One of the triumphs of this school is that it refuses to give in to the tyranny of modern day exams, a system which appears to wish that only two terms a year be set aside for real education. Sometimes, as when an opposition cancels a school 2nd XI fixture in the summer term for lack of players, one realises that it really is only a handful of top schools that can maintain balance in the face of a seemingly overwhelming academic imperative. Last Saturday afternoon, a typical one, in the middle of exam leave, in the Upper School alone we had ten cricket teams, six rowing crews and eight tennis teams competing for the school, as well as a number of other sporting activities of an intra-school nature. Add in to the sport our first plays in the new theatre, an Annual General Inspection of the CCF, another Sixth Form concert, the regular and brilliant performances of the Chapel Choir, some amazing feats of fundraising – you begin to build a picture of a school that believes in breadth and in character and in how those can lead you through all times, especially when the pressure is on. Needless to say, exams or not, it has been another hugely enjoyable and productive half term.
I thought that this half term I’d pick out a few rather random snapshots of school life, some familiar, some less so.
Our new theatre was handed over by the contractors just as term started and has already hosted three plays (two pupil plays and a visiting company) and a range of other events. Mrs Jules Crossley, our new Theatre Director, directed her first Bedford School production in the Studio Theatre, a small cast of boys (and girls from Bedford Girls’ School) giving a very strong and thought provoking performance of NSFW to a full house. It was a full house again, in the main theatre this time, for last night’s Prep School play, Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors (directed by Miss Sarah Portsmouth), to witness a beautifully articulated and wonderfully funny performance of a technically difficult play. We are excited about the theatre for three main reasons: firstly it has the power to bring enormous energy to those boys in the school who love being on stage (and encouragement to those yet to try); secondly, it is set up to enable boys to be far more involved in all the back stage aspects of a dramatic performance – for instance, the wire grid high above the main stage allows for boys to get fully involved in lighting in a way that they have not been able to in the past for health and safety reasons (though, I must admit, they will probably enjoy walking across this wire grid more than I would!). This sort of thing is important to me because we must provide an extra-curricular niche here for everyone, and not everyone will wish to be a major sportsman, actor or musician. Thirdly, it provides another (and extremely good) avenue for us to be able to communicate better with our local community. In my experience, schools like ours are not always good at doing this – and yet, done well, it is one of the great advantages of being a town school.
Do come; it is a wonderful venue!
As previously mentioned, Speech Day will be on July 4th. Prize giving will be an invitation only event for parents of leavers and prize winners, but we will be hosting House receptions at noon around the cricket pitch for all families at the school and we do hope you can join us to celebrate the academic year.
Sporting highlights this term have been many; in addition to the pleasingly high levels of participation, the 1st XI cricket have won all of their term time games (after a couple of pre-season slips). Thankfully, they beat my own children’s school last weekend, thus providing me with some of my own ammunition around the dinner table after a rugby defeat earlier in the year! Centuries have been scored by Jake Duxbury (1st XI), Alex Williams (3rd XI) and Emilio Gay (two for the 15A). Our staff team is underway, too, and in spectacular fashion. They had not expected Bedfordshire Farmers to turn up last week with OB Alastair Cook in their ranks (testament, perhaps to the much-feared strength of our staff team), but Mr Meredith exchanged hockey stick for bowling boots and removed him third ball, before captain Lincoln (Mr) knocked off the winning runs. Alastair will be facing a rather more timid attack this summer and we wish him luck!
The rowing 1st VIII carried (almost) all before them in the Bedford Regatta. Reaching two back to back finals (J18 and IM3) was always going to be stretching them, but having narrowly lost to a strong Shrewsbury School crew in the first, they won the IM3 8s (for the third successive year) by beating Sir William Borlase crew who had only raced twice during the day and had beaten them at the Schools’ Head last term. Along the way, the 1st VIII also beat a South African Rowing Association development crew who were preparing for the Junior World Rowing Championships. The 15A crew won their Plate competition, the Colts A reached their final in the Novice 8s and the 14A lost their semi-final. All now look forward to the National Schools Regatta this weekend in Nottingham.
Tennis players, golfers (who reached the National Finals again) and athletes (who came 3rd in the Bedfordshire Schools Combined events – pentathlon) have had similarly busy terms; and the hockey boys completed a 12 hour indoor hockeyathon to raise money for their trip to South Africa. The final score was 149-145!
The Current Affairs Society led by Calvin Fang (L6th) held an ‘election special’ meeting, and the Politics Society hosted a Harpur Trust General Election debate on the eve of the election, with each of the Harpur Trust Schools representing different political parties. (For interest, the Liberal Democrats secured 47% of the vote).
The Adrian Boult Music Society was addressed by composer Paul Edwards on British musical life during WWI.
Alex Papp (yr 9) came runner up in the North London Music Festival Composition Prize. This is a great achievement. You can hear a recording of his piece ‘Conundrum’ here on Soundcloud. Alex’s latest work Strata for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano is being recorded by the Junior Guildhall Ensemble on 30th May at Milton Court; and he has just received the Robert Lewin Scholarship from Awards for Young Musicians to further his composition studies.
John Sylvester, ex Head of Art, returned to the school to display his life works. Two particularly eye catching sketches were made in the shell of the burnt out school building very shortly after the great fire of 1979, apparently under the protection of a moped helmet!
Mr Michael Herring (staff) gave a talk to the Archer Martin Society for Fourth, Remove and Fifth Form boys about scams and frauds including famous historical examples and more recent email scams. The title was “Why your junk folder is filled with messages from Nigeria and you should never believe anyone with a bridge to sell: a brief history of scams”.
Mr Timothy Gee (OB / Global Head of M&A at Baker and MacKenzie) gave a talk to the Sixth Form Mitre Club about mergers and acquisition. The boys discovered the motivation behind M&A, how companies are valued, how negotiations and take place and the different models of financing. Mr Gee had been a member of the Mitre Club himself when he was at Bedford School, his last meeting apparently being a champagne tasting!
The CCF Annual General Inspection took place on 6th May. Wing Commander Albert Finney, our guest, wrote that he “found a well-led, well-managed, enthusiastic and vibrant contingent….oh, to be 14 again and a member of Bedford School CCF!”
We welcomed Robin Fletcher, Chairman of the Boarding Schools Association to the school last week to plant a tree for his boarding orchard initiative. He told me that he had visited 62 boarding schools this year, but in only five or six had pupils proactively come up to him (rather than he to them) to engage in conversation; this was one.
I have now finished my Lower Sixth Boarder dinners at home (and Day Boy lunches at school). They have been a delight. What has perhaps struck me most is the sheer breadth of social, national and ethnic backgrounds, as well as the breadth of interests in each individual house group. In an increasingly global community, the benefits of our diversity and the strengths of the friendships and the respect for one another’s opinions (often reflected in a typically humorous Bedfordian way) will stand them in very good stead through their lives.
Following Mr Colin Marsh’s retirement in the summer, Mrs Emma Murray will become Director of IB. The International Baccalaureate is the less well known of our two pathways in the Sixth Form, and a wonderful course. You will be hearing more from her in the coming months.
In response to the parental survey earlier in the year, we have decided to boost our Careers and UCAS provision by creating a part-time post specifically targeted at these areas (rather than the more old fashioned approach of adding the responsibility to an existing full-time teacher). Mrs Mel Lincoln is the first Head of Careers and UCAS; Mr Charlie Fisher, as he takes over Phillpotts House, will continue to pass on his accumulated knowledge as UCAS Adviser; and there are many other staff members and outside bodies (eg OBs; parents) who will continue to support these areas of school life. More to follow in the new academic year….
Mr Mike Cassell will take over St Peter’s House from Mrs Murray; and Miss Alice Swallow will take over Crescent House from Mr Fisher.
Next year is the 125th anniversary of the OB Club and, as such, it is one of the longest standing and (in my opinion) most successful Old Boy clubs in the country. This may be a little known fact amongst current families, but should be a reassuring one. Boys will, at some stage, leave the school – but they will never really get away! We are in regular touch with over 7,500 old boys all around the world. We make a conscious effort to keep them informed, to welcome them back to the school often and to get them together wherever they might be – the most significant event of the past fortnight was in fact a networking event over drinks in London.
The BSA is made up of OB Club, Foundation, Prep Parents’ Guild, Upper Parents’ Guild and Past Parents’ Association to bind together all of our most supportive communities. A genuine sense of community is one of the first things I noticed about Bedford School and the more I understand the school, the stronger that sense becomes.
I am going to end this letter with exams, on the grounds that (whether we like it or not) they do have to take preference this term for the senior years, and an inversion of the natural order in this letter might do its bit to preserve balance. It seems extraordinary that IB2 exams will be over when this email arrives, and GCSEs will be well on their way. For A Level pupils, time is now running shorter and no doubt there are some tense households. The usual advice applies: good work space, clear plans, active revision (as opposed to just reading notes), continued contact with teachers where needed; balanced by fresh air and exercise, breaks, proper sleep (and especially the night before exams), calm parents and a full fridge….
I do wish you all a good few weeks; and continued best wishes to those doing exams, and those households (like my own) with examinees in their midst. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in the second half of term and at Speech Day.
With best wishes