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.

Dunannie children explore Earth, Space and the Victorians

Children at Bedales Pre-Prep, Dunannie, have been exploring topics spanning the earth, space and the Victorians as part of their learning this term.

Children in Year 1 were delighted to explore space in their very own mobile planetarium that appeared in the school’s library. Once inside they could gaze at the night sky and learn how to spot stars and constellations. They also found planets and astronauts in the planetarium.

Year 2 were introduced to the Victorian period in a number of different ways. Through exploring the work of Swiss artist Paul Klee, they adopted his unusual technique of mixing contrasting colours to create modern samplers from the traditional Victorian craft of stitching samplers. The children then explored the streets of Victorian times during a visit to Milestones Museum in Basingstoke.

Year 3 have been enjoying plenty of outdoor activities in their study of ‘earth’. This included examining the woodland environment at Alice Holt.

Commenting on their studies this term, Jo Webbern, Head of Dunannie said, “These topics are made all the more fascinating for the children because they are learning through doing. As Head of the school, there isn’t a day that goes by without seeing the Library transformed – one day the Arctic, the next, the Vikings. Our children are fully immersed into the world that they are studying as we believe young minds learn best when truly inspired.”

Dunannie children explore earth, space and the Victorians

Year One learning about space

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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.

Philosophy education starts early at Bedales

At Bedales pre-prep Dunannie, little people are encouraged to think about big ideas. This academic year, pupils in Year 3 (age 7 – 8 years) have started dedicated lessons in Philosophy led by Bedales Head of Philosophy, Clare Jarmy and Dunannie Year 3 teacher Catherine Claasen. The sessions follow the form of a Community of Inquiry, where students have a stimulus for discussion, break into groups, and reassemble to address big questions.  Students have asked whether we can know that this world is not a dream, whether there would be any reason to be good if you were invisible, and whether we can think of nothing, amongst many other things. When they were discussing nothingness, the children were also asked to listen to a unique orchestral recording by John Cage entitled ‘4 minutes & 33 seconds’ and give their own opinions on what he was trying to achieve through devising the piece.

The children took part in a three schools video on Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (PRE), which featured students across Dunannie, Dunhurst and Bedales and their thoughts on Philosophy.

At Bedales, an innovative curriculum, where students study everything from time travel to artificial intelligence, to whether good is only what society permits, is augmented with lectures and workshops with professional philosophers. Nigel Warburton, who is one of the most celebrated interpreters of Philosophy for a younger audience, is the judge for the Bedales Philosophy Essay Prize.

Last term the school welcomed its first ever Philosopher in Residence, Professor Keith Ward, Emeritus Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. Professor Ward spent time discussing philosophical questions with students, including such diverse topics as the nature and possibility of a utopia, whether genes define us, ethics, religious language, the existence of evil, quantum physics and the nature of reality. In addition to partaking in intellectual debate, the students benefitted from his advice on their studies and university.

On the subject of PRE, Clare Jarmy, Head of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics at Bedales commented that “Among educationalists, Philosophy is accepted as a means to develop more complex and rigorous thinking in students. What is so refreshing about Bedales is that philosophical thinking is utterly embedded in both the curriculum and the mindset of the school. Talk of ethics doesn’t begin or end when students walk into or out of my classroom, but can be seen in the work of The Green Committee, The Vegetarian and Vegan Society, Amnesty and numerous other student ventures. Bedalians can and do live by what they believe in, which gives the experience of teaching PRE a real richness.”

Clare’s book Arguments for God, is published by Pushme Press, and will be available in the summer.

This term, Bedales welcomed Father Luke Jolly of Worth Abbey as Contemplative in Residence. As part of his stay, Fr Luke ran a special school assembly, know in Bedales as a ‘Jaw’, on the topic of vocations. Fr Luke also accompanied the students on walks around the school’s estate and a special early morning walk to the Poet’s Stone with breakfast. His stay gave the students some respite between study and exam revision to enjoy calm and quiet reflection.

Commenting on the Bedales approach to philosophy education from age 7, Jo Webbern, Head of Dunannie said “In their first lesson, the children really embraced the questions that were posed to them and enjoyed expressing their thoughts with some impressive answers. Given the successful take-up of Philosophy in Year 3, the next step is roll-out these classes to our youngest children. It is not only a fascinating subject for the children to explore but is also an essential part of what makes us unique at Bedales – inspiring a love of learning by developing independent thought and enquiring minds.”

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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.

Dunannie’s young minds inspired by Astronomy, Morpurgo, Flight and Easter chicks

Pupils from Bedales Pre-Prep Dunannie have enjoyed studying subjects inspired by a variety of influences from aeronautical engineering to a stage play of Michael Morpurgo’s Farm Boy. As the term draws to a close they also witnessed the hatching of live chicken eggs, with the children watching enthralled as two chicks hatched during a lesson. Seven chicks are now thriving in the incubator located in Year 1’s classroom and the children are taking it in turns to help feed and care for them before the Easter break when they will be cared for at home by the teaching staff.

Across the school, the children have been busy understanding astronomy with Bedales Head of Maths; studying gravity and the first lunar landing with Bedales Head of Physics and discussing economics and politics with Bedales Head of Economics, Ruth
Tarrant
. Philosophy also features in the curriculum for Year 3, with a session led by Bedales Head of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics, Clare Jarmy as part of the school’s RE lessons.

Visits this term have included the South Downs Planetarium for Year 1. Year 2 enjoyed a tour of the Museum of Army Flying as a conclusion to their project on flight. The children explored military aircraft from the last hundred years, including gliders; helicopters and hot air balloons. They enjoyed the simulated experienced of flying a helicopter, listening to the crew giving orders in an operation and learning how difficult
it is to keep a helicopter level. They also dressed up in overalls, boots, helmets and flying suits. The boots had actually been taken from a German prisoner and were huge.

A stage play of Michael Morpurgo’s Farm Boy took to the stage at the Bedales Olivier Theatre earlier in the term and pupils from Dunannie enjoyed the performance along with pupils from Dunhurst’s Group 3 (Year 6), Harting Primary school and Greenfields School in Woking, Surrey. The children described Scamp Theatre’s production as
‘awesome’ and ‘funny’ and enjoyed the beautifully written tale, which was a sequel to War Horse.

Commenting on the Spring term, Jo Webbern, Head of Dunannie, said, “The children have been through a whirlwind of learning, visits. workshops and activities over this term with many interesting and inspiring visitors passing through the doors of the school. We welcomed a knight clad in armour to our reception class for their study on castles and our nursery enjoyed learning the hokey-cokey in French during a weekly visit from Dunhurst’s French teacher Ellie Chilton. In the run-up to Easter, we took delivery of eggs in an incubator that have now hatched into chicks – much to the delight of the children. Over the coming months we are hoping to roll-out the lessons with
Bedales Heads of Departments with our younger children.  Learning through doing
is the cornerstone of our approach at Dunannie and the children have thoroughly
enjoyed their learning journeys this term”

Dunannie children and chicks

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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.

Dunannie Year 3s introduced to Economics

I was lucky enough to spend an hour with Year 3cb at Dunannie last Friday afternoon in order to do some introductory economics with them – I’m not sure that economics has ever been taught to Year 3s in any school, so this was certainly groundbreaking stuff! We played the ‘survival game’ as a way of demonstrating the benefits of using division of labour. The enthusiastic shipwrecked boys and girls quickly got stuck into making themselves paper ponchos, fish and tents in order to survive. In Round One, they each had to fend for themselves and make their own items. There were (deliberately!) not enough glue sticks, pencils, and scissors to go round. This was a great example of the “basic economic problem” that all economies have to solve; in other words, limited resources combined with endless wants and needs. In Round One, it took the class a whole 7 minutes for everyone to make their own survival items. In Round Two, the children split themselves into groups and reorganised their production techniques, so that one group concentrated on making enough ponchos for everyone, a second group made tents for everyone and the third group made fish. Consequently, it only took 4 minutes for enough items to be made for everyone, and the children spent a further 3 minutes making extra items.

The contributions made in the follow-up discussion were outstanding. Hector said “if you do the same thing lots of times then you get faster and make more stuff”. This is what Adam Smith, the founding father of modern economics and the man whose face is on the back of the £20 note, wrote about so famously in his book “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776 with regards to a pin factory in Glasgow. Leela pointed out that it was important to have someone organising each group so that everyone would know what to do. Economists call the person who organises production an entrepreneur. Daisy noticed that in the group that made fish, they made more fish by splitting up the work so that some children cut out the fish and other children decorated the fish. Edward finished his poncho-making so quickly that he decided to become an entrepreneur and make different things with his paper and scissors, that he said he could sell to other people on the island. Will thought very carefully about how he could make the most ponchos in the least amount of time, and created a template that he could draw around and make many ponchos at once. To use Adam Smith again, he noted in his famous book that once workers start to specialise in producing a small number of items then one of the reasons that they can produce more is because they make special tools to help them.

We finished our discussion by talking about which countries specialise in producing different toys. I can only apologise if your children now want to go to Denmark to see Lego being made, or to Japan to see how Barbie’s hair is made!

By Ruth Tarrant, Head of Economics

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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.

Snap-shot of history at Bedales

Before leaving for their summer holidays, students from the three Bedales schools (Dunhurst, Dunannie and Bedales Senior School) filled and buried three time capsules under the floors of three new staff houses being built within the school grounds.

Children at Dunannie filled their time capsule with a variety of items ranging from handmade bees, pictures of the Queen and Dunannie, and writing about themselves, to an ‘Olympic’ medal and a Bedales bear. Gulf War veteran ex-Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer Allen Parton and his assistance dog EJ (Endal Junior) from Petersfield based charity Hounds for Heroes which the school supports,  were present at the assembly when the time capsule was filled and so also inserted some Hounds for Heroes dog tags.

Dunhurst collated letters from pupils to future inhabitants of the earth, posters advertising the last five school plays, various school t-shirts, a candle, Bic pen, newspaper,  paperback book, friendship letter, ruler and some coins.

Bedales’ time capsule contained various school brochures and publications, and a map of the Bedales estate, as well as a Bedales t-shirt, yo-yo, pencil, key-ring and tea towel. Block 5 (year 11) students included various essays they had written and girls from Steephurst, the boarding house, contributed a folder of photographs of the recent refurbishment and some Steephurst cutlery and crockery.

It is hoped that when these time capsules are dug up, students of the future will be able to gain an insight into the lives of the three schools, their students, daily life and the world in 2012.


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.