Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy and Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge, Bedales

MA (Hons) Philosophy, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge
PGCE Religious Studies, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge
MA UCL Institute of Education

What makes a good teacher at Bedales?

Some qualities are important at all schools, such as being patient and supportive, but I think a Bedales teacher must have enthusiasm, with openness and a sense of humour. Bedalians want their teachers to love their subject enough to enthuse them. Knowing how to shear sheep is pretty handy, too.

What are you trying to encourage and instil in the children?

Enthusiasm and passion for interesting ideas for their own sake. Willingness to gain the skills required to think independently and logically. A mixture of academic rigour with a love of learning.

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

As Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge, I am in charge of academic endeavours that go ‘above and beyond’ every day lessons. I run the 3i programme, which provides opportunities for academic stretch beyond lessons. I’m also responsible for the Sixth Form Enrichment Programme, which all Sixth Formers take alongside their A Levels. My job also entails preparing students for applications to Oxford and Cambridge, creating opportunities for practice interviews, help with the application process, support with writing personal statements, and advice specific to the colleges and courses of those universities.

On the pastoral side, I have started tutoring a Sixth Form group this year, having tutored Block 4s and 5s for the last seven years. I am excited to support students through a different stage of their academic career, and it’s nice to have kept a couple of my old tutees! In the evenings, you can often find me ‘on flat’ in my role as Resident House Tutor, where you can ask me for everything from hot-water bottles to help with your German prep.

I also spend a lot of time doing music– I was a choral scholar when I was at Cambridge, so I sing in the choir and chamber choir. I sometimes play percussion in the orchestra, though I’m not very good, and help run a recorder consort. One of the people responsible for the revival of Early Music, and especially recorders, in this country, Arnold Dolmetsch, used to teach at Bedales, which means we’re tapping into our roots.

I have run a range of activities over my time here, from knitting to patchwork quilting, but my favourite might be my cooking activity, which can be messy, but is very civilised! It's a real team effort to produce something tasty in an hour, and finish the washing up! 

In your opinion, what makes Bedales special?

Handshaking. You stand and you shake hands with every single student. It says something amazing about Bedales as an institution: that we do not need to hide behind assumed authority, but approach the students as fellow human beings.

The BACs are also a key difference. At Bedales, the BAC in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics is non-compulsory, yet we have between half and two thirds of Block 4 students electing to take the course each year. The BAC provides opportunities for developing independent thinking and critical analysis, along with the possibility of covering material that many schools don’t get to touch on.

Outdoor work is also so different. Sitting with Block 3s in the Bakehouse, zesting lemons, whilst discussing philosophy whilst knitting, or willow-weaving in a barn built by students is something you wouldn’t get in any other school!

Who or what inspires you?

My department – they are intelligent, funny, kind people. The music department, which fully deserves its excellent reputation. Our students, especially in their independent endeavours such as the Utopia Projects they undertake in Block 5. Our amazing library, which is to me, the heart of the school. As for non-Bedales-related inspiration: Plato, Aristotle, Bertrand Russell, David Hume, Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, JS Bach, Heinrich Schütz, Claudio Monteverdi, Guillaume de Machaut, John Dowland, and a number of other dead men.

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

Most early examples of my writing are perfectly mirrored – right to left with all the characters the wrong-way-round. Thankfully, I was born at a time where burning witches was seldom practised!

Read recent articles written by Clare that were published in the TES magazine (Subscription may be required  to view articles on TES website):

Published works in the Journal of the Philosophy of Education:

Clare has also had an article published in Dialogue Australasia, The Bedales Assessed Course in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has written two books for A Level PRE students titled Arguments for God and Miracles. A third book, Attributes of God has now been published.