Who was John Haden Badley?
There are some unsung heroes in education. These gamechangers should be more widely known yet often aren’t. They occupy the same space as people like Rowland Emmett (Punch cartoonist, artist, inventor and builder of whimsical machines) who achieved great things but slip outside the mainstream and under the radar because they might be seen as ‘eccentric’.
The reality is these are creative and intelligent souls way ahead of their time who ‘get it’. In the case of John Haden Badley, I believe he truly understood whole-child education so it’s time to sing his praises and do what Mike Fairclough has done in his book Playing with Fire, and give him the respect he deserves.
John Haden Badley (1865-1967) developed a pioneer school called Bedales School as a polar opposite alternative to the austere Victorian boarding schools of the day.
Badley was much influenced by William Morris and Edward Carpenter, the latter a future founder of the Labour Party and campaigner for women’s rights, and against sexual discrimination. John Badley’s wife-to-be, Amy Garrett, was an equally strong campaigner for female equality.
A Beacon Of Creativity
In 1893, aged just 28, John Haden Badley, opened Bedales School in a rented house at Lindford (which then moved to Hampshire) with a real passion to be different and to educate ‘Head, Hand and Heart.’
Heavily influenced by the thinking of Dr Cecil Reddie of Abbotsholme School (and Pestalozzi, Montessori, and the kindergarten schooling of Friedrich Frobel) JBH said that the main aim of education “must be with the development of creative intelligence, and with the intellectual and emotional tendencies, the formation of interests, purposes and ideals” (Bedales: A Pioneer School, JH Badley, p201).
This was a real difference to the authoritarian Victorian approach of the time and although hugely forward-thinking was no doubt seen by some as idealistic and unworkable.
Far from it. The creative education that JHB promoted then is something we see schools desperate to adopt now.
Bedales School has five main aims that it lives and breathes by:
Aim 1: To develop inquisitive thinkers with a love of learning who cherish independent thought
Bedales provide a environment where questioning, divergent thinking and the freedom to learn from mistakes are all encouraged in order to create lifelong learners. They are committed to helping children develop good work habits, develop both critical and creative thinking and a “sense that learning can thrill and invigorate.”
Aim 2: To enable students’ talents to develop through doing and making
Bedales places huge importance on infusing learning through practical first-hand experiences.
“For our students, the ability to be involved in practical spheres – “hand work” as opposed to “head work” in Badley’s terms – pushed the outdoor work to the fore. Sport has also played an increasing role in the school’s life.”
Aim 3: To foster individuality and encourage initiative, creativity and the appreciation of the beautiful
These qualities are seen as life-enhancing and increasingly valued in a world of work where a premium is put on intellectual capital and creativity.
“The opportunities for leadership encourage the problem-solving initiative-taker. We seek all opportunities to develop the connection between the moral, spiritual and aesthetic capacities of our students through contributing to the community via such events as music, drama, Outdoor Work and student-led enterprises.”
Aim 4: To enable students, former students, parents and staff to take pride in the community’s distinctiveness and to feel valued and nourished by the community
Bedales believe that each person is a member of the community whose voice is entitled to be heard and be treated with respect. Staff and students expect of each other the best kind of relationships – co-operative, authentic, trustful and tolerant ones.
Aim 5: To foster interest beyond the school: engaging with the local community and developing a national and international awareness
We see interaction with the world beyond the school gates as central to the values of kindness, fellow-feeling and co-operation that underpin the humanity of our community.
Schools often claim to promote the whole-child yet their obsession with data and accountability makes the reality a drastically different picture: try ‘fragmented-child’ instead. Not so much ‘Head, Hand and Heart’ but more like ‘Data, Data and Data’.
When we look at the aims of Bedales there will be little to disagree with and these aims are driving forces that every school could adopt and strive for.
John Dunford writing in the TES recently says, “Now is the time to be brave and develop a curriculum that reflects the fact that attainment is not enough. Young people need much more than this to do well in life and work.”
Speaking about the Whole Education conference, John points out that the narrow knowledge-based curriculum, promoted by the government since 2010, was firmly rejected by a range of speakers who argued for real breadth and balance in the curriculum.
If you want to know what this looks like and how it can be achieved then you would be hard-pressed to find better examples of ‘Head, Hand and Heart’ provision than those on offer at Bedales and West Rise Junior schools. These are the real beacons of creativity that we should be looking to and emulating. We don’t need to look to Finland or Japan, we have schools right here in the UK that are doing amazing work and we have so much to learn from them.
We need more Mike Faircloughs – just don’t describe him as ‘hunky’ Daily Telegraph – that’s so 1980s.