Block 3 Projects referendum – should we abolish the Royal Family?

Two Block 3 Projects classes are acting as the two opposing campaign groups in a school-wide referendum next Thursday, 24 March, on the question of whether the Royal Family should be abolished. Here, both sides of the campaign have set out their arguments as they each appeal to students and staff to vote in their favour.  

Yes, Revoke the Royals
By Lolo Gaio, Wulfie Smith Pink and Anthony Harvey, Block 3
We are campaigning to remove the Royal Family and revoke the Queen’s power as Head of State. We believe that the monarchy is not needed in our democracy, as it is exactly the opposite of democracy; you are born into power, which means achieving or gaining power is based on who you are or who you know or which family you were born into, rather than what you know and what you have done. Here are a few arguments for removing the Royal Family.

One of the main criticisms against the Royal Family is their cost. The Royal Family’s lifestyle is just too expensive to maintain. Staffing costs, catering, hospitality, executive management and any ceremonial functions cost £85.9m of taxpayer’s money. That could be spent on things like education, housing, policing and countless other things.

Monarchs can also be unfit to be heads of state. They shouldn’t be chosen by birth to have huge responsibilities over a country; it seems unfair for someone who could be an incredibly good leader to not have the chance to become a head of state, instead to be replaced by someone who was born into the job, who could be absolutely terrible at it.

Yet, despite the fact that the Queen is Head of State, she has no legal powers. Instead, most of her privileges are exercised by ministers acting on behalf of the Queen, who can act without parliamentary approval. The Prime Minister abuses the Crown’s entitlement, and Parliament has no jurisdiction to take away or limit these rights because they themselves are derived from the monarchy’s privilege!

A well-rehearsed argument from the monarchist’s side is that the Queen brings in tourists and promotes Britain abroad. If the Royal Family bring in tourists to visit the royal palaces, they wouldn’t be demolished if the Monarchy was abolished! And in Versailles, the palaces of the long-gone monarchy receive six million visitors per year, put against Buckingham Palace, which is only open for ten weeks during the summer. Neighbouring Paris in general also receives 35 million visitors per year, against 20 million for London. The argument just doesn’t make sense.

These are a few of the things that we believe should happen if we win the referendum, and a few reasons why keeping the monarchy is a bad idea. If you feel that you agree with any of these arguments, you should vote to revoke the royals in the referendum on 24 March.

No, Save the Queen
By Ella Foster-Hill, Miles Farmer and Owen Griffiths, Block 3
In our campaign, we are arguing for the Royal Family to stay, and in this article, we will put across our points as to why we believe this is so important.

The first and probably most crucial argument is simply the huge amount of tourism from overseas that the Royal Family bring to the UK each year. In a report from The Guardian, it was reported that they bring in over £500m every year from overseas tourism alone. Not to mention the fact that they add an overall £1.2bn to the British economy every year!

Another great thing that the Royal Family bring is their charity work. Without them, some huge charities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award and The Princes Trust wouldn’t exist at all. Two charities which both help so many young people all over the country today.

To take a look at the Queen specifically, she is such an important figure in this country. She is Head of the Commonwealth which makes such great strides towards global peace. In the UK, she provides a neutral status amongst politics in the largely divided government of today. She is the only person who can call a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss and even overrule decisions made by the government. She also provides hope and clarity to so many in all the small things she does – from her annual Christmas speech, to her messages of reassurance during the pandemic. And she is even on our currency! Getting rid of the Queen would be stripping us of a historic and greatly important figurehead of this country.

The Royal Family give us a sense of tradition but have also adapted to modern day society. We have no reason to dislike them or want them abolished. Support and enjoy the Royal Family because whether you think it or not, they do an awful lot for this country and the world around us.

Return of the Three Schools’ Concert

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

One of the most difficult music events to organise during the pandemic was the Three Schools’ Concert. However, we managed to find time for musicians and singers from all three schools to meet and work together this week and the result was a very enjoyable concert with some wonderful music and a great feeling of community spirit.

Ben Harlan was inspirational in leading the orchestra in music by Purcell and Dvorak and this included many players form Dunhurst and Bedales. Dunhurst music scholars Tommy Hornsby and Eliot Santos (both Block 2) gave stunning solo performances on the cello and violin, demonstrating the musical ambition inherent in the artistic ethos at Bedales, and Bedales music scholar Leela Walton (6.1) gave a very mature and emotional rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Canzonettafrom his Violin Concerto. It was particularly wonderful to hear from Leela as she is one of our many musicians who joined in Dunannie and now lead the music in the senior school.

Music from our contemporary musicians demonstrated the variety of musical interests that we nurture at Bedales and Dunannie brought the house down with their song Baby Beluga which told the story of a little white whale. Singers form all schools then joined to sing Stand By Me by Ben E King with a solo from Joel Edgeworth and the concert ended with some rousing singing by everyone of the four gospel favourites.  

We thought it was important for the Bedalians to inspire the younger musicians but it was clear on this occasion that that influence worked from the bottom up and the talents and enthusiasms of the Dunhurst and Dunannie pupils had a miraculous and enervating effect on our older musicians. We look forward to more three schools events in the near future as they are a wonderful way of celebrating what the Bedales community has to offer.

Reflections on conflict

By Will Goldsmith, Head of Bedales

n Monday we held our first face-to-face Jaw since September and my first since becoming permanent Head. It was a very special moment for us as it marked, hopefully, a shift away from many of the restrictions we’ve had to put up with. It’s two years now since the pandemic started and, while it’s not over yet, we’re definitely moving into a different phase. I spoke to students about two things – why Jaws are so important here at Bedales and about how we as a community respond to conflict – which I will share with you here.
 
Jaw at Bedales is the equivalent to ‘chapel’ that happens in schools with a religious foundation. Our school was founded deliberately without one, not because the founders were not religious themselves (Badley was a very committed Christian) but because they did not believe anyone should be forced to attend a specific religious ceremony at school. However, that does not make us an amoral school – far from it. One of our founding principles, ‘Work of Each for Weal of All’, is not dissimilar to the Christian commandment: “thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself”. It reminds us that, in living as a community of learners, our collective endeavours should contribute to more than just our own individual advancement.
 
In talking of community, of being together, Jaw is a time when we regularly come together to reflect on specific ideas, moral dilemmas or powerful issues that impact on our lives. It is an important moment for us to reflect more carefully than we sometimes do, to find perhaps a stillness that we normally struggle to achieve. Doing so together is a sign of our solidarity with each other, the support we give to one another in response to some joyful experiences as human beings, as well as more challenging ones. We then finish with the famous handshake (or bow, namaste or fist bump), where we take a moment to properly acknowledge each other’s existence. To connect in a way that says we exist, we recognise each other as fellow travellers on the journey of life. All of these things hold us together and, as we’ve not been able to do this for the past two years, it has placed strains on our community. So now we can do it again, I am feeling very hopeful that we will all benefit from this.
 
This brings me on to my second topic which is, perhaps, the opposite of community – conflict. I’m sure all of you will be aware of the current conflict in Ukraine. I don’t want to dwell too much on what is a disturbing and fast-moving situation. I know that there are people in our community directly affected by this and it is upsetting to see horrific images of war in Europe once more.
 
Instead, I’d like to remind you more broadly of the way Bedales has responded to times of war in the past, but also what our approach to conflict on any level should be. 
 
Conflict is as much part of being human as community, so the idea that we can live our lives while avoiding any friction with those around us is naïve. A finite amount of resources, different levels of comfort and security, and comparisons we make between us will inevitably lead to times when we disagree, when we feel angry towards each other and when that might even spill over into a fight. War is the ultimate dividing force we humans have – where one group of people decide another is ‘the enemy’ and that we want to kill them or at least control them by force. As an act, it is one of the most horrific things we can do but should be avoided at all costs. You may have seen the hundreds of thousands of people across the world protesting against the war this weekend, you may even have been amongst them. 
 
Bedales has a strong tradition of being horrified by war, building a library as war memorial, choosing not to have a Combined Cadet Force like other schools and emphasising in both of the World Wars from the last century, our bonds with people on the other side, knowing that students of the school ended up fighting against each other because of accidents of birth and geography. In doing so, we make a strong statement about war and conflict, and it is one the endures today.
 
Whatever the outcome of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I’d like you to remember that we should always do everything in our power to resolve conflict wherever we find it, whether as national leaders or private individuals. You may not be making decisions about what this or other countries do in the face of conflict but at least some of you may well end up in that position later in life and the lessons you learn here, the habits you develop and the actions you take will shape who you are when you go out into the world. 
 
So I have two messages to finish with – firstly, remember conflict is inevitable for human beings. There will always be times in any community (including this one) where we won’t get on, where we might want to hurt someone or show our anger. Knowing and accepting that we have that capacity within us is an important lesson in life. Secondly, however, you should also know that there are ways to deal with that anger, that pain, that aggression which don’t lead to escalation that leads to war or fighting. While many leaders past and present have clearly not learned this or valued it, you should know that learning is at the core of peace – learning about each other so that we can empathise with how people feel; learning about history so that we can see what mistakes have been made in the past and how people have reacted in similar situations; learning about ourselves so that we can spot the signs of anger or even violence early enough to walk away; learning how to listen to others rather than just to say what we think.
 
So, as we start this second half of term, remember that in investing energy into your education, in and out of the classroom, you are hopefully on the path to making this world a more peaceful place. As you file past your teachers on your way out, see the handshake (literally or symbolically) as a sign of peace.

On the slopes in Soelden, Austria

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

On the first Saturday of half term there was a truly awesome sight to behold at the North Terminal of Gatwick Airport: 37 Bedales families ready and waiting for the first Bedales ski trip for several years and the first major school trip since the start of the pandemic.

Staff, parents and Claire De Menezes from the Health Centre had worked incredibly hard to ensure all COVID requirements were met, which included 34 PCR tests, 37 slightly different COVID vaccination status reports to be checked and numerous letters from doctors proving recovery. It took a little longer than usual to get through the airport but we all relaxed a little more as we got through every checkpoint and finally arrived at our destination in Soelden, Austria.

The final COVID hurdle was surmounted when our COVID passes were used to activate the ski pass! Once on the slopes, we enjoyed a week of amazing snow and some very fine weather. The instructors were impressed with the level of skiing in the Bedales group and great progress was made throughout the week. Our guides from Snowtraxx stayed with us in the hotel and students got to know them very well, which helped with lessons and building confidence. The students were clearly quite taken with the awesome surroundings and the thrill of skiing with their friends. It almost felt like getting back to normal life and we look forward to more school trips and adventures! Watch this space for information on forthcoming ski trips which are generally advertised 10 months in advance.

My personal thanks must go to Ruth Austen, Ana Simmons, Clive Burch and Shaun Ritchie who accompanied the students and also to the parents who supported the trip and went the extra mile to ensure everyone was COVID compliant. Personally, I had a blast and was super impressed with the skiing from all groups.

Supporting refugees – we need your help

By Rob Reynolds, Director of External Relations

With many Ukrainian people fleeing the horror and danger caused by the Russian military invasion of their country this week, the Bedales community is coming together to offer practical help to them and other displaced people in two key ways – and we need your support with these:

  • A collection of essential items to deliver to Ukrainians arriving in Poland
  • A day dedicated to supporting refugees next Tuesday in partnership with the Rural Refugee Network

Collection of essential items

We are contributing to a collection being delivered to Ożarów, Poland near the Ukraine border. The following items are particularly needed:

  • Adult clothing, toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, sanitary wear, toilet rolls)
  • Children’s clothing, pants, socks, nappies, toys, baby wipes, talcum powder, dummies 
  • Blankets, towels, sleeping bags, roll mats 
  • First aid supplies such as paracetamol, plasters, bandages

Please drop off donated items to school receptions as soon as possible. Our first collection of goods will be this Sunday, which will enable delivery in the region 24 hours later. We will then arrange further regular collections as necessary. 

Bedales has links with the Ożarów community through our own staff. You can read more about how they are supporting refugees here.

A day of support for refugees – Tuesday 8 March

Bedales holds regular community days when members of the school community work together to make a tangible difference to other people’s lives. It is timely that next Tuesday’s Powell Day is dedicated to the Rural Refugee Network (RRN). The RRN has supported refugees arriving in the UK from Syria, Sudan and Afghanistan, and it is currently calling for the government to offer a safe haven to people from Ukraine, whom they are poised to support. 

Our Powell day comprises:

  • Talk from Gulwali Passarlay about his year long journey from Afghanistan to the UK  
  • Syria to Steep walk in a day – students will walk a 12 km circuit in Queen Elizabeth Country Park with their tutor. Collectively we will cover the 4,000 km distance from Idlib to Steep – there’s still time to support the campaign by donating here.
  • Art Sale – A fundraising sale of artwork from established and emerging artists in the Quad from 6-9 pm. Please come along and buy on the night. Book your free ticket here.

Thank you for your support.

Walking from Syria to Steep to support refugees

By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Perspectives, Geography and Politics

On Tuesday 8 March, the Bedales community will be off timetable for our termly community day – this term being Powell Day. It feels particularly important that we spend this day as a community after the tribulations of recent years – coming together to raise awareness and vital funds for those that continue to need support.

We are very excited to give you more information about our collective initiative to walk, as a school, the distance from Northern Syria to Steep in a single day (roughly 4500km). In tutor and year groups, Bedales students and staff will be walking a 10km route around Queen Elizabeth Country Park to raise sponsorship for the Rural Refugee Network, our charity partner. We are encouraging all tutor groups to raise at least £250 in sponsorship but encouraging some healthy competition by awarding prizes to both the tutor group and year group that raise the most in sponsorship!

Students will be able to give family and friends a URL allowing you to donate directly to their team via Give Penny, our chosen fundraising platform. We really hope you will be able to contribute to this worthwhile cause where both you and the students will be able to see exactly where these vital funds go. We would also be delighted if parents would like to participate on the walk itself.

I am also delighted that Gulwali Passarlay, a dear friend of the school who delivered the Global Awareness Lecture in 2017 will be joining us for the day to speak to the students and join us on the walk. Gulwali’s story is inspiring. It includes a 12-month odyssey across Europe to escape war-torn Afghanistan, arrival in the UK and graduation from one of the UK’s top universities. Gulwali Passarlay is a speaker, activist and former refugee who arrived in Britain in 2007, aged just 12, after being separated from his brother during his travels. His best-selling book, The Lightless Sky, is an account of his lone travels as a child including a 50-hour sea crossing in cramped quarters with more than 100 other refugees. At the time of the lecture, I said: “Gulwali’s resilience, determination and humour is a lesson to us all. He has faced unimaginable hardship and had his childhood taken away. Despite this, he bears no grudges, and has instead dedicated his life to raising awareness and improving the lives of millions of people around the world.” I think this message remains important as we look forward to 8 March – and I have certainly quoted the above when students have been a little reluctant about walking 10km!

Creative responses to philosophical ideas

By Josh Block, Head of Philosophy and Religious Studies

One of the key aspects of philosophy is the emphasis on having an open mind and being willing to engage with and sometimes embrace a wide range of new and perplexing ideas. As Aristotle put it: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

On this basis, the Block 5 Philosophy, Religi and Ethics (PRE) students are a highly educated lot indeed! This year so far they have encountered thinkers from Plato to Turing, the existence of no world to many worlds, and their reality not being real at all. To say nothing of the ever-topical question of whether AI is about to take over the human race! They have embraced all of this with enthusiasm and the well known Bedalian desire for more, and not necessarily simple, answers.

As part of their BAC assessment the students produced creative responses to a chosen aspect of the areas they had studied. They could choose their topic, media, focus and conclusions with complete freedom – or at least perceived freedom as there was inevitably a mark scheme which had to be followed! But all of this was met with passion and skill; the range of ideas was inspiring, and the means of execution nothing short of mind-blowing.

As nothing I type will actually do the work justice, I will allow as the phrase goes ‘an image to speak a thousand words’. Cast your eye over the images, and if you happen to be the parent or guardian of one of the students involved, please congratulate them and if they haven’t already, ask them to help you entertain new thoughts!

Bedales Library’s most read books of 2021

By Matilda McMorrow, Librarian

The ‘beating heart of the school’ – its library, if you ask those in the know, including the 2014 all-part parliamentary report of the same name. So when I read our final borrowing figures for 2021, I felt like the stats threw some light on what kept the school’s heart beating last year.

Our second most loaned book of 2021 was Ms Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson. From the thriving graphic novel section we created in the library in 2019, it’s the first in the Ms Marvel series. We have a growing community of graphic novel lovers at Bedales, which is no surprise – the medium is immediate, dynamic, and full of artistic experimentation, like most of our students on a good day. American-Pakistani heroine Kamala Khan (AKA Ms Marvel) has been lauded as an engaging and loveable protagonist, the series as a groundbreaking new take on the superhero genre. This book kicks you off with her origin story, and is witty, charming and thoughtful. As Kamala’s dad quotes from the Quran, “Whoever kills one person, it is as if he has killed all of mankind… And whoever saves one person, it is as if he has saved all of mankind.” We all needed some superpowers and a grounded friend in 2021, and Ms Marvel provided. Fingers crossed she’ll keep it up in 2022, as a TV version is being made for Disney+.

Now, number 1, the most loaned book. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a modern classic. If you didn’t know, it’s a novel about a 15-year-old boy who sees the world in an extraordinary way, and who falls under suspicion for killing his neighbour’s dog. It’s by turns funny, painful and revealing, and is also one of the most banned and challenged books on the American Library Association’s list. I’m sure some of these loans were following the smash-hit stage adaptation at the National Theatre, and some might after teacher recommendation, especially for Block 3’s ‘coming of age’ English topic. For lots of reasons, it’s a book we reached for in 2021. As the author Mark Haddon said, “It’s about flawed people dealing with conflict, like nearly all novels.” 

Of course, a library is more than the sum of its borrowed books. Some people spend months reading a library book without ever borrowing it, which will go unlogged. And then there’s our huge online library of resources I haven’t had space to talk about here. A library is also the curiosity quests, the conversations, the recommendations, burning questions, being steered in the right direction, all kinds of things we don’t have stats on. But we do have stats for what words and phrases were searched for most on the library catalogue, which give some clues. One of the most popular searches was ‘shelf help’, library code for books on mental health. No prizes for guessing that would be a big hitter. Yes, it can be concerning to think about all the students and staff who have been struggling with poor mental health. But I find it reassuring to know there’s somewhere they can be empowered to look for help on their own terms, and to find good quality resources, chosen, managed and navigable. This is what libraries are about. Power to the patrons!

Block 3 English students’ creativity and flair

By Lucy McIlwraith, Teacher of English

The English department office has recently been awash with truly stunning pieces of work from our Block 3 sets: hand-made, hand-sewn, whimsically decorated with string, ribbon and raffia, the poetry anthologies we asked the students to make over Christmas have been a real antidote to the winter greyness!

Some students chose to include their own poetry as well as analysis of poems they had studied over the term; others added paintings and sketches their work. We also had anthologies presented as meticulously detailed multi-media scrapbooks with layers of newsprint or card or recycled books. Each page in some of them showed a different layout, with fold-out sections or pockets in which a bonus poem nestled. One example even had fairy lights!

We’ve had such a variety of beautiful and imaginative work which shows truly exceptional sensitivity and creativity and we hope you enjoy see a few examples in the pictures below.

Girls’ First XI Hockey v Tormead

By Kevin Boniface, Head of Hockey

On Wednesday, the first XI hosted an incredibly talented and strong Tormead side. The Bedales side were soon on the back foot, conceding two goals in quick succession. However, this seemed to spur them in to life and they adapted to the pace of the game, competing for the ball better and recognising the value of work off the ball. As has been a constant this season, Mathilda Douglas was relentless in her work rate up front and never allowed the Tormead defence to fully settle, but despite this work-rate and the occasional break forward from Rosy Riley, the Bedales side were having to do most of the work in their own half.
 
The second half saw another step up in performance with Alisia Leach becoming increasingly influential, ably supported by the ever improving Sammy Smith and the creation of a few more ‘half-chances’. But with an abundance of talent in the Tormead side there was never a moment to rest and Captain Esther Stewart was exemplary at the back – tough tackling, timely interceptions and a number of good outlets. Despite this and a never ending determination from all the Bedales players it was Tormead who, deservedly, took home the victory. The first XI will go in to their final game of the season next week with a focus on retaining possession and finishing an already excellent season on a high.