Welcome to the new school year; I hope you all had an enjoyable summer. It is very good to have the boys back with us, and I extend a particular welcome to all new families who have joined this term – I wish you many happy years with us.
I write to update you on the holiday news from school, of which there is characteristically plenty.
Exam Results and University Entry
The leavers’ results this year were our strongest on record, and we are delighted by the continuing year on year improvement at this level. As you know, this has been a focus of ours in the last three years – not to the detriment of other, equally important, things; but we have always felt we could do better academically, and I am very pleased that we are. To have almost 59% of A-Level and IB exams marked at A* or A (up from 49% two years ago and 54% last year) is a very significant achievement. Headline figures can be found here. For me, this is not about being competitive with other schools (though I am certainly a competitive person and I am pleased that we are in good company nationally) but it is about doing our best by individuals: exam results are important in so far as they open up choice for boys when they leave – and the happiness on a boy’s face when he gets good grades is worth a great deal more than any league table!
The university statistics, therefore, also continue to improve. The latest statistics are here:
2017 Applicants (128 boys)
- 77% to a Russell Group University
- 10 Oxbridge, plus five medics and two dentistry (all notoriously hard courses to get into)
- Also: five boys going to overseas universities (USA, Germany, Moscow), five boys into direct employment (one farming, one recruitment, one banking, two professional rugby players)
I ought to stress at this point all sorts of caveats e.g. Russell Group Universities are not the only excellent universities; Oxbridge is not the be all and end all; for some, university may not be the right route at all. In other words, it is about individual stories, rather than the collective. I do hope that you can take this as read, in amongst these highlights.
AS Levels are now phased out, but we were generally pleased with the few results left this summer. GCSE results were also good, even though we have never been quite as strong at GCSE as we have at A-Level/IB – something for us to keep working at. The boys scored almost identical scores to the cohort two years ago – i.e. this year’s leavers, who have done so well – so there is plenty of encouragement for them. The new maths gradings (1-9) saw Bedfordians rise to the challenge: only 3.5% of grades nationally were awarded a Grade 9, however, this was achieved by 19% of Bedford School boys – a wonderful effort.
The holidays have seen a trip to the National HMC Schools’ golf finals in Cheltenham (we were knocked out by a single point, despite beating the eventual winners Bradfield), a Prep School trip to Bude, a choir trip to St Foy, a Duke of Edinburgh trip to the Lake District, a very successful CCF Camp in Lincolnshire and rugby pre-season tours to Germany and Southampton (U15 tournament winners). They have also seen the weddings of Mr Knight, Dr McCormick, Mr Peters (new to the Chemistry Department) and Mr Pharaoh, and the engagement of Mr Loader to Miss Portsmouth – now that is staff welfare for you!
Congratulations also go to Ethan Vernon, who won three gold medals and a bronze medal at the 2017 British Cycling National Youth and Junior Track Championships, setting two national records along the way; and to Connor Sheridan, who won a bronze medal whilst rowing for the Great Britain U18 team at the Coupe de la Jeunesse in Belgium.
We always try to keep a couple of beds free in each year group for in-year conversions from day to boarding. This has proved quite tricky this year, as numbers (day and boarding) are extremely buoyant. If you are the parent of a day boy who wishes to consider boarding, do please by all means call our admissions office. It may mean a wait, but at least we will then have early warning and can plan accordingly.
Reminder re All-Round Care
I offer a reminder that day boys who wish to / need to stay on after school can do so. The library is supervised until 7pm each evening and is a good, quiet place to get on with homework so that less needs to be taken home. Most evening events start soon after that, and so this has proven to be helpful for day boys who increasingly attend the vast number of evening events available each term.
Another Catering Award
Our outstanding catering team from Sodexo seem to have won almost all of Sodexo’ s awards in the last two years and they have just won a new one, by claiming the ‘Change and Innovation’ award for Independent Schools in the UK and Ireland 2017. The sorts of things they have been up to in the last year or so include:
Spanish, German and French cooking sessions with the boys, house culinary competitions, boarders’ BBQs and take away nights, a ‘Hungry Boys’ cooking club’, celebrity chef visits, themed lunches, smoothie making competitions and healthy eating presentations.
We are all extremely lucky to be eating here every day!
Summer Work on the Estate
The summer school holidays always provide a key slot for our Estates Department to work on the site. To give some idea of scale, we maintain 53 buildings/units on the campus and this holidays has seen work on 27 of those. The main projects have been:
- Creation of three new English classrooms (for medium term use, at least) and new OB Club offices in 41 De Parys Avenue
- A fully refurbished Prep School (Inky) library
- A new gallery entrance to the Art School
- Work in nine houses, but particularly the restructuring of Pemberley Remove Form dormitories
- Major ongoing works to the IT infrastructure (amongst which was the addition of a further 400 wifi access points on site)
We have entered into an agreement with a start-up company in Milton Keynes called GoCode Academy, whose mission is to teach coding to large numbers of young people in the UK. They have bases in Milton Keynes, Harrow and Northampton, and they now wish to use us as their hub in Bedford. We had one successful trial day in school with about 40 Fourth Formers last term. Initially, they will offer one-week holiday courses at Bedford School for the local community (incl. of course, Bedford School boys, who will receive a 10% discount) and details of their first courses at October half-term can be found at here. This partnership may develop in various ways over time.
East Midlands Rail
Please may I draw your attention to the public consultation here currently being conducted by the Department for Transport about the East Midland Rail franchise. Its main effect upon us is to get rid of the fast 35-minute intercity services from Bedford (and other local stations e.g. Wellingborough, Luton, Luton Airport Parkway, etc.) into London, whilst increasing the number of seats and services available on the slower Thameslink trains. I am sure that a good number of our families will wish to respond to this consultation. For your information, I know that the CEO of the Harpur Trust will be discussing this issue in the early part of the term with senior local politicians.
I wish you all the very best for the academic year.