6.1 Biologists hear from country’s leading scientists

By Richard Sinclair, Head of Biology

In January, a group of 6.1 Biologists travelled to the Apollo Theatre, Victoria, to hear a series of lectures by some of the country’s leading scientists as part of the Science Live: A-Level series.

Firstly we heard from Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore from UCL, who spoke about the complexities of the teenage brain and her team’s cutting edge experiments which reveal how behaviour is affected by the environment and how we relate to each other through this period of our lives. Sarah-Jayne explained that adolescence is a period of great vulnerability, but also one of enormous creativity which should be acknowledged and celebrated.

Next was Professor Robert Winston, who was the speaker at Bedales’ Eckersley Lecture in 2013. He spoke about manipulating human reproduction from his work on in vitro fertilization through to regenerative medicine such as stem cell research and epigenetics, which may turn out to be the most important biological development in the years to come. He warned though that manipulating the human will always be dangerous, uncertain and unpredictable.

Dr Jenny Rohn’s entertaining talk was entitled Revenge of the Microbes. She explained how there are 100 trillion bacterial cells on our bodies and how more and more are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Bacteria go through around 500 generations in just a week, which gives them an enormous advantage as they can evolve resistance to antibiotics extremely quickly.

Dr Adam Rutherford’s lecture focused on DNA, which he described as “the saga of how we came to be who we are today”. He told the fascinating story of how the body of Richard III, who was found buried under a car park in Leicester, was identified by DNA analysis and announced that everyone from Western European descent would be related to the British Royal Family if we traced our family trees back through enough generations.

Finally, Dr Ben Goldacre talked about the importance the media should play in correctly reporting scientific research, focussing on the MMR scandal in particular. Although Andrew Wakefield, the author of the MMR report, was blamed by journalist as the only one at fault, Dr Goldacre argued that the media were equally guilty as missing trials, badly designed research and biased dissemination of evidence were reported at the time as important scientific breakthroughs, while evidence showing no link to autism from the MMR vaccine published in peer reviewed academic journals was ignored.

Overall these lectures showed us just a few examples of the enormous range of scientific enquiry that encompasses the subject of biology and how it continues to shape our lives.


Twelfth Night – theatre review

By Eben Macdonald, Block 3

On 15 January, Block 3 students went to see William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, directed by Kelly Hunter.

The plot follows the plight of a woman named Viola, who is shipwrecked on the fictional island of Illyria, wrongly assuming that her brother Sebastian is dead. For her own safety, she pretends to be a boy, gives herself the pseudonym Cesario and goes to work for Duke Orsino, who madly loves Queen Olivia. She, however, does not feel the same, therefore Viola tries to persuade Olivia to love Orsino, but Olivia in fact falls in love with Viola, of course thinking she is male. There is then a variety of mad love affairs.

This energetic and powerful performance on Shakespeare’s most famous comedy certainly has a lot of display. Everything from the acting to the music had been well thought out and enthusiastically executed. For example, in almost every character I could very much get a feel for their personalities and inner-affairs; Oliver Grant, who plays Duke Orsino, was very versatile in his conveyance of emotion, and I could easily detect his raging desire for Queen Olivia’s love (Augustina Seymour), his consistent desperation, and his comic romancing. There is also a particularly moving scene where Viola (Paula Rodriguez), dressed as a boy, comes back from having attempted to woo Olivia in order to persuade her to love Orsino. He asks her excitedly, desperately whether he (she) was successful or not. When the response is ‘no’, Orsino falls into the pit of depression.

Also, I really got the impression of Viola’s audacity and eroticism when trying to woo Olivia, to which the audience responded with a lot of laughing, although at times I admit that I could not hear her very well. I thought that Malvolio, played by the composer himself, Tom Chapman, was especially good, as he starts off as a comically bossy and domineering character, and his amorous passion for Olivia, but after being imprisoned in darkness and humiliated, develops into a cynical and dark person; he delivered the famous line “I’ll have revenge on the whole pack of you” perfectly. The audience reacted to his yellow, cross-gartered stockings with plenty of laughs.

I very much enjoyed the way music and drama were ingeniously interweaved. For example, when we see Olivia for the first, grief-stricken upon her father’s death, is sat there, hunched, playing a mournful melody on the cello. It was evident that all the actors on stage were talented musicians as all the wonderful music was played by the actors themselves. I commend Tom Chapman, who was in charge of music.

Despite all this, there was one thing I did not approve of: at the beginning of the play, some of the scenes were swapped about, which I am against in Shakespeare because I believe that a director does not have the right to play with Shakespeare’s plays in that way. I also noticed that at times the audience did not respond to a lot of things with laughing, although I found them very amusing myself, such as Viola’s eroticism and Malvolio’s adoration and obsequiousness to Olivia. There were also actors playing more than one character, for example, Augustina Seymour plays both Olivia and Sir Toby. Although this was confusing at times, I appreciate that it was deliberately used to create a sense of disorder and chaos, which is what this play is about.

The simplicity of the set also caught me: it is merely a small, unraised stage with musical instruments scattered about the sides, conveying this metaphorical sense of music being intermingled with drama, and a ladder at the back of the stage which Malvolio eventually uses as the prison, hanging there is darkness, still wearing his ridiculous yellow, cross-gartered stockings, as the clown mocks him.

The end scene when Sebastian and Viola are reconciled, I thought was particularly moving, because the perplexion Orsino, Olivia and the curate display of seeing these two identical twins, right next to each other is so incredulous, and the two siblings, so elated to finally be together again.

The actors in this play certainly deserve credit for their energy and versatility, Kelly Hunter definitely deserves credit for his ability to mould this great play to please modern audiences (though I did not like the scene-swaps), and his magnificent performance of Orsino, and Tom Chapman for his musical creativity. I recommend this play highly.

Bedales Head of Science speaks at conference

emily seeber speaks at association for science educators national conference - jan 2019

By Emily Seeber, Head of Science

Last Thursday and Friday, I took a trip to the University of Birmingham to take part in the Association for Science Educators National Conference, which is the largest gathering of science educators in Europe.

I was giving two talks at the event. The first was entitled ‘Reinventing the Chemistry Practical’, which gave chemistry teachers tools to allow students to lead their own practical work and end the monotonous recipe-book practicals which dominate the science education landscape (in other schools!)

The second was a workshop on ‘Planning a Progressive Practical Curriculum’, sharing the principles used to design the varied, purposeful and coherent practical curriculum at Bedales.

It was inspiring as ever to speak to other educators about how we can support students so they can take advantage of a rapidly changing technological world. I look forward to sharing more of the great work happening in Bedales Sciences in future.

Read more of Emily’s writing on improving practical work in schools (subscription may be required):

6.2 students attend psychology conference


By Skye Hurwitz, 6.2

In December, 6.2 students attended a psychology conference in London, where they were fortunate enough to hear talks from renowned psychologists across the country. Speakers at the conference shared their expertise through fascinating lectures about a range of topics, from musicology to hypnotism.

The day commenced with a captivating talk from the magician Oliver Meech. Meech completed his degree in Psychology at Oxford and employed his expertise in the art of magic. In disbelief, the audience witnessed Meech’s magic tricks, followed by a masterclass on the psychological techniques behind the magic.

The lectures that followed were equally insightful. Professor Gianna Cassidy informed us about the benefits of music for wellbeing, sharing research surrounding the psychology of music, such as what makes a catchy song stick and why singing can improve our mental health. Phil Banyard, Mike Cardwell and Cara Flanagan broke down the common misconceptions in psychology, revealing ‘fake news’ and allowing us to reflect on the validity of psychology as a science altogether.

The day concluded with a staggering performance from the internationally renowned hypnotist Andrew Newton. We watched in awe as a group of volunteers slipped deeper and deeper into a hypnotic state. However, we couldn’t believe our eyes when, out of 40 keen volunteers, our very own Nancy Tier became the star of the show. Nancy wilfully followed the hypnotists’ commands: she instantly fell asleep, had her arm frozen and even sniffed her own shoe!

In hysterics, we witnessed Nancy mindlessly follow commands. While she vaguely recollects the course of events, she describes the experience as feeling like a dream. However, it is safe to say as her friends, we will never forget!

Politics students attend Westminster conference

By Jonathan Selby, Head of Government and Politics

A group of 6.1 Politics students went to an A Level Politics Conference held in the vast Methodist Hall at Westminster on Monday, 3 December.

As the hall is very near Parliament, well known politicians come across and speak to the audience of approximately 2,000 students. The format is that the politician addresses the hall on a particular issue for ten minutes and then takes questions, some of them difficult (there is no vetting procedure!) for 20 minutes.

The conference started with an address by Sir John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, who explained how he saw his role and he spoke very clearly. He was asked a question about bullying culture in the House; he himself has had his name raised on this issue, which he hotly denied.

Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, gave an erudite exposition of his line on Europe and the audience was broadly sympathetic. He responded honestly to an inevitable question about broken promises on tuition fees.

Nigel Farage drew a lively response, claiming along the way that he alone was responsible for the disappearance of the far-right British National Party (BNP). He challenged the audience to name the current leader of UKIP – and one student knew the correct answer, Gerrard Batten.

Chuka Umunna spoke smoothly – some felt a little too smoothly – for Labour and was followed by perhaps the least effective speaker, Emily Thornberry. In response to a question about Jeremy Corbyn’s links to terrorists, she lost her temper and unfortunately turned on the student posing the question. It was, after all, a perfect opportunity for her to refute the charge.

Nicky Morgan (former Minister for Education) spoke in a balanced way about Brexit.

Perhaps the most persuasive speaker was Jess Phillips, the feisty Labour MP who campaigns tirelessly and fearlessly for women’s rights. She dealt with some mildly chauvinist questions effectively and was persuasive, honest and fun. Her book, Everywoman, would make a good addition to anyone’s Christmas list.

The afternoon was rounded off by the inimitable Jacob Rees-Mogg, who answered questions directly and honestly, including one on his views on abortion which were not in sympathy with the student body. I need not remind you of his views on Brexit!

This was a most worthwhile and enjoyable day, but unfortunately there were not enough tickets for all the 6.1 students, which was a shame as I could have filled the allocation three times over.

Spanish study trip to Bilbao

By Lily McGregor, 6.1

Last weekend we went to Bilbao as in 6.2 we will study El Otro Árbol de Guernica, which is primarily based in Bilbao. We walked through lots of the streets and plazas that appear in the book. We all took lots of photos as Melanie Jimenez (Bedales Head of Spanish) summarised the relevant parts of the book. It was extremely helpful to have this deeper background information and I now can’t wait to read the book!

We went to the Museum of Peace which offered lots of facts and stories about the Spanish Civil War, which is when the book is set. There, we sat in a room whilst an audio played of a woman telling a heart-breaking story about the struggle of war. This was prominent as the two protagonists in the book – Santi and his sister Begoña – were evacuated and probably went through a similar experience. That same day we also went to visit the tree after which the book is named. We learnt that it was there that all the important decisions were made and that the officials made their vows to the villages and laws of Euskadi around that very tree. There, there was a beautiful building where the decisions took place and it also displayed a stunning stained-glass ceiling.

During the trip we went to many eateries that boasted traditional Spanish food. We tried croquettes, Spanish ham and churros just to name a few.

On the last day we visited the Guggenheim museum which was a brilliant way to end a great weekend. In pairs we strolled around whilst admiring the works of Cezanne, Picasso, Giacometti, Van Gogh and many more.

Overall it was a trip that none of its participants shall forget, I just hope they do it again next year so I can do it all again!

Christmas Pudding Bake… and festive produce now on sale

By Nicoletta Draper, 6.2

Last Friday night, keen 6.2 students gathered in Outdoor Work (ODW) excited for the festive evening ahead, the Christmas Pudding Bake. We huddled in the black barn, watching a classic film and warming up with Christmas treats. There was mulled apple juice and freshly baked cookies which were quickly eaten along with the enjoyment of being able to roast marshmallows on the fire. Groups of us went in to do the jobs, baking cookies, making the pudding batter, placing it in bowls and wrapping them up. The making of the Christmas pudding took many people to complete which required team skills and enthusiasm. Thankfully, the atmosphere was amazing, carols were being sung, the candles gave the barn a beautiful Christmas look and the ODW teachers wholeheartedly showed us the skills and recipes of the baking. A total of 98 puddings were made, which will be available to buy at the ODW shop in school along with other Christmas produce.

By Feline Charpentier, ODW Teacher


The Outdoor Work elves have been busy this term, filling our farm shop shelves with lots of Christmas produce. Chutneys, jams, jellies, pickles, herbal teas, granola, flour, and our own apple cider vinegar, plus handmade natural cosmetics like lavender bath salts all make lovely Christmas gifts. We also have our beautiful Jacob wool blankets, scarves and fleeces for sale. Our annual 6.2 Christmas pudding bake made almost 100 delicious puddings, in small (for 2-4 people, £8), medium (for 6-8, £10) and some very large (for 10-12, £14). We will also be baking our unique apple cider mince pies almost every day now, sold in boxes of six. We make our own all-butter pastry and fill it with handmade mincemeat, made with our orchard apples cooked with brown sugar, apricots, spices, cider and lots of dried fruit. The shop is always open, when we are there. Monday to Friday, come on up and have a look at everything our lovely students/elves have been making! All money we make goes back to supporting the farm. Thank you for ongoing support.