To some extent at least, the character of this school can be summed up in a single event.  The Great Fire of 1979 has been a particular part of our consciousness this term as its three central characters all died, sadly, within three months of each other – the remarkable Head Master, CIM Jones, his Bursar, Donald Mantell, and the Head of English, and writer of the subsequent book, Peter Stileman.  The Fire has become part of school legend; and consequently part of our very identity.  The story goes that the main school building, with all its classrooms, burned down on a Saturday night, 3rd March (it was later proven to be a local arsonist, who received a life sentence); but by Monday, the notice on the school gates simply read “Normal School on Monday March 5th at 9am”.  In those 24 hours, classes had been rescheduled to take place in all corners of the site: the Pavilion, boarding houses, dining halls, rifle range and so on.  The story is of a school that simply gets on with it; and I like to think that much of the ingenuity, endeavour and resilience associated with that occasion exists on a daily basis in our school today.

The Head Master, CIM Jones, said on that day that he expected the entire school to play its part in the coming months, by being “the best they can possibly be in work, in games, in music, in drama, in general standards, in all our activities and interests.”  But most of all, with the building burned to the ground, the Head Master of the day, said this: “we want people to say of masters and boys and everyone at Bedford that they have big hearts.”

So in a sectional letter, for plenty of hard work and big hearts, read on . . .


It has been an extraordinary term for sport, even by some of the recent high standards.  Headlines have included the Rowing 1st VIII winning the 1st VIIIs at the Schools’ Head on the Thames for the first time in the school’s history; the rugby Sevens team reaching the Open semi-final at Rosslyn Park (losing in the last play to the eventual winners); the Under 16 hockey team reaching the National Finals (to be played next term; our first such hockey achievement in a while); the football 1st XI reaching the Final of the LB Cup (vs Loughborough Grammar after Easter); the Water Polo boys coming 3rd in their National Championships; and National Finals reached (and still to be played) in Badminton and Golf.  In amongst all this were individual National standard performances in rugby (England U18 players Fraser Strachan and Fraser Dingwall; and Ireland Under 18 Conor Finch), Fencing (Oscar Hill and Tom Raut in the England U15 Sabre team), Cycling (Ethan Vernon in the Great Britain team), and Athletics (Stephen Simmons won Silver the 60 metre hurdles at the National Indoor Athletics Championships and Reni Omotomilola won one gold, two silver and a bronze in the Men’s Under 20 Hertfordshire County Indoor Championships).

At the other end, and just as importantly, the 14C Hockey team not only went unbeaten but did so with the most wonderful spirit and team togetherness.  The J14E crew came within a single boat of the BMS J14B team on the weekend at the Schools Sculling Head (no competitiveness there, then!  I am delighted we even have a J14E crew – well done to the boys and staff involved: big hearts!).  And a range of cricketers are off to Dubai next week for a preseason tour; this term they have been coached by James Kettleborough (Northamptonshire and Glamorgan); Lloyd Tennant (Leicestershire and Essex, ex-England Youth Coach, ex-Leicestershire bowling coach); Karl Krikken (Derbyshire CCC and ex-Derbyshire 1st XI Coach), not to mention our own Gary Steer (Derbyshire and Warwickshire CCC) and Tom Brett (Northamptonshire CCC).  Next term they will be joined by David Capel (Northamptonshire CCC and England).  Not a bad line up.

I ought to mention that I batted against them in the nets last week to help raise some money for the trip.  I am only just beginning to move again unaided. 

The Arts

Anyone who saw the Choral Orchestral concert on Sunday night (an audience of several hundred) witnessed a real treat – and one which I have challenged the whole school to attend at least once in their time at Bedford.  The programme included Vaughan Williams, Finzi and Faure (his Requiem Mass). Usually, our soloists are professionals; this year, we had the talent “in house” to undertake the roles, with Harry Guthrie (U6) and Logan Jones (U6) performing alongside Olivia Sergeant from BGS.  It was a magnificent achievement and you can see it on YouTube here.

George Edwards (U6) carried on the school (and indeed, family) tradition of boys putting on their own concerts for charity (Cystic Fibrosis in his case); next term, more are planned.  Also planned is a concert to include young Alex Papp conducting his own orchestral piece, before he takes up a place at the Purcell School for Music.  Pupil composition is indeed alive and thriving at Bedford, as the Detweiler competition this term showed; and finally, one of our trombonists, Archie Young-Lee (L6) was chosen for the National Schools Symphony Orchestra.

Jaynil Patel made it to the final nine (from several thousand entrants) of the ARTiculation competition at Clare College, Cambridge University.  He delivered a presentation entitled “Is that Art?”.

The school had no fewer than 73 top three places at the Bedfordshire Festival of Music, Speech and Drama, with Logan Jones (U6) winning the top performance in the Festival.

Academia / UCAS / Careers

Mr Tighe will write with more on the topic of academia at the start of next term, but needless to say it is good news now to have so many good university offers in for September (almost 600 in total so far, as it happens, for 143 applicants).  We also held a very well attended Oxbridge evening and another excellent OB careers event, where many boys not only came home with interesting new ideas, but, often, with promises of work experience.  Mocks have shown some promise (though a long way to go) and entrance into the Fourth Form (Year 9) for the coming September is extremely strong.

Staff Appointments

I am often asked whether there is a large staff turnover or not.  The answer is that it is about right.  Perceived wisdom, at least in the Independent Education sector, is that one should expect, indeed hope for, about a 10% turnover, to keep the flow of fresh ideas coming into the school without losing too many loved and familiar faces.  This year (we are near to the end of the round of applications), we will be somewhere around 7%.  The leavers are:

  • Mrs Emma Murray (to become Assistant Head co-curricular at Aldenham School)
  • Mr Michael Mitchell (to become Head of Chemistry at King’s Rochester)
  • Dr Alex Calverley (to take up a Physics post at RGS Guildford)
  • Mr James Wills (to do a full-time PhD in Philosophy of Physics at LSE)
  • Mr Will Peters (to do a full-time PhD in Education at Boston College, MA, USA)

We will wish them well, properly, in the summer.

I am pleased to say that the fields for their replacements have been reassuringly strong; confirmed appointments are as follows:

  • Mr Ben Rowland will join the Religious Studies Department.  Mr Rowland has a degree in Theology from Durham University; he has taught at Prep and Senior Level; he is currently Head of Religious Studies at The Hall in Hampstead, a Housemaster, and a young teacher mentor.  He plays and coaches a number of sports, including football, running and cycling.
  • Mr Keelan Peters will join the Chemistry Department.  Mr Peters is a local man, currently teaching at Sandy Upper.  He has a 1st Class MChem in Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry from Surrey University.  He takes an active role in performing arts (mainly singing) and charitable events; and worked in industry before teaching.
  • Mr Chris Prior, who is currently a teacher of Maths and Enrichment Curriculum Co-ordinator at Sharnbrook Upper, will join the Maths department.  He has a degree in Mathematics from Brighton. He is also a very keen all-round sportsman (including semi-professional football).

Guest Speakers:

The boys (indeed the whole community: you, too, can come to these) are lucky to have a consistently excellent range of visiting speakers and teachers coming to the school.  This term, amongst others, we have heard from Brian Patten (acclaimed poet), Professor Deborah Swallow (Professor of the Courtauld Institute), Professor Tim Briggs (OB; National Director for clinical quality and efficiency for the NHS), and Professor Andrew O’Shaughnessy (OB; vice president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in Virginia).  We also held a TEDx event in the Quarry Theatre, which included General Sir Richard Lawson Barrons (KCB, CBE, ADC Gen. Former Commander Joint Forces), Paula Vennells (Post Office Chief Executive – and Bedford School Governor!) and Alex Choi (Founder of Arlix Technologies).

The boys do have the most marvellous opportunities to meet amazing people.

Next term (26th June, 7pm) we will hear from the boys themselves, as the best Lower Sixth BSIP projects are presented.  There will be an amazing array of academic titles.  Do please come to support this.

Speech Day:

This year Speech Day falls on Saturday 1st July.  I do hope you will all be able to join us.  As in the past two years, there will be a Leavers’ Chapel Service at the start of the day, followed by Prize Giving (for the whole school, with tickets for parents of prize winners), then a drinks party for the whole community with cricket (Head Master’s XI vs School 1st XI) and music.  It should be a fitting (and hopefully sunny) way to end the academic year.

Speech Day Speaker:

This year’s speaker at Prize Giving will be Mr John Holland-Kaye (OB).

John became Chief Executive Officer of Heathrow Airport Holdings on 1st July 2014. Last year, Heathrow was voted the best major airport in Europe and one of the best large companies to work for in the UK. The UK government recently announced its support for Heathrow’s £16bn third runway programme, which will make Britain the best-connected country in the world. Since joining Heathrow in 2009, John has been responsible for the £2.5bn construction of the new Terminal 2, which was opened by HM the Queen in 2014, and for growing retail revenues by 30%. 

John previously held senior roles with Taylor Wimpey plc, a house builder, including operations, sales and marketing, HR and finance. John was Managing Director of Bass Brewers National Sales and has also worked as a strategy consultant with LEK Consulting for a number of high profile businesses. He has worked in the UK, US, Australia and the Philippines. 

After leaving Bedford School, he studied Classics at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and later graduated with an MBA at INSEAD, near Paris. 

We look forward to welcoming him back to his old school.

All the news

You can access all the school news via:

  • Facebook – Bedford School
  • Twitter – @bedfordschool
  • Instagram – bedfordschool_uk

You will also be able to access all the news from our new website, which will be launched in mid-April.

Late nights and early mornings

Please do remember that, for day boys, the day can stretch from Breakfast (at 7.50am) to tea (from 5.30pm) and into the library (until 7.00pm).  Boys need to sign in for breakfast and tea, at a very small cost to the bill.


Opportunities. Coming away with a passion for life. There is so much to do here, and this (above) is necessarily a very subjective and selective choice.  We have tried to tailor all this with thought for others (e.g. the sleep out for charity) and thought for our own wellbeing (e.g. sleep week for us all).  Sleep or no sleep, you should have some tired boys this week, but hopefully fulfilled. 

My best wishes go to all families, but especially perhaps those who are going through the final throes of revision for public exams this summer; I hope that the boys organise themselves well, show healthy self-motivation and balance rest and work in a profitable way.

With kind regards

James Hodgson
Head Master

For a full round-up of all the boys’ achievements, please do read my final assembly report.

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