Dear Parents and Guardians,
The next few weeks represent the engine room of the academic year, a seven-week half term, remarkably the longest there is nowadays. It has been good to have the boys back and it is clear that they are well rested and ready to make their mark. The following relates to a few strategic thoughts, but in reality (and from necessity) it only covers a small section of school life – a few staffing developments and some updates from the summer. Not all boys or parents will be interested in computing per se, but I do hope that the following is of general interest nevertheless. It represents continuing evolution rather than radical revolution.
Governor Away Day – and more
You will remember that I promised some feedback on this. The aim of the Governor Away Day in the summer was to look at the ’Future of Education’, not least in the context of the future of the job market, a discussion which our Governors are well placed to lead, hugely successful as they are in a wide range of careers. It is not a new theme, of course: I, and a number of my colleagues, have attended conferences and talks, and read a range of books, on exactly the same topic in the past year or so. It is not at all easy to sum up the day in a few lines, but there was general agreement that the school must continue to develop the way in which it prepares its boys for a technological world, whilst maintaining a central belief that soft ’human’ skills are likely to be, if anything, even more important than they have ever been. We will be focussing on both in the coming months and years.
As a result of this ongoing discussion either side of, and during, the Away Day, several subtle but significant changes have taken place in the past six months or so (and/or are planned for implementation imminently):
- GoCode Academy
We have just held our first two holiday coding camps at school, courtesy of GoCode Academy. About 40 boys from across all years attended, almost all from Bedford School, though it was open to all. I saw the organisers – and two of the lessons – at the end of the first week and they were happy with the progress. It will be interesting to hear parent feedback (GoCode Academy have asked for it – please do supply it to them) to assess how we take this forward. Do please feel free to contact me via my PA, Sarah Lapidge, too, if you wish.
- Director of Digital Learning
We will be advertising for a Director of Digital Learning this week. This person will lead strategy in this area and also lead the learning of both staff and pupils. I envisage that this person is likely to have experience away from teaching – and indeed may not yet have experience of teaching at all. I am open-minded about this, and also in no great hurry – we will only hire once we feel we have found the right person. Here is the link to the job ad for those interested (or in case you know of someone who may be).
I am keen to hear from any parent (especially from the IT world) who would like to contribute advice or other support to this area of school life – or indeed any mentioned in this letter.
- Curriculum Computing
GCSE Computer Science (or an equivalent) is under serious consideration during the second part of this term, for potential implementation in September 2018. Until now, we have offered simply A-Level Computer Science. We wish to provide the opportunity for the keenest to develop as strongly as possible. Currently, the Upper Sixth computer scientists boys lead the Fourth Form ICT mornings.
The National Student Robotics competition has sadly (and ironically!) ceased existence this year. We have taken the opportunity ,therefore, to buy our own equipment and expand to a three team internal competition (with room for further growth). Emphasis will be less on the building of a chassis for a robot and more on puzzle solving, coding and algorithmic thinking. Two Lower Sixth A-Level Computer Science boys have already started a school-wide ’Algorithm of the Week’ competition.
- Entrepreneur club
We feel that more people in the future will need to learn to be entrepreneurial in outlook. We already have an opportunity for boys to do Young Enterprise in the Sixth Form and we run the Chocolate Challenge further down the school through our careers programme, both entrepreneurial exercises; and indeed we already have young entrepreneurs in the school, a number of whom I met with in the summer. We have now introduced an Entrepreneur Club, overseen by Mr Waterhouse, some of whose members have entered a programme called Tycoon Challenge. We will see how this develops – and again welcome any help from adult entrepreneurs.
- Estates planning
We have invested carefully, mostly unseen, in the last 12 months to ensure that the estate’s IT infrastructure is fit for the next decade. Quite obviously, all future estate’s projects will pay close attention to the needs of a digital world.
- Opportunities for pupil voice
We have two new committees – a full school council, representing all House councils via their Heads of Houses, and chaired by the Vice Master; and an overseas committee, made up of boys from all around the world, designed to ensure that the school is properly meeting the needs of all boys.
- Presentation skills
The Lower Sixth had a session on presentation skills during the recent Citizenship Morning; A-Level boys will all need to present their Bedford School Independent Projects (BSIPs) later in the term and year. Many of the Upper Sixth have university interviews this term; a number of sessions have been set up for them to practice their interview skills in the coming weeks. On the same Citizenship Morning, the Remove Form spent the whole morning learning about self-confidence and empathy.
- Model United Nations (MUN)
Mr Herring took a group of boys to take part in Felsted’s Model United Nations weekend last Easter. Over 600 pupils from the UK took part, and it was a resounding success. MUN aims to teach young people to learn about public speaking, deal-making, teamwork, world affairs and diplomacy through simulating a United Nations conference. MUN at Bedford has already strengthened its numbers this term.
Miss Hanna Bassa has been appointed to the English Department from January 2018, where she will take over from Sue van Heerden (who moves back to her native Zimbabwe). Miss Bassa has a degree in English Language and Literature from Nottingham University, having taken IB at St Mary’s College in Blackburn. She has since been working in the International School of Choueifat in Muscat, Oman. She is keen on CAS, MUN, Human Rights and ’Spoken Word Poetry’.
Miss Khadeja Begum has been appointed to the Chemistry Department from January 2018, where she will take over from Richard Jones (who moves to join St Paul’s School in London). Miss Begum has a degree in Pharmacology from UCL and was a project manager for the Osmani Trust (youth work) before taking her PGCE locally. She lives in Bedford; is a trained Duke of Edinburgh leader and Community Sports Leader; and enjoys basketball, travelling and different cultures.
In addition, educational research positions are growing within schools. We do in fact have a number of staff currently undertaking further educational research of their own (usually via MAs, MEds, PhDs and PGCEs – all of which we try to support where we can) but I will be seeking to appoint a Bedford School Research Lead after half term to enable the school to focus its research efforts more strategically.
I end, not least, with the very sad news that Geoff Wickens passed away over half term. Geoff was a formidable and much-loved man, who served on the staff of Bedford School for 37 years, most recently as Deputy Head of the Prep School, until he suffered a severe stroke in February 2015. His family is very much in our thoughts at the moment and of course I will pass on any messages to his wife, Wendy. His funeral will be held in the School Chapel at 3.30pm on Monday 13 November, followed by refreshments. Parents, staff and OBs are most welcome to join us to celebrate his life; and Wendy and the family have asked to pass on their thanks for your support at this difficult time.
With my best wishes to all,