What should be the purpose of a school – to raise happy, well-adjusted young people, or exam achievement and league table position? Recent UK educational reforms have seen a narrowing of the national curriculum, a renewed focus on end-of course examination at the expense of on-going, in-course assessment, and an obsession with those subjects deemed important for purposes of access to elite higher education institutions and the UK’s economic competitiveness. However, a massive 80% of teachers surveyed for the 2015 University of Birmingham report ‘Character Education in UK Schools’ were concerned that the British assessment system ‘hinders the development of the whole child’. When asked to suggest a single change, many teachers recommended the provision of ‘free space’ where students can ‘be themselves’ and do things they really like without having to think about exam scores. This resonates strongly with us. At Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst, there is no uniform, and staff and students address each other by first names – symptoms of a culture that values the individual. Dunhurst pupils – typically confident, interesting and engaging characters – can focus on learning in a collegiate atmosphere rather than competing, rehearsing and worrying about ‘passing on’ to the next stage of their education.
Posted on 29 February 2016
Inspired by First Give, a charity that helps young people use their time and talent to improve their communities, students at Bedales School have won grants totalling £1,500 for charities in the local area.
Posted on 19 February 2016
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In the recently published Spring/Summer issue of School House magazine, Bedales Headmaster Keith Budge explains why the school introduced Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs) to replace some non-core GCSEs. He points to increasing concern about wellbeing amongst young people, and a growing awareness that the provision of schools in this regard is crucial. Of particular importance, he suggests, is the finding in a recent report from think-tank Demos that as young people reach their final year of school they are increasingly likely to report exam stress, believing that their school is interested only in results at the expense of their wider education. Keith Budge says: “To its credit, the Government is alert to this issue. However, I am concerned that the wellbeing of students tends to be seen as a discrete part of school life, separate from the issues of curriculum, learning orthodoxies and assessment.”
Posted on 15 February 2016
In January 2016 Bedales parents gathered for a presentation by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg – adolescent psychologist of 30 years standing, Honorary Psychologist to the Australian Boarding Schools Association, agony uncle to Girlfriend magazine and Old Dunhurstian. Dr Carr-Gregg shared research insights into the mental health of young people in both the UK and Australia, discussed strategies that young people might employ to ensure good mental health, and encouraged parents to intervene early if they felt something was wrong. Continue reading for a summary of Dr Carr-Gregg’s presentation and to access slides from the talks.
Posted on 05 February 2016
In a recent article in The Telegraph, headmaster of Bedales Schools, Keith Budge argues for the place of practical and vocational subjects in the educational mix. Picking up on a debate as to their respective merits, Keith Budge observes that the government appears to favour academic over vocational subjects, and questions what he sees as their crude categorisation by perceived difficulty and academic utility. He laments the driving of wedges between arbitrary categories, which he says risks unhelpful polarities – academic versus technical, science versus arts and humanities. Too readily, he says, schools become obsessed by such easy polarities.
Posted on 04 February 2016