I write during the strangest week of the year, having just shown a London prep school headmaster around a school where there are no lessons! The exam hall is, of course, packed and I suspect that your half term week may have been as quiet as our classrooms are this week. You might even legitimately be asking yourself what the teachers get up to this week. Well, besides exam invigilation, piles of marking and keeping the extra-curricular life of the school on track (which all take considerable time), this has also become one of the most valuable weeks of the year for training and planning purposes. So here, for your interest, is what has been happening this week whilst your children have had heads down at their desks.
Firstly, and innovatively, we have been holding an unparalleled program of staff training run by our own staff experts on site, based upon their own research interests. Staff can choose from sessions as diverse as:
- Student-centred teaching and independent learning
- Six strategies for effective learning (from the Learning Scientists conference held in The Quarry Theatre earlier this year)
- Engaging your team to achieve high performance
- Teaching the more able
- Leading for change at Bedford School
- Where to start when a pupil shows you their personal statement
- Effective tutoring
- Yammer, a social learning network
- Practical leadership
- Investigating conduct
- Extended essays
- What makes an efficient and effective Parents’ Evening?
- Support success in today’s teen
We also have a good number of initiatives which we are aiming to introduce in the coming months. To that effect, 18 staff members (from the Upper School, Prep School and support staff) have attended a two-day training course held on site by a company called Graydin on the methodology of coaching; it is hoped that this will not only end up permeating the whole staff for the benefit of staff leadership and management within its own ranks, but will also lead to increasingly fruitful pastoral conversations with boys. This emphasis on coaching amongst staff runs parallel to two initiatives which the Day Housemasters have been working on (at their ‘away day’ this week) for pupils across the whole school, namely the training of older boys in mentoring younger boys and the trial of a course for our Lower Sixth, run by a company that trains corporates called Ivy House, enabling boys to understand the principles of self-leadership.
For my own part, I have been working on several areas of school life this week. I write on Wednesday. This morning, I (and the new head of Community Service, Susie Spyropoulos, and her team) met with a number of local primary school heads to see how we can better mutually support each other. As I have mentioned in previous letters, we are hoping that our boys will be given more opportunity to serve the local community, something which we feel is important to their own growth into responsible, empathetic and resourceful adults. Service (even though there are many great examples of it at school currently) was understandably an area of school life which scored relatively lowly on the last parental survey and which we are trying to strengthen for next year. I have also been working on 2020 admissions, on plans for the future of the estate, and on long-term responses to issues around the teachers’ pension scheme. Tomorrow, some of these themes will be continued at the Bedford Borough Learning Exchange (which Ian Silk and I attend with a large number of local state school heads) and at the HMC London Division meeting (which is an entirely independent school forum and is useful for market intelligence). Also tomorrow I will continue admissions work by visiting a feeder prep headmaster (at Westminster Cathedral Choir School) and will join an OB networking event in London in the evening.
I am not at all sure if any of this is of interest, but I do hope that it serves to open a window on our desire to continually question and strengthen our own provision. In all of this, we strive to improve the school along the lines of our strategic document, which can be found here.
I have a number of notices, which will definitely be of use. Please do take a few minutes to cast your eyes over these:
Boarding Open Evening: next Thursday 13 June, 6.00pm-9.00pm – for all!
Great boarding is a wonderful way to spend part of your childhood. If you are a parent of a day boy who is at all interested in boarding at some stage in his time at Bedford, I thoroughly recommend this evening to you. The school will be very full again in September, but we do still have a few beds left for day boys who would like to convert to boarding for the next academic year. This evening aims to show both current and prospective families boarding houses and give them the opportunity to talk with boarders and Housemasters in their ‘home’ environments.
Creative Arts Festival, Saturday 22 June to Thursday 4 July
From Saturday 22 June to Thursday 4 July we will hold our fourth Creative Arts Festival, bringing together musical performances, dramatic productions, celebrations of the spoken word, exhibitions of great art work and much more. It is always a wonderful celebration of the creative and inspirational work which goes on outside the classroom. We also welcome a wide range of musicians, comedians, artists and theatre companies to the school so that during the festival you can enjoy everything from a play written and directed by one of our own drama scholars to a performance by the school’s Jazz Orchestra to an exhibition of the incredible art by our Upper Sixth to a fast-flowing, rapid-rafting adventure in which two top funny men reflect upon local stories and legends. For more information on all the performances and events that are taking place, please visit the Creative Arts Festival 2019 page on the website.
This year’s Speech Day takes place on Saturday 6 July. We will have the usual Leavers’ Service in the Chapel at 9.00am followed by coffee in the Café Bar at 9.45am for our Upper Sixth and their families.
Prize Giving will take place in the Great Hall at 10.30am. This is an invitation only event this year. Our Guest Speaker is Mr Bill Jordan MBE (OB 56-67), co-founder of Jordans Cereals, owner of Pensthorpe Natural Park and President of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who will present the prizes and address the school.
The academic year will draw to a close with the annual House Drinks Receptions on the main playing fields from 12 noon. The whole community is invited to this part of the day, and we do hope that you can all come! Do please feel free to bring a picnic and watch some cricket in the afternoon.
Following a funeral for family and close friends, there will be a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Jo Spir in the Bedford School Chapel at 4.30pm on Friday 14 June, to which all are warmly invited. As you know, Jo had taught at the school since 2011 and had been Head of Academic Support since 2014. After the Service, it would be lovely to see everybody for drinks in the Great Hall.
Mr David Dodgson joins us in September as a Teacher of ESL. David has degrees from Newcastle University in Ancient History and the University of Manchester in Educational Technology & TESOL. He has worked abroad in a variety of ESL roles in Turkey, Gabon and Bahrain and, currently, as Head of Language and Learning at Haileybury Almaty in Kazakhstan. David is a keen writer, contributing to a wide variety of publications.
Mr Mark Bridle joins the Science Department as a Teacher of Chemistry. Mark obtained his degree in Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. Mark joins us from Sharnbrook where he has been since 2001 as a Teacher of Science and Chemistry as well as Head of House. Through his local church he takes a close interest in theology, and has been involved in youth work, singing and drumming. He enjoys football and tennis.
Ms Dipisha Patel also joins the Science Department as a Teacher of Biology. Dipisha obtained her degree in Applied and Human Biology from Aston University and joins us from Bedford Girls’ School where she has been since September 2017. Dipisha has been a professional dancer, and is involved in Duke of Edinburgh and Community Service. She enjoys surfing, travelling and yoga.
Mr Richard Watson joins the Maths Department from September 2019. Richard will join us straight from a year out, post Nottingham University, where he achieved a 2:1 in his Physics MSci. He rowed at school and also played hockey at school and university.
Dr Alan Bates will be the new Head of Physics from September 2019. Dr Bates has a First Class Honours degree in Applied Physics from the Dublin Institute of Technology and a PhD in Theoretical Physics (Proton-proton scattering) from Trinity College Dublin. Most of his career has been spent in Rome, where he taught (and was Head of Science) at Marymount International School and lectured in Physics and Astronomy part-time in the evenings at two universities. He is an IB examiner and is a reviewer for the Physics Teacher Journal. He has spent the last two years teaching in London, currently at St Benedict’s School.
Mr Chris Bury, our Senior Boarding Housemaster and a man of vast pastoral experience, will assume the Housemastership of St Cuthbert’s House for a term in September as Mr Laurie Holt takes a term of shared parental leave following the return of his wife, Ms Alice Swallow, to the Biology Department.
I wish you all a ‘Joyful June’, as my PA tells me it is now called; and Eid Mubarak to those who have been celebrating the Festival of Eid.
I look forward to seeing you all at Speech Day.
With kind regards indeed,