-confidence, passion, empathy and teamwork.

As part of the curriculum, Dunhurst pupils are actively involved in the care of the Outdoor Work department’s chickens, ducks, guinea pigs and bees, and there are opportunities to feed and care for other livestock on the Bedales estate, including pigs, sheep, goats and ponies. But interaction with animals – which is proven to have a calming and de-stressing effect – isn’t limited to the school farm. As a dog friendly school, staff dogs – or the ‘pastoral pups’ as they are affectionately known – are a familiar fixture. From Colin’s Goldendoodle to the boarding house’s resident Black Labrador, the dogs are an integral part of school life and provide pupils with an array of cognitive, social, emotional, physical and environmental benefits.

Fundamental to Dunhurst’s approach to wellbeing is relationships, which is ingrained in Bedales’ distinctive ethos. The school’s founding motto, ‘Work of Each for Weal of All’, may be over 100 years old, but it hasn’t faded in relevance. “The school motto underpins everything we do,” says Head of Wellbeing Debbie Baty. “Every pupil has the right to enjoy a childhood at school, but this right comes with a responsibility to be a positive influence within the Dunhurst jigsaw.” The ethos offers opportunities for pupils to support fellow pupils – for instance, peer to peer listeners, known at Dunhurst as ‘RAKtivators’, promote ‘Random Acts of Kindness’.

In contrast with other schools, staff and pupils address each other by first names, and pupils shake the hands of all staff after assemblies and talks – features of a culture that values the individual and celebrates relationships with one another and the school. Such an approach allows for a closer collaborative relationship between teachers and pupils, and this collegiate approach is extended to parents through three-way communication between teachers, parents and pupils known as the ‘Dunhurst triangle’. Debbie has recently launched a ‘Let’s talk about…’ series for parents, which will focus on teenagers’ development as well as sharing the content of pupils’ Wellbeing lessons, which supports and teaches skills to enable children to increase their awareness of emotional health and wellbeing.

Whilst wellbeing is at the heart of everything Dunhurst does, it isn’t at the expense of academic success. In fact, Deputy Head (Academic) Andy Wiggins says: “It’s always been borne out, year after year, when we look at how Dunhurstians perform when they take their GCSEs and A Levels, and compare them with students who have been academically ‘hot housed’. Time and time again, Dunhurstians prove that they get comparative or better results – and they’ve had a much richer, holistic experience.”