Strategic planning: “Reform” is a word that is much used at the moment in relation to many aspects of life, particularly in the UK. The education sector is no exception to this and Bedales’ involvement with the campaign coalition, Rethinking Assessment, and the HMC Reform of Assessment group demonstrates our commitment to contributing to the national discussion.
This should be no surprise for a school with a progressive approach to education – indeed, “progressive” for us implies a focus on regular evolution in what we do. This links to the maxim of our founder John Badley, that the school should be “knocked down” and rebuilt every 10 years (metaphorically speaking, of course).
For the next 11 months, we are embarking on an ambitious process of drawing up a 10-year strategic plan. We are inspired by our founding principles and the knowledge that the short-termism which has dominated education reform at a national level in this country is not fit for purpose.
“Our process is driven by our democratic culture where we listen to the voices of all of our community.”
One only has to look at countries such as Estonia who recently published their Education Strategy: 2021-2035 to see how other countries take a much more long-term approach to improving their education systems. We decided to take a similarly broad view for Bedales’ school strategy over the coming years as we believe it will lead to both more ambitious but also sustainable growth, ensuring we remain at the cutting edge of education in the UK and internationally.
It is also perhaps prudent to build in more flexibility for us to achieve our strategic goals over a longer period of time, considering the current uncertainties that everyone is facing.
We may now only be a little way into producing our own 10-year strategic plan, but we’re already getting really stuck into some exciting discussion about assessment, the structure of boarding, our curriculum, technology, school ethos, and how we can make ourselves a lot more sustainable.
“We are only a little way into producing our 10-year strategic plan, but we’re already getting stuck into some exciting discussions.”
Our aim, by the time our strategy is published in September 2023, is that it gives the school a clear sense of forward motion, inspires our community to grow in exciting new ways and sparks conversations in other schools and the wider education sector.
Our process is driven by our democratic culture where we listen to the voices of all of our community – students, staff, parents and Old Bedalians. To begin the detailed planning process, we sent out a survey to thousands of people from across the campus and beyond, asking what they thought of the school now and where they want it to go in the future.
These initial ideas have served as a touchstone for the staff working parties that are considering the four strands of our plan – “Learning”, “Living”, “Community” and “Environment” – and will drive the discussions we have.
Over the next few months, we will be exploring a range of ideas and possibilities and, at regular intervals, sharing those initial thoughts at the meetings of school councils, parents, staff and alumni to garner their response.
“I feel a great sense of responsibility for sustaining and growing the values of this school.”
In the spring term, we then begin the work of putting together the four strands into a coherent plan which includes a timeframe, broad costings and priorities. Then, in the summer, the aim is to work with governors to finalise the plan and get it ready for publication in September of that year.
Throughout the process, we aim to discuss ideas regularly with our community, particularly with students and staff as their wisdom and insight will enable us to formulate a plan which will work for us all.
I personally feel both excited and a little nervous about discussing the future – change and progress is something that we have embraced over the decades, ever since our founding. However, I also feel a great sense of responsibility for sustaining and growing the values of this wonderful school, especially in these current times.
What has already helped me and will continue to do so is the knowledge that I am surrounded by a community which cares greatly for Bedales and what it stands for, captured in the school motto: “Work of Each for Weal of All”.