Fashion Show – It’s a Jungle Out There!

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By Jake Scott

mg_6974The Bedales Sixth Form put on a fashion show in November, and I was invited to go along.  Even though I’ve been to a professional fashion show before, this was amazing to see it done at a school.  It inspired me to put on a fashion show at Dunhurst.  The question was, would I be allowed to do this?  How would I go about it….and would anyone be interested in being involved?

After I’d seen the sixth form show, I went back to school and asked Simon (my housemaster) if I could run a fashion show and he was enthusiastic and willing to help.  As he runs the school plays, this was a huge advantage – he knows how to put on a show!

I planned to announce it in assembly, but I had to work out what I was announcing and what I wanted from the students.  I had some clothes that I had designed and made from scratch, and so had a couple of other people.  However, I knew that this wasn’t enough so we needed to work out how to include more.  I thought of the textiles club and thought there may be some items from that, and lots of people were generally interested in fashion, so maybe we could create something.  I hoped there would be enough between all of us to pull something together.

So I worked out what areas I would need help with. In assembly I announced that I was going to be doing a fashion show and asked for helpers backstage, models, people who had made clothes and prop/set makers. I was amazed at how many people came to speak to me afterwards.  In my notebook, I wrote down their names in the areas they would help with.  It was wonderful that so many people were interested and even excited at this early stage – I felt that I could really do this!

The main challenge to begin with was getting the clothes that people had made – some people said they had made stuff but it never turned up.  It felt at the beginning that we wouldn’t have enough clothes to make a show, but then Simon came up with the idea of putting outfits together from our costume department (wardrobe).  This was a great idea, and wardrobe went one step further by giving us clothes that wouldn’t be used in the future and said we could do whatever we wanted with them, to give them a new life.  What was great was that there were people interested in doing this who had never done anything with clothes before, and it was fun to introduce them to up-cycling and help them with developing their sewing skills.

Once I knew that we were on track I had to work out a date and a venue. Luckily the week after half term was the year 4-6 play and so we had the idea to use their set and adapt it.  It was a Greek set with pillars and statues.  My idea was to turn it into an overgrown civilisation….this is where the theme of ‘the jungle’ came from.

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Our Australian Gap student, Mae, had experience of working at a fashion show so she was a great help, setting out various things I would need to consider.  She also helped create a mood board for me and the upcyclers to use for upcycling from wardrobe, and lots of other organisational things to think about…lighting…sound…staging…running order…etc!

As we got closer to the date, we needed to make sure parents were invited and students were aware it was happening – we needed an audience!  That involved sending out invites, putting up posters around the school (that Mae designed) and arranging catering for refreshments.  I also was keen to make it an event that would benefit a charity, and I have done fundraising for Christopher’s Smile before and I’m passionate about continuing to do this, so I nominated them as the charity.

We were really on a roll now!  And every day I had new ideas for the fashion show, so it was an on-going creative project.

In order to have as many garments as possible, the textiles club upcylcled men’s shirts by stencilling and embroidering on them, and generally adapting them.  Every Wednesday afternoon the upcyclers would meet in the textiles department to work on their creations from wardrobe – even the English teacher and art technician made garments! The other set of clothes we had were dresses that I had designed and made, and dresses that a year 7 student had designed and made – we have both been passionate about fashion for years and love to design and make clothes.  He and I have frequently met to discuss fashion, and he was very involved in the show, upcylcing from wardrobe and modelling too.  I hope that I’ve started a tradition in my final year of putting on a fashion show, and that he will carry it on.

What makes a fashion show successful?  Not only the clothes…music, lighting, models and the catwalk.

img_4924-cropIn my spare time, I would search music and listen to different genres to see what might go well with the Jungle theme.  I considered traditional club music that would normally go with a fashion show, I thought about rock (which I love), but in the end I decided to introduce African Drums (the jungle theme!) in between some modern club tracks.

You also need to have intro music whilst people are taking their seats.  Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz and thought this would be welcoming without being overwhelming.

Once we had the foundations of the show in place, I had to think about the detail.  The first thing I had to do was assign garments to models and check they fitted.  Mae helped with this.  We had all the finished garments on a rack and we labelled up the hangers with the model’s name.  Each model had two or three outfits.

I then thought about how to present the clothes during the show, and worked out that having ‘collections’ would work the best.  So I grouped together the shirts from textiles club, the homemade garments, the dresses by me and the year 7 fashion designer, and finally the upcycled wardrobe garments.  I thought that during the show, between these sections, I would introduce the next lot of clothes to give context to the show and time for the models to get changed. One thing we had to keep in mind was that we had to order these so that it flowed nicely and the models had enough time to get changed backstage. Mae did this.

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The running order is crucial so this means making sure that all the garments are in the right section and labelled with their order, and that models will be on the catwalk at the right time having had enough time to change backstage. This is where the backstage crew come in.  They had to be extra organised in getting the models lined up backstage (there was a boys and girls changing room).  We had to have people by each door ready to send the next model on in the right order.  Quite a lot to think about!

img_4858I had been really organised, writing lists of things I had to do or ask for help with each week, ticking them off as I went.  I was surprised at generally how calm I was….until the week of the show, when I had a mini meltdown on the Monday night!  I guess this was to be expected, but in the end I knew that the show would go on, and if there were some blips, it wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things…

The week of the show! The years 4-6 play had finished and the set was eagerly waiting to be made into a jungle…I briefed the prop and set makers with what I needed them to do.  We went to the prop cupboard and got anything to do with jungles…camo nets, leaves, branches, ferns, flowers, etc, and set about transforming the area.  I had done a diagram of the catwalk, that I showed the set team. The idea was to put two pillars either side of the centre stage, near the audience, which created a space for the models to walk to and do a pose/twirl. We also got Facilities to hang up a HUGE camo net along the back wall to form a backdrop onto which we put up the wording ‘It’s a jungle out there’ in ransom-note-style multi coloured paper. This title was an homage to Alexander McQueen as his first show as head of Givenchy was named the same.

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The day before the show, during clubs time, I asked all the models and some of the back stage crew to come for an initial rehearsal.  We ran through the pace at which they would walk (slow pace to fast music) and the route on the catwalk.  There were complaints about the slow walk – the models thought it might not work, but I was insistent because I knew it would be powerful and graceful.  Some of the models weren’t there due to dance rehearsals which made it difficult because they had missed out on the instructions. Luckily it was easy for them to catch on to it the next day.

img_4928On the day of the show, which was to be at 6pm, we finalised the running order.  We added some last minute garments that we hadn’t had the day before. We had time in the afternoon for a tech run through, which included sorting out the lights and music.

And finally we had all the models together for a dress rehearsal, with lights and music.

At this point I had to look at the detail.  We fine-tuned the running order, and made sure models were aware that they had to go completely barefoot (no socks or leggings) unless instructed to.  We made sure that bra straps weren’t visible and that they made good poses. I got the models together at various times during the afternoon to remind them of various things like this.

makeupThe other thing that we had done was to make crowns, which I thought would look good with the hair and makeup that Mae had proposed.  However, during rehearsals the crowns weren’t working.

At the last minute, just before the show was to go on, I decided that they weren’t needed and might distract from or clash with the garments so I decided to call off the crowns.

The makeup was tricky to apply, and we had some panics backstage just before the show, getting lots of people to help!  And it didn’t help that we ran out of hairspray and hair gel….but now I’ve learnt that I will need to check these details next time!

Another theme that emerged – and I think we tackled it successfully – was gender neutral dressing.  We had boys in girls’ clothes and vice versa.  This didn’t raise an eyebrow amongst the young or the old in the audience, which I thought was wonderful.

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On the night, the show went really well and we all had lots of fun. It was great because we had time to do it twice.  I think that some people were surprised at the decision to do it again, but the models relaxed and enjoyed the second time more, and the audience were able to see the clothes again. I don’t think it would have been the same show if we hadn’t done that.

The sixth formers whose show had inspired me came and really enjoyed it, and I got lots of really positive feedback. There were over 40 students involved in pulling this together, which was great.  I think that people were impressed and surprised by what they saw, as they weren’t expecting it to be such a big event.  I was also delighted to raise £69.07 for Christopher’s Smile!

Gulwali Passarlay visits Dunhurst

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By Simon Kingsley-Pallant, Head of Drama

A young man is speaking to the pupils of Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst. He is 22 years old and his name is Gulwali. He is telling the story of how he came to England from Afghanistan and what happened on that year long journey and the life he has made for himself since.

The date he addresses the school is important too. It’s 20 January 2017, the same day that the most powerful nation on earth inaugurates her 45 President.  As a teacher I am struck by Gulwali’s immense sense of purpose as an advocate for the defenceless, for those displaced by war, and by his humility and humanity. He tells of his early boyhood as a hill shepherd, his extended family and his first time at school. We hear how the fighting began in 2001 and of how Gulwali’s relatives were killed; of how his adored mother sent Gulwali and his brother to Europe, to England, in search of a better, safer life.

The audience listen with rapt attention as Gulwali describes his odyssey through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria and onward to Italy and the Jungle in Calais. He tells of the danger, the fear, the setbacks, the heartbreak, but also of his faith and his hope and the determination he has to find his brother. At one point he almost drowns in the Mediterranean, and he tells us five thousand people died that way in 2016.   Four thousand drowned in 2015. There is a pause, the scale of this human catastrophe is hard to comprehend.

Gulwali’s story is one of resilience and hope, of luck and success. He tells it eloquently in his soft spoken and accented English, the fifth of the five languages he speaks. He has co-written a book about his experiences, The Lightless Sky,  where the details are more harrowing, more troubling than he has let on for this younger audience. Rounding off his talk, in which he has stressed the importance of education and implored the pupils to make the most of what they have, he asks them to consider what legacy they would like to leave when they are adult citizens of the world.

As that question is briefly, yet deeply pondered in the silence of our school meeting place, I realise that not once has Gulwali resorted to bitterness, blame or hatred. In his matter-of-fact personal narrative he has only been decent and humane. He has known violence, war, and the extremes of human behaviour, but there is no rancour or revenge in his speech.  How different, how utterly different from the words heard at the same time in the capital of the most powerful nation on earth.

Drop Everything And Read… with dogs!

DEAR reading blog Dunhurst 1Each Monday and Friday the Groups children (and anyone else who wants to join in) have 30 minutes of reading time, known here at Dunhurst as DEAR Time: Drop Everything And Read.

Because of our busy lives, we sometimes forget how important and how lovely it is to find a few minutes in our day for some quiet reading. During the colder months we read in the library, but we are looking forward to when we can read outside in Cobb’s field.

While most children seem to enjoy this period of calm and quiet reading in their day, there are some who no doubt find DEAR Time absolute torture – either because they do not like reading, or perhaps just find it difficult to stay still and quiet for 30 minutes. Research reveals the worrying news that there are millions of children who simply don’t like to read and, more and more, are choosing not to. The challenge for us is to make the reading environment irresistible, and the experience itself delightful and satisfying.

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In the lead up to World Book Day we introduced a new reading programme, DEAR Time with Dogs, which we are very excited about. Research suggests children, especially those who struggle with reading, can be nervous and anxious when reading aloud in class.  Reading to dogs has been proven to help children develop literacy skills and build confidence, through both the calming effect of the dog’s presence and the fact that the dog will listen to children read without being judgmental or critical. And, we all know what great listeners dogs are!

Here at Dunhurst we are fortunate to have our very own dogs to read to in the familiar surrounds of their owners’ (our teachers) classrooms, and this comforting environment helps to nurture children’s enthusiasm for reading. Reading is such an important skill which is used in every part of our lives, but reading aloud can be a scary thing if you are a reluctant reader. Like any skill, it needs practice, practice and practice, andDEAR reading blog Dunhurst 2 if reading to Gertie, Vinnie, and their friends Star, Stubbs, Jackson, Dozer and Frazzle can help develop children’s self- confidence and passion for reading while they are still finding their voice, who knows what else we will discover and where this journey will take us.  Aren’t we all lucky to be at a school where this can happen as part of our normal, everyday life?

By Tess Tamvakis, Dunhurst Librarian

Halloween inspires young musicians

Around fifty of our young string players from Dunannie and Dunhurst joined forces to produce a wonderfully creative and chilling Halloween inspired piece of music. Around 15 Dunannie violinists  sent shivers down our spines as they used their instruments to make ghoulishly realistic sounds of chattering teeth and skeleton bones. Dunhurst’s Maisy R and Hector W quickly picked up the melodious tunes of the main refrain, Maisy first on violin and then echoed by Hector on cello. Pupils plucked, scraped and manipulated the strings to make a wide variety of sounds to imitate the atmosphere of Halloween.

Ben Harlan, our Director of Music was ably supported by the peripatetic experts to ensure that all our young musicians were given tips on the best techniques to use, strong bow action and nifty finger work. We were all delighted to see the pupils’ confidence grow as the session progressed. The level of the pupils’ concentration was impressive as they looked to Ben for timing, expression and the right moment to bring the music to a disturbingly sudden halt. We hope very much to have more of these experiences for our pupils as there was clearly a great benefit for our youngest pupils to work alongside older and more experienced musicians. The Dunhurst pupils clearly enjoyed playing with the Dunannians and we look to bring the very best of Bedales student musical talent to these events in the future.

Some of Bedales’ music students are meeting with Dunhurst pupils to give our musicians inspiring additional music sessions. These highly talented Bedalian musicians (some now playing well beyond grade 8) have an innate ability to share their love of music and their skills with their chosen instrument. Over 90% of our Dunhurst pupils play a musical instrument and our orchestras and ensembles continue to grow in number – We can’t wait for the next end of term concert!

By Jane Grubb, Head of Bedales Prep, Dunhurst

Is Michael Gove a Bedalian at heart?

No fan of the modular system of assessment, Michael Gove is planning to scrap the current GCSEs and A-Levels, and revert to a final exam. Those who embrace the GCSE for its bite-size approach to learning may be horrified at the return to the long, slow learning process, topped off by one exam on one day, where two years’ learning is assessed.

But think again.  Education shouldn’t be a race to cross things off a list, but a constant state of learning. What’s been missing during the GCSE years is the luxury of ‘slow’ or ‘deep’ education. Broad education, that is not bound by narrow stipulations. The opportunity to follow a route of learning because it is interesting, because a child in your class has asked a curious question, or commented on a related point. At Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst we know this. We are not bound by exams, although we assess our children.  We don’t teach from a syllabus prescribed by someone who has never met our pupils, but choose the best methods for the individuals in our school.  We draw from our immediate environment and the world around us, rather than adhering to a national plan of how that world should shape our pupils’ learning.

Children at Dunhurst build fires and look after chickens. They read books to each other and put on brilliantly entertaining concerts and plays. They take photos in the snow and make ice sculptures with tiny elements of nature frozen inside them like insects in amber. Maths is taught in very small classes to cater for diverse abilities, French is taught through films, trips and grammar games. Sportsmen and women come to visit and inspire, and always leave inspired by our pupils’ enthusiasm, their inquisitiveness and their love of learning. Daily practical experiments in science are discussed in the playground. All this broad education and slow learning gives our children the solid foundation from which to make the most of the innovation and speed of modern life. The children don’t just memorise things, they learn them and know them. They develop the skills to think and assess, to appreciate and appraise.

Involving children in this process is important. How many pupils were invited to help shape the GCSE exams? Taking the time to ask pupils’ opinions about how they like to learn can be enlightening. Lessons in school can be an organic process by which pupils influence teaching methods – because children like to learn. They like to know they are discovering more, widening their knowledge, making links, and they are good at devising ways to do this.  Children at Dunhurst learn how to learn, and with the pupils’ ‘Learning Detectives Committee’ and the teachers’ Teaching and Learning Group there’s an open dialogue about learning between teachers and pupils.

Hopefully, with the removal of modular assessment at GCSE and A-Level, schools will be able to give back to pupils what we have at Dunhurst;  the idea of learning for interest, for the love of learning. Learning because it will enhance your life and stimulate your mind, not because it will tick a box. African Drumming? Chess? Mandarin? Sports Leadership?  Give them a go! With a slow learning approach, pupils have time to try things out, make mistakes, and try them out again, and this results in real and deep learning, instead of just testing their memories. And when it comes to that all-important final exam, the real learning will shine through.

Michael Gove might just have discovered our secret to a fulfilling and successful life-long education.

By Olivia Burnett-Armstrong, Head of Modern Foreign Languages, Dunhurst

The Dunhurst approach to reading

There has been commentary in the press over the past term about the poor standard of boys’ reading levels nationally, with opinions expressed on the causes. The headlines say ‘thousands of boys at least four years behind in reading’ and ‘boys’ reading skills must be tackled’. Children’s author Michael Morpurgo has joined the campaign to boost standards too.

Head of English, Amy Wilson-Smith, has a tried and tested approach and she tells us how this works at Dunhurst….. 

Some children don’t like reading as they haven’t found books they like AND they haven’t been persuaded into reading. Others arrive at school with the perception that books just aren’t cool. The Dunhurst solution, you may be surprised to hear, is not a modern one – but simply time, effort and the will to succeed. In some cases a huge amount of time spent discussing and sourcing books. Teachers here work extremely hard with the individual to source books that they can effectively access and will enjoy NOT just pretend they will. We have an open door policy so that if a child doesn’t like a book it’s not a big deal – we begin the process again. It can take several tries to find a book that they will love. On occasion, we have gone into the teens before we found the right book, but knowing it was (eventually!) the book which kick-started their enjoyment of reading means the amount of time spent sourcing and discussing was immaterial.

This, of course, is only the beginning of the process as children at Dunhurst are encouraged to discuss what they have read individually and in groups. Pupils can then begin to take responsibility for their own book choices but with the knowledge that they can ask for advice whenever they require it. Very often children will be so excited about a book they have read over the holidays that they cannot wait to return to tell their class teacher – this enthusiasm is infectious. Reluctant readers want to feel that buzz of excitement that a book they like can give them – but they don’t want to fail and so providing a safety net is key.

Children at Dunhurst are very lucky with a full-time and part-time librarian; children can get help or advice throughout the school day and ask for particular books they would like in our school library. We also have well stocked house libraries that children can borrow from when boarding.

For many lucky children, wanting to read comes as easily as remembering to shower in the morning but for others it is a huge struggle and that’s for both girls and boys. Yes, reading is the key that unlocks so many other parts of our children’s education but the pressure to read and read well can be overwhelming and seem unachievable, particularly by those boys who are already behind their peers.

At Dunhurst I have seen so many different strategies employed to persuade individual children into reading. Our success is because of the focus on the individual as one size doesn’t fit all. We are successful in developing a shared love of reading – no matter how well or badly you do it, a community which helps children to keep reading even though they may find it tough. Adults alongside peers older and younger are all involved in keeping up the momentum and confidence of readers of all abilities. We believe a stress-free approach to reading is key and that you should read what actually interests you which may not necessarily be the latest best seller.

When I asked for Year 8 volunteers to read a story aloud to Year 4 at a break-time – 80% of responders were boys and not those I expected. It wasn’t the pupils who particularly liked speaking aloud but it was those who wanted to share the book they had loved as a younger child with others.