The school, based in Petersfield, educates pupils aged three to eight years. We catch up with the head, Jo Webbern
How long have you been head of Bedales Pre-Prep, Dunannie?
I am now in my eighth year at Dunannie, although I was inspired by the school many years before when I visited with colleagues. The school is the first stage of the Bedales journey – in the Early Years we start to establish those transportable skills that the children take with them, through school and beyond.
What do you see as the main strengths of Dunannie?
It’s a happy, stimulating environment with an innovative edge. It is a school where childhood is respected, and relationships between children and teachers are strong. The pastoral care here is second to none, as we know children can only learn when they feel happy and secure. Our curriculum is flexible and broad, and we encourage the children to be active in their learning. Our facilities are excellent, with the pupils being able to enjoy a huge orchard space, with a willow pod and Celtic hut. There is a well-equipped playground, as well as the vast 120-acre Bedales estate. Making sure we meet the needs of each child is fundamental to what we do, so tracking their progress is key to their development. We also have a high staff-to-pupil ratio that allows us to support and enrich our children’s Early Years.
Do you offer any extra-curricular activities to pupils?
The children love swimming in the school’s indoor pool and playing tennis on the flood-lit, all-weather courts. The children may stay in Swallow club until 6pm or they can join one of our many after-school activities, including African drumming, Chinese or tennis.
The children’s spontaneity and natural curiosity ensure every day is different. There is, of course, structure, with an 8.30am start and 3.30pm finish, punctuated by playtimes and lunch. The day may also have lessons in IT, French, PE, Games, Swimming, Music or Choir.
First-hand experience is essential, and the children learn the building blocks of their future knowledge through concrete activities. These may include a walk around Bedales taking photos of the signs of the seasons, or a visit to the sculpture park at Goodwood. Visitors to the school have included the Globe Theatre, which led to our own Christmas production of The Tempest.
What kind of feedback have you received from parents?
Relationships with staff and parents are strong and we have daily contact. We know our parents like Dunannie because of the breadth of the curriculum, the ethos of the school and the happy way the children come to school, excited to learn.
How do you see the school progressing in the future?
The Bedales vision is shaped by the founder John Badley’s ideals but it also recognises that schools like ours must evolve. So we innovate to ensure we continue to provide the best education, although there are some enduring values, for example, our aim to provide a holistic education that embraces individuality and inspires the children.