Lucky ducks and big thinks

This headline, a Lancastrian exclamation, certainly doesn’t refer to actual ducks (who are incidentally happy with plenty of water to splash around in after mid-September downpours), neither does it refer to the nine piglets I saw sleeping cosily alongside their proud mum on my walk with my canine friends earlier this morning, nor does it refer to said two dogs, one of whom managed to steal a French loaf from my kitchen table last night and escape detection through subterfuge; but it refers to students who are encouraged to think for themselves and have the stimuli to do so. They are the lucky ducks.

At the start of the last two academic years we have had a potent symbol of this through the “Philosophy Of…” conference. The brainchild of Oscar B-W when he was in 6.1, it aims to explore the thinking that lies behind different human activities.
DSC_0017

This year’s conference, organised by Becky G and Patrick N gave us six speakers who ran across the spectrum: conversation/writing; religion, feminism/the media, journalism in war zones, campaigning for climate justice and literary biography.DSC_0013

Here is a sample of the big thinks we were encouraged to have, drawn from the three talks I attended: when we want to be kind do we want to do so because we have been brought up to be so or because we are intuiting kindness? Would you rather save Venice for posterity or save 3000 people who might die in an earthquake in another part of Italy? What makes for a really good conversation? (Olivia Fane). What pressure can we put on our governments to ensure that the climate change talks in Paris this December are successful? How can we de-carbonize our economies? (Farhana Yamin). What are the most dangerous countries on earth? Why do we know so little about the most dangerous (the Democratic Republic of Congo)? To what degree is our view of what is happening in the world dependent on whether journalists are able to report from that country? What drives the John Simpsons and (this speaker) Oggy Botchev to take the risks they take?

We will run this conference again next year – indeed next year’s student organisers have already stepped forward. Big thinks are good at any point, but especially before the more routine business of A Level courses start to predominate.

New head students

The baton (of the athletic not police kind) is handed on: the strong 14/15 team of Margaret R, Rob M, Roly B and Esme A hand on their seals of office (fig.) to the incoming team of Max H, Becky G, Bea J and Patrick N.

The new team have already got weaving (fig.) – discussing with their peers other positions of leadership and service that they can take up next year. Here they are helped through their predecessors’ good initiative with a system whereby individual students act as champions of individual areas of school life – mainly academic subjects; the emphasis being on helping younger students with their work in that subject; jocularly named the dons system this has been piloted by the departing head student team and will be rolled out fully for September.

Alongside this, there is a good appetite amongst 6.2s to be a Badley Senior – again, very much a mentoring role, with some pig care thrown in, and playing to that strong feature of Bedales life – friendships which occur across the age range.

So here is a picture of the new head student team:

Head students 2015-2016Left to right: Max, Patrick, Bea, Becky

New headboys and headgirls: ambassadors, advocates, do-ers and conduits

Headboys and headgirls (the head student team) perform a crucial role in the life of Bedales: along with being ambassadors, advocates, do-ers and conduits between students and staff, they need to be the senior students who represent the best of the Bedales ideal – so, people who live it –  Head, Hand and Heart. Yesterday, following a student advisory vote and much discussion amongst teachers, housestaff especially, the new team was selected. Congratulated initially by their predecessors (who have done a cracking job incidentally) they are then acclaimed by the school, who have played a large part in the selection of the team, at evening assembly as the team does its first “shush”. So, hats off to Oscar C (head boy), Cecily K (head girl), Katie S (deputy head girl) and Harley M (deputy head boy).

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.