Ben Shaw

Head of Design, 6.2 Housemaster, Bedales

BSc (Hons), Industrial Design, Loughborough University
QTS, Loughborough University

What makes a good teacher at Bedales? 

I think a Bedales teacher needs to come to the role with flexibility and without a formulaic preconception of how to teach and how to learn. Working at Bedales does not feel like a normal 9-5 job but more of a vocation and a good Bedalian teacher needs to embrace that as a positive.

What are you trying to encourage and instil in your students? 

Thinking outside of the box is a rather overused expression but could be rather apt for students in my subject! In Design, creativity is paramount in everything we do. I want our students to have imaginative solutions in terms of aesthetics but also in methods of construction, solving problems along the way. There is a fine line between the respect for tradition and for the materials you are working with, and the flexibility to innovate. I hope my students are up on that tightrope with me!

Apart from your teaching role, what else do you get involved with at the school? 

In my spare time I am quite a sporty, outdoors type and I really enjoy getting involved in those aspects of the Bedales lifestyle. I run triathlon and mountain biking clubs for the students which take advantage of the beautiful countryside that surrounds us. I help out with Duke of Edinburgh scheme expeditions and enjoy being part of the teaching group that take our Block 3 students to the Ullswater Outward Bound centre for a week as part of their induction into the school. Meeting our students away from the classroom in a very different environment is a great way to get to really know them. Using my Design related skills, I run a club for a group of very keen lower school students who are designing, building and racing an electric vehicle as part of the national Greenpower car competition. The standard is quite high so working on this sort of project really stretches the grey matter for me as well as the students! I was also lucky enough to be one of three staff that took a group of sixth formers to Swaziland to carry out charitable project work at a rural primary school. This year we built a fence to surround and protect the school and devised a pumping system to give the school running water for the first time.

In your opinion, what makes Bedales special? 

It is definitely the people. Students and staff alike choose to be at Bedales and most thrive in the environment. There is such a diversity of personalities and talents but what binds us is a fundamental embracement of life in all its wonderful varieties.

What is your best memory of Bedales? 

Sorry, I’ve got two! My first would be watching the first few drops of water spurt out of the tap in Swaziland. I’m not sure if we were more excited or the locals! The second would be cooking bacon at 6am on an open fire outside the Sotherington Barn with a group of upper sixth form students who had just baked bread all night in the school’s bakery for the last time. There was a quiet but palpable sense of occasion and looking around this group of young men and women ready to move on there was a feeling that we had not done such a bad job.

Who or what inspires you? 

Challenge. A bit obvious really, but doing things the easy way is dull!

Tell us something not a lot of people know about you. 

I was once a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy. No, I can’t see it myself now either!