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Inspirational Structures

Our Y8 boys have been learning about structures, both natural and man-made, in Design and Technology this term.

Most recently, the boys have been looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s Self-Supporting Bridge. The bridge is ingenious for its constructive and structural simplicity; a structure made of simple circular-section beams that can be assembled without the use of fastenings.

In lessons, the boys built scale models, which, once completed, needed to be of sufficient weight to exert the necessary pressure so that the longitudinal beams could block the transversal ones in place by closing like a pair of scissors, thus preventing the structure from collapsing. The greater the pressure on the upper part of the bridge, the greater its stability.

Their models were highly impressive, and it is clear to see that the brilliance of one of the world’s most prolific inventors lives on.


United Against Bullying

At Bedford Prep, we recognise that every week should be an anti-bullying week. However, during national anti-bullying week, we take the opportunity to focus on bullying with our boys and look at the long-lasting effect it has on those who experience and witness it. 

Through special assemblies and focused personal development sessions as well as a fun odd socks day – a great way to celebrate individuality! – the boys are invited to explore ways to deal with bullies, find help and stay safe and happy in school.

This year, the focus was around uniting against bullying, and the boys discussed the various roles that people play in bullying scenarios and how they could react if they encountered bullying. They also created class jigsaws, with each boy designing one jigsaw piece to join to the next to ‘unite’ them against bullying.   

“We’re all a piece in the puzzle, and together, we’re united against bullying.”


Hands on Art

Over the last few weeks, as ever, boys have enjoyed exploring their creativity in art.

In Y6, boys have been busy creating clay Udu drums decorated with traditional Ghanaian Adinkra symbols which they applied using Scrafitto – a form of decoration made by scratching through the surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting colour.

In Y5, boys have been getting both hands-on and feet-on in their lessons, creating Aboriginal designs ready for foot painting. We can’t wait to see the results!

Outside of the classroom, creativity has also flourished thanks to a new Y5 art club: Chinese calligraphy.  Zihao of 5RR introduced the new club, explaining how his grandmother had taught him. He then showed the boys how to hold the brush and use ink to write their first names in Chinese.


Head Master’s Assembly: Heroism Worn Lightly

The most exciting piece of news in the last few days has been the apparent breakthrough in the search for a vaccine against Covid-19. It almost seems too good to be true, but it does also sound like, at the very least, we may have reached the start of the journey back to some sort of normality. 

Much of the press in the UK on the so-called ‘race’ to a vaccine has been centred around revered institutions like Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer or Oxford University – and indeed one of them, Pfizer, has been instrumental in a breakthrough which would not have been possible without its expertise, its global network and its financial muscle. 

However, one of the most wonderful parts of the story so far has been the focus on two rather unlikely heroes – a married couple living in Mainz near Frankfurt in Germany, who have been accredited as the true brains behind the vaccine. Dr Ugur Sahin and Dr Ozlem Tureci are immigrants from Turkey, who both came to Germany as part of a guest worker programme; he is the son of a car factory worker in a town called Iskenderun near Turkey’s Syrian boarder, and she is the daughter of a surgeon from Istanbul. They met at Saarland University in Germany, set up their first company together in 2001, and then married a year later. In 2008, they set up Biontech, the company which they currently run and which is the cradle of the latest exciting news.

The medical possibilities of this breakthrough are, of course, vast for the whole planet. But, for me, there is developing a side story which is also particularly poignant for the so-called first world countries, the wealthier sections of our global community – and that is a reminder that heroes do not necessarily conform to stereotypes. For centuries, we have been presented with Achilles-type figures, a Lord Nelson standing on the foredeck, arm severed / head bandaged, or a brooding, moody Winston Churchill refusing to give an inch. More recently, we have made virtue out of money and fame, Gates and Musk, Taylor Swift and Stormzy, Mohammed Salah and Ronaldo. This brilliant but understated couple, it appears, could not be further from that mould; and indeed if even half of the reported interview with the Times on Saturday is true, then we have the most wonderful new role models for the whole planet.

Their current company, Biontech, was set up with the aspiration to individualise cancer medicine. Indeed, if you go to their website, it is all about the determination to find a better way to treat cancer by manipulating the immune system. 

There is an inserted page to direct you to their work on Covid, but it all seems to have been added in rather a hurry and rather apologetically, and not really part of their core business. 

And that gives a clue as to what these two are like. It is reported that they read about Covid late in January, and thought that what they were doing with their work on cancer treatment might be useful. I let the Times take up the story – and you get a flavour for what these two are like:

Their desire to find a vaccine did not grow out of any competitive, financial or scientific impetus, but because they felt a “moral” imperative to help the world. “We have always needed to know the immune system very well. This is an expertise which makes it our duty to contribute now,” Dr Tureci explains. The team has worked in shifts night and day. “Many of us have not had vacations and have worked through the weekends, that is why we have been able to do it. We are available for different time zones too; we are in constant meetings with Pfizer in America and with our Chinese partner.”

They never contemplated defeat. “We have been in the innovation field for many years, we are habitualised not to think about the scenario that it might not work but rather to ensure that we address all potential flaws,” Dr Tureci explains. “This very sober and scientific way of doing it allows us to stay away from the pessimistic mind-wandering mode.”

There have been reports that Dr Tureci, now 53, wanted to become a nun, but she says science has always been her “high passion”, adding: “I think the most noble thing you can use science and technology for is to serve the people.”

Her husband, Dr Sahin, 55, explains that his motives are similarly altruistic. “I am driven by curiosity, I am always asking questions, I want to understand how things work,” he says. “I work in a cancer hospital, and I had to tell many patients that we can’t help them any more. As a scientist, I knew that we are not doing everything that is possible, so we need to do more. That’s what drives me on.”

“The search for the vaccine has, I admit, taken over our lives. But at the end of the day, it is also our passion. We are not important, it’s the task we are doing. We need to try everything, and if it’s not sufficient then we have to accept that…Of course, it is a huge responsibility. What drives us is the knowledge that there are kids who want to have a normal life, there’s the mother, the teacher, the old person being isolated, there is so much need.”

“But the pressure to get a quick result cannot be allowed to undermine safety. We have to tick every box so there is no cutting corners. Because we are fast, we need to be even more diligent.”

His reaction to the news that the trial had gone well was also telling: “It was an extreme relief. It just means so much.”  Relief, not excitement nor any sort of desire for riches, was his response – relief. He felt that great a duty to others.

What excites him most is the thought that the technology he and his wife have developed could be adapted for future viral outbreaks. “We need to be prepared even better. We are building new manufacturing facilities, so we could be even three months faster the next time. We need an international plan.”

Dr Sahin worries that rich countries will buy up all the batches, leaving the developing world unprotected. “This was my concern from the very beginning . . . We are working on a next-generation vaccine where we might be able to further reduce the dose and thereby increase our manufacturing scale.” The wealthy should not be able to jump the queue and pay to be inoculated privately, he insists. “At this stage it must be through governments . . . I assume that in the first quarter of 2021 we would have three, maybe five, companies which can supply vaccines and by the middle of next year there might be eight or nine companies.”

Dr Tureci and Dr Sahin are not looking to profit from their discovery, though their company is now valued at £20 billion. “We do not have special needs. We don’t even have a car. A yacht would be impractical.” They occasionally go on holiday to the Canary Islands, choosing an apartment near the sea. “Half the time we have a vacation and half the time our work continues so it needs an internet connection. I always say it’s great to have a vacation doing work.” Their flat, which they share with their teenage daughter, is modest. They toast their triumphs by brewing Turkish tea.

Dr Sahin says the success of their research proves the benefits of a cosmopolitan exchange of ideas. “In our company we have people from more than 60 countries. In science it does not matter where you are from, what counts is what you can do and what you are willing to do. This is a vaccine not only by Pfizer and Biontech, it is a vaccine by mankind because every single individual has their history and education. It just shows that if you are given a chance to, everyone can contribute.”

Well, what a wonderful story. Modest, hard-working, altruistic, responsible, determined, not seeking publicity. 

In a similar vein to NHS nurses, or Captain Tom, this pandemic has reminded us that heroism worn lightly is enduringly the most appealing.

Silver for Cyber Challenge

We are delighted to announce that Joseph Lee and Sebastian Fairhead (Y8) took second place in the British Computer Society’s Cyber Challenge for 2020.

The competition, to cultivate young computing leaders, was open to pupils across Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire, Luton Borough, Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire over the summer term, and attracted over 300 entries.

For the challenge, the boys had to create an educational resource promoting the positive aspects of using online resources to learn, for school work and social interactions, but also to be careful to check if the information was true or false. Their resource had to encourage critical evaluation to get the best from online information and discard fake news. Each entry was judged on its creativity, selection and presentation of images and text, use of programming and the finished presentation in demonstrating improved learning outcomes.

The boys enthusiastically leapt at the cyber challenge, despite the issues that working apart brought during the summer lockdown. They told us, “We chose to use an online software called Scratch, which is block coding. It was fun, and we both enjoyed doing it. Even though we were faced with challenges such as working remotely / not next to each other, we still managed to solve all timing problems and had a good way of working. For instance, we sorted the jobs of writing the script, creating the characters, recording the script, and writing the different codes for each character. We both look forward to doing more coding and working together again when another task like this is available for us to do.”

The school has received a trophy from the British Computer Society and each boy was presented with their own individual trophy.

Golf Continues Thanks to New Golf Simulator

As with all sports, golf has suffered this year at the hands of the pandemic. However, that has not stopped the school’s golf team from having a great season so far, and with the recent arrival of our new state of the art golf simulator, boys have not missed out on vital practice.

Shortly before golf courses were forced to close earlier this month, Finlay Cummings (Upper Sixth), Louis Densham (Upper Sixth), Lawrence Jeffreys (Lower Sixth), Alex Robins (Lower Sixth), Freddie Tucker (Remove), and Jack Peters (Remove) all shone at the HMC Foursomes when they competed against schools such as Rossall, Whitgift and Tonbridge. After months of lockdown earlier in the year, it was wonderful to see them win first place, and going through to the next round – hopefully, to be played in December.

Additionally, we were thrilled to hear that Upper Sixth Former and golf scholar Finlay Cummings received an unconditional offer, with a conditional scholarship, at Harding University, Arkansas, USA, where he will receive collegiate coaching from golf coach Dustin Howell.  Finlay hopes to take his golf to a professional level while also studying for a degree in Business, as well as enjoying university life on campus in a new country.

Finlay, who has been at Bedford School since he was seven years old, gained a golf scholarship in his first year of Upper School and is now captain of the school golf team. Master in Charge of Golf Keith Thomson said of him, “Finlay takes a mature approach to everything he does, whether that be organising his practice times or balancing the time he puts into the gym and golf against his academics. Finlay is selfless when it comes to the team; his leadership is integral to the environment that we are trying to foster, and he is a great role model for the younger boys.”

Finlay praised the introduction of the school’s new golf simulator, which has enabled him and his teammates to continue to practice golf while the course has been closed. He said, “It’s an excellent piece of kit. I get two practice sessions a week on it, on top of the two sessions I have on it with my coach, Holly Reddick.”

The simulator, which was kindly funded by the Bedford School Trust, enables boys to practice their driving skills from a choice of over 60 courses, both existing and fictional. It calculates all sorts of data so that boys can see how well they hit. Additionally, the coach can also control the weather, in particular the wind, to help teach how different techniques can help in different conditions.

Since the simulator arrived, even more boys, including Prep School boys, who perhaps would not have the chance to play golf otherwise, have been introduced to the sport. Holly explained, “The simulator gives us the ability to track and measure the boys’ progress, which really builds their confidence for when they’re out on the course. It’s an outstanding facility to have, particularly so now the courses are closed, and 99% of golfers are not playing at all.”

Holly is now hoping to secure funds to purchase a putting mat to enable a more rounded golfing experience.

Meet the EAL Eagles

This week we were delighted to meet Egalia, one of the EAL (English as an Additional Language) eagles. This cheery, little eaglet, one of three eagles from the department, is well known to many of our boys who have EAL sessions each week with Mrs Gordon. 

The EAL eagles are always hugely popular, and the boys look forward to taking them on their travels during school holidays and exeats. Two EAL pupils, Theo Wang and Tony Zhao (Y7), told us about how they enjoy taking lots of photos of Egalia when they have her for the holidays, or in Tony’s case the whole of the first lockdown.

The boys record their travels and adventures with the eagles for all to read, and it is clear to see that they take great pride in writing their entries. They offer the boys an excellent opportunity to write freely and share their culture and customs with others.  Theo and Tony told us how they enjoy reading the diary entries. Pui Lam’s trip to Barcelona last year was a memorable entry for both the boys who enjoyed seeing his adventures.

The diary, which goes back almost five years, is also a fantastic record of the boys over the years, and the destination list, which includes Spain, Russia, France, Japan, China, Bahrain and Thailand – is a great reflection of the school’s genuinely international community.  

Egg was our very first EAL Eagle, and proved so popular at holiday times that a second eagle was needed!

Eggy is the son of Egg. Thanks to an eagle exchange programme with our former EAL Coordinator Mrs Manning, Eggy is currently enjoying spending time with pupils in a school in Hong Kong.

Egalia, the latest addition to the family, is already well-travelled and helps to brighten the boys’ lessons.

“She [Egalia] sometimes helps us. She encourages you. It’s kind of like having an imaginary friend, but better!”



Our Y3 boys became experts in mummification this week. Using tomatoes instead of a body (hard to get hold of at short notice!), they turned their hand to this ancient Egyptian method of embalming as part of their topic studies.

To begin, they made incisions in the body of the tomato before scooping out the insides – a pretty messy job! The boys learned along the way that the Ancient Egyptians would store the gory inside bits inside canopic jars, which were buried alongside the body. Like real scientists, the boys carefully recorded the weight of their tomatoes at this point so that they could monitor their success at the end.

The next step in the process was to remove excess water to prevent the fruit from rotting – tomatoes like humans are full of water! The boys then carefully added natron (a blend of table salt and bicarbonate of soda) to the tomatoes to dry them out and patiently waited for it to work. Once complete, the boys checked the effectiveness of the process by weighing their tomatoes, before stuffing them with straw and placing them in creatively designed sarcophaguses so that they would look beautiful for the afterlife, like true Ancient Egyptians.

Cultura Española Club

This week saw the addition of an exciting new club for our Y8 boys: the Cultura Española Club. 

Each week, the club, which is open to all Y8 Spanish students, will look at different aspects of Spanish-speaking culture, including festivals, sport, music and food.

In week one, the focus was, fittingly for the time of year, on Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead). In the fun-filled session, the boys learned all about the customs of this traditional three-day typically Mexican celebration honouring the dead, from the brightly coloured calaveras (skulls) and calacas (skeletons) to the food prepared, such as pan de muerto (bread of the dead), to the ofrendas (shrines) that are built and adorned with marigolds called flor de muerto (flower of dead). 

The boys then enjoyed creating and colouring in joyful calaca, in keeping with the belief that death should be a joyous occasion – no dead soul likes to be thought of sadly. They wrapped up the first sessions with a Dia de Muertos themed game of bingo – in Spanish, of course.

Mrs Gordon, told us, “I started the Cultura Española Club because language and culture are intertwined. In my Spanish lessons, boys often ask me questions about aspects of Spanish culture, as they know that I lived there for 19 years. As EAL coordinator, I’m also a strong defender of cultural awareness, which ties in with our Future Skills programme too, where ‘respect for others and their wishes, rights and traditions’ is an important sub-skill of the value of ‘kindness’.”

Next week, the theme will be Spanish La Liga football: a session that is sure to be a hit with all the boys – after all it was their idea!