Colin Baty goes behind the scenes

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In an article for Independent School Parent, Dunhurst Head Colin Baty recounts his experience of pupil shadowing in order to better understand the ethos of the school and the experience of his pupils.

Colin took up his appointment as Head of Bedales Prep, Dunhurst in the Autumn term of 2017, having previously been a teacher at the school. He says: “The school didn’t want a head who was content to simply occupy his or her office, and that was more than fine by me.”

In order to properly reacquaint himself with the school, Colin decided to shadow his pupils every Monday for a whole half term. Each week he would join a different year group as one of the pupils, attending all of their classes, enjoying break times and everything else that they did. He came away with a number of impressions – notably that the demands on the children are significant and they get a lot out of it, and that pupils are incredibly kind, thoughtful and accommodating.

Colin was also struck by how incredibly receptive are Dunhurst pupils to learning, and how extraordinary is the learning environment. He says: “The lessons are varied and fun, and the ways in which our teachers involve our pupils is exemplary. I like to think that I’m a good teacher, but I came away from my pupil shadowing experience in no doubt that I have plenty to learn from members of our staff. I also picked up plenty from my fellow pupils, who were generous in sharing their brilliant ideas.”

Pupil shadowing confirmed for Colin that any newcomer can expect to be very well looked after by both school and pupils. He says: “I’m delighted that the school that I lead is one that I would like to have attended as a child. The experience has been as instructive as it has been fun, and I’m going to do it again. Now that I think about it, I’d rather like to do it every day!”

The full article is available online here, with thanks to Independent School Parent magazine.

Independent School Parent | Colin Baty | Dunhurst Pupil Life | Distinctively Dunhurst film

Benefits of Prep School boarding – Colin Baty

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In an editorial piece for the Autumn/Winter 2017 edition of Absolutely Education Prep and Pre-prep magazine, Colin Baty, Head of Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, explains that boarding can be a daunting prospect to those who have not experienced it before, which is where boarding for prep school children really comes into its own.

Boarding at senior level brings with it routines and expectations. Boarders must be able to get along with others – both their peers and staff – and to learn to use the freedoms that boarding grants them with responsibility. This requires them to try things, to make mistakes, and to learn from their experiences.

_DSC4249Midres cropColin says: “At Bedales we are great advocates of the benefits of boarding – it helps young people to develop resilience and learn how to get along with others, and to take full advantage of what is available to them at school outside the classroom. It can also be great fun.”

Each school has its own ethos and personality, and Colin advises all parents to make this a major consideration in any choice they make with regard to boarding. He concludes: “Bedales’ aim in the way it approaches the pastoral care of pupils is to try to create a family – it is the relationships between staff and pupils, and between pupils themselves, which contribute to this atmosphere. It is my experience that boarding pupils grow into being very socially adept individuals, who look after each other and thrive academically.”

The full article can be read here, scrolling to page 63.

Absolutely Education | Colin Baty | Dunhurst boarding

Boarding school – the best life for busy families

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Children, once they overcome the initial homesickness and settling in period, love boarding. Parents are often worried or filled with misplaced guilt and fears about allowing their children to board and yet their children would have a very different view. For many, boarding opens up new worlds and creates a wonderfully supportive and nurturing ‘double home’ life style.

The first home is still the family home. This is still where the child’s heart is and often parents are fearful that their children will in some way grow away from them or no longer need them. We have always found this to be the opposite. Home becomes a very treasured place where children have special time with their families and look forward to being there. Family is still very important to boarders and being away does not diminish it; nor does it leave children with a sense of sadness or longing but rather excited anticipation.

The second home – school. Imagine a home which is entirely built for children, play areas, games, endless fun filled evenings of activities and surrounded by adults who have a vocational belief in working with children, their well-being and nurture. Imagine a home filled with many friends and a cosy, homely bedroom filled with their personal belongings and decorated with their own special items. This is boarding 2014.

The age of technology has made communication between boarders and their families very easy. Whether parents are in the UK or abroad, mobile phone, face to face IT communications and the internet have made our world smaller and the boarding pupil’s family ever closer and accessible. With mid-week visits and the opportunity to go home at weekends, for many of our boarders home and family are never more than a few days away.

Boarding is not instead of family but a supporting boost to a busy family life. Boarding families become adept at clearing the decks during the week so that when they are with their children, they have quality time together. Schools in their part, should support boarders to complete school work during the working week so that weekends are free of school work thereby supporting family time.

Many pupils these days flexi board and even with one or two nights away from home we see a noticeable increase in pupil confidence and independence. Boarding, rather than crushing confidence and building fears, works in reverse. We find that boarding pupils become very capable socially, look after each other and have a great sense of awareness of others. They build positive relationships across a wide range of age groups and are confident talking to adults. They are good at creating new games and activities and are a proactive bunch of individuals who thrive both socially and academically.

As parents we all want the best for our children. With mothers and fathers working hard to provide a good life for their families, boarding is often a fabulously positive solution to supporting every member of the family through the working week and taking much of the stress and pressure of juggling family life away; child care, pick-ups, drop-offs, collections from bus stops, train journeys, tube rides, traffic jams, juggling activities and after school clubs, etc. etc all solved. The down side? There really isn’t one and if you don’t believe me, ask a boarder.

Jane Grubb

Head of Bedales Prep, 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.