BAC students learn stewardship skills to improve Bedales working farm

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

As the Block 5 students near the completion of their BAC projects I thought now would be a good time to share some of the fantastic, challenging work they’ve been up to.

This time last year students were busy discussing possible projects and forming groups based upon shared interests, rather than friendships. Encouraging students to work in such groups enables them to develop important life skills, such as teamwork, listening, tolerance and resilience. Students are judged on their journal, the outcome itself, and, most importantly, their approach and attitude towards their work. The common thread running through all the projects is that each must give something back to Outdoor Work or to the community and estate: a form of stewardship where they learn about the importance of looking after the land for the next generation.

For example, Olav, Carter and Oscar have created a meadow between the new Art & Design building and Outdoor Work (above). To do this the boys learned how to split and shape chestnut poles to make ‘post and rail’ fencing. The meadow will soon be home to our two South Down sheep, Sammy and Saoirse.

ODW chicken pen crop (Large)Other projects include the creation of another chicken pen (right) and the restoration of a polytunnel. This will allow us to cater for an additional 20 Sussex Rangers and 20 Amberlink chickens, in order to increase our free-range egg supply (we are constantly being asked for more eggs!). The shed previously known as the Pineapple House has been converted into a potting shed . To do this, Hannah, Annie and Hanna had to learn a range of skills, including brick-laying, blacksmithing, carpentry and leaded window making. Neri, Jo and Aria have been busy continuing the development of the Bakehouse; adding a considerable amount of storage as well as ensuring our new wood-fired bread-oven, built by Keir Rowe, is completely sealed and weather proof in the new Bakehouse extension.

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Our pizza shack has been further developed with a new floor, rendered walls, and the addition of many fixtures and fittings. Flora, Max, Dylan and Cameron have managed all this whilst running it as a business every other week, making on average 45 pizzas each time. A number of chestnut and oak framed outbuildings have been built by Max, Archie, Gus and Finn, to store wood alongside all the reclaimed material that we pride ourselves on recycling. An exciting interactive map has been developed by Michael and Jamie, as well as a bespoke orienteering course around the estate. Thanks to Jamie, Olivia and Oscar there is a new terrace around the ODW office and lots more seating around the barns.

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The continued development of the ODW Shop (below) by Helena and Keziah is particularly exciting. Not only does it look amazing, it also provides a permanent space for us to sell products from the farm and our kitchen. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, because every penny of profit goes back into the development of the farm. And secondly, it allows students to display the end product of all their work. This could be meat from our livestock, bread or baked goods from the Bakehouse, or craft products from the spinning room and forge.

We are having a mini launch/opening for the new shop during the last week of term, on 21, 22 and 23 of March. Please, please, do come and visit. Your support makes such a difference to the students, and really helps them feel that all their hard work has been worthwhile.

We look forward to seeing you then!

ODW Shop peak (Large)

A sneak preview of the new ODW Shop

Bedales and QI thinking

By Clare Jarmy, Head of PRE and Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge

On Saturday, two 6.1s, Taran Llewelyn Bradford and Thea Sesti, took part in a pilot scheme to bring ‘QI Thinking’ into education. Bedales is hosting this pilot, and is working with six other independent schools. The hope is to develop an approach that can be rolled out into classrooms in both the independent and maintained sectors, building inquisitiveness.

QI stands for ‘Quite Interesting’. You might have seen it on TV (this clip on ‘what is the roundest thing in the universe?’ is quite representative, if you haven’t seen it), but actually, its creator, John Lloyd has a much broader, and idealistic aim for QI than that. QI is not only about TV, but also books, podcasts, talks to industry leaders. In short, QI is not a show, but an approach to thinking and learning.

Parents might remember that we hosted John Lloyd ‘in conversation with…’ Harry Enfield in aid of the John Badley Foundation. There is clear overlap between QI’s focus on inquisitiveness, and Bedales’ first aim to ‘To develop inquisitive thinkers with a love of learning who cherish independent thought’. Because of this, Headmaster Keith Budge, in his role convening the HMC conference this year, worked with John to formulate a scheme for ‘QI boot-camps’, designed to reinvigorate curriculum with interesting, fascinating facts, rather than dull, obvious material.

John Lloyd argues that ‘nothing is boring if you spend enough time looking into it’. On Saturday, this was modelled for us. John, and two of the ‘elves’ Anna Ptaszynski and James Harkin, demonstrated, pretty conclusively that there is something fascinating, even about a topic as seemingly dull as fire-escapes!

In the afternoon, we spent our time in our wonderful library, with both online and paper resources (books, periodicals and newspapers) at our disposal. Students had to seek out anything fascinating relating to a ‘Q’ word (the elves are currently compiling material for the ‘Q’ series of QI). Look out for these facts we discovered!

  • Did you know that Tyrannosaurus Rex actually had feathers?
  • Did you know that when The Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) followers were exiled from Mecca, they used to pray facing Jerusalem?
  • Did you know that there is a disease that humans can get from eating a quail that has eaten a poison, even though we would not get ill from directly consuming the poison?

Taran and Thea will now be working as ambassadors for this approach in the school. Look out for prompts for QI thinking in the next few weeks!


Social media, internet and students

By Louise Wilson, Senior Deputy

Last Friday, the FOBs coffee and discussion proved a welcome opportunity for myself and Peter Thackrey, Head of Boarding and Boys’ Flat housestaff, to meet with parents and share our experiences and advice on matters related to the internet.

We discussed the benefits of communicating easily with friends and loved ones (and the need to be able to do this early in the morning and in the evening for some overseas students), accessing vast amounts of information online and learning about the increasing use of WhatsApp, rather than email, amongst people now joining the workforce. We agreed that the misuse of social media is most likely to be encountered in Blocks 3 and 4, but that students become less concerned and dependant on social media after that point.

We talked about conflict at home around mobile phone use (for example at night), about VPNs (private internet sites that bypass all monitoring and give access to content that can be illegal or disturbing in nature) and 3G and 4G (which bypasses school filtering).

Although there were some calls for blocking and banning phones, the majority view and that of the school, is that education and talking with young people to understand their motivations and share concerns is the most effective approach to healthy internet use. That said, mobile phones should not be visible in lessons unless the teacher wants them to be used for an educational purpose; this is because they are generally considered a distraction from learning in the classroom. Students in Blocks 3 to 5 have been reminded that phones are confiscated for 24 hours (not overnight for day students) if they are misused in lessons.

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.

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.

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.