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.

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.”

1

*************************************************************************************************

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.

Dunhurst students build replica Mary Rose in Tudor project

Children at Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst recently experienced the challenges of life as Tudor sailors with the culmination of a year’s programme of activities and liaison with the Mary Rose Trust.

Each year, Dunhurst has a themed day in which the whole school (Years 4 to 8) participate. This year, the focus was the Mary Rose to celebrate the 500th anniversary since the construction was completed under Henry VIII. Mary Rose links have permeated the school’s Science, History and Art curricula and wider school life throughout the year. Dunhurst pupils have visited the museum to see the new building and study artefacts, and they have enjoyed visits from Trust staff to talk about the work of the Mary Rose Trust.

The Mary Rose Day gave students the opportunity to experience aspects of maritime life and to think about the preparations for a sea voyage in Tudor times. Activities included sailor training, cannon firing, challenging strategy games, making ship’s biscuits, composing battle songs, and making goblets and tankards.

The highlight of the day was an ambitious challenge to build a 40 foot replica of the Mary Rose in the school’s Outdoor Work area, complete with mast and flags, which once finished, the children boarded to sing sea shanties at the end of the day.

Jane Grubb, Head of Dunhurst said: “Our Mary Rose Day brought academic studies to life in such an engaging way for pupils. It is amazing what can be achieved when you focus the whole school on a challenging cross-curricular project. Pupils combined great fun with learning across a range of subjects.”

Dunhurst students build replica Mary Rose in Tudor project

*************************************************************************************************

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.

Dunhurst students sketch Sam Banks Pavilion

Group 3 pupils drew studies from observation of the Sam Banks Memorial pavilion, while in its early stages of construction. The exercise fitted well into their current project of Landscapes and Townscapes.  Inspired by the architectural pen and ink drawings of David Gentleman’s work, which they had seen earlier in the Bedales Gallery, they went on to develop their own drawings using similar line and ink wash techniques.

They enjoyed tackling the challenge of making the oak posts appear 3D and observing the perspective of the pavilion’s form and shape. Watching builders John Russell and Gabriel Langlands gradually transforming the structure as they drew,  made the experience even more enriching.

Group Ones who also witnessed the making of the timber frame, were able to  see the link between this activity and their work on William Morris and the Art and Crafts Movement and its continuing influence on the school.

View sketches.

Sketch of Sam Banks Pavilion

*************************************************************************************************

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.

Dunhurst pupils get to work

In the penultimate week of term, 67 pupils from Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst -comprising the entire block of Year 8 pupils – spent a day helping businesses across Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex as part of the school’s annual work shadowing day.

The first experience of the world of work for the majority of pupils, the day provided them with an opportunity to build relationships within the community independently of school and home, and also the chance to learn new skills.

The participating businesses varied greatly, ranging from local shops including Tesco, Rhona Russell, No Added Sugar, Sports Locker, Owen’s Cycles and One Tree Books, to local schools including Steep Primary, Bedales and Dunannie. Pupils interested in nature spent the day outdoors at farms and Queen Elizabeth Country Park and West Dean Gardens, while others worked with animals at Amberley Kennels, Canine Partners and the Cats Protection League.

One student, Rory Browne, spent the day at Bedales Senior School to understand how the school manages its external communications. He visited Petersfield to interview other students on their work shadowing assignments and took photos, before returning to the office to write a short article:

Anastasia Sheldon worked at The Blacksmith’s Daughter, a florist in the centre of Petersfield. She spent the day learning about the different types of flowers, before arranging them and wrapping them. She also worked on flowers for a wedding which took up most of her day.  She said the whole experience was “really good”.

Molly Beardall worked in the next door shop, Cocoa Moon chocolate shop.  She learnt how to welcome customers into the shop; she loved using the price tag machine, selling the delicious ice cream and filling boxes with chocolates. But the highlight of her day was making the gift boxes which were full of chocolate and neatly put together with ribbons and cellophane. Her one quote was ‘Fun!’ 

Felix Delano, who worked at Petersfield Exhaust Tyre Services “enjoyed every minute”.  He learnt how to change exhausts and tyres and helped with MOTs.

Tilly Excell worked at Sue Ryder, a charity shop. She did things like arranging and pricing items, and dressing mannequins. She needed to have very good organisation skills as the day was full on. The shop’s manager said “She’s been fantastic” and Tilly revealed “that is was better than I expected”.

The experience resulted in the majority of the year having fun and getting an idea of what a day at work is like.                   

Jane Grubb, Dunhurst Head, commented:

“We are so grateful to the local businesses for providing this really valuable experience for our senior pupils at Dunhurst. The pupils have been fully involved in communicating with their placement hosts and getting ready for the day. Work shadowing is not so much about trialling a possible future career path but about experiencing someone else’s professional life and seeing inside a working environment. The pupils return with so many stories to tell and are always very positive about what they have gained from the day. It is almost a rite of passage and such an important part of the final stages at Dunhurst before they move on to Bedales.”


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.