Quoting the German General Moltke rather than John Badley in a ‘beginning of the new school year’ blog might seem unusual, but given the exhaustive planning that has gone into re-opening the Bedales schools this week, an acknowledgement of the importance of planning and strategy seems appropriate. ‘No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength’ is often represented in snappier form as ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’. Having stepped unbidden into the role of senior mask monitor I share Moltke’s view. Day 1 of this much anticipated and much heralded term demonstrated the clash between plans and reality. Badley’s ‘work of each for weal of all’ has been prominently presented at all our beginning of term gatherings to underline how individual actions and decisions can have community wide resonance and consequence. With studied patience I say to an unmasked student squeezing their way through a crowded door, ‘Where’s your mask?’. To which they reply, ‘I don’t have one. I thought the school were supplying them’. Or rather, ‘Work of you for weal of me.’ I reach for my handy stash of disposable medical face masks and hope it might last beyond the end of the lesson.
The essence of the Bedales School rules are enshrined on a board in the corridor around the Quad that all Bedalians shuffle past on their way into the dining room. Badley’s stricture that whatever causes ‘Needless exposure of oneself or others to danger or infection’ has suddenly received extra historic resonance. Those rules pre-date 1942 and the development of penicillin by 40 years. Infection in 1893 could mean death, and the 1918 Spanish ‘Flu pandemic would not have left the Bedales community unscathed. There isn’t any direct reference to Bedales’ students losing their lives due to Spanish ‘Flu, but the fear of the spread of infection, as all seasonal winter ‘flu epidemics can spread, would have been very profound. ‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ would have been as relevant and true then as it is now. So everyone in the Bedales School community: students, teaching staff and support staff across all three schools, some 1,300 souls all in all, have to safeguard and protect each other, from the immune to the vulnerable (who won’t necessarily know who they are).
Students, parents and teachers have had so much to endure since the end of March. The panicked decision to close schools and cancel exams, the A level results’ fiasco, and the uncertainty about when and how schools could re-open, were all caused by a dysfunctional government found wanting. At least now within our own school campus, re-imagined as a self-governed city state, we have the opportunity to return to that sacred exchange of teaching and learning that seeks to link ‘head, hand and heart.’
We recently took a virtual school trip to go and see Hussein Chalayan’s Gravity Fatigue at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Gravity Fatigue is a mixture of a dance and fashion show all in one, and this is what makes this show so unique.
As Chalayan is a fashion designer, not a choreographer himself, he worked with Damien Jalet to create the show. Chalayan wanted to show the connection between clothes and movement, and how they work together in space. He uses other ways as well as movement to portray the message to the audience; for example, he explores different floorwork and how the dancers engage with their costumes.
Throughout the show, the lighting stood out to me, as it was used to show a change of dancer or the emotion that Chalayan was trying to embody. Lighting was also used to highlight the direction that dancers moved in – for instance, when a circular spotlight lit up, the dancers turned in a circle as if in a trance, reflecting the shape of the lighting.
Lockdown will be one of those defining moments. We will all remember where we were and what we were doing. For me, it will be the transition from standing in front of a class of children in my lab, to sitting staring at a computer screen on my sofa – an alien world and one that I am not enjoying! However, it hasn’t all been bad. The stillness and quiet has let nature be heard and during lockdown both Mary Shotter, our Biology technician, and I have immersed ourselves in it.
Mary has taken a biodiversity study of the Bedales site, and I have been taking photos of the wildflowers during my daily walks in the vicinity of Bedales. From these walks, I have put together some wildflower quizzes that have been available on the B-More Teams channel. I have really learnt a lot doing this and seen flowers that I hadn’t noticed before. My husband and I have been lucky, living close to school and the Ashford Hangers. The unnerving quiet of a deserted A3, which we walked over daily in those early days, allowed the birds and the rustling of the trees to be heard and heightened our awareness of nature all around.
In the five weeks before half term, Block 3 students were engaged in a project for Biology, researching an ecosystem. They chose their own ecosystems, which ranged from rainforests to cold deserts, coral reefs to wetlands. They were asked to identify three habitats within their ecosystem, to look at the biotic and abiotic factors affecting each habitat, and then finally to look at the adaptations of three organisms within each habitat.
The project enabled students to be independent in their learning and to be creative. They learnt research skills and the need to reference the websites that they used. Those who looked at the marking criteria carefully performed really well. The projects were presented as PowerPoints, word documents, posters and even a website (which can be accessed here).
Thank you so much to all who joined in our #SyriatoSteep challenge in this final week before the half term break. We have been overwhelmed by the support and energy out there. All contributions helped us head closer to the target – we thought covering the 4,066 km distance from Idlib to Bedales in a week would be a big challenge, but with your help, we had it nailed on Wednesday. Today is our final day and we have already surpassed 6,000 kms.
At time of writing, £5,029 (including Gift Aid) has been raised for the Rural Refugee Network and John Badley Foundation, two charities helping transform the lives of people who face severe challenges, and many of whom are in extremely vulnerable situations. Thank you to those who have already generously supported. To mark our successful endeavour, we are suggesting a ‘victory lap’ and final push on the fundraising, so do please consider re-living your favourite run/walk/cycle, and send a photo to share with others (to email@example.com). And if you haven’t got round to donating, there is still time to do so here. Listen to brief videos about the two charities here: RRN; JBF.
By Ana Simmons, Senior Day Houseparent and Teacher of Ceramics
With another Badley Day on the horizon, thoughts have turned back to the last one and all that we achieved back in September. There’s something incredibly rewarding by the way in which everyone chips in together to improve and enhance areas of the school as well as the way in which the work done on the day lives on for years for others to enjoy.
In the Day House we were exceptionally proud of the facelift we gave to our ‘Batcave’ or quiet room. Under the close supervision of Chloe, the Art Technician, students from all years spent the day covering the walls with a mural inspired by shapes and lines found around the Bedales estate. It became a collective masterpiece and makes the once dingy space now a fresh and vibrant place for people to escape to.
By Clare Jarmy, Head of Able, Gifted & Talented, Oxbridge, Academic Scholars & PRE
The Utopia Project is the longest-established part of the Bedales Assessed Course in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (PRE) and, as PRE is one of the oldest BACs, it is therefore one of the best established BAC modules. These have been new, different times in which to think about society and utopia, and I am sure that these events will colour how we see the project in the future.
On Wednesday afternoon, Block 5 presented their Utopias to their teachers, and to each other, in an Expo in the Library. Every year, I am impressed with the sophistication of students’ work. The project, for most students, fosters independence in a wholly new way. The Utopia Project is effectively a blank sheet of paper for students to formulate a vision for a perfect world. It is structured for them, and they have to refer to five key texts, but their Utopias can end up being utterly different.
By Clare Jarmy, Head of Able, Gifted & Talented, Oxbridge, Academic Scholars & PRE
It’s a temptation once you’ve been here a while to harken back to the old days as if you were there. The reality is that the Bedales ‘fireside’ – a relaxed evening with music, snacks, games and chatting round a fire – has not been a staple part of the Bedales way of life for a long time, probably not since the times when staying in at the weekend was the norm for everyone. But the important thing about being aware of a school’s history and ethos is that you have a vocabulary, an established set of practices, on which to draw, especially in more challenging times.
So what could have been more appropriate on Thursday night than to spend the evening round the fire with the Bedalians who were still in school – many here to keep working on Art and Design – playing games, chatting, drinking hot chocolate, and listening to music? We had Monopoly, jigsaws, word games, and some very special Star Wars Lego that Clive Burch had saved for such an occasion!
Last Saturday was Bedales Pre-prep, Dunannie’s STEM themed Open Morning. Five of our Block 5 students – Rhiannon Griffith, Milo Whittle, Ben Bradberry, Mabel Watson and Athena Lucas – filled their lab coat pockets full of chocolates (the one and only time they will be allowed to put food in a lab coat!) and headed down to Dunannie to help the children with their science experiments.
There was an amazing range of experiments on offer, from making lava lamps using immiscible liquids and building circuits to power buzzers, to programming the Beebot robots to move and light up on command and looking at field line patterns using magnets. The students were tasked with judging each exhibit on presentation and also the scientific knowledge of the children manning the experiment. They also fielded questions from prospective parents about what studying at Bedales was like and the excellent opportunities on offer for students interested in pursuing science. I thought Milo was maybe a bit harsh giving one small six-year-old five out of ten for scientific knowledge – he did award a lot of chocolate though!
Thank you to everyone who came along to the Futures and Innovation Feedback Event. For those of you who were unable to attend, please find a copy of the presentation that was given here, and an overview of the meeting below.
The aim of the Futures and Innovation project is to test how we can better prepare students for the fast changing world post Bedales – in terms of the curriculum we teach and the soft skills that students learn. Bedales is a progressive school and is already way ahead of most others in terms of our approach to education, the skills we teach the students and the Bedales Assessed Courses we offer in place of GCSEs in many subjects. However, the speed of change in the workplace and beyond is such that no one can afford to be complacent and, over ten years since the introduction of Bedales Assessed Courses, we are keen to continue to test our educational offer and improve on it.
Last summer term we held a programme of events, a film, workshops and meetings with parents, Old Bedalians, staff, students, employers, entrepreneurs and thought-leaders in the world of education. We asked them what skills they were looking for in young people entering the workplace and where they felt education as a whole was trailing behind in terms of the skills, mind-set and approach that is needed to flourish in the workplace and in life in general.