It’s not often you get to visit one of the world’s top independent schools.
On Wednesday 25th May thirty student leaders from my school visited Bedales School in Hampshire. It’s a school that has produced some of our finest performers and artists – such as Lily Allen, Sophie Dahl, and Daniel Day-Lewis.
This was a leadership conference held in partnership with the Times Educational Supplement. The day was designed to encourage and inspire young leaders in schools with workshops, speeches and an opportunity to share experiences from our own schools.
Mr Keith Budge, the headmaster of Bedales, had previously visited our headteacher, Mr Barton, as part of an exchange programme between the state and independent sector. Mr Budge was impressed by our school’s strong leadership programme and felt we could inspire his students with our enthusiasm to offer help to our peers, to guide visitors around school and our partnership with Shanghai.
During the morning we listened to a talk by Sir Michael Wilshaw (Head of Ofsted) who spoke about maverick teachers and how he feels it is vital that we need professionals in our system who will stand by their beliefs. He said his life as one of the country’s school leaders had been greatly influenced by such people.
In the second session we listened to Barbara Oakley (Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Michigan) who spoke of her own experiences in struggling with both maths and science while at school, and how she overcame these to work as a top academic.
She used techniques like getting a timer app on a phone and working in 25-minute blocks, after which she rewarded herself. She taught us about sleep patterns and motivation. I learnt lots from her about how learning works.
Throughout the day we took part in leadership workshops. The first presentation was about leadership skills and building resilience, and the second was reviewing the programmes at our individual schools. This involved discussions and sharing experiences between King Edward and Bedales students, with lots of new ideas evolving which we aim to use in the future.
In the afternoon, fellow student Ellen Pryke and I joined two Bedales students and our Headteachers on stage in a question-and-answer debate in front of an audience of about 275 people. We responded to questions that were asked throughout the conference and those that had been received via Twitter.
A favourite part of the day for me was talking to the students from Bedales and seeing what they thought about their school life, seeing how their school differs to ours, and in what ways it is similar. Their attitudes to learning were like ours, but as this is a boarding school the routine of their day is quite different. One example is that they grow their own vegetables and rear pigs and chickens. An alternative to PE is outdoor farming work.
Through my day at Bedales I saw that although our schools are very different, our values and approaches have much in common.
-- Zoë Pettit is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds