Trump and Brexit makes for lively discussion with US students


By Jonathan Selby, Head of Government & Politics

On Thursday, 23 February, Global Awareness, Politics and Economics students enjoyed a live discussion with Lake Forest Academy in Illinois.

This was the brainchild of Head of Global Awareness, Annabel Smith and marks a ‘first’ for Bedales. It was fascinating discussing Trump and Brexit while live with the American Politics students and gave interesting insights into Trump and American Politics; for instance the students did not seem worried by the fact that Trump got three million fewer votes than Clinton, explaining that this ensured that low density population rural states were not eclipsed by high density liberal cities.

The American students were interested in how we viewed Brexit. We had our Brexit-favouring expert George McMenemy to offer a considered reflection, ably assisted in the discussion by Kirstine Gernaa-Knudsen and Tom Reynolds. Lake Forest were interested in the link between Brexit and Nationalism and the whole question of immigration where we found links with America and much to discuss.

This was a distinctly different and refreshing lesson and we hope to repeat the exercise form time to time. Thanks to Lewis and Bedales ICT for setting up the technology and especially to Annabel for pursuing her contact at Lake Forest to such a fruitful end.

How a global adventure can refresh your school’s thinking – a case study on Bedales

Exchanges are a good way of understanding more about America too says Keith Budge, Headmaster of Bedales Schools in Hampshire. One of many international links is with The Putney School in Vermont, a progressive secondary boarding and day school on a 500-acre dairy farm. “Children benefit from being in an environment with colourful and interesting people,” he says. “One of the favourite words in New England is frugal, and Putney is warm, earthy and utterly authentic. If the duty team of students doesn’t get up and light the cooker, there will be no porridge. In our school, many students are entranced by the digital world and swept off in the supposed glamour of celebrity, but in this situation you have to make human contact with people who are very different: it’s very grounding.”

Bedales sends a student group for a 12-day visit to the school each year, and takes several Putney students for a term. The link helped further inspire the school’s outdoor work programme in the UK, including animal husbandry, blacksmithing and weaving. Michael Rice, 16, who went to exam-free Putney last year, is keen to add another idea at Bedales: “At the end of term, every person did any project they wanted, and was given a rating – and some of them have left school and started businesses already,” he says.

Todd Lengacher, director of intercultural programs at The Putney School, says Bedales pupils do seem surprised at their “apparent casual nature”, especially “spacious” days of three classes plus activities such as milking the cows. But such exchanges, he believes, are vital. “I often look at world leaders, in particular some of my country’s leaders, and have to believe that they would see the people from beyond our borders in a different – more empathetic – way if they had taken these kinds of exchange opportunities in high school. Our world is a better place for every interaction we push ourselves to have with people not ‘like’ us.”

By Senay Boztas

Freelance journalist Senay Boztas wrote this case study on Bedales whilst researching for an article on international partnerships, recently published in The Guardian


Born in the USA…

For the past month, we have been completely immersed in the Bedalian culture. On our very first day, we were greeted warmly by everyone and began to adjust to the life here. We were given our timetables almost immediately after we arrived, then we went to our lessons and were toured around by students whom we soon became good friends with. Even though we only had about three hours of sleep on the plane the night before and were quite jet-lagged, we were still very excited to be in this new place, meeting new people. We attended Jaw on our first evening, which we soon realized was similar to a tradition we have at Groton, in which a student or faculty member gives a talk before the whole school. It was also interesting to find another commonality between the two schools in the tradition of handshaking. A difference we realized that night was how important the activities are here, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that Quiet Time does not happen six days a week like it does at our school.

As soon as we joined our classes here, we noticed how different the education system is. In America, we don’t take GCSEs or A Levels; most people take about seven or eight classes each year throughout their high school career and never specialize in three or four subjects like sixth formers here do. It stuck out to us as different right away and we couldn’t imagine how we would ever be able to pick only four subjects to learn. This was definitely the biggest difference that we noticed. After observing the system here and comparing it to our own, though, we decided that each one seems to work best for its environment, and it was very interesting for us to be able to experience the one here in comparison to the one we are familiar with.

We were asked many times about the differences between the schools, and it was hard to answer at first because we had mostly noticed small ones, other than the difference between the education systems. Everyone seemed to be expecting us to draw some drastically large contrast between the two, but in reality we just have a list of subtle ones that add up to make each school individual. We board at our school as well, and we noticed that the atmosphere of the community here is quite similar to that of Groton. We were surprised to feel so comfortable at this school right away, but we did because of that similar sense given off by the community. From the moment we arrived, girls came to greet us on flat. Students gave us tours around the campus and showed us how to get to our classes during our first few days. We became good friends with many people over the past month. It was great to be so fully immersed in the culture here, even for such a short amount of time, and our amazing experience is all due to the people here who helped us.

By Abby Power and Christine Bernard, Groton School, USA

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.