With both my first term as Headmaster and the calendar year having come to an end, it feels fitting to take this opportunity to reflect, for a brief moment, on the idea of change.
The first thing to acknowledge is that the very word is enough to raise the hackles. Human beings like the predictable and the familiar, and although surprises can be exciting there is no doubt that change can also be difficult – for children, yes, but for grown-ups too.
It is very much worth noting, then, that I have been sincerely impressed by all the pupils at Bede’s and how they have embraced the opportunity of a new Headmaster joining their school. In particular, many members of the Upper Sixth have been exemplary in the roles they have played in enabling a seamless transition, from organising House Formal Dinners to Bede’s recent Arts Week to showpiece productions like Cabaret or Great Expectations.
The teamwork and pervading sense of community fostered by the children has been both impressive and moving, and I owe a debt of gratitude to all of those who have made me feel so welcome.
From the children to the staff to the many mothers, fathers and members of the extended Bede’s family, I have been provided with exceptional levels of institutional knowledge and detail about the complex and nuanced balance which maintains our School environment. I have sincerely appreciated the many kindnesses I have received throughout.
Indeed, there is a definite warmth to Bede’s, and that sense of humanity and collective endeavour attracted my attention from my very first visit. This is only right and proper of course; Bede’s exists for the pupils and because of them, although this sense of shared ownership is all too rare a thing in the modern education system.
There is no doubt in my mind that children make a school what it is. It is vital that they are listened to about every aspect of it, the parts they love and the parts they may not be so fond of, and it is imperative that teachers, parents and Headmasters sit up and pay attention to what they have to say.
Beyond just listening however, I am a firm believer in empowering children and giving them the drawing board. With a little guidance, they can revolutionise a particular process for the better, and they understand their School in ways few others ever can.
Bede's Prefects during last term's Christmas Jumper Day charity drive.
To help them along, my Senior Team and I have been meeting with and speaking to the children throughout the year to date and absorbing feedback. We have explored which of their ideas are compatible with the way the School works and which aren’t. If we can then we will action their ideas, and where they are struggling we are providing them with expertise, advice and a little help.
One example of this is the Weekend Programme where, through a number of pupil surveys and conversations, we have identified opportunities for enhancement. Not a generic programme but a Bede’s programme, it is fundamental that our schedule for weekends works for as many people as possible, and as such we are making changes which should quickly lead to improvements.
The children wanted more Mountain Biking on Saturdays, and now have it!
It may seem like a small example, but it is an apt one. A clear and central strength to the way Bede’s has functioned since its formation is that it adapts and changes. If something works, we keep it. If it doesn’t, we find a better way. If the children need it, we make it happen. If they no longer require it, we quietly pack it away.
Through applying this sensitive approach to many aspects of school life, we can all positively contribute to the refinement of our School.
A version of this blog appeared in the Bede's Senior School Christmas Newsletter. To read that newsletter in full, please click here.