Drums signal call to act on climate change

By Clive Burch, Head of Block 3

Last Monday’s senior school assembly brought together the Three Schools under the banner of Action Against Climate Change.

Percussion teacher Kristian Bediiako opened proceedings with a group of over 20 drummers from Block 3, calling forth collective action through audience participation, with dancers of all ages taking centre stage. At some point in their time here, Kristian has taught almost every student in the Three Schools, so who better to lead the charge?

Afterwards, Anouk Szpitalak and Freddie Robinson from our youngest Eco-Team stepped up to share Dunannie’s action plan to combat climate change at a local level. Neither were daunted by the assembled masses and both spoke with a touching sincerity.

They were followed by Dunhurst’s Eco-Team who, along with Head of Outdoor Work Ryan Walsh, shared the steps they are taking to achieve Eco-School status as well as the topics they are focussing on, namely Biodiversity, Energy, Global Citizenship, Litter and School Grounds.

We then heard from Aggie Levingston, Bella Evershed and Skye Hurwitz from 6.2 who informed us of the collective action already taken by a group of Bedales students in London and the further measures we can all take as individuals to “make Earth cool again”.

Thank you for reading – please reduce, reuse and recycle as much as you can and remember to turn that light off!

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Cuba trip – perspectives

On 10 December, 16 students set off to Havana to experience eight days of Cuban culture and society. Here are two perspectives from the trip.

By Bella Evershed, 6.2

The Global Awareness trip to Cuba was a splendid escape into a potentially stagnant Havana, as you could clearly see the repercussions of the US embargo on the architecture and vehicles. In spite of this, the city was bustling and extremely welcoming, and we all found it refreshing to escape the Christmas lead-up, with its intense advertising overload.

We had varying levels of interaction with the locals, weaving together a picture of what Cuba looked like to them – the impact of the US embargo was still evident, but they were thriving in spite of it. Through the Cuba Solidarity Movement, we observed and asked questions in various different meetings, including the CDF (a workers’ union), a female empowerment agency and a student union.

These interactions were the most beneficial in understanding the people’s view of politics under the communist regime and how Cuba stands on an international platform compared to other great powers. For example, post-revolution Cuba has massive gender equality in the workplace, more so than the UK, with 53 percent of parliament female and 70 percent of doctors and lawyers.

The government also value the importance of the young voice and have a large youth turnout at elections, as Cubans are able to vote at 16. The student unions all over Cuba have a direct link to the government; they were able to meet with Fidel Castro twice yearly before his death and now continue with the vice president. It was interesting to see how valued young people are in translating their political agenda to the top tier of government in such a structured and well organised way, and made us all a little envious of how they are able to utilise their political voice.

Overall, it was a very interesting experience visiting a country on the cusp of huge change, as the embargo had relaxed, opening up trading which may soon direct Cuba down a very different path.

By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Awareness

As a Global Awareness trip, this was an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in different Cuban organisations and develop a deeper understanding of the development of education, health and politics in a system which has been under a US economic and trade embargo for 60 years.

We visited a number of different schools engaging in joint English-Spanish conversation classes with Cuban students. A highlight of this was the opportunity to follow each other on Instagram – the internet has only become available to Cubans in the past couple of years. We were treated to musical performances at one of the leading music schools in Cuba, as well as experiencing what was being achieved in a school for students who are visually impaired. One of the most striking impressions was what was being achieved despite limited and dated resources. This linked to visits to numerous health centres and hospitals. All Cubans are entitled to free health care and the Cuban medical system is seen as being one of the best in the world, despite or perhaps because of the embargo. This led to wide comparison with the NHS and the current issues surrounding this.

We attended a meeting of the Committee of the Defence of the Revolution as well as a Cuban Students Federation meeting and a talk from one of the leaders of the Cuban Women’s Federation. This gave the students the opportunity to find out more about the most pressing issues facing Cuba at the moment and discuss the impact of current relaxation of some Communist laws and what this means on a day-to-day level for the people. They were most impressed with the direct involvement that students have with the government and their ability to directly impact the evolving constitution. They also learnt a great deal about the emphasis placed by the Communist government on the role of women, ensuring that equality remains a primary concern.

Cuba is a country in a massive state of flux and students were able to apply their theoretical understanding of political ideas to day-to-day lives and people – a rare opportunity in a rapidly changing world.

Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow leaves viewers in no doubt

By Lucy Ogilvie-Grant, Parent

Human-Flow-PS-cropThe Geography department hosted a screening of Human Flow in the SLT on Tuesday evening – a wonderful opportunity to see a quite extraordinary film made by Chinese conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei has personal experience of the agonies of refugee-hood and isolation, having endured exile along with his family. He described how it feels “when life itself is a dimming light on the verge of being completely extinguished” and this surely is the engine that drives his understanding and evident compassion for the individuals who become refugees.

The terrifying experiences and arduous journeys that refugees endure, as shown in Human Flow, leave people despondent and exhausted – rarely do arrivals find a generous or compassionate welcome.

It’s clear to see that razor wire and dog patrols, high fences and forcible removal show that, on a  humanitarian level, the developed world is failing. Ai Weiwei proposes an enormous change of attitude in which we could see people’s struggles for basic necessities prioritised over financial gain. Imagining a life lived in a refugee camp, suspended between a violent past and an unimaginable future, it’s easy to understand how young people could be vulnerable to radicalisation.

There are some breathtakingly beautiful visual images in Human Flow – Ai Weiwei makes it impossible to look away from the burning oil fields, dust-storms and wind-torn tents.  Even his pictures of desperate crowds wrapped in foil heat blankets are works of art, something that leaves one with a distinct sense of unease. There are extraordinary drone shots and some tender and moving still-life portrait ‘studio’ shots. The whole montage, although long, could leave no viewer in doubt that there’s a different and less short-sighted way to approach this immense human migration.

 

 

Jaw: a spring term round-up

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By Alastair Harden, Teacher of Classics

The spring term’s Jaw programme opened with an address by Clive Case, Senior Chaplain of Charterhouse. Taking on a theme which has been on everyone’s mind this year, Clive gave an engrossing, personal and thoroughly Carthusian talk on the value of silence. The following week, Al McConville and Clare Jarmy took up the theme along with several students who talked about their fantastic experience at the Plum Village Buddhist monastery and meditation retreat. Silence and mindfulness penetrate every aspect of life there, and the students were left with an appetite to bring some of this mental harmony into life at Bedales.

Student participation in Jaw has been strong this term: the annual LGBT Jaw was given by our own LGBT Society, ably steered by Will Morrison with the assistance of Olivia Bury and Aidan Hall. Putting LGBT rights into its historical perspective, they highlighted how privileged we are to be living in a time and place where everyone has the right to their own sexual orientation without fear of persecution. In February, to commemorate one hundred years of women’s suffrage, the Garrett Society under Scarlett Watkins and Rufus Seagrim addressed Blocks 3, 4 and 5 in the Lupton Hall in a passionate call-to-arms against complacence and quotidian sexist behaviours and policies.

The slot following the half-term break is the traditional place for Jaw Debate, and so it was that the motion was tabled: “This House would serve no meat”. A series of passionate addresses from the proposition, under Ellie Leonard-Biebuyck, Maisy Redmayne and Thea Sesti, were not enough to pass the motion, defeated as it was by a sober and balanced summary from Feline Charpentier following a deft rebuttal to vegetarianism from Arthur Lingham, and – the highlight of the debate – a wily and powerful address from a microphone-wielding Blossom Gottlieb, whose barnstorming debut on the Bedales floor left the audience impressed and convinced.

The spring term also sees the annual Global Awareness Jaw, an important fixture which this year is given by Miriam Mason-Sesay, the Country Director of Educaid in Sierra Leone. The Spring term will end, as always, with one of the fixtures from the Christian liturgical calendar and this year’s Passiontide service, co-organised with the Music Department, promises to continue the high standard of music which we have seen at Jaws, assemblies and concerts this year. These special services are very much in the great tradition of the old ‘Sunday Jaw’, and we’re keen to retain the practise of having hymns. So, guard your ears: there’s going to be singing…

Questions for International Women’s Day

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By Alice McNeill, Teacher of Religious Studies and Philosophy

International Women’s Day (IWD) is perhaps especially salient this year as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of near-universal suffrage, although this in itself begs some uncomfortable questions about whether we have made enough progress in the last century.

‘Press for progress’ is the theme of this year’s IWD, and this captures the renewed energy and determination we need to have in order to honour the sacrifices made by those fighting for equality before us. IWD is a great opportunity to reflect on where we are and where we need to get to. This is especially important for us in schools. Are our classrooms equal? Where are our unconscious biases? Are we accepting culturally embedded norms of gender stereotyped behaviours? Do we call out sexism?

Emma Stone faced a huge backlash this week for commenting on unequal representation in the Best Director category at the Oscars. High profile female MPs and academics are similarly shamed when they dare to speak out about sexism.  Is this echoed in our schools? All educators need to ‘press for progress’ by daring to ask these questions. Often, there is no straightforward answer, but in the very act of questioning, we push for a more honest and equal environment.

There is a huge push for more girls to enter STEM careers, which is excellent, but why, in 2018, does there need to be such a push? Why have we not got to a position of gender blindness? Surely, this would be the most empowering position for everyone?

 

By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Awareness

For this year’s IWD, we have continued to concentrate on period poverty in Global Awareness. This is not a new issue; people are aware of girls and women around the world who do not have the resources to afford sanitary products, highlighted in Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake.

What is perhaps not so well known is that 1 in 10 girls aged between 14 and 21 in the UK cannot afford sanitary products and 137,000 girls have missed school in the past year due to period poverty. We understand the vulnerability associated with this stage in a young woman’s life and this increases anxiety and a feeling of a lack of self-worth. The stigma attached to periods means that this subject is still taboo, making the problem even worse. On International Women’s Day we must work to end the stigma and begin campaigning for free sanitary products for girls in low-income families to follow Scotland’s lead. Take a look at #EndPeriodPoverty and expect a campaign and potential solutions from GA students soon.

First Give charity final 2018

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By Beatrice Bonsey, Block 4

Just before half term, five Block 4 groups gave presentations for the First Give charity final with the aim of winning £1,000 for their charity of choice.

The team representing Catalyst went first and showed us a unique video with interviews with people speaking on behalf of those helped by the charity. Next was the team representing Stone Pillow who managed to raise money with a charity bake sale. They made two very inventive videos, one showing facts on homelessness while the other was a motion picture showing that it could be you on the streets. After that, it was our charity, Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association; we showed a video about a child with Down Syndrome finding the charity online and his life improving greatly. We then spoke about how much we had raised and how much this charity has helped families and children with Down Syndrome. After us, it was Jigsaw Trust, who told us about how much the charity does, how it is improving the lives of those with autism and how it is unique by using old planes to help children get over their fear of flying. Finally, the Salvation Army team told us statistics about homelessness and showed a short interview with a person saying how the charity helped him and others. They also told us how they were going to fundraise by one member of the team running two peaks in the Lake District.

The judges then went off to make a decision: they announced Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association the winner!  The £1000 prize money can be spent funding 13 pre-school sessions (1 years’ worth) to help children develop their learning milestones and help families with the children. The charity’s representative who had come to watch was over the moon to receive the money for her charity.

Bedales connection: 6 February 1918, Royal Assent to the Representation of The People Act

1911d Amy Garrett BadleyBy Ruth Whiting, Head of History, 1963-2000

On this day, I believe, Amy Garrett Badley was torn in two directions.  On the one hand she was delighted that, after years of struggle, she and other women of her age and status would have full voting rights in the election due to take place in 1919.  On the downside, however, she was determined to continue the fight so that all women would gain the rights granted by the Act to men of 21 years and over.

In 1935, receiving the testimonial book from ‘The Petersfield Society for Woman Suffrage and Equal Citizenship’ (view an extract image here), she herself said that she “was proud to be a member of a family many of whose members had worked for the same great cause, and she would have been ashamed if she had not tried to follow in their footsteps”.  She was referring to Elizabeth Garrett, in 1865 the first woman to gain medical qualifications in Britain, her own half-sister Rhoda and cousin Agnes who had been, in 1875, the first women to found and run an interior decorating business (A & R Garrett of 2 Gower Street) and, perhaps most of all, Elizabeth’s and Agnes’s youngest sister, Millicent, who for about 40 years had been the leader of the suffragists, the NUWSS.

Bedales, not just Amy, had played its part in advocating the cause of equal rights for women. Students (especially in 1907 and 1908) held heated debates, usually carried by an overwhelming majority of boys as well as girls, demanding votes for women.  Girls from Bedales took part in the famous marches which traversed London, (February 1907, the “Mud” March, and July 1908, which gained greater support from the crowds).

Garden Parties were held in Bedales grounds where speeches were delivered by luminaries who supported the movement, the most celebrated being in 1911 and 1913. In 1914 in the sitting room in The Wing, talks were given to “working women of Steep and Petersfield, many of whom themselves (or their husbands) worked for the school.  They started the series with 13 members and by July, when Amy wrote about if The Bedales Chronicle, there were 40 attenders, including some of the husbands!

The more I look at Amy’s support for the cause the more complicated it becomes: certainly by 1912 she had developed quite a lot of support for the militants which was causing The Chief some concern.  On census day 1911, filling in the return for the female staff house (Foxcot) she conspired to hide Dora Hooper, the wife of the Art Master, from the Enumerator.  Boldly across the form she wrote “No Vote, No Census. “Government must rest upon the consent of the Governed.”: it was signed Amy Garrett Badley, Dora Hooper.  Someone betrayed them and Dora’s name was added to the form, in red ink, “by Registrar General’s authority”.  I believe she had asked her husband not to include her in the school return.  It starts with JHB and  their son, then servants, teaching staff and all the students still at school that night (term had ended on Saturday)  At the end in Mr Badley’s handwriting, was added, “Amy Garrett Badley, wife, 47 married 18 years, 1 child, still living in 1911” precisely the information she had intended to deny the Registrar General.

This is a research project in progress: when I get a little relief from my researches in OBs who died in WW1 (7 in the next 8 weeks), I will return to this fascinating story.