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Designs on Business

Last spring, at the start of the first lockdown, three Lower Sixth Formers with a love of art and design put pen to paper, or rather in their case ‘Sharpies to leather’, to create a bespoke pair of Nike Air Force 1 trainers. Thus, a new business YBK (Your Best Kicks) was formed, and this pair of trainers became the first of many to receive the handiwork of Alex Edun, Henry Cudjoe and Maxwell Martin.

With the support of Mr Waterhouse, Head of Economics and Business Studies, the boys decided to develop their custom design business further as part of a new Fifth Form project to bridge the gap between GCSEs and Sixth Form courses.

While their designs were proving popular amongst their peers, through the project, the boys learned more about the business side of their initiative. They worked hard to develop their brand; they designed a company logo, researched and developed their unique selling point, created a website and set about generating interest in their product.

The boys not only worked hard to develop new designs for their trainers but also learned how to run a business and experienced first-hand the challenges associated with this.  

Mr Waterhouse said, “The sheer creativity and effort that went into the finished product was amazing, but what was equally impressive was the boys’ business fundamentals.”

Now, one year on, Alex Edun and Henry Cudjoe have galvanised over 2,000 followers on Instagram and are the owners of a profit-making business. The boys sought the help of local entrepreneur and Old Bedfordian Harry Beard, who helped them see the importance of networking and introduced them to other people in the industry who could help them.

One of these introductions was Luke Treharne (Welsh Rugby International) and the boys set about designing a pair of boots for him. Henry then connected with Dan Bibby (England 7s player) who also sent a pair of boots to be customised.

Henry said, “We are looking to merge individuality with art and are customising with the rugby industry. We don’t know very many people who do this.”

The boys have also set up an account on the new voice-based social media platform Clubhouse, where they give a weekly talk in a room dedicated to artists. Here they can network with other like-minded people as well as big names in fashion who have taken an interest in their work.

Alex said, “We have been able to connect with lots of other artists and we are slowly building a community.”

Additionally, with support from the school, they have spoken to lawyers, and are collaborating with students at Bedford Girls’ School about expanding their customs into other items, such as bags and clothing. They also hope to hold a raffle or auction to raise money for charity – watch this space!

Highly Commended from Oxford University

Four Bedford School philosophy students received a Highly Commended award for their video entry in a competition run by the University of Oxford. The Uehiro Centre’s Practical Ethics and Responsibility competition, which was open to students from years 11 to 13, called for teams of students to make a video, of themselves discussing an ethical problem of their choice and how they thought responsibility was involved.

Lower Sixth Formers Daniel Bello, Deimis Sukys, Nathanael Hylton and Sami Haroon chose the highly topical issue, ‘What does postmodernism say about the responsibility to vaccinate oneself?’. The boys worked collaboratively and took turns to present their arguments to the camera. Their entry received a Highly Commended from the judging panel, a fantastic achievement in this national competition, where the standard of entries this year “was exceptionally high”, as described by the Uehiro Centre’s project manager. The boys’ entry now features on the university’s website; watch here to find out the conclusions the boys reached.

Religious Studies Teacher Miss Rattab said of the boys, “They combined their philosophical knowledge and applied it to modern day issues surrounding the ethics and morally permissibly of the use of vaccines. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my students apply their philosophical knowledge outside of a classroom environment. For me, it only cemented the importance of fostering philosophical enquiry in our students, which will prepare them to make informed and reasoned decisions in later life.”

Perseverance Pays Off with 100% Maths Score

10,511 questions, 925 new skills, 141.7 hours and a 100% pass mark are impressive numbers, even to the non-mathematically minded. For one of our Fifth Formers, these numbers were more than just a perfect result, as they were the result of months of planning, determination and sheer hard work.  

Sam Blewitt is one of only a handful of students out of the 1.5 million who use Hegartymaths who have managed to work their way through the maths puzzles and questions with 100% accuracy. 

During the summer of 2020, Sam set himself the goal of completing all 925 skills on the online maths platform, which schools across the UK use to aid classwork and homework. While some of the questions were set as homework, Sam decided to spend his lockdown hours completing extra questions, which saw him working evenings, weekends and during the holidays.

Sam took a very methodical approach. He explained, “I scored 100% through perseverance and by tracking my progress. It required planning.”

However, it was not all plain sailing. Sam had hoped to finish at the end of 2020, but progress during the harder questions was slower than he would have liked, which meant that he finished a few weeks later than planned. It was Hergartymaths’ ethos, “Remember to always work hard and never give up”, that helped spurn Sam on. With a 91% accuracy rate, Sam had to redo the quizzes where he got a single question wrong to maintain his 100% record. He told us, “I had to do one of the differentiation questions 11 times as I kept getting an answer wrong. Through determination and over an hour’s work, it eventually went green.”

Head of Mathematics Miss Rebecca Jackson commented, “During such a challenging time, it is great to see that Sam has achieved something quite remarkable. Well done, Sam.”

Sam also puts his success down to the school’s provision during lockdown, saying, “Although I miss seeing my friends in person, I still feel connected on Microsoft Teams and other social networks. I have been taking advantage of Hegarty Maths and Educake to revise for my upcoming assessments, and my teachers have been responding to any questions I have about past papers or other academic questions.”

Sam received a certificate signed by Mr Hegarty for his achievement, who believes that Sam demonstrated empathy, humility, and agility in achieving 100% on each of the 925 skills.

Yarl’s Wood Refugee Thanks Boys for Laptop

Back in November, a group of Lower Sixth Form boys set up the Bedford School Device Bank as part of the school’s Community Partnership Programme. Using their IT skills, the boys reconditioned old phones and laptops donated by staff and parents, so that they were fit to donate to people who would not normally have access to them. With the onset of the pandemic, laptop demand rose to its highest to enable people to learn and work remotely.

Beneficiaries of the Bedford School Device Bank included refugees at Yarl’s Wood through the charity Yarl’s Wood Befrienders, who offer befriending and essential services like phone credit, clothing and supermarket vouchers to asylum seekers and irregular migrants held in immigration detention. The charity also helps the refugees, often fleeing from war, persecution and trauma, to rebuild their confidence, skills and sense of well-being, and started classes on Zoom in fitness, art, English and creative writing.

A spokesperson for Yarl’s Wood Befrienders said, “We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Bedford School involved in the project to collect unwanted laptops and phones. You have done an amazing job! The people who do these courses do not have laptops, very often only a very old phone, and this is where your amazing work comes in.”

An example of how one of the devices is being used:

The spokesperson from the charity also told us a truly heart-warming story about one of the beneficiaries, who received the laptop in the photo. It was about a refugee who wants to be a writer:

When he was in his home country, he wrote all the time. He was fascinated in the history of West African tribes and studied them in-depth, before writing a fictionalized version, based on an island, bringing all history together into one narrative. He would tell that story in parts to a young cousin, who would beg him for the next instalment! However, following violence and trauma, that eventually forced him to flee his country, he lost the handwritten manuscript. Since then, he has struggled to put pen to paper due to a fear of losing it again. The donated laptop will, hopefully, open the door to writing for him again, and give him the confidence to put his thoughts down, and who knows what incredible stories he may write.

With the laptop donated from the Bedford School Device Bank, he was able to join a creative writing group at Yarl’s Wood, and in his own words spoke of what that meant to him:

“This is a real game changer for me, I’m really, really grateful, to get on the internet, to read my emails, do my writing. To me to be able to communicate and write is more important than food. You people are really making a difference, when you’re in this system, when you’ve been in detention, you get a very bad mind towards the government and you feel like the whole country is against you. It’s the support of people like you that shifts that, and you know there are good people out there. Thank you.”

How exactly does a Remote PE Lesson Work?

This time a year ago, remote learning for school children was almost unheard of, but the closure of schools forced a rethink of how we continue to educate our boys. ‘Bedford@home’, our programme of remote learning, was introduced at the start of the first lockdown, and while it took some time to get used to, boys soon got into the routine of sitting down for academic lessons in front of laptops rather than in the classroom. Since then, the challenge of making lessons exciting and as engaging as possible has put teachers’ creativity into overdrive, and we have seen some truly inspiring online lessons.

PE lessons have been slightly more of a challenge, and while there have been resources for boys to keep the momentum of their physical education from the start of lockdown, our remote PE and Games lessons have evolved somewhat over the 12 months, with boys enjoying two lessons of live sports twice a week, as well as pre-recorded games skills sessions to ensure they get their recommended quota of physical activity.

Simon Lincoln, Head of PE in the Prep School, explained, “Getting the boys to engage in physical activity is more important than ever. As they are not physically in school, they are not moving as much as they would usually be. They are not walking to school, walking between lessons, playing at breaktime or running around after lunch, for example.”

It is important for the boys to have regular full-body workouts, which is why we have introduced live HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Not only is it good for the boys’ overall fitness, but it is great for their mental well-being. We make it light-hearted and fun, and seeing everyone participating on the screen is a real boost for the boys and the teachers too.”

Each live HIIT session is run by two sports teachers, one demonstrating the exercises, and one who dials in to monitor the boys’ attendance and gives feedback on technique and effort. In the Prep lessons, keyworker children who are learning on site, also help the teachers to lead the sessions in person. James Hinkins, Director of Rugby, said, “Ideally we want to see everyone in the class performing with correct technique – this is the most important thing. Firstly, to maximise the benefits of the exercise and secondly for injury prevention (short- and long-term).”

Live HIIT session from the Old Theatre.

One of the prep boys said after a session, “I was panting really hard after the burpee challenge. Great challenge. I am going to have a go at both warm-ups next time”.

In addition to the HIIT sessions, the boys learn from pre-recorded video tasks to practise skills; currently, these are for hockey and football. The skills are kept purposely simple and accessible, and boys are encouraged to send in videos of themselves completing their skills. Not only do they get recognition from their teachers for doing this, but it also encourages them to turn their cameras on.

A homemade hockey assault course.

Practising hockey skills in the garage.

Mr Lincoln said, “It is really important that the boys turn their cameras on for the sessions as this helps with engagement and motivation. We have had a few parents, and even a dog, join in!”

While most of the remote sport is non-competitive, sport would not be sport without a competitive element! With this in mind, the sports department have created a series of sports challenges for the boys to take part in and submit their scores. For example, how many squat jumps or keepy-uppies can they do in a given time? There is even a half-term family mountain challenge; will they reach the top of Slieve Donard or the dizzy heights of Ben Nevis in the number of steps they can collectively climb?

Mr Lincoln added, “The commitment of the boys has been fantastic. They have fully engaged with the programme and seeing their peers doing the exercises too has enabled them to feel part of a team.”  

In addition to their PE and Games lessons, the boys can also take part in extracurricular live sessions and can access advice on nutrition and healthy eating.

Wellbeing More Important Than Ever

There is no doubt that the pandemic has hit our wellbeing hard, perhaps particularly so in this most recent lockdown with its cold winter days and dark nights.

It has been especially tough for children, and in fact, research suggests that during the pandemic young people are more stressed, anxious, and depressed than other age groups. Being prohibited from meeting with friends and family, adapting to home learning, missing out on team sports and fixtures and uncertainty about exams, as well as general worries about what the longer-term future might hold, have all taken their toll.

School Counsellor Amanda Horlick-Coutts explained, “They have been stripped of so much, and a key part of what has been taken is human interaction and socialisation. There will, of course, be boys who thrive in a healthy home environment and are enjoying being away from the confines and structure of school, but there will be others who are isolated, lonely and struggling with things like anxiety and depression; these conditions may have been there previously but could be exacerbated by the lockdown.”

Bedford School has always had a strong pastoral focus, and the mental health of the boys is a high priority, perhaps now more than ever. Despite the geographical constraints and distance between us, through innovative use of technology the relationships, care for each individual and values that underpin our school community are very much still in action.

The school is taking care to check in with the boys in a variety of ways to ensure they are supporting them through this time, constantly evolving and changing, learning new ways of supporting the boys and adapting their approach accordingly. For example, encouraging boys to switch their camera on during lessons to promote better engagement, regular telephone call check-ins with parents, adapted lessons to regulate screen time more effectively and keeping as much sport and extracurricular going as possible, with timetabled PE lessons live-streamed from school to allow the boys to feel part of something collective, are just some of these ways. 

In addition to the support given by teachers, one of our most valuable resources in school is our well-established counselling service, which has also moved online and continues to work its full hours. All boys are free contact the School Counsellor or the School Chaplain to gain help and support during difficult times. They are there to provide a safe and non-judgmental place for boys, staff and parents to talk through any difficulties. The hope is they can work collaboratively with the individual to find a way of coping, feeling happier or shifting their perspective.

“There are no longer face to face sessions, so there’s an element of human interaction and connection lost. To counter this, the team and I are working in a number of creative ways to ensure that the boys and staff feel connected and supported. For instance, we use the chat feature on Teams or offer check-ins via email so that they can freely type.” explains School Counsellor, Amanda.

The Chapel also plays an important part in the life of the school community, and in normal times there is a regular pattern of services and assemblies which take place. One of the biggest benefits to the boys, and indeed one of the greatest joys of our Chaplain’s role, is informally dropping in on the various groups that make up our school community and having boys and staff drop into his study or classroom. This informal pastoral contact affords the opportunity to explore anxieties and worries, to ask questions, and to seek reassurance when needed. With the transition to online learning and online life, this becomes much more difficult. However, as well as individual contact online, there have been opportunities for our Chaplain to drop into tutor groups online and to gather small groups to attend the traditional night prayer service of Compline together. He also hosts a weekly film club with input and participation from across the breadth of the school community.

School Chaplain Neil McCleery told us, “This balance of online group opportunities and availability at the end of an email or Teams message cannot replace ‘in person’ contact to which we long to return, but it goes some way toward establishing stability and support in trying times. Efforts to mark the upcoming Chinese New Year, particularly important this year for boys who find themselves far from home, are in the planning stages, and it is important that we remember that we are a global community centred on Bedford School, and that friendships and support networks are more important now than ever.”

Education is about much more than academic lessons and qualifications – a boy’s happiness is likely to reside in a nurturing of his self-confidence and an ability to form solid friendships. Our whole school ethos is set up to provide boys with a holistic education, living by our core values, integrity, responsibility, curiosity, endeavour, and of course, kindness, which underpins everything we do.

If you or your son would like the support of the School Counsellor or Chaplain, they can speak to their Tutor, Housemaster, the medical centre, or they can email


100 Laps in Memory of Captain Tom

Earlier this week the nation lost a true hero, but Captain Sir Tom’s legacy of hope will live with us forever. In a wonderful tribute to his 100 years of life and his feat of walking 100 laps of the loop in his garden to raise a staggering £33 million for the NHS, Head of School Andy Wong, along with school monitor Seong Wan Pai, galvanised the support of 32 boarding comrades to complete the challenge of running 100 laps of the school Inky Pitch.

Andy Wong said, “All boys at school ran laps of the Inky Pitch totalling over 100 laps as a group to match what Captain Tom did. The battle against coronavirus is a group effort therefore we decided to do this initiative as a group.” 

Fittingly, the boys started their run straight after joining the nation in the ‘clap for Captain Sir Tom Moore’. Against a backdrop of the most beautiful red sunset, the boys ran their laps with purpose.

James Hinkins, Housemaster of Burnaby Boarding House who supervised the run, said, “The remaining 30 or so boarders have formed quite a bond as they have activities together every day and eat together at mealtimes. When Andy Wong and Seong Wan Pai mentioned to the boarding community the idea of running 100 laps of the Inky Pitch in memory of Captain Sir Tom Moore, they were instantly in full support. Captain Sir Tom Moore has done so much good in so many ways for so many people, and this was a fitting way for the boys to show their recognition of his achievements and pay their respects to a truly inspirational person.”

Andy said after the run, “Captain Tom was such an inspiration during the first lockdown, such a selfless person who achieved so much at his age. From a leadership point of view, he really inspired me to become a better leader, to serve the country indirectly by raising awareness of the dangers of Covid-19 and helping the nurses and doctors under huge pressure.”

Extracurricular in Full Swing

It is often as vibrant and busy outside of the classroom as it is inside at Bedford School, with a vast array of extracurricular activities available to our boys.

It is so important to support and encourage boys to explore the world, enjoy all that it has to offer, and enrich their lives with experiences and discovery. If the boys discover a hidden talent or a new passion along the way, that is all the more rewarding for boys and staff alike.

While the COVID restrictions have posed some challenges to our usual extracurricular timetable, thanks to lots of creative thinking and a determination to continue, we are thrilled that we are still able to offer a wide variety of choice remotely.

From Record Club to Lockdown Film Club, Current Affairs to Philosophy and Theology, there really is something for everyone.

The Drama Society

Drama Society was one of the very first clubs to take their meetings online during the first lockdown back in spring 2020, often with the boys themselves taking the lead and running the sessions. Remove Former Louis Cooke did a fascinating talk recently on the Actors’ Fund and shared some family history including a photo of his great, great, great grandmother who was an actress!

So successful has the group been, that a new Film Studies Society will start on 10 February led by Fifth Former Sami Hundal.

Max Pearson, who is also in the Fifth Form and is a regular face at Drama Society, told us, “I enjoy attending the society so much as it is a release from a rigorous day at school. It is also an opportunity to solidify my love for drama. Every time a talk comes up it gives me a different, new, exciting way of seeing drama, which also further develops my passion.”

Head of Academic Drama Antoinette Keylock commented, “I think Drama Society in lockdown has kept the spirit of theatre alive and I really look forward to hearing the sessions every week – the younger boys love having the connection with the older students too (a bit of a family thing) – those role models are hugely important at Bedford School. The society provides an outlet too, the meetings are great fun and we talk about all sorts of theatrical things. Our president (Dylan Swain) is excellent – he always talks at the end of a session and thanks the boys – they really respect him, too.”


100 Boys Take Part in Coding Challenge

Over 100 boys from the Remove and Fifth Form have been putting their coding skills to the test this week, taking part in the Perse Coding Challenge. This national competition, which attracts over 3,000 pupils, provides entrants with the opportunity to show off their coding skills and win valuable prizes.

The boys competed against pupils from 100 UK secondary schools in an automated computer programming challenge, which required them to write code and solve problems in a 40-minute timed session. The winners have the honour of having their names inscribed on the prestigious ‘Braben’ competition cup. Last year, two Bedford School boys advanced to the second round, and we hope to exceed this number this year.

Dr Albin Wallace, Director of Digital Learning, said, “As computer coding is an integral part of the computer science syllabus, competitions such as the Perse Coding Challenge are a great way to exercise the boys’ skills and put themselves against other schools across England. Programming under pressure is a good way to prepare for examinations and to practice problem-solving in a wider context.”

The digital learning offering at Bedford School gives all boys the opportunity to enter national competitions and engage in a variety of online opportunities, regardless of whether they study the subject or not.