Standing up

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Chutzpah – one of our language’s most zesty borrowings  (Yiddish, 19th C)  – is a word you don’t often hear in educational circles, but it’s what springs to my mind on Thursday morning as I listen to Bella’s assembly at Dunhurst.  She stands in front of her teachers and fellow pupils and captures all our attention as she engages us with her subject – Malala Yousafzai and her book Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World.  Bella, a Block 1 (Year 7) student has launched a book club, based around this book; she tells us about Malala’s life, the Taliban’s attempted murder of her in 2012 and her subsequent survival and work, including speaking to the United Nations and meeting President Obama.  She commands the stage, managing to ask questions of the audience and still keep momentum and rapt attention.  She is loving it – and so are we: the book club will, I am sure, flourish.

A culture which expects young people to stand up in front of their peers and engage them, whether through enthusing them with their own interests like Bella did or through a debate, a musical, dramatic or even a feat of magic is helping generate chutzpah in its young people. It’s a scary and foreign business, standing up in front of large groups – but what a brilliant thing to have once you’ve overcome your nerves.  An integral part of the three day residential assessment (that our candidates for Block 3 entry sit) is a Merry Evening when each group of 10 has to prepare and perform a short piece, based on a chosen theme, in front of their peers and teachers.  It creates a colourful and enjoyable evening, but it also reflects the expectation that all our young people should be able to stand up and engage an audience, having developed their own style and their own reserves of this particular kind of chutzpah.

Hawks and handsaws

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

 

Badley Celebration Weekend focuses the mind on what our schools’ values are.  The past month’s series of events  introduce new students to the place and what it means, whether that is Dunhurst’s climb to the Poet’s Stone or its camp, Block 3 in Ullswater, the Whole School Effort,  Bedales’ own take on a harvest festival or Sunday’s community festival.  It is interesting to step back and reflect a little on how we interpret the Badleyan vision – how it is, let’s say, incarnated.

Thinking of the sweep of history first of all: here are five perspectives for starters:

  • 1900: John Badley brings his new school to Steep (from Lindfield near Hayward’s Heath). 69 boys and 7 girls.  First task is to finish the main school building.  Lots of hand work.
  • 1909: Old Bedalian Camp. See the illustrations above.  The list of campers gives you some indication of what the chat must have been like.  Gimson and Lupton, for example, to whom we owe so much of our architectural heritage.  Eckersley who, along with his brother, more or less invented sound engineering and was a founding father of the BBC.  Rupert Brooke wasn’t at the 1909 camp but was a great friend of his namesake, Justin Brooke, and sometimes joined the group.
  • 1922: John Badley’s Notes and Suggestions for Staff Joining Bedales: “Teaching is not telling but helping to find out.”
  • 1966: The first year group where a student could have joined Dunannie and gone all the way through to Bedales. It is this cohort (of 55), the class of ’66, who returned to school last weekend.  Many of them spent the better part of 10 years together – in school most weekends as well.  They are in remarkably good shape and full of alarmingly distinguished people.
  • 2016: Block 3s start out – their “50 year on” reunion will be 2071.

 Activities from the last few weeks mirror the Badleyan desire that his pupils should not be feeble or ignorant about the world that surrounded them – they should know a hawk from a handsaw – and know how to use the latter, as a good number found out last Saturday in clearing an area of scrub by the Roman road.

But I suspect that what acts in its own mysteriously cohesive way – across these times and will continue to exert its spell – is the emphasis on relationships.    So here is how The Chief put it in his 1922 leaflet mentioned above:  “Our whole system at Bedales is based on intimate individual knowledge and personal influence.  For the full value of co-education especially we must have in large measure the condition of family life.”

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Badley

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

This coming weekend helps us celebrate the vision of the school’s founder, John Badley or, to his pupils and colleagues, Mr Badley or the Chief.  Its activities range from the Whole School Effort at Bedales (when 500+ students and teachers will create potential pasture from raggedy scrub) to the Bedales Community Festival on Sunday when we work with three charities and offer a range of activities to the wider community.

Amongst all this we have (on Saturday afternoon) a reception for donors and (on Sunday) a reunion of Old Bedalians who left 50 years ago. For me the weekend really gets going when, on Friday evening, I don my tweed plus twos and a red tie and go to Dunhurst to do my annual Badley Jaw.

Each year there is something new to add to the life of this multi-faceted and visionary man:  last year I showed slides of the very fine watercolours he did when he visited Palmyra on his Middle East tour.  This year I am going to talk about his penchant for skiing – he took skiing trips of current and former students well into his 60s.

But amongst all his many writings, it is his advice to teachers which rings as true as anything.  Here are some to ponder:

We shall do more by encouragement and the stimulus of example.

Planning a scheme of work is to be done for at least a year ahead.

Our whole system at Bedales is based upon intimate individual knowledge and personal influence.

I know that the happiest work is done when there is felt to be freedom.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

A great sense of expectancy as the school gathers together for the first time

Bewitching early morning walks with frisky black dog – now through a populated school and in the most Keatsian of mellow fruitfulness. Starts of academic years are, in the best sense, far from mellow. Each student’s Bedales timetable is, for all the right reasons, complex and individual, with academic lessons, additional one to one lessons (music, Lamda etc), activities and sport all slotted in.  As ever, a great sense of expectancy as the school gathers together for the first time. Teachers are thoroughly geed up through a series of INSET sessions, most memorably, Barry Hymer on ways we can develop our students’ learning – inspiring stuff from a former teacher who understands the ebb and flow of the classroom. Always good to see how our teachers relish getting back in front of their classes after the long break – however refreshed and boosted they might be by thinking broadly about education, there is a different kind of light in their eyes once they are back doing what they love.


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.

Celebrate the difference

To Frensham Heights on Monday for the Celebrate the Difference conference that Andrew Fisher and I have been co-running for the past 5 years. This time the theme is different kinds of leadership. Distinguishing feature of CTD is that it is a joint student and staff day. Nick Vetch, who founded and chairs the Big Yellow Group, sets us going with a self-deprecatory account of his own mistakes and near misses, followed by a series of key qualities that make for good leadership – courage, integrity, strong communication and self-awareness; then it’s into workshops and, within them, 2s or 3s for small group discussion. At the plenary the focus shifts to ways in which our schools can provide opportunities for student leadership – and whether leadership can be taught. Intriguing for the 17 Bedales students there to see the way that the different values of the 5 different schools show themselves in the views of their students. Next year, it’s with us: a plan is hatched and some cunning wheezes (suggested to me by the students that I drive back) to avoid that sense that you have at so many conferences of too much talking and listening and not enough learning by doing.
 
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.

Vivid and distinctive impressions that only a Dunhurst Parents’ Day can provide

Saturday is enlivened by a series of vivid and distinctive impressions that only a Dunhurst Parents’ Day can provide. To Creative Studies first of all: joining the characterful Block 2 gargoyle projects with their fixed grimaces in stone-effect finish are such wonders as Groups 2’s Peruvian Mocheware Stirrup Pots, which have been a product of the pupils learning about the Moche people, as well as their coling and modelling techniques. Block 1’s perspective work has taken them into De Chirico’s world of surrealist perspective. It is absorbing stuff  which shows what can happen when intellect, hand and imagination work together.  Next stop is The Comedy of Errors in the marquee. Simon K-P has taken the plot and, well, Simon K-P-ed it, re-shaping it into a work that involves teams of loony scientists, melees of press, swirls of nightclub dancers, squads of law enforcers, motley crews of sailors and, perhaps most memorably, phalanxes of nuns. All this is on top of a band, whose songs have mainly been written by Dunhurst pupils. With all of Blocks 1 and 2 involved (124 pupils), it is a hugely impressive show and an extraordinary feat of logistics and creativity. Along with providing great entertainment to a packed audience, it is great testimony to the power of theatre to engage and enliven. I would be very surprised if any of that vast cast and band does not look back on the weeks leading up to the production and the shows themselves with a very warm feeling about theatre and, more broadly, what happens when you work hard together in a common cause.

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.

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.