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

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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.

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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.’

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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!).

Block 5 China experience

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By Oscar Clark and Isabella Barty-King, Block 5

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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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How we learn and what makes us tick

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By Josh Mazas, 6.2

I wanted to share some thoughts on what I have personally found make people act the way they do, with a touch on how great a Bedalian education is.

When I say “what makes us tick” I mean the most basic subconscious motivators. Not for example, money, power, or because mum tells you to. These are important, but they apply individually, and I would be more interested in the factors beneath those – in those that apply universally.

Also, I’m only at the very initial thoughts on what I think is education and behavioural studies. In fact, most people would usually stand up and tell the audience why they’re qualified to talk on education and behavioural studies… I’m not qualified to do anything much. I have however, been at this school for a decade now, well over half of the 14-odd years I’ve spent in education. And what I wanted to do was just share a personal fascination that I think was born of going to a school that aims to be slightly different – questioning the status quo.

A few years ago, after some deep soul-searching, I diagnosed myself as a compulsive people-watcher. I find watching the infinitely varied way in which people behave and trying to understand why, fascinating. So to start with, I will spend a bit of time talking about a four-year-old friend of mine, Badger.

Badger: 1. Valorisation

The great thing about kids is that they are psychologically untouched. They don’t have any of the complexities or self-awareness of an adult that comes from scepticism and experiences and growing up, and so when I’m people-watching, it’s like their actions are a clear window into their mind-set.

Well, a couple of weekends ago I spent some time watching Badger interacting with his natural habitat at Common People music festival with his parents and all the other people we were working with. The first evening he stood on the circle of logs around the campfire and jumped from one to the other, and when he did a particularly big jump, we cheered him, which I can tell you made him very happy. The next evening he went back to the logs and did some jumping, but this time he looked at us expectantly, clearly waiting for the applause that his daring feats of acrobatics deserved. Which of course, with his chubby cheeks and bright blue eyes, he got.

As I was watching, I was struck by how much of the time, we do things because people tell us they have value, when in the larger scheme of things, they are about as significant as Badger’s hops. It was clear to me that the really basic reason that Badger was doing his hopping (which can be transferred to many other things we do) is for one of three basic reasons, the first of which I would call ‘valorisation’.

The concept is very simple. Throughout our childhoods, if we have good parents and peers who support us emotionally, then we are applauded for certain things: academic, creative and sporting feats, altruistic behaviour and generally what we think of as those acts that have ‘value’.

It’s funny, because this idea of value is completely arbitrary: we think of an action as having value if it’s worth doing. And we do stuff because we feel it has value. This tautology means that, to an extent, goodness is trained into us: we say that we inherited the creative/sporty/maths genes from our parents, but I think it’s more like our parents applaud traits they find in themselves, and thus you are subconsciously trained to be like them, with no genetic predisposition.

Anyway, when I consider the basic reasons that make us do things: work hard; be friendly; eat your greens; I think it stems at its most basic level from this idea of valorisation. Which means that although we don’t think of ourselves usually in this way, we are each individually programmed by our parents’ conscious and subconscious valorisation, as well as the valorisation we receive from our surroundings. But of course, that’s not where all our ‘ticking’ comes from.

Badger: 2. Copying and integrating

Back to Badger. The day after his log-jumping Olympic gold, Badger was following his mum Kate around, and she was walking round the campsite just dancing to the reggae-dub that was playing on the mainstage, so he started bopping with her. It was interesting because he initially watched her carefully, trying to replicate her exact movements, until the moment of realisation that her incomprehensible spasms were actually linked to the beat that was incessantly playing. You could see the comprehension as we went from dancing completely out of tune, to focussing inwards and rocking to the music with much happiness, jamming along with glee and pride, bigger and bigger moves… until he whacked his head on one of the poles.

Poor Badger.

The next basic motivator then, I thought, was clear throughout much of the animal kingdom; especially monkeys, and it was simply: copying. As an evolutionary mechanism, it makes a lot of sense, you copy your peers or people you aspire to be in order to learn from them, and improve yourself.

This is actually a vital part of initial learning, until we learn to think for ourselves, which is why you have to be super careful about what you do or say around kids. They are incredible at picking up on what you do and copying you. Without their talent in this field we wouldn’t be able to learn to speak, or eat, or any very basic communication skills.

You can also see it subconsciously in large groups of people, shoals of fish, and young Tory voters. “My parents are Tory, I’ll vote Conservative”. It’s amazing how much more likely you are to dance if other people are dancing, this feeling of copying people so as not to be different, to blend in, be part of the crowd is something we all experience, and isn’t always positive.

Anyway, so I think you’ve probably grasped quite easily the first two obvious factors of motivation: valorisation and the innate urge to copy. The third one is my favourite, and I think that between these three you can argue that they cover all the things we do in our lives, in general.

Badger: 3. Wonder

This is the last time I will mention Badger: when I woke up on the last day of the festival, I found him sitting on a stool, pouring water very gently over this little spider web and seeing how it made little droplets that sparkled in the about 11:30 sunshine. He was completely enthralled, and 100% focussed, as he was when dancing or log-hopping. It was wonderful to see.

I took the liberty of joining him in his experiments, and for some brief moments felt the same wonder at seeing the water trickle over such a delicate structure without breaking it.

Although I’m pretty certain Badger wasn’t engrossed specifically by the tensile strength of natural fibres; I thought it was clear we both felt an urge to experiment; to explore our own capabilities; to find out about the world and how it worked. I would argue that it’s the same instinct that makes people want to study at higher education, or take a course in some long-lost art, or climb K2 (the most dangerous mountain in the world to date I believe).

On reflection, I wondered again about the evolutionary perspective on this final factor, and I thought that it was deep down probably linked to fear. Fear is arguably our most innate sensation, all animals have it and it helps us to survive. When discovering something or doing something new, whether physical or mental, you gain knowledge or strength or a skill. This we can essentially call a ‘strength’. Every time you gain a strength, you feel better prepared to survive in a world that is quintessentially frightening. You feel, every time you embark on a discovery, a sense of self-betterment, which is why we have this built into us.

This is my favourite factor, as I said, because it serves us better than the two other factors. If someone tells us to do something, or just simply does something, we are initially at an advantage if we do that thing; but in a more developed world it is absolutely vital to curate and encourage the third factor, which I would like to call innate curiosity.

Bedales

Finally, a couple of quick words about Bedales. Although you may not agree, I think the wonderful thing about this school is embodied in how it approaches the three factors I have just discussed.

Firstly, the incredible amount of valorisation by the teachers is perfect for creating a self-confidence in the student body, a pride in one’s own abilities and also a willingness to do what is good, since we valorise things such as hard work, appreciation of self and others; respect; work of each for weal of all etc. I have a friend who was badly bullied before he joined, and remember vividly how he cried on his first day – such was his lack of confidence. However, through constant support and valorisation, he is now not only proud of his achievements, himself and his beautiful girlfriend, but also feels prepared emotionally for whatever is coming in the next few years.

However, in terms of the second motivator (copying), we find Bedales’ ethos rebels slightly. Bedales is a great advocate of individuality. Which precisely rejects that innate urge to do like everyone else and copy blindly until you understand why. The problem with the second motivator in our contemporary society is that much of what people do is pointless; due to the speed at which attitudes and cultures and even simply geographical positioning changes. In my opinion this is an excellent way to create ‘intelligent thinkers’; people who surpass their basic internal forces to rationally consider their options before doing them. Again, I would say Bedales has struck gold.

Finally, and I’m sure you know what I’m going to say, Bedales – as it says on the website – encourages ‘inquisitive thinkers’. I think we can all agree that this inquisitive, curious, appetite for something different is incredibly valued and valuable at Bedales; it could be considered a trait comparable to or intrinsically linked with (depending on how you see it) creativity. Sir Ken Robinson said it, and I agree, we must cultivate creativity in our schools with the same importance as mathematics or English.

You need creativity to approach the uncertain future we have ahead of us with success. And actually, I would say that Bedales, to a certain extent, is also pretty accomplished in this area too.

Before I finish, I would like to go back to the beginning point about ‘people-watching’. It is fascinating and although you may think what you like about my observations, they come from a completely free and personally tailored form of learning. The integral aim of people-watching is to not only learn about other people, but to stretch your own perspective and learn about yourself. I would highly recommend it.

Bedales Jaw: are human rights, liberal rights?

By Emily Seeber, Head of Chemistry

On Wednesday I presented a Jaw to students on the ‘problem of multiculturalism’ for liberal political philosophy, with a focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). I began by introducing students to the key ideas of liberal thought, and focused on the ideas of John Rawls, whose theory has been hugely influential in contemporary political theory. I then suggested the challenge posed by multiculturalism for liberalism and gave three criteria for a liberal philosophy which was consistent with a pluralistic society, and in this case a global society.

Firstly, what constitutes human rights needs to be determined under conditions of fairness (behind Rawls’ veil of ignorance in which participants are unaware of their gender, religion, economic status, political views, etc). Secondly, any universal rights should represent values which deeply different cultures can accept and which do not contradict their own systems of value.

Thirdly, rights and restrictions given by the declaration should provide genuine opportunities for equality of human flourishing in culturally diverse societies. I demonstrated that, arguably, and in my opinion, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights fails to meet any of these criteria and, consequently, does not represent a multiculturalist form of liberalism.

Consequently, judging and measuring other societies using the Declaration is inherently illiberal. This does not mean that the values represented by the Declaration are not good values, or that the notion of human rights is conceptually flawed, but it does suggest that the Declaration needs to be reformulated into a document which is more tolerant and sensitive to other cultural values.

Why every student should complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award

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By Emily Seeber, Head of Chemistry

Having helped supervise the recent sixth form Gold DofE Expedition to Dartmoor, I spent some time reflecting on why the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the expedition in particular is such a valuable experience for every student.

  1. Sleeping in the wilderness

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There is something wonderful about sleeping in a camp you have made yourself: maybe no-one else has ever put their tent up exactly where yours is. Waking up and already being deep in nature gives you a new perspective on your relationship with the environment and packing up your stuff and seeing how little impact you can make on the ground underneath your tent is pretty inspiring.

  1. No technology

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An expedition means days without iMessage, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. This makes DofE one of the least narcissistic experiences students can have.

  1. Fresh air and a bit of cardio

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Everybody knows that when you’re feeling down, going outside for fresh air and exercise is one of the best things you can do. On DofE students don’t experience anything other than the freshest of air for five days straight – and climbing up hills with a heavy bag is not to be underestimated as a means of raising heart-rate; all of which gives students’ mood a real boost.

  1. Providing skills and opportunities for the future

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DofE empowers student to organise their own expeditions and travels for the future, which may involve carrying a tent, but could be kayaking the Amazon, for example. Students start to see new opportunities and have the skills, and confidence, to take advantage of them.

  1. A sense of satisfaction

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Hiking for four or five days with a heavy bag, setting up camp four times, staying positive and finding solutions to unanticipated problems: these are the challenges of an expedition and overcoming them is immensely satisfying.

  1. Removes traditional social barriers

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Students do DofE for a range of reasons, so they are thrown into a deep relationship of trust with a group of people that they may not usually hang about with. Students form friendships with students they would not have done without the experience. This broadening and strengthening of students’ real (as in, not virtual) social network is associated with improvements in their mental wellbeing.

All-in-all, it is extremely worthwhile for Bedales students to take advantage of these opportunities time and again, with an increasing level of independence through Bronze, Silver and Gold. Grab a backpack… and contact  Paul Turner, Head of Geography and Duke of Edinburgh Coordinator for Bedales.