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

 

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Hands-on on Putney School exchange

cow shed

Over half term, twelve Bedalians in Block 4 travelled to the Putney School in Vermont. We soon realised that the school has an ethos that was similar or maybe even more hands-on and progressive than our own. This included the broad Outdoor Work programme in which all students took part. This most notably consisted of us getting up early in the morning and working in the cow barn before breakfast, as well as helping to clear the tables and washing up after each meal. While we were there we took part in lessons, which had smaller class sizes which meant that they were more intensive and gave us more contact time with the teachers. Classes finished at half past two and the majority of each afternoon was spent doing activities, which included Jazz, Ballet, and survival skills. The experience was undoubtedly beneficial to us as we begin to relay the ideas we have and clarify what it means for each of us to be Bedalian.

By Will Morrison, Michael Rice and Richie Sweet, Block 4

straw cow shed Rachel feeding calf

shed Oli feeding calf

feeding calves mucking out 2

Sunny Putney, Vermont


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.