Bedales is a boarding school. Day students are completely integrated – to the extent that they usually follow the same full, intense school day that may run from 8.30am to 9.30pm. Boarders can opt to go home between Saturday lunchtime and Sunday evening (many do, others don't), and there are times when attendance at the weekend is required – for drama or music rehearsals, for instance, or during the Whole-school Effort (the annual weekend of work on the estate).
Pastoral care for boarders is excellent
Relationships intensify when people work and live so closely together - and relationships are key to the Bedales approach and ethos. The working day is long at the school as there is so much of interest to fit in; boarders are therefore able to make the most of the opportunities.
Although weekend activities are available for boarders, they can choose just to relax (or sleep) by way of contrast with the busy week – exactly as they would at home. Boarders can opt to go home between Saturday lunchtime and Sunday evening (many do, others don’t), and there are times when attendance at the weekend is required – ‘all in’ weekends for the cast of a forthcoming play, for example. In the early Autumn all students stay in for the annual Badley Weekend when the founder’s values are celebrated and the whole community is involved in the Whole School Effort.
Mixed age dormitories are a unique feature of Bedales boarding. Students in 6.1 (the Lower Sixth) share much of the responsibility for running the boarding houses, taking a pastoral role with the younger children and working closely with the house staff. In 6.2, students live in the separate co-educational boarding house (although with boys and girls on different floors), which acts as a half-way house between school and the independent living they will face in higher education.
Every boarder forms a close bond with a member of the boarding housestaff, who pays attention to the student’s overall welfare and well-being, and is in regular liaison with the student’s tutor and parents.
Approach to boarding
Boarding at Bedales is an unashamedly communal experience which seeks to develop self-respect and respect for others. Central to it is the mixed age dorm: the facility for students of different ages to live together and learn from each other has always been a cherished part of our communal boarding life and is central, both to our strong tradition of fostering friendships across year groups as adept in working in teams.
Boarding at Bedales is organised so as to emphasise collaboration and co-operation, with the boarding houses arranged so that the housemasters and housemistresses work in pairs, with each housestaff (Bedales-speak for housemaster or housemistress) working closely with a colleague, overseeing a large boarding house:
Boarding at Bedales is an unashamedly communal experience which seeks to develop self-respect and respect for others
Boys’ Flat: two housemasters oversee all boarding boys in their first four years at Bedales (Blocks 3 - 6.1);
Steephurst: two housemistresses oversee all boarding girls in their first four years;
6.2 Flat: a housemistress and a housemaster oversee all the students in their final year (6.2).
Unlike in many schools, the house structure is arranged entirely for pastoral purposes – there is no competitive edge between the houses and no sense that the students under one housemaster of housemistress’s care have characteristics attributable to that particular house.
Like many aspects of Bedales, the unique pattern of boarding has been evolved carefully and is subject to continuous scrutiny: boarding in its current, distinctive shape continues to serve the interests of our students well and is at the heart of our communal life.
Each of these buildings is run co-operatively by the two housestaff, who themselves lead a pastoral team comprising matrons, resident tutors and visiting tutors. Each of the housestaff will have between 50 and 70 students who are his/her direct responsibility; in this sense, the houses are people – you are in Jenni’s or Nick’s house, for example.
The six boarding housestaff work very closely with the two day housestaff and meet with the Managing Head weekly to discuss both school pastoral issues and individual students’ welfare. In this way, the expertise of housestaff is developed through new houseststaff having the benefit of the experience of more seasoned colleagues.
Although they have their own base in the centre of the school, day students are made welcome on the boarding houses: they can be equally involved in the communal life of the school but simply go home to sleep.