Comparing the English education system

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An article in School House magazine discusses the pressures on British school children caused by competition for places and excessive tutoring, whilst recognising the ‘soft skills’ and abilities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) of independent school pupils. Comparisons are made with the gentler more holistic approaches of Scandinavia and Germany.

In the article, Colin Baty, Head of Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, expresses concern about the anxiety caused in young people as young as six from the 11-plus and Common Entrance exams. He also comments on a “national curriculum and associated qualification regime which is increasingly prescriptive, dull, narrow and inadequate for any education that seeks to help young people question, challenge and make mistakes as they become enthusiastic and independent learners.” He goes on to describe the approach at Bedales Prep, such as using first-name terms between teacher and pupil, and the lack of a school uniform: “These are symptoms of an ethos that values the individual.”

To read the full article, click here, with thanks to School House magazine.

School House | Colin Baty

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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

Reflections of a new teacher at Bedales Prep, Dunhurst

Dunhurst School

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!

Andy Wiggins

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.