Bedales hosts first Reading Day

Last Friday saw Bedales host its first Reading Day, with students and staff taking part in a range of reading related activities throughout the day, from nature poetry walking tours to exploring different ways to enjoy Shakespeare, listening to Stephen Fry read Harry Potter and independent reading on the Orchard.

Head of English David Anson – who along with Rick Cross (Deputy Head Academic), Al McConville (Director of Learning and Innovation), Emily Seeber (Head of Sciences) and Ian Douglas (Librarian) organised the day – explained that the idea for a ‘Reading Day’ stemmed from a collective, passionate belief in independent learning, as well as the view that reading is the very best way to learn. This is an idea that is backed up by research as well as some of the pedagogical foundations Bedales was set up with.

Activities were designed to give students – regardless of ability or levels of interest – the opportunity to get their teeth into areas of personal interest, with the day structured around independent reading and activities that encouraged or modelled ‘how to read’ – reading or understanding an object or the landscape, for example.

The day went well and there is talk of holding another in the future, possibly one in the winter term and then again in the summer. Thanks to everyone who was involved in the smooth running of the day.

Biology department marks Parents’ Day

By Mary Shotter, Biology technician

Following on from this year’s Eckersley Lecture on the History of the Periodic Table by Dr Peter Wothers, this year the theme of the Biology department’s Parents’ Day display was The Elements of Life, which looked at how individual chemical elements were used in the natural world.

In the lab there was the chance to make slides to view under the microscope and see the myriad of microscopic creatures found in pond water, test your grip strength (won, as always, by Sam Wilson in 6.2), check your lung volume and blood oxygen levels, and test your speed using a reaction timer.

Most popular of all, though, was a chance to see if you were ‘one in a million’ by trying out a series of genetic tests where people looked at a number of their own physical traits – for example, whether they could smell freesias, taste the bitter chemical found in sprouts or roll their tongue. Results ranged from being one in 31 to one in 2 million!

It was particularly nice to meet up with several Old Bedalians who came back to see us and who have gone on have very successful careers in the field of biology including Gary Skinner (OB 1992), who specialises in the use of DNA as a digital storage device and whose father, also Gary, was a previous Head of Biology and Science. We were also visited by the daughter of another former Head of Biology, Andrew Routh, who at 95 was keen to find out how the department had changed over the years.

It was a lovely day and a pleasure to welcome so many, old and new, to explore the world of Bedales Biology.

Match report: U14 Rounders Tournament, 2 July 2019

By Chloe Nicklin, Head of Netball

The Block 3s were ready and raring to go for their last fixture of the year. Due to the Wimbledon trip and an injury, Bedales were only able to compete with eight rather than the standard nine rounders players. However, this did not phase them at all. Kamaya Nelson-Clayton stepped in as the U14s’ coach and number one fan due to her injuries, helping Bedales with tactical decision from the side of the pitch.

Out of the five games they played, they won three, drew one and just lost to the hosts Ditcham Park by 1.5 rounders. The girls adapted well to only having eight players, seeing some fantastic fielding performances from all players. Bowling from Millie Harris was extremely consistent, pairing well with backstop Millie Kennedy, who kept calm under the pressure of also doubling up as fourth base. Nicole Simpson and Coco Witheridge worked well sharing the responsibility of second base and just off second fielder, getting many players out with their reliable catches. The deep fielders Lula Goldring, Katie Mansbridge and Mary Whitley performed extremely well with the sloped pitch, making some brilliant catches.

The U14 tournament was closely contested with three teams ending up on the same amount of points by the end of the tournament. In the final results, due to rounders difference, Bedales came a brilliant second place. It was a fantastic afternoon of rounders with Bedales performing to a high standard.

My Coach’s Player of the Tournament was Maya Cressman. Her batting performance was exceptional. Not only can she hit the ball with great power, she was able to find the gaps in the field, enabling her to secure a rounder almost every time she came to bat.

Tennis update: 24-29 June 2019

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By Graeme Coulter, Head of Tennis

A very busy week for tennis last week. U15 girls drew 3-3 with Portsmouth Grammar School (PGS), while the U15 boys won 8-1, also against PGS. U15 girls lost 4-2 in an excellent match against St Swithuns in the Hampshire semi-final. The match went down to the wire and unfortunately we fell just short in the tie break. Huge congratulations to Romilly White, Eliza Mcfarlane, Alisia Leach and Sasha Arney, who played some brilliant tennis throughout the year to get to the semi-finals.

Our annual school tennis finals (pictured) took place on Parents’ Day in the scorching heat. A massive congratulations to all those involved for persevering through the heat and producing some wonderful tennis.

Senior Boys Singles: Oscar Golblatt beat Lev Borisovets

Senior Girls Singles: Illy Verdon-Roe beat Romilly White

Junior Boys Singles: Paddy Arrowsmith beat Hari Walton

Junior Girls Singles: Romilly White beat Sasha Arney

Team Tennis Event: Oscar Goldblatt, Eliza Goodfellow, Tobias Bonham Carter, Lally Argengo Jones beat Lev Borisovets, Hannah Mazas, Harry Hornsby, Eliza Mcfarlane

Girls Doubles: Meadow Ridley and Lola Pilkington beat Romilly White and Eliza Mcfarlane

Boys Doubles: Final not played. Lev Borisovets and Hari Walton win by default

Mixed Doubles: Lev Borisovets and Romilly White beat Oscar Goldblatt and Thea Levine

Mentor-Mentee Doubles: Lev Borisovets and Paddy Arrowsmith beat Oscar Goldblatt and Harry Hornsby

‘Around the World in 80 Days’ review

By Maddie Jefferies, 6.1

Around the World in 80 Days was a high spirited and energetic performance. The set was beautifully crafted, linking in the theme of time through clocks and cogs printed on the stage and on the screens that hung over the traverse. This type of stage gave a more inclusive feel and allowed the actors to interact and engage with the audience at breakneck speed.

The music was vibrant and contemporary, drawing the audience into Phileas Fogg’s journey. Dev Mannion as Fogg led the piece with confidence and poise. The Passepartouts (Elio Mazas and Blu Schneider-Marsan), a French butler whose part had been split into two, bounced off each other as a comic duo, entertaining us at every turn. In addition, the unamused detectives Fox and Fix (Freddie Pape and Otto Hall) kept us all laughing as they tried in vain to capture Fogg.

These characters were complimented by a huge cast who changed role in virtually every scene, bringing great energy and commitment to each moment. The actors moved seamlessly on stage, taking the audience with them on a journey around the world – from the busy streets of Italy to entrancing scenes in Hong Kong, before encountering the crazy circus of San Francisco. In addition, the fast paced narrative was interspersed with moments of uplifting dances. The choreography was outstanding, beautiful and moving, especially the romantic dance on board the Mongolia.

This was a high quality, feel good show – just what we all needed at the end of a busy term!

See and buy photos from Around the World in 80 Days here.

Encouraging lifelong interest in sport

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By Spencer Leach, Director of Sport

In 2017 a survey by Women in Sport found that only 56% of girls in secondary school enjoyed participating in sport compared with 71% of boys, and only 45% of girls saw the relevance of PE to their lives against 60% of boys. The gender split is worrying, but in truth none of these figures are good enough – at Bedales, we want all students to leave the school having enjoyed sport in some way, and minded to continue some kind of participation in their adult lives. Something I think we’ve done particularly well at Bedales is to help students who have arrived feeling that sport isn’t for them to find something they enjoy. No matter the student, they will always get a warm reception from us, and we will try to find something for them that is suited to their abilities and preferences – for various reasons.

For example, sport brings distinctive opportunities for students to learn about themselves and others, and to develop confidence – although this needs careful management. In a classroom you can make three errors in, say, maths, and it is not immediately obvious. However, if you commit three howlers in the context of a team sport, everybody sees them and it may prompt disappointment and frustration. This requires staff to be alert to the dangers when mistakes happen, and to help students deal with them in an appropriate way. This requires some emotional maturity. It is interesting that some of our best athletes can find this difficult. In such cases, the coaches will be aware of it, and we are prepared for when students’ thought patterns are less than constructive. We encourage them to see that they are still in the game, that they haven’t blown it, and even if they don’t prevail on that occasion the world won’t end.

Of course, in all of this there is sometimes a tension to be managed between competing and ensuring everybody is involved, which is particularly evident in team fixtures against other schools. There may be the temptation to pursue a win at all costs, but I’m pleased to say over the last 10 to 15 years a more sensible approach has come to prevail, not least because national governing bodies have played a big part in making the experience of young people more central. So, in setting up a fixture I will have a conversation with my opposite number about our relative strengths and what we can do to make the encounter meaningful. Will the students enjoy it? Will they be inspired to practise and get better? The results will take care of themselves – in a well-planned season we’ll win some and lose some, and have some thrillers along the way. We enjoy success, and try to learn from things that didn’t go quite so well. And if we win 10-0 there will be some reflection on how we can make the next encounter between the teams a more challenging affair for the sake of both teams.

Although we are keen to find something enjoyable for all of our students, I like to think that we can also give our excellent athletes what they need from us. We work hard to find ways of challenging them that are meaningful and which they will appreciate. If we think they can cope, we find them opportunities with older year groups, and if we feel students might benefit from moving up to another representative level, we can make that happen. Our links with local clubs and regional representative structures are very strong.

We are not a big school and it is unlikely that we will have sustained national sporting success, but if we’ve got lots of children who have a positive attitude to being physically active, and will keep that attitude in their adult lives, then we do the subject justice – just so long as we make sure that we also stretch those students who really do have the appetite and aptitude for great things.

Visiting Thomas Hardy’s Wessex

Last Saturday, a group of 6.2 English students visited Dorset to visit some of the key sites in Thomas Hardy’s life, to complement their study of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and some of his poetry. Here are two perspectives from the trip.

By Magnus Bashaarat, Head of Bedales

Thomas Hardy didn’t move far in his life; the distance from his birthplace in Lower Bockhampton to Max Gate, the house he built for himself on the outskirts of Dorchester once he had found success, is less than two miles.

First up was Hardy’s birthplace, a small cottage that has remained largely unchanged from when Hardy lived there with his parents and siblings. We were led there by National Trust volunteer Wendy, who led us through the woodland above the cottage and read to us some of the poems Hardy wrote inspired by the landscape.

The most ambitious part of the trip followed with our group walking through steady Dorset drizzle, following the River Frome across which Angel Clare had carried Tess in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, to Stinsford Church, where Hardy’s heart is buried in the family tomb.

Further walking across boggy flood meadow took us to Max Gate, and a meeting with Andrew Leah, Vice President of the Thomas Hardy Society, who lived at Max Gate for 17 years before the National Trust opened it as a visitor attraction.

Andrew gave us a tour of each room and described movingly the creeping melancholy that coloured most of Hardy’s married life at Max Gate, followed by the guilt that consumed him after his wife’s death. We sat in the study room in which Hardy wrote Tess, and then moved next door to the room he took over when he turned his back on writing prose and wrote only poetry until his death.

By Thea Sesti, 6.2

By walking from one of Hardy’s homes to the other, we explored the landscape and the place Hardy was so tied to and served as a backdrop for so many of his works.

We were at times accompanied by a National Trust guide who read out some of Hardy’s poetry in the Dorset woodland, which clearly evidenced the sensibility and attachment to nature he had from a young age and emerged so prominently in some of his later novels, like Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Having studied the text as part of A Level English, we were able to draw comparisons between the then appropriately damp and evocative scenery we came across walking and that in the book, making us understand all the more the area’s impact on Hardy’s life as an author.

We were thus able to retrace his life’s journey as he moved from his family cottage to Max Gate, the house he built for himself and moved into with the first of two wives, following the rise of his wealth and fame.