Mapping for the future

By Paul Turner, Head of Geography

Wednesday 15 November was World GIS Day, GIS is an acronym for Geographical Information Systems and along with Digital Mapping is increasingly seen as an integral skill for students in the modern world.

You might be amazed to know that 98% of the Ordnance Survey’s business is now digital mapping products rather than the traditional paper maps. The biggest player in this field is ESRI, a mapping company worth in excess of $1 billion. ESRI describes GIS as the ‘Science of Where’ and emphasises its importance in unlocking the potential of big data. As a school, teaching spatial thinking empowers students with the skills to understand and act upon the big issues facing planet Earth.

Steve Richardson ‘GIS Expert’ visited for a day last week to help run special workshops for geography students. This included activities mapping where the clothes on their back came from so that they could better understand globalisation and the global division of labour, and other students explored real time data of earthquakes and volcanoes. Some of the day was spent pouring over the department’s schemes of work to establish how we might best integrate these important digital skills into our everyday practice. Steve also worked one-to-one with 6.2 students assisting them to develop the mapping and data visualisation in their Independent Investigations worth 20% of their A Level. The Geography department has a strong commitment to building students’ digital and ICT skills.

What is Good?

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By Clare Jarmy Head of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics

On Wednesday, Bedales was very lucky to welcome Professor Simon Blackburn to speak on the subject ‘What is Good?’ in the newly renovated Lupton Hall. Mainly aimed at the Sixth Form, Bedales PRE A Level students were joined by around 70 students from Churcher’s College, Alton College and Queen Mary’s College.

Professor Blackburn, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University, started with a very contemporary dilemma. On the one hand, it is hard to say that ‘good’ or ‘evil’ are part of the world in the same way that dogs, chairs and pizzas are part of the world (as GE Moore would say, this is to make something non-natural into something natural –a naturalistic fallacy), yet, don’t we also want to say that there are things that are good, and things that are evil?

Many students are faced with the dilemma that perhaps in ethics, it is all just subjective: just a matter of taste. On the other hand, we also feel passionately about ethical issues. Students want to convince others about the morality of veganism, or the immorality of factory conditions in less developed economies. No problem, Blackburn says. We can meaningfully talk ethically, even if we are dubious about ethical ‘facts’. Look to the practice, he says: what would someone with practical wisdom, someone who is good at ‘acting well’, do?

After a great talk, there were some excellent questions, and some meaningful discussion. Professor Blackburn was extremely generous with his time, staying into the evening with a smaller meeting of the Philosophy Society. In this talk, he was trying to convince us to become ‘infidels’ – something beyond atheist – we should not care about the question of God’s existence. To read more about his views on religion, see here (site-wide access at Bedales; subscription required elsewhere).

Demystifying bursaries and scholarships

Bedales allocates 6% of fee income every year – in excess of £1million – to fund bursaries and scholarships. There are distinct differences between these awards: bursaries provide means-tested financial support towards school fees; scholarships recognise particular talents and potential and provide access to a research grant. Pupils can therefore be the beneficiary of a bursary or scholarship or both, depending on their particular circumstances.

PrintRichard Lushington, Bursar, manages the process of means-testing for bursary awards, the majority of which are for less than 75% of the annual fees. The school wants to do more to broaden access, increase diversity and offer full financial support, so has established the John Badley Foundation (JBF) as a separate charity, to provide 100% funded bursary places. The Foundation has a clear and ambitious strategy to offer two new full bursary places each year, continue to provide funding for our existing JBF beneficiaries at the school, and to put a little aside to build an endowment fund to underpin the long-term financial stability of the Foundation. The ultimate goal is to have two fully funded JBF students in each year from Dunhurst Block 1 to Bedales 6.2. With huge support from current and former parents and Old Bedalians, the Foundation is thrilled to report that three new full bursary beneficiaries took up their places this year. There are now seven JBF pupils in the school – which is the most in the Foundation’s history and half way towards our target of 14 places – ranging from Block 1 to Bedales Sixth Form. You will see a number of events and activities promoted throughout the year to support the JBF. Thank you for your continuing support, and if you would like to find out more about Bedales fundraising, please contact Head of Development, Veryan Vere Hodge.

Avebury and Stonehenge 2017

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By Christopher Grocock, Head of Classics

Avebury, West Kennet and Stonehenge are special places, and the Ancient Civilizations BAC visited them on 26 September. It isn’t any old school trip. Eating on top of a communal grave over 5,000 years old was just a part of it. Then going inside and looking where the bones were laid out, and getting close enough to touch the actual stones dragged into position about 3,000 BC – you can’t get closer to the past than that. Coming face to face with an Outdoor Work project, which took decades to complete and did not even involve any metal tools – just animal bones and sheer sweat, helped bring home the determination and organisation that must have existed in ancient societies. Student efforts to pull a replica stone in the visitor complex at Stonehenge didn’t make the item shift an inch (or centimetre, if you prefer) and showed what muscle was needed in the original task. Unless you believe that Merlin did it . . . .

The visit gave the class a great opportunity to soak up the atmosphere that the sites exude. Stonehenge may be safely roped off, but at Avebury and West Kennett you get a real sense of the massive effort made and the awe which the stones may have inspired in those who first put them in place. Sadly we can’t fit in a quick visit to the Great Pyramid, but this annual trip has always fulfilled its aim – of putting things studied in class into a broader context – and this year was no exception. Even the weather conspired to make it a useful and fun day out!

Bedalians head to Oxford

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy and Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge, Bedales

Every year, 6.1 students at Bedales have the opportunity to attend the Oxford University Open Day. This gives them the chance to attend lectures, see some of the colleges, and get a feel for what an Oxford education, and the application process, would be like. This year, as part of the 3i programme, students in Block 3 and 4 were invited to hop on the bus for a trip that we ran in parallel: an Oxford experience that introduced them to a top university, and to find out the differences that Oxford and Cambridge present, compared with other universities. For the youngest students, it was a chance to iron out some misconceptions ‘If I’m at this college, am I still at Oxford?’ or ‘Which college does English?’ For some, it was a chance to start setting their sights high for study after Bedales.

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Whilst the 6.1s were traipsing from college to college in the afternoon, Block 3 and 4 got a chance to see some of Oxford’s excellent museums, including the Museum of the History of Science, and the Natural History Museum (including the shrunken heads in the Pitt Rivers). The Block 3s had a photo competition, with categories such as ‘most intriguing object’ which you can see above.

This is just one of the many opportunities that students in 3i get. 3i (after Badley’s happy phrase ‘intelligence, initiative and individuality’) is a community of engaged, interested learners at Bedales. It includes academic scholars, those nominated by staff, and those who nominate themselves. 3i runs a regular bulletin, which publicises events, competitions and trips.

Growing our own food

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By Feline Charpentier, Teacher of Outdoor Work

The summer term is a very busy one for us in Outdoor Work, with new life zipping through the earth and lots of events to get ready for.

BED_GardenKitchen-18In the gardens we have lots of vegetables growing apace: broad beans, garlic, shallots, courgettes, beans, peas, potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflowers, asparagus to name but a few, and an enormous pumpkin patch – so watch this space come the autumn! All this produce will be used for cooking and making things in ODW, from the pizzas on a Wednesday to the breads and cakes we make every Thursday. Block 3s have also been busy planting up early crops for their Parents’ Day celebration which will be full of delicious produce including lots of radishes, carrots, salad leaves and flowers.

Our grapevines are also doing brilliantly, as are our fig trees, blueberry bushes and kiwis in the ‘weird and wonderful poly tunnel’. We are also working on a new herbaceous border to run alongside the vegetables, with the aim of creating a large potager garden with everything growing together in what is hopefully chaotic harmony…

We have had a hugely busy few weeks with our bees, with a record swarming season in full swing. We now have five hives, including an observation hive, so that students and visitors can go and watch the bees busy making honey without having to don an unwieldy bee suit. We have also harvested our first crop of spring honey, and will hopefully get some more in the next month or so.

BED_GardenKitchen-47In the kitchens we have been busy getting ready for events, making lots of sausages, plus curing our own salami, chorizo, and even having a go at our first Bedales ‘Parma’ ham, which will be ready in a year’s time. We made 100 Litres of super healthy raw cider vinegar with our apples last year, and have bottled it ready to sell on Parents’ Day. We also added some of last year’s frozen raspberries to some of it, making a delicious and beautiful smelling raspberry vinegar, as well as chive flower vinegar. The students will be busy making butter and simple cheese over the next few weeks, and flavouring these with foraged herbs, greens and flowers.

Of course all of this happens alongside all of our farm estate and husbandry work, construction, renovation and maintenance jobs, plus our Block 4s beginning their BAC projects. You will be getting regular updates on these over the coming months.

Mobile devices and digital awareness at Bedales

By Louise Wilson, Senior Deputy

Mobile phones can be a useful adjunct to, or even an essential part of, students’ daily life. They can also be a curse.

In assembly last week, a panel of teachers and students shared their views. A teacher celebrated their pleasure in using a journal and questioned whether mobile phones limit our ability to reflect. One colleague was unnerved by the multiplicity and falsity of our online identities, especially given that the top three apps used by students in the previous seven days were social media. A student countered that their real life persona also involved presenting different images. One student marvelled at the virtual nature of phone life which also enables them to connect and brings opportunities such as work experience. It was noted that some students (and adults?) overuse their phones and one said that they wanted to be more conscious of their own usage, whilst also finding it helpful to keep notes and reminders and to contact home easily.

Students don’t necessarily view devices as anti-social; what is the problem with a group of friends using devices in a variety of ways, whilst sharing each other’s company? There is a general feeling that navigating Block 3 and early adolescence through the issues presented by devices can be difficult; those who find social situations challenging, find a mobile a useful crutch and for those prone to distraction, a phone is an ideal tool for avoiding work.

To ban or not to ban? The overwhelming view of staff and students is not to ban, but we do have controls in place and could increase those. Mobiles have to be handed in at night in the first term of Block 3, phones may not be used in lessons without staff permission (but is the phone’s presence in a pocket a distraction?) and social media is not available on the school network during the school day – apart from Instagram, which the School Council have suggested should not be available to Block 3s in future. Of course, with 4G they could still get it across much of the school site. Should we remove it on principle or rely on students learning from each other and staff and parents about appropriate use?

Watch the video above, or on Youtube here, which is a collaboration between HMC and Digital Awareness UK and shows how technology can take over family, school and personal life – including sleep – or alternatively controlled, to give technology a positive role.

Education is key. Block 3 parents will receive a useful guide to internet safety in the post next week. The NSPCC have launched a new website and app to help parents understand the sites and apps their children are using and help keep them safe whilst using the internet. It is updated monthly and enables you to enter the name of an app or site to find out more. For example, here is the information about Instagram. Schools have been warned about the current trend called ‘Blue Whale’ which encourages participants to take challenges, the last one of which is to take one’s life.  If your child is watching the web series 13 Reasons Why on Netflix you may wish to read the reviews on the series, some of which suggest it encourages young people to consider suicide. ‘Yellow’ is a teenage version of Tinder and the NSPCC have expressed concern about its use by paedophiles.

Friends of Bedales (FOBs) gathered on Saturday to talk about mobiles with Jenni Brittain, Head of Boarding and 6.2 Housemistress. Parents want students to be fully involved with school-based decisions about mobiles, for this reason, a ban is not on the cards – and they wondered if students might explore mobile phone use creatively, by means of drama.

If your family would like to see how much time you have each spent on the different apps on your iphone in the last seven days, go to  ‘settings’ and ‘battery’ – many of us did this at school with fascinating findings and a resulting desire from some to modify our usage. The discussion continues in fine Bedalian tradition and any changes will be communicated this term.

Thank you to all those parents who have shared your views.