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. All students are in a ‘House’ led by a their Houseparent and a close bond is formed between them. Each of the Houseparents will have between 40 and 50 students who are his/her direct responsibility; in this sense, the houses are people – you are in Charlotte’s house or in Chris’s house, for example.
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.
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. Although weekend activities are available for boarders (trips, games, movie nights, sport, art, music, drama, etc.) , they can choose just to relax (or sleep) by way of contrast with the busy week – exactly as they would at home.
Mixed age dormitories are a unique feature of Bedales boarding. Students in 6.1 (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 houseparents. 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 their houseparent, who pays attention to the student’s overall welfare and wellbeing, 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 cooperation, with the boarding houses arranged so that the Senior Houseparents manage the boarding houses, working collaboratively with two other Houseparents and a pastoral team comprising Deputy Houseparents, resident tutors and matrons.
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 Houseparent's care have characteristics attributable to that particular house. Like many aspects of Bedales, the unique pattern of boarding has 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.
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.