When I read an article in the Independent just before I started at Dunhurst – I was struck by how lucky I felt to have escaped a system of education that operated in this way. But ultimately it made me feel sad for the fantastic colleagues I was leaving in that environment, and the wonderful children I taught trapped in this game of numbers. It elevated the high hopes I already had for working here and put into words the feelings that had prompted the move I made.
My Dunhurst experience thus far has been everything I had hoped it would be and more. I came with the expectation that the hard work we dedicate to our profession would be invested much more wisely into benefitting the children in our charge. I have never minded working hard to do the job I love well, but I began to resent the wasted time spent testing, analysing, re testing, discussing, changing numbers to tick boxes, jumping through hoops, and endless bureaucracy that became inherent with teaching. Did it even mean anything if you were producing numbers to keep a faceless inspector happy that progress was being made? I still consider my previous school to be wonderful, and my head teacher was excellent, supported by a brilliant team. However they had to ‘play the game’ in order to keep the wolf from the door.
What has struck me most about this school is how much time is spent actually talking about and working for the children. I have never seen so much directed time set aside for discussing and communicating about the children in the school. It’s amazing and refreshing to be in a place where that is again the priority. Staff meetings feel purposeful as much of the time is spent reviewing children and the day book on a weekly basis. As a result I feel I know the children incredibly well and I know how to help them achieve. The culture of testing I have come from only ever gives you half a picture, and at Dunhurst we have a complete picture. Lessons are interesting here, so children are invested and care about what they learn. It is far healthier to approach learning in a real context then to embrace learning through the parameters of a test based knowledge. And it is apparent when you talk to the children, or see them stand up to do a last minute re-enactment of an opera in assembly with no warning, that they are the better for it.
Vive La Revolution!
Head of Groups English, Dunhurst
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.