Can a school change and still be the same school?

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By Clare Jarmy, Head of PRE and Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge

125 logo trans - Copy (Small)Giving school assemblies is always such a joy, especially tackling topics that really matter to us as a community. On our minds this year, in the context of the 125th anniversary of the school, and with Magnus taking the reins in September, is institutional identity. Is Bedales the same school it was 125 years ago? With so much change over the years, how can Bedales still be the same?

In Philosophy, we ask this question of ourselves – we are changing too, with cells regenerating all the time, so am I the same person? Perhaps memories are what keep us the same person?

I applied this to the case of Bedales, and demonstrated that there is a long institutional memory at the school. I asked students to stand up if they had been at Bedales for more than 5 years, then to stand up if they had a parent at the school, or grandparent, or sibling. By then, almost everyone was standing up, and we could see how much collective memory we have of the school.

Similarly, we still have overlapping memories leading back to Mr Badley himself. Keith, other staff and OBs, knew Tim Slack. Tim Slack knew Mr Badley. We then, by knowing those around us today, become part of that chain of memory that leads back to the foundation of the school.

This could get quite backward-looking and nostalgic. After all, as John Henry Newman said, ‘to live is to change’, and Bedales is always seeking to renew itself (Mr Badley wanted the school to rebuild itself every seven years). We must, then, remain Janus-faced, looking back to and understanding our past, yet ever looking forwards to how we shape the school in the future.

Steephurst Air Raid Shelter

By Jane Kirby, Bedales Librarian and Archivist

In going through some of the Headmaster’s correspondence from the WW2 era, I came across a tantalising reference to the architect employed to advise the school on the provision of Air Raid Shelters.

I haven’t yet traced all the papers that may be in the school archives, only letters from Headmaster Freddie Meier to Dr Carr, Chair of the Governors, but these were sufficient to send me on a quest to the RIBA study rooms at the V&A.

It transpires, that among the archives of Ernö Goldfinger held at the V&A, there is indeed a file relating to the design and building of the Steephurst Air Raid Shelter.  Mary Crowley, an Old Bedalian who had become an architect, worked with Goldfinger for a period and both their names appear on the front of the Specification of Works for the shelter.

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The Steephurst bike sheds – as they are now.

Before the war, Mary had worked with Alister MacDonald and Vyv Trubshawe (both OBs) on plans for alterations to Steephurst, Steepcot and the Main Building, and designs for the girls’ changing rooms.  She later married David Medd and after the war they became well-known for their work in designing schools.

The Steephurst Air Raid shelter made use of the fact that the land falls between the main Steephurst lawn and the lower part of the garden.  There was already a retaining wall at this point, with central steps.  The steps were removed, and the retaining wall used as the rear wall of the shelter.  Drawn up in an optimistic spirit, the original plans include a drawing for ‘Elevation : Post War’ in which the roof is held up by pillars, but the front wall has been removed, to give a cloister at the edge of the garden.  This, of course, is what was done and the air raid shelter became the girls’ bike shed; perhaps a rather less glamorous use than the quiet shelter for relaxation they might have imagined.

Progress was rapid, considering the restrictions in place at the time, and after the plans were accepted in August 1940 the contractors were on site in early September.  There were difficulties obtaining some materials – the steel reinforcing rods, and bricks – and more expensive items had to be substituted.  There was some discussion as to the need for Elsans, which were eventually included.  A temporary covered passageway was also built from the shelter to Steephurst, but something clearly went amiss in communicating this, so it did not follow the original intended route straight into the sewing room, but went instead at an angle.  Some savings were made by making the bunks 2’ rather than 2’3” wide.

When the building was finished, some disquiet was expressed at how rough the floor was, but there was no money to put down a screed (despite the generosity of parents in donating to the building costs).  One unforeseen problem was that the lights shone through the roof vents “and turned it into a grand express train”, but these were soon blacked out.  By the end of January 1941 Freddie Meier was writing to inform Goldfinger that some of the bricks were crumbling, so despite being a more expensive type of brick than the original ones specified, they do not seem to have been very good quality.  The original builders, strangely, came all the way from Ringmer, near Lewes, but a local firm was appointed to replace the defective bricks.

Many of Goldfinger’s buildings, such as the Balfron and Trellick Towers and his house at 2 Willow Road, Hampstead (National Trust), are listed, so I wonder if we should campaign for the same recognition of the bike sheds, and add another listed building to our portfolio?

2016: My year to remember (or maybe forget)

By Dr Christopher Grocock, Head of Classics


On Monday 5 February, I had the opportunity to talk in the Bedales assembly about some serious events which I had to come to terms with and cope with during 2016. These are personal to me, and as a rule, not things aired in public, but I felt it appropriate to talk about them for three reasons. First, a remark from Senior Deputy, Louise Wilson, that we often talk about Mental Health issues these days but do not often hear success stories – and I am one, I am pleased to say. Second, I was absent for a lot of 2016, and again while it is the norm to protect an individual’s privacy, I felt it ok to waive that right and to explain why 1I had needed help from other teachers to cover my lessons while I was away. Lastly, because it is a cathartic thing for me to do at this point – a year ago would have been far too close, while if I wait too long, the challenge of what happened may become diluted. I was told by a physician in St Thomas’ hospital that ‘it was impossible to exaggerate the scale of what I had gone through and survived.’ Hence the image of Fortuna Redux which we have copied from a classical sculpture and turned into a mosaic for our garden. It might be translated loosely as ‘lucky to be back.’

3As a reminder, my name is Christopher Grocock, I am 60 years old, I have been happily married to Sally since 1996, I am Head of Classics at Bedales School (an honourable position in an august and respected institution), where I have taught since 2001, I have a crazy collie dog called Zeus, and over the course of my life I haven’t done badly at all: at University I gained a double first and a Ph.D, I went on to be a successful worker for a Christian charity, then as a marketing executive and product development manager in the printing industry; by 35, I was Project Director of the Bede’s World Museum in Jarrow. I ‘chanced upon’ teaching when aged about 40, and have stayed in the profession ever since then. Alongside this I have pursued a career as an ‘independent scholar’ and I have written six academic books and more articles than seem possible, starting back in 1988 and seeing something appear under my name every year since 2004.  I also like to do practical projects, not least of these being major landscaping of our garden in Grayshott, where one of my most notable achievements is our ‘sitooterie’, where we can ‘sit oot’ in a summer evening, or sit inside the attached ‘sitinnerie’ if it rains. This might all seem, dare I say it, idyllic; but for all my life, going back to about the age of six, it has been marred by a complete absence of feelings to go with the achievements.


There was always a ‘Black Dog’ to spoil things. Feelings of despair or pointlessness might come at any time – but more often when I was tired or had just completed a lot of hectic work (I rarely felt this when I was doing something, which is a reason why I kept pushing myself to do things to a level which was decidedly unhealthy.) Being a Christian compounded the situation: Christians aren’t supposed to feel like this are they? Well they can and do.

5All this took a lot of energy, but sadly much of the determination and drive came from a really bad source – depression and a very low level of self-esteem. No matter how hard I worked at anything, or how much success I seemed to attain, something was always there to spoil it. The diagram on the right (from the Oxford Guide to Behavioural Experiments in Cognitive Therapy) illustrates the futility of the cycle: the repeated attempts to prove my worth to myself and counter perceived low self-esteem left me exhausted; the inability to ‘feel’ success reinforced the lack of any sense of entitlement I had, so I tried harder only to become more disappointed, and my efforts led either to anxiety (or the right of the diagram) or to depression (on the left), or to both.

In April 2016, I came to terms with the fact that what I was suffering from was a mental illness. No two are the same, but I was not alone by any means, and everywhere I looked I began to see that others – often people in the limelight, like Fearne Cotton and Ruby Wax – had had similar experiences to mine. But the one which resonated most closely with me was ex-England cricketer and coach Graeme ‘Foxy’ Fowler, interviewed in connection with the publication of his own account of what he had been through. In this, he recounted part of a conversation he had had with his GP. ‘Have you ever self-harmed or actually tried to take our own life.’ ‘No. But a lot of the time I just wish I did not exist any more.’ I had had the same conversation almost word-for-word with my own GP not a month earlier. Lesson one, and the most important lesson I learned and wanted to pass on is: don’t bottle things up. Feelings like this are not ‘normal’ but they are ‘common’ and more people have them than we may dare to think.

I received super support and sympathy – from home, family, friends, and work; I was given time and space to recover. But me being me, I did most of the work myself, and made use of facilities online from the NHS and a CBT course. I have gone from being an unbeliever to a convert. The ancient Greeks write the saying ‘gnothi seauton’ or ‘know yourself’ over the doorway to the oracle at Delphi. Working through CBT exercises helped me – without too much pain – to recognize myself and distinguish the me that really exists from the phoney poor self-image I often created.

Lesson two was to ‘recognise the lies we tell ourselves’ – often by listening to others. In the past I had achieved a lot, and recognised nothing. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate my own abilities and achievements but they were, and are not, ‘nothing’. Over the summer of 2016 I got my head sorted out, and spent an enjoyable summer doing more work in the garden and writing – and walking with Sally and Zeus.

I returned to work in autumn 2016 refreshed and with a sensible approach to getting work done at Bedales. The first half of the term went very well, but on top of work I was still writing and had two deadlines to meet, and some more projects inside the house to sort out before winter came; I had resorted to old work-patterns (though I was feeling very good about them). But towards the end of that half-term by beloved mother-in-law, Beadle, passed away aged 91. I said I would take her funeral, and delivered two eulogies on the same day (the first day of the half-term holiday); and then we found that my dear friend Dave had died, and he had asked in his will if I would do his funeral too, and it was then that we found out the hard way that I had an undiagnosed blood disorder. This time it was not my mind but my body which reacted madly to the stress I had put it under. Click here for a fine illustration of the kind of reaction I had at the end of October 2016. It satisfies an interest I have in steam trains and it is worth watching to 1:37 (ironically the slope you see from Exeter Central to Exeter St David’s is 1 in 37).

In summary, my liver released more sugar to give me energy and went into overdrive; my pancreas couldn’t cope; my blood thickened till I had a ‘massive embolism’ about the size of a small lemon which squashed my pulmonary artery and stopped my heart. Fortunately, I had already made it as far as the ICU at Guildford’s Royal Surrey County Hospital when my heart stopped – four times in all, the longest for 15 minutes.

7Lesson three, is knowing that when people say ‘stress is a killer’ they are not lying. The ICU was an ideal place to have it as it turned out, because their CPR kept the oxygen supply going to my brain until the embolism could be dealt with. Later when I was back in Guildford, I decided that the record label was the ideal thing to put on to T-shirts and a sweatshirt (the irony of the show’s title ‘One Dam Thing After Another’ made me laugh too. In hospital, I learned that one of the best strategies to face down a really serious situation – and I faced several over the weeks to come – was to laugh at it or spit in its eye). Lesson four: CPR really works when it is done properly!

9I was not out of danger. My heart had-re-started but my lungs were full of the bits of clotted blood and my liver and kidneys were not happy, shall we say (everything shut down at one point or another). This link illustrates what happened pretty well. At any event, I needed a treatment called ECMO provided by a remarkable team of medical  personnel at St Thomas’ Hospital led by Dr Duncan Wyncoll (right). In short I had eight days in an induced coma and then a slow and very steady recovery with numerous hurdles to get over before I was transferred back to Guildford on 20 November and then came home on 8 December. My condition is stable if I do as I am told (which I do) and take all my meds (which I do) and avoid stress (which I do). This is another lesson: a patient should be patient. Oh, and ‘medicine is not an exact science.’


I fought hard to get back to work during the term after Christmas and I am more pleased to be back at Bedales than I can say. Even when tired I have lost the feelings of wanting to be ‘nowhere’. I most definitely want to be ‘somewhere’ – at home, at school, or watching the glories of sunsets on Hankley Common just north-east of Grayshott. What else have I learned? Well, sometimes it is ok to say ‘no. ‘Being’ not ‘doing’ is the key to enjoying what we do. And sometimes it is better to take longer and pull half the train up the hill at a time! (You may need to look at the first hyperlink to understand!).

An update from the Professional Guidance department

By Vikki Alderson-Smart, HE Advisor

A team of interviewers arrived at school this week to take part in one-to-one talks with 6.1 students about their plans for after Bedales. The interviewing team sent a message afterwards to say: “We were totally bowled over by your students over the past couple of days. They were not only punctual and polite, but also most communicative, conveying a wide spectrum of ideas and delightful to engage.”

All of the 6.1’s will have a follow-up interview with me to discuss in more depth their research into their post-Bedales plans. I will be encouraging them to go and visit universities on open days, and all these dates can be found on the UCAS website. Taster days are another good way of trying out various courses; registration for the University of London taster programme is now open.

Students can also try MOOCS as a way of dipping their toes into subjects they may not have tried before; Futurelearn is a particularly good website for finding courses.

Students should also take advantage of the Old Bedalian careers list. I will encourage your sons and daughters to speak with Leana Seriau, Alumni Liaison Manager, to use this facility. She is able to put students in contact with Old Bedalians from many career areas so that they can gain a better insight into areas of work they may be considering. Please encourage them to see Leana or contact her by email:

Duke of Edinburgh’s Award update


By Paul Turner, Head of Geography and DoFE Centre Coordinator

Last year, students grasped the opportunities available through DofE with both hands and the number of participants increased fivefold with half the school involved. Students camped and walked in Dartmoor as well as Dorset and the South Downs. The DofE Award continues to be highly valued by employers and universities alike and is a useful badge – recognising much of what the students already do as part of everyday life at Bedales.

This year, we’ve expanded the team with Ana Simmons taking responsibility for the Silver Award (available to all Block 4’s) and myself leading the Gold Award (available to all 6.1’s) with the award running across the two sixth form years. Following a trial of the Bronze Award with Block 3, we have instead decided to focus the school’s resources on the Silver and Gold levels. There is no prerequisite for each level and it is common for schools to offer only specific levels.

A new addition this year is the introduction of DofE comments to the review cycle for specific year groups, and we hope this will improve the regular nature of communication and allow parents to better understand the progress their child is making. It is important to reiterate the independent nature of the award: students are required to evidence and organise much of what they do themselves within the framework provided and upload the appropriate material to the edofe website. Another important point to emphasise is the composite nature of the award with the expedition being one of four components including the physical, skills and volunteering. As was the case last year, students will not be permitted to participate in the expedition unless they have submitted evidence for at least two of the other award sections.

Looking forward, we have Silver expeditions in the New Forest and South Downs planned as well as Gold expeditions: one walking in the Brecon Beacons, another canoeing on the River Wye. Gold students continue weekly training as part of their expedition preparation and Silver students in Block 4 continue their Friday afternoon activity having now been allocated their expedition groups and leader.

Block 5 China experience


By Oscar Clark and Isabella Barty-King, Block 5


We left for Beijing, via Frankfurt, early on the Thursday before half term and landed in Beijing at a similar time on Friday, marking the first day of our battle against tiredness. We went straight from the airport to see the Temple of Heaven which gave us our first taste of the amazing historical sights Beijing has to offer.

At the end of the day we went to see an acrobatics show, at the end of the show there was a steel globe with 7 motorbikes riding fast around the inside.  It certainly helped to keep us excited and awake! Our stay in Beijing was packed to the brim with incredible sightseeing including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Summer Palace. The highlight of our time in Beijing was the five hour round trip to Emily Seeber’s favourite spot on the Great Wall, which did not disappoint. After roughly an hour of walking steeply uphill we were gazing along the monumental structure as it stretched into the distance, zigzagging along the mountain range and eventually dipping over the IMG_4236horizon.

After an amazing few days in Beijing we pulled our luggage onto the overnight train to Xi’an and settled down for a night on the tracks. This was the most fun, with four packed into each cabin and barely enough room to move.  You’d think it would have been a disaster but it still remains my favourite part.  We were woken by weary guards warning us of our impending arrival at Xi’an. Our time in the city was short and entertaining and jam-packed.  It was actually my favourite city out of all three. A highlight was our visit to the terracotta warriors, where we spent hours looking at the different soldiers.  We also made our own terracotta warriors, learnt about the ancient history and took a beautiful bike ride along the city wall.

IMG_4193All too soon we were flying out of Xi’an, south east towards our final destination – Shanghai. We landed, ate and slept, preparing to meet our Chinese counterparts at the school the next day. We met our buddies from the high school, mine being Jason and Thomas, a scientist and a mathematician. We then spent the rest of the day exploring a water village just outside Shanghai which was almost Venetian in style. We spent the day with two of the maths teachers from the school and you may remember them as having visited Bedales last year. The penultimate day of activities was spent at the school, sitting in on English and art lessons, playing a seven-a-side game of football against them and, to round off our time at the school, we watched short presentations from the students on the music, fashion and culture of China. We then left the school in pairs to have dinner with our buddies and their families, all round Shanghai.

IMG_3970We spent our last day in central Shanghai, walking around the French concession where we visited a museum on the history of propaganda. In the evening we spent a very interesting hour in a karaoke bar which was rounded off with a short award ceremony and a big thank you to our national tour guide, Joyce.

It was a truly amazing trip giving a remarkable insight into the history and culture of the fastest growing economy in the world and a wondrous opportunity to see new things first hand. On behalf of all of the students, we would like to say a huge thank you to all the staff who made this fantastic experience possible.

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Own your own Bedales lamb


By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

Lambing this year reached 188%, meaning we got 47 lambs from 25 ewes with no fatalities. In the sheep world, this is very good news! Recently, parent Craig McGregor got in contact to share his story about keeping his own Bedales sheep, an extract of which is below. If you would like to try your hand at some shepherding please get in touch. We will be selling live lambs from mid-July and they will be the tastiest lawnmower you will ever have! Contact me on 07786381427 / email

By Craig McGregor, parent

When I first read Andrew’s email from Bedales last spring offering lambs from the Bedales flock, I confess my first thought was ‘Yum!’ rather than ‘Awwwwww cute…’. I’d kept a few pigs in the past (they were delicious too) and I liked the idea of trying some sheep for a change, despite the odd cautionary tale I’d heard in the past. As it happens the Jacob’s sheep at Bedales behave more like [mountain] goats anyway, and they have provided my family with lots of entertainment over the past year!


They have been very easy to keep and look after, especially as Andrew had given them the necessary medicines before I collected them, and even loaned me his trailer to get my four lambs home.

I know you shouldn’t name future meals in your paddock, but one of them (they are all rams) showed such leadership and smart thinking that I praised him and inadvertently called him Timmy one day, and that stuck. The others remain nameless, though all of them are very happy to chat at any time, and they are very curious by nature. They are fast learners and so can be beckoned from far away when they know it’s mealtime, or see me with the rattling bucket.

IMAG0105-20170619-231803296The biggest benefit of course is the grazing, and they have kept our two fields to a nice neat length, and we haven’t needed any extra topping, which is very handy and saves some money too.

Their next milestone is our local butcher, who will be cutting and preparing the meat.  As they’re just over the year, they are officially young hogget’s, apparently, and are absolutely delicious when slow-roasted…

Of course I am also collecting another three or four from this year’s lambs to repeat the cycle. Highly recommended! And happy to chat with any other parents…