A positive approach to transforming lives – inspiration from Head of Gladesmore School

By Rob Reynolds, Director of External Relations

Bedales was lucky enough to hear this week from Tony Hartney CBE, Headteacher of Gladesmore Community School, Tottenham, who gave a Civics talk in the Lupton Hall to students, staff, parents and local people.

Gladesmore serves a community with high levels of economic disadvantage. Families face numerous challenges in their daily lives and the children typically display low self-esteem and start school with reading levels well below their chronological age. The school is a ten-form entry, mixed secondary community school, with a rich diversity of cultures and languages.

Tony explained how his own up-bringing has shaped his career and educational approach. His mother died when he was 10 after he had been caring for her; because of this, he was denied the opportunity to apply for grammar school. Instead, he attended the secondary modern where he was frequently caned and denied any opportunities to better himself. This, he says, made him “cry inside, but I never showed it”.

Tony’s education proved to be a defining period for him, deciding that he wanted to offer disadvantaged children better experiences of education than his own. He not only wanted to teach, but he set out to be a headteacher where he thought he would be able to exert sufficient influence to change people’s lives.

He threw himself wholeheartedly at his chosen career, volunteering for everything and working his way up through the teaching ranks.

When Tony took over as Head of Gladesmore in 1999, the school struggled to keep staff, only 4% of students passed GCSE English and Maths, and in the first week his deputy was assaulted by students. Tony looked beyond this and the deprivation of the many sink estates to see wonderful people. He felt they just needed some hope and confidence to be successful. This attitude has informed his approach ever since – relentless positivity and striving to build a community spirit.
Fast forward 22 years and there has been a complete transformation in culture and much positive recognition: an outstanding school, a strong school community, many role models in the student and staff body, excellent relations with the Police, and strong external partnerships such as their selection as a football Premier League flagship school.

Tony talked of the benefit of offering his students opportunities to attend boarding schools for Sixth Form. He now places around 20 students per year in a range of independent schools, including Bedales. He is a strong advocate of this approach which he sees as successfully instilling confidence and belief in young people. He described Bedales as “a total life-changing opportunity.”

Having now established the scheme, Tony invites students back – a virtuous circle of role models, inspiring younger students to believe they can also be part of such a scheme.

Hearing about the challenges facing Gladesmore students, and the transformational impact provided by boarding school bursaries, has given us at Bedales additional impetus to expand Bedales’ provision. The John Badley Foundation (JBF) was established by the school 10 years ago to be more ambitious with bursaries, and provide life-enhancing opportunities for young people who would not be able to consider such an education without full support. To date it has funded 20 pupils who have joined Dunhurst or Bedales. With the support of members of the school community, the JBF has ambitions to grow to help more students, so that by 2024 there will be two fully funded pupils in every year group from Block 1 upwards.

We are very grateful to Tony for visiting Bedales and talking so passionately about social mobility and his work to ease education inequality. We are looking forward to strengthening our relationship with Gladesmore so that we can continue to learn from each other as institutions, and assist Tony in his mission to provide life-changing opportunities for the young people of Tottenham. 

Conference season

By Magnus Bashaarat, Head of Bedales

This year’s annual HMC Conference was held at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. The hotel was built on the site of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, a bloody milestone along the treacherous road towards universal suffrage. It’s a stone’s throw away from what was the legendary club The Hacienda, now a block of luxury flats (sic transit gloria). But its most compelling claim to shaping history as opposed to having history happen on its doorstep was that Mr Rolls and Mr Royce had their first ever meeting in the hotel and decided that they would go into partnership: the engineer and the money man realising that each had something the other didn’t.

The theme of this year’s conference has been ‘Together to Learn’ – a title which is meant to work in all sorts of clever ways, of course, as we have all come together to learn from each other, from the long list of eminent speakers that have given presentations, and of course it’s a statement about how all teachers and all schools, whether independent or maintained sector, can learn from each other.

The 2018 HMC buzzword bingo was not particularly challenging. ‘Bursary provision’, ‘public benefit’ and ‘partnerships’ were the ‘go to’ mentions and proliferated the discourse whenever the lights were dimmed. Because of the political discourse in another conference going on in Birmingham, a conference even more important than a bunch of Heads of schools coming together to talk school stuff, much of the energy and talk in Manchester was about anticipating political change that might adversely affect the independent sector. The Labour Party conference that took place last week in Liverpool was a more important conference to watch from our school perspective because we can pretty safely assume that a Labour government taking office after the next general election would introduce legislation that would present real existential challenges to many schools in the independent sector.

So whilst we wait for the current Conservative administration to lead the country out of Europe into a post-Brexit world of complete uncertainty, we also have to plan for what Mr Corbyn might do when he gets the keys to No. 10. At Bedales we can speak loudly and proudly about what we do in terms of public benefit, bursary provision and partnership forming. The timing of Patrick Derham’s visit to Bedales last week when he spoke at Jaw about his own journey as a recipient of a bursary could not have been better timed as an example of what Bedales does through its John Badley Foundation to make a Bedales education available to aspiring students whose families just don’t have the means to meet the fees. We also have a range of exemplar partnerships with our local schools, and in particular a successful partnership with Bohunt School in Liphook. And last week the Outdoor Work department welcomed a group of young people from a pupil referral unit in Gosport who came to share our facilities. And there is so much more.

Patrick’s mantra about the ‘transformative power of education’ still resonates in my mind, and I have heard that phrase again this week in Manchester. Once we are through the conference season; Conservative, Labour and HMC, then teaching and learning comes centre stage again, and the classroom rather than the podium, rightly, is where the action is.

Transformative Education

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Philosophy, Religion & Ethics

An education is a transformative thing, and a great education can lead to a great transformation. Every student at Bedales is fortunate to have so many opportunities. Being part of a school like this, someone has invested in that transformation. For many, parents make this investment. Sometimes, it is grandparents. I have even known students paying their own fees out of inherited money. Others, and I was one of them, get to come to a school like this with the support of others, through bursary programmes. I can speak as one who knows: bursaries transform lives.

Patrick Derham, OBE, the Headmaster of Westminster, and formerly Rugby, knows this better than most. We were so fortunate to have him speak at Jaw on Wednesday, and the impact his talk had on students was palpable. Having, like me, been to seven schools before the age of 12, he was an ‘Ari Boy’, educated aboard the permanently moored vessel Arethusa. One day, he was asked ‘Do you know what Public School is, Derham?’ ‘No, Sir’, he replied. The school aboard the Arethusa was disbanded overnight, and he was sent off to Pangbourne College, a beneficiary of a bursary from an anonymous donor. It changed his life, giving him opportunities beyond his wildest dreams.

He took advantage of every chance, getting to Pembroke College, Cambridge, and has spent his career determined to give back. He started the celebrated Arnold (bursary) Foundation at Rugby, and from that went on to found Springboard, a national charity linking young people to places at boarding schools. He is involved with numerous other projects, all concerned with providing excellent educational opportunities to young people in difficult circumstances.

I can see why he said this was what ‘gets him out of bed in the morning’. Last year, I was thrilled and deeply moved to be asked to be a trustee of our own John Badley Foundation. Through the work of the JBF, students with backgrounds more like mine, and those much less fortunate than I was, can get to come here, and just as happens with every child, experience the transformation that comes from a great education.

For more information about the John Badley Foundation, click here.