6.1 Politics students visit Westminster


By Jonathan Selby, Head of Government and Politics

On 4 March, Bedales 6.1 students were invited to take part in a livestream Question Time event at Westminster. We combined our visit with a tour of the House of Commons, which we were originally due to undertake in the summer, the House of Lords and the Lobby Hall, where ordinary citizens can go and lobby MPs.

We were fortunate to have the tour at a time when Parliament was in sitting, as usually school tours take place when Parliament is in recess. We saw David Davis, Hilary Benn, Diane Abbott, Dame Patricia Hodge and John Bercow, Speaker of the Commons, controlling the debate. The topic was initially on housing and communities, leading to urgent questions on weapon control.

The House of Lords was rather more a slow-moving affair, with bowing to the empty throne one of the quaint conventions we witnessed. Students may have also been surprised to see on the order paper that the morning and afternoon sessions began with prayers.

After our tour, we went to a lecture room where we and one other school were the student audience assembled to address a panel of MPs on two topics: ‘Are referendums good for democracy?’ and ‘Does the House of Commons exercise enough control over the executive arm of the government?’

The MPs on the panel were Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North who was on the BBC Question Time panel last week; Carol Monaghan, Scottish National Party member for Glasgow North West; Nigel Huddleston, Conservative member for Mid-Worcestershire; and Chris Matheson, Labour MP for Chester.

After a brief explanation of their positions on Brexit (they were all remainers), Bedales student Jonathan Greenfield asked the first question on referendums, which centred on the possibilities of tying referendums to specific constitutional points and making them more legally binding. The panel generally agreed this would be a good idea, with Carol Monaghan explaining that the Scottish Independence referendum of 2014 had been better prepared so issues were well understood by the time of the vote, and there was therefore less argument about the referendum afterwards.

The second question came from another Bedales student, Mack Cowling, who asked a question about the ‘shelf-life’ of referendums – a very good question in which he even cited the correct date of the previous referendum.

On Parliament’s control of the Executive, most argued that there is control, particularly with a minority government as at present, as well as Select Committees and Prime Minister’s Questions, where the incumbent does not know the questions beforehand. Barry Gardiner disagreed, however, seeing the control as limited even in current times. He pointed to the government’s use of ancient means (‘Henry VIII clauses’) to push things through.

The trip was an unparalleled opportunity for the students not only to see Parliament in action but also to be able to debate face-to-face with current politicians. Watch the live debate here.


Bedales celebrates Biology Week

By Clover Skerry and Maisy Redmayne, 6.2

Last Friday, Block 3 students participated in the ‘Bio Art Attack’ competition run by the Royal Society of Biology as part of Biology Week which sees events take place all over the world to celebrate biological science.

As part of the activity we went for a walk around site to collect autumn leaves and late flowers. We went back to the lab and used what we collected to create a palisade cell art piece. After this, we used the spare leaves to make landscape and nature scenes, which we also sent off to be judged for Art Attack.

Other Block 3s have been working on models and posters of  plant and animal cells for the competition.

Last week a budding group of sixth form biologists undertook dissections, as a celebration of Biology Week. Everyone seemed to think that chopping up rats and cuttlefish was a fun activity for a Thursday evening. Our specimens were swiftly dismembered and examined giving an invaluable insight into some basic anatomy. I hope that we are able to hold future dissections which will be met with equal enthusiasm.

First impressions of the Putney School

By Freya Hannan-Mills, Block 4

The Putney School is extraordinary. At every moment someone or something is happening which is completely unique to both the school and its environment.

At Putney, the academic subjects are not taught in isolation, instead they are a brew of different curriculum areas all blending together into one class. For example, I am taking the ‘Humans in the Natural World’ class and we are studying the Colombian exchange and how stories are created. The class is an intriguing mix of geography, history and English and uses the students’ knowledge and skills in all those areas.

Apart from the classes we are also taking on activities and jobs. The activities vary from tai chi to digital photography, ultimate Frisbee, hiking and many more. You get the sense that nothing at Putney is done half-heartedly and this certainly goes for the jobs. So far, everyone’s jobs have been in the barn – some at 5am in the morning, and others at 4.40pm.

The barn is an experience! My personal practical knowledge about shovelling cow manure is very limited to say the least, but in an odd way the students here have an infectious enthusiasm towards doing it. Their commitment and energy makes it enjoyable and the milk and cheese they make is amazing.

The campus is picture postcard gorgeous,though I seem to be continually getting lost – mainly as I have no sense of direction. However, wherever I end up it’s always crazy beautiful.

Unlike Bedales, here the dorms are split into a number of smaller buildings. I’m staying in a picturesque building which almost feels Hobbit like, partly because the view outside is of wild Nature but also because it has a huge tree growing right thought the centre of it.

Jake is staying in one of the cabins in the woods – being there makes you want to give up on the 21st century and just move in.

Apart from the classes and the setting, what really embodies Putney, is the people. Everyone here is so bubbly, welcoming and always there to lend a hand and help us when we get desperately lost!

Have you been on the Murder Hunt in the English Department?

By Lucy McIlwraith, English teacher

Last week and this, English teachers have been training blocks’ students to be detectives. We’ve all been trying out an activity called ‘Murder Hunt’ in which a whole class have to use given clues and their own organisation and discussion skills to work out Whodunnit.

Students need to work together to work out: Who was murdered, by whom, when, where, with what and why. Once they think they’ve got all the answers they can ask the teacher, who is allowed to say how many answers are correct but not which ones. The teacher gives a time limit but does not participate in the discussion or control of the room (no matter how much they want to!)

Results have been extremely interesting: Left to their own devices, classes often elect a leader and scribe, some initially talk over each other until they realise how important listening is to this task. Everyone took the task very seriously and worked well towards getting the answers.

Bedalians are a kind bunch of people and this task shows them in their element: allowing others to speak, listening, offering alternative views without conflict and working together. I’m not sure we saw any Poirots, Morses or Veras, but we did see the developing discussion skills of people who solve problems together.

Bedales International Day: 4 October 2018

By Tristan Wilson, Head of Modern Languages

Thursday 4 October will see several departments combine forces for the first Bedales International Day.

This is an opportunity for us to celebrate not only the diversity of nationalities of students at the school, but also to embrace the creativity, knowledge of language, and the customs and opportunities to learn that come along with that.

The day will kick off with an international dress competition in morning break. During lunch break, there will be stalls set out in the Quad, with some traditional activities go on and traditional food for sale in addition to the canteen’s international menu.

In the afternoon, the Bedales International Film Festival will take place, with student submissions having a chance of winning a ‘Boscar’. Finally, the day will finish in the evening with a non-English open mic event in the Lupton Hall.

This will be a great event for students from overseas, but also for those who have an interest in languages and engaging positively with people from other countries and cultures. International Day ties in with the Study Abroad Roadshow, which will be happening in the library from Period 6.

Charlemagne famously said, “To have another language is to possess a second soul”. Bedales International Day is a chance for students to show us their second soul.

Award-winning poet, playwright and novelist visits Bedales

Simon Armitage - Bedales hi-res

Simon Armitage (centre) pictured, from left to right, with Teacher of English Jen Moore and Bedales students Connie Gillies, McCauley Fischer and Michael McGuirk

By Alex Lunn, 6.1

This man had come a long way. Simon Armitage had ventured down from the depths of Huddersfield. I suspect those that came along will not remember Simon for his gruelling trip to the unknown ‘South’, but for an incredible hands-on experience with a BAFTA-winning, internationally acclaimed and captivating modern poet.

For those who visited Simon and his workshop, I’m sure they will have lots to say. Simon quickly gave the impression that we weren’t to be ‘messing around’.

After an exercise in which we had to write for a couple of minutes, non-stop and the fastest we’d ever written, we were told to pause and read our examples. They were certainly not the finished product! However this taught me a valuable lesson. Poetry and writing is raw, alive and, to quote Mr Armitage, “thought vomit”. There is time for editing (punctuation even!) later. Writing is best in its purest form.

The class also had to complete a poem. As we drifted down the lines, Simon would interject and say “make it about a surprising object in the left hand corner”. At the time, unanimously you could hear the class groan, and you could sense this was the reaction Simon wanted. Constraints help to illuminate a path of simple creativity. Writing about the seemingly dull, might just end up being the most inspirational. You just have to read Simon’s poem Poundland.

After the workshop, an ecstatic audience witnessed Simon give a charismatic and deeply inspirational reading. The theatre was alive with the sounds of words with weight and gravitas, albeit in a slightly foreign language – Northern!

Jokes aside, I’m sure the school and all that met Simon Armitage will remember the evening, just like I will remember his words.

Google Expeditions: from classroom to…

Google expeditions
By Paul Turner, Head of Geography

Virtual reality is purported to be the next “big thing” in education. Recently, Bedales was extremely lucky to be one of a handful of schools to have the Google Expedition Pioneer Programme visit for a whole day of Google Cardboard VR fun.

Across 18 sessions, 351 students from both Bedales and Dunhurst explored the world, the body and space. The day was an opportunity for staff and students to reflect on their normal classroom practice and question their potential use of VR.

The younger Dunhurst students were especially wowed by the experience. See a short video of the experience here:

…and a timelapse of how it might be integrated into future lessons here: