Annual walk to the Poet’s Stone

By David Anson, Head of English

As ever, the annual Block 3 and 6.2 Poet’s Stone walk on Saturday 4 May was an invigorating and stimulating occasion. So good to see the two year groups displaying all that is good about the cross year group friendships that are possible at Bedales.

After the brisk trek up the Shoulder of Mutton we had a breakfast of fruit and pastries with a side of some Edward Thomas poetry; 6.2 students Sam Vernor-Miles and Meg Allin read rather beautifully The Penny Whistle and Tall Nettles, I read The Combe and one of our librarians, Ian Douglas, read The Lofty Sky.

It seems such a lot to achieve before 8.30am but definitely set us all up for a welcome bank holiday long leave before the more serious business of A Level exams begin.

The Lofty Sky

To-day I want the sky,
The tops of the high hills,
Above the last man’s house,
His hedges, and his cows,
Where, if I will, I look
Down even on sheep and rook,
And of all things that move
See buzzards only above:-
Past all trees, past furze
And thorn, where nought deters
The desire of the eye
For sky, nothing but sky.
I sicken of the woods
And all the multitudes
Of hedge-trees. They are no more
Than weeds upon this floor
Of the river of air
Leagues deep, leagues wide, where
I am like a fish that lives
In weeds and mud and gives
What’s above him no thought.
I might be a tench for aught
That I can do to-day
Down on the wealden clay.
Even the tench has days
When he floats up and plays
Among the lily leaves
And sees the sky, or grieves
Not if he nothing sees:
While I, I know that trees
Under that lofty sky
Are weeds, fields mud, and I
Would arise and go far
To where the lilies are.

—Edward Thomas

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Bedales teacher’s research papers published

Clare Jarmy, Bedales Head of PRE and Head of A,G & T, Scholars and Oxbridge, has had two peer-reviewed academic papers published in recent months.

The first: Subject knowledge: the ‘knowledge-rich’ agenda, Buber and the importance of the knowing subject in Religious Education was published in the British Journal of Religious Education, one of the best-known and most respected journals in the field, internationally.

The second paper ‘Neath the Moth‐Eaten Rag: Do Artefacts Play a Special Role for Historical Knowledge? Is out on early view in the Journal of the Philosophy of Education, again, a journal at the forefront of research in the field, and asks a simple question: ‘do students gain knowledge from artefacts?’

The first concerns knowledge, and what that means when teaching about religion. Lots of people are happy to talk about knowledge as though it’s prior to knowing, as though there can be knowledge without knowers. Clare proposes focus on the person who has the knowledge, the knower. In learning about religion, the learner is key, because her conceptual world is different from her neighbour’s. We cannot treat the subject matter as a bunch of facts, but have to come to relate to that way of seeing the world.

The second article was prompted by the way a Bedalian responded to the Florence trip a few years ago. So often, what a student gains from seeing an artefact, typically in a museum, depends on what they already know. If they already know about it, they can get something from the experience, but if they do not have their experience framed with past knowledge or good resources, they can gain very little. What is special about artefacts? What can we learn from them? Clare was lucky to be selected to give a workshop about the subject at the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain annual conference in Oxford at the end of March, the funnest part of which was surely when she asked a room of academics to try and identify mystery objects from museum collections!

Our house is on fire

Our house is on fire - Paul Turner

By Paul Turner, Head of Geography

Our house is on fire and Extinction Rebellion is the fire alarm warning us of climate and ecological breakdown. On 24 April, I gave a Jaw about the inspiring and emotional experience of taking my family to participate in the week of International Rebellion.

Across 80 countries, citizens took part in non-violent direct action, which in London saw the arrest of over 1000 people and the blocking of five sites. It was a challenge to explain to a three-year-old why people were being carried away and arrested and who the ‘good guys’ were. Waterloo Bridge was turned into a garden bridge covered in plants and trees and the experience as a whole was deeply uplifting and reinvigorating.

Over the days I bumped into many students, parents and Old Bedalians who also felt they’d reached a point where they could no longer stand by and not act against government inaction on climate change.

Extinction Rebellion has three demands: the Government must a) tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change; b) act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025; and c) create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

To tell the truth, in coming weeks Bedales will host a screening of David Attenborough’s Climate Change – The Facts. On 15 May we will be visited by a prominent climate lawyer, and on 22 May we’re holding a whole school symposium to debate the school’s position on climate change. Please do email me (pturner@bedales.org.uk) if you’d like to get involved.

Silver DofE Practice Expedition, New Forest

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English

The Silver Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Practice Expedition, held over three days in the New Forest last weekend, was the perfect place for Block 4 participants to learn how to navigate properly, some for the first time. The challenges of the forest – paths are not clearly sign posted and blend into other paths or trail off unto thick undergrowth or fenced enclosures – meant that groups quickly learnt the importance of the compass and trying to keep to a bearing.

On day one, each group walked with a member of staff, who expounded navigation knowledge and important aspects of the country code that cannot be gleaned in the classroom. Group 5 walked with Harrison and felt inspired to write a song about their day: he has a shout out in the song. The tail end of Storm Hannah meant that strong winds made putting up tents extremely challenging on Friday night; groups learnt quickly the value in pegging down the tent before putting in the poles. This stops the tent turning into an aerodynamic kite that might fly away! Group 2 piled into tents after dark, to play cards, keep warm and wonder who might blow away. Thankfully, no one did.

It was a noisy night, but many were worn out and slept regardless. On day two, the weather was kinder. Light showers meant that people got to try out their waterproofs and were glad that rucksacks had outer covers or that they had wrapped their clothes inside dry bags. Navigation remained challenging, and the GPS trackers carried by each group, revealed that many were not on their planned route, and some groups were walking with another group. Like winged-Hermes, staff whizzed through the forest on their bikes to find groups, separate them, reroute them and occasionally lift morale with squares of chocolate. By the afternoon, all groups were walking their correct routes; Group 3 arrived into camp ahead of time and Group 1 must be commended for not sort-cutting at all. On Saturday night in camp there was a very relaxed mood with evening sunshine to enjoy and more than half of the expedition completed.

On Day 3, all groups were out by 9am and although tired and aching, spirits were high. Indeed, everyone completed the expedition and went home with blisters, but nothing more serious. Group 4 enjoyed a rest break at the Reptile Centre, and managed to resist the temptation to visit Acre Down farm shop. It must be noted that food was at a shortage. Some participants had not packed proper lunches, and relied heavily on snack-bars and kindly teachers with spare toast or carrots in their bags, and some did not have enough food to fill them up in the evenings after seven or more hours walking. It is expected that mistakes will be made on the practice, so that they won’t occur on the qualifying expedition to the South Downs in September.

A big thank you to Paul for organising such a successful event, and to Fiona, Rob, Harrison and Allen for giving up time to share their knowledge and experience with Block 4.

Bedales students join thousands for climate march

Dan Hall - 6-1

By Milun Syms, 6.1

Last Friday, roughly 60 Bedales pupils – led by Aggie Levingston and Bella Evershed – joined the masses of students in London taking a stand on the imminent issue regarding their future.

As we departed from Waterloo and advanced to Parliament Square, the bold and energetic chorus of various chants and slogans began to pick up and would continue for the entirety of the march. Once the seemingly large group of Bedalians reached Parliament Square, it became clear just how many people were involved, all forming a monumental pack.

Instantly immersed in the crowd, everyone was surrounded by brightly designed pickets with various slogans regarding climate justice, with the occasional humorous comment about Teresa May. As the exponential growth of the assembly began to slow, the thousands of people embarked on the slow but steady march to Buckingham Palace, passing Downing Street on the way. Along the way, tourists, construction workers and even police officers showed their support as we progressed.

The front gate to Buckingham Palace was eventually reached, and from here, one could see countless heads, flags, signs and the fluorescent glow of the police jackets that lined the sides of the road leading up to the palace. After some time, the front of the group reached the end of the road, met by a wave of police officers attempting to prevent them from entering. As expected, this did not last very long, and soon people were flowing in, quickly inundating the Queen Victoria Memorial. A few daring individuals even began to scale the colossal statue (who were very quickly brought down by police), climbing above Victoria’s head, causing the droning chants to rapidly increase in volume. After an hour or so, the crowds begin to leave, and the march is more or less over.

Before attending the march, I believed, along with many others, that protesting in this form was not going to achieve anything big enough to make a difference. However, once immersing myself, I can now see that non-violent protest could be successful. The overall disruption it caused could not possibly be ignored. Furthermore, blocking roads, bridges and flooding the streets most definitely caused an inconvenience, and this was just one day.

On 15 April, Extinction Rebellion is planning a week-long strike in London. With persistence, composure, and vast support, change is definitely up for discussion. However, I must say that it was far from a perfect demonstration. The numerous empty bottles, trampled signs, and various other rubbish that had mostly been left behind by protesters highlighted the irony of the event. Although in all fairness, faith was restored as various people began to walk around picking up litter left by others.

Overall, it was an interesting event to attend and I’m glad that our students are opinionated and interested in controversial topics such as climate change. It’s important that as a school we show an interest, and Friday’s strike was an excellent example of that.

Pictured: Bedales student Dan Hall, 6.1

Preparing for DofE Gold Award

By Alex Lunn, 6.1

Canoeing. Sunny days. Leisurely trips down a glistening river. Well, this was not the case when 6.1 Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award students spent a Saturday afternoon in Southampton training for embarking on their Gold Award!

After gracefully getting toggled up in perfectly sized waterproofs, these magnificent vessels were launched on the centre’s placid lake. Our instructor imparted expert knowledge of how to side paddle to turn sharply and where the centre of weight should be, based on wind and current speeds. After all, this will be a true expedition, requiring much stamina! Fearing we might need some more work, the instructor was pleasantly surprised when our group appeared extremely able and it seemed the task would be less of a challenge than initially anticipated.

Soon we were crossing the nearby road and into the nearby River Itchen. Only in England can we enjoy such nature in the midst of train tracks and a small airport. The sludgy river was however much more of a task. Storm Freya, as some of the instructors joked, was in full force. We were being buffeted around and struggling against the wind when the river claimed its first casualties. At this point, some forward sitting people in the front of the canoes learnt the importance of steering into the wind so the boat did not swing around. I could only hope that in the real thing it would not be so squally!

We reached the milestone bridge and attempted to go through, but the wind was too strong. After convening we decided to head back and have some fun. Standing up, the group linked and made an almost successful sail. On the way back, with the wind and current behind us, we all stood up and had a real lark. However, those who wanted a peaceful sit down after the strenuous exercise might have been disappointed in hindsight!

The final bit of the day was capsize drills. If this was to go wrong on DoFE, this would result in seriously damp food supplies. The old saying, ‘he who steps in two canoes will fall in’ came true here. The aim was that a pair would capsize and another would rescue. Credit to the rescuers, they had to haul and offer up their canoe to very bedraggled ‘casualties’. I will not mention anything about sinking. That did NOT happen!

After the capsize drills, the end of the day was nigh. It had been an extremely comprehensive and fun day despite the weather. Everyone showed true grit, and most even enjoyed the slog, although some did prefer the times they were dragged along.

We now feel prepared and ready for Gold award, a daunting task make manageable by this. Thanks to our instructors, our canoe partners (maybe…) and Ruth and Gordon for braving it too. Thanks to Paul. And finally – most importantly – thanks for the warm shower I had at the end of the day!

Bedales compete in Latin and Greek Reading Competition

By Christopher Grocock, Head of Classics

Bedales once again sent a select set of competitors to the annual Southampton Classical Association’s Latin and Greek Reading Competition on 1 March at Portsmouth Grammar School (PGS), where our students found themselves pitted against entrants from Winchester, PGS, Pilgrims and Southampton Grammar School.

Alastair Harden and I spent time drumming up interest and rehearsing them – I used chocolate biscuits as an incentive in Monday afternoon breaks! Our entry was whittled down through illnesses (and the same had happened to other schools, as we found when we arrived), but undaunted, we set off at 4pm in our trusty minibus, hoping that nerves would not impede us and we would all do our best.

Ben Bradberry, Rhiannon Griffiths, Athena Lucas, Annabelle Snell and Eben MacDonald performed brilliantly in their Beginners’ Greek round and all won gold medals. Athena said afterwards that all their practice had paid off. Annabelle’s comment (“thanks Rhiannon, for the carry”) does just a little justice to the performance she put in as Charon – boat, beard and all! Ben summed up their performance: “It was great to beat the Winchester Scholars”. Too right it was!

Two students from Dunhurst – Abigail O’Donoghue and Juliet Solomon-Solymar – also competed in the Junior Latin section. Both tried hard, and in a competitive field, Juliet did well to win a bronze medal. We should aim to enter more next year, and repeat the success.