“Success usually comes…”

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

Henry David Thoreau

Whilst we are still in the midst of a busy term it is worth noting that we have a mere three weeks left before we break for the holiday. Before then there is much to be done and considerable amounts of fun to be had. This week was a busy one, the next should be even busier.

Over the course of this week we’ve had our termly visit from the governors, their first in person meeting at the school since COVID took hold, we’ve run assemblies, had sports fixtures (well done Year 6 on a notable victory), lessons have been running at full pelt, we are rehearsing for end of term shows, there are talent show acts to be prepared and in the Senior School preparation for international day commenced. As if the weekdays weren’t busy enough, we have a large group of student supporters assisting the Red Cross with the preparation of food parcels tomorrow. As ever it is heartening to see our pupils giving of their time in support of others.

Congratulations are due to our Sixth Form Scholar group; the governors were delighted to be able to present certificates to Year 12 pupils for their performance in the summer GCSE exams. They can feel proud of all that they have achieved and indeed of the start they have made to studies this year.

This week also saw the issuing of a new set of rules to follow regarding instances of COVID infection. Overall, I think that the new rules simplify what seems to be an ever-changing situation and I hope that the consequence will be a lessening of the impact of class closures. It probably goes without saying, but I make no apologies for writing once again, that we stay at our safest when we are taking the mundane precautions of washing hands, wearing masks, and using anti-bacterial gel. Distancing and being outdoors are also a great help. How good it would be to make it to the end of term without asking more pupils to isolate.

We continue to try to carry on with business as usual, but as our visiting lecturer mountaineer Jerry Gore explained even the best laid plans can go awry and so having a plan B is always a good idea. Jerry also stressed the importance of picking your companions carefully, be it climbing K2 or negotiating the sometimes uphill struggle of daily life. Looking around the school I am impressed with the support that is given peer-to-peer and as the end of term creeps closer and with it levels of tiredness grow, we all need to remind ourselves that good friends show patience with each other.

The coming fifteen days promise much to enjoy. I hope that you have left a space in your diary for the coming Christmas Fair, it promises to be a magical occasion. Have a most restful weekend.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“If we are strong…”

“If we are strong and have faith in life and its richness of surprises and hold the rudder steadily in our hands, I am sure we will sail into quiet and pleasant waters…”

Freya Stark

Schools are sometimes surprising places. On Tuesday it was the surprise of seeing ancient Egyptians alighting from very modern cars. Similarly, I was a shade taken aback by the enthusiasm of our estimable maintenance team who have put up our Christmas decorations this week, something of a surprise for someone who generally endeavours to avoid Christmas until, well, as late as I can in December. Monday provided me with another moment, odd socks had broken out across the Junior School and some thought-provoking posters made an appearance in the Senior School. I am not surprised that BSP pupils are the sort of young people who want to make a stand against bullying in our community and it was certainly reassuring to see them openly expressing their feelings in such a manner. Yesterday, I popped into the Junior School Minecraft Club – who would have thought that this game has a UNESCO unit on sustainable building and how inventively pupils have engaged with it – I am sure the bag of Haribo for the best structure had nothing to do with it!

I was surprised by a quotation that I came across this week from the Dalai Lama. It was about the idea of being wisely selfish. Being wisely selfish it turns out is all about taking care of others, about developing a sense of service. Our community is an ever changing and ever developing one. It is a place where there are almost weekly comings and goings. Pupils leave and join throughout the year. Consequently, our young people develop an extraordinary capacity for welcoming and something of a resilient streak when it comes to the goings. That charity and service activities have one of our highest rates of pupil participation comes as no surprise. This morning there was another surprise, Year 7 having put their baking skills to good use thinking of others. How good to see (and what a treat)!

It shouldn’t be unexpected because after all it has become a regular occurrence but glimpsed behind the masks there are a fair few new moustaches being sported by staff and some senior pupils. Another type of service, another example of thinking of others and of not taking ourselves too seriously for a worthwhile charity (Movember). If you do have the opportunity to support our hirsute pioneers, then do give generously before the end of the month – their itchy faces are all in a good cause.

What isn’t so surprising is that COVID rates are rising. The rest of France has joined us in extending mask wearing in school. Neighbouring countries seem to be tightening up on what had been relaxed and there are gloomy words about the coming month. We have had two year groups affected by contact cases, learning disrupted and families inconvenienced. Time to be wisely selfish. No bad thing to consider how our actions might affect others. We will be reinforcing messages about distancing, hand washing and will be pushing plentiful supplies of hand gel. It would helpful if you could reinforce this with a conversation at home too. Thank you.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Some of us think holding on…”

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”

Hermann Hesse

I suppose that it was inevitable that there would be a moment or two of uncertainty, that comes with the territory when you have the opportunity to work with a street artist. This week some pupils from both elements of the school met with Stéphane Bausch (renowned artist) to collaborate on the creation of a mural concerned with the COP26 gathering in Glasgow. Stéphane is a charismatic individual, and he was introduced to us by KPMG, who funded the project. Creating the work was only one part of the enterprise, the time lapse film gives an idea of his creative process – so far so good. Artist, paint and canvas, what could possibly go wrong? The uncomfortable bit came next. Pupils were invited to express their thoughts and feelings about the environmental crisis and then write over the original work. For Stéphane this is an essential part of the process, young people and other people have to sign up and take responsibility for their thoughts, they have a duty to communicate their emotions, and the canvas is the place to do it. So, there we were, groups of pupils with pens, and they had been given licence to write what they wanted. Literally anything. What could possibly go wrong? Levels of engagement were high as were levels of excitement. What became clear very quickly was the level of commitment and the level of anger about the climate situation. Some expressions spoke of frustration, others sadness, a few were hopeful. Some were expressed through sketches, a few formally and one or two in, shall we say, the vernacular. But as an adult, I was struck by the energy that was in the process, perhaps COP26 would achieve so much more if we stopped planning for the coming generation and let them sort out what needs to be done. There is most certainly a will.

Similarly uncomfortable for a Head who likes to be in control was the next part of the endeavour. The canvas was shipped to the Residence of the British Ambassador to be seen by guests of KPMG who were raising awareness of corporate responsibility for climate change. The assembled CEOs had the mural explained (not to a script approved by me) but by our students. The captains of industry wrote their comments. It seems that there is a universal language of graffiti as an act of protest. As the guests had their meeting, the pupils divided up morsels of the canvas and framed each one to give to the guests as a promise to consider the future. A large piece was requested by the British Ambassador, and we look forward to seeing it displayed in the embassy. Once again I was reminded of quite how capable young people are and that we do them a great disservice when we underestimate them.

This week also saw us mark Remembrance Day. My thanks to Nicolas Lo who went to play The Last Post at the Embassy, to our Head Girl who read Simon Armitage’s poem Sea Sketches at our act of remembrance on Wednesday and to Chrissie for writing a poem for the event, the text of which is included in this newsletter. Again, a reminder that our young people are able to think about the world around them, have clear views on both the past and the future and that we as those who work with them have a responsibility to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills to make the change that is required.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Delicious autumn!”

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

George Eliot

A week of crisp mornings and glorious, sunny afternoons. There can be few places better to learn than Croissy when the weather is like this. So good also to see our pupils enjoying the benefits of being outside for activities and indeed some lessons. Who knows, this fine spell may even last into next week when half term will be upon us, I do hope so.

Over the course of the half term, we have seen our youngest pupils make a positive start to school, they are gaining in confidence and developing independence. New pupils have become established pupils and the oldest pupils have started to apply for university. The year so recently started is progressing quickly. Much has been achieved, the foundations for a successful year have been laid. This newsletter has something of an end of term feel with so many highlights from this week and previous weeks featured. I was particularly inspired by the Junior School rendition of that autumn favourite “Conkers” sung simultaneously but separately this morning, you can enjoy the same uplifting joyful noise by following the link inside.

This half term has been a term in which we have seen school life return to some sort of normality. There has been some sport, expeditions and the odd school trip all led by our dedicated staff. But we cannot escape the continuing threat of the pandemic and I would ask you to be particularly vigilant for COVID like symptoms appearing over the holiday. We have been fortunate indeed to only have had to move one class to remote learning for a week this half term (and well done to 6T for continuing to learn despite this interruption), as the term continues, we run the risk of being affected once again so please do take care this holiday and avoid infection as far as you are able.

I am fully aware that the last paragraph may sound rather Eeyore-ish. I am not particularly anxious about the coming half term because I know that our pupils will take whatever comes in their stride. In truth, I’m with the American scientist Amory Lovins. He said: “I am neither an optimist not a pessimist, because they are just two different forms of fatalism. The optimist says things have to get better, and the pessimist says things have to get worse. I believe in applied hope. Things can get better, but you have to make them so.”

If ever we needed an example of how to make things better through applied hope, then it is to be found in the activities of this half term. Our pupils, our teachers and parents deserve to feel very satisfied with all that has been achieved. There has been much hard work and a great deal of enjoyment. We are back in school on Wednesday 3rd November to do it all again. I hope that you have a great half term, when it starts!

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Taking on a leadership role…”

“Taking on a leadership role doesn’t mean that you only have to be personally ambitious.”

Jacinda Ardern

If you spend enough time reading the education press you are likely to come across the idea that schools are involved in the task of preparing young people for careers that have yet to be created. A history of education will show that this is not a particularly new situation. Who’d have thought that influencer would have been a career a decade ago? New and unforeseen employment opportunities develop quickly, and education is rarely fast on the heels of such developments. This is a time of year when older students are working hard on university applications, and many are thinking not only of the coming three or four years but to what a more distant future may hold. Fortunately, they are supported by an experienced set of tutors who will guide them in their applications. Soon there will be offers arriving and new plans being formed. Who knows what careers will follow?

One aspect of pupil development that will undoubtedly remain a key element in future success is to be found in the field of leadership. No matter what the nature of roles in the future it would seem likely that leadership will be a quality that is sought. It is therefore important that schools provide opportunities for pupils to develop these vital skills so that they are ready to flourish in the wider world.

Leadership opportunities have been to the fore this week. House captains have been elected in the Junior School and Form representatives have been voted into office in the Senior School. Some will have the chance to lead sports teams or perhaps provide direction of a musical group. Taking the lead role in a school production is another obvious opportunity to provide direction and shape the development of a particular project. But these opportunities are only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the most courageous acts of leadership are to be found hidden in plain sight and often during the course of the day. It is the leadership of small acts, the pupil who is ready to answer questions in class when no-one else is ready to risk being wrong. It is to be found in the pupil who welcomes a newcomer to the class or is the first to step forward when service is required. It is the leadership that is needed to stand apart on social media rather than following the herd. It is the courage to lead on the development of thought around diversity and inclusion, the bravery to be ready to confront ideas. It’s the pupil who decides to debate a challenging topic to gain a greater understanding of all points of view.
Leadership at the BSP is not about titles but about everyday actions.

Some pupils may seem to receive all the accolades, but there are undoubtedly leadership opportunities for all. Perhaps we are wise to promote the leadership opportunities that come, not with title or accolade, but are done for the benefit of others, for the good of the community, for the realisation of shared goals. If we do our job well as educators, as the guides of personal development (be we teachers or parents), then we will provide the world with both influencers and leaders that it so desperately requires for the benefit of the global community.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“The most certain sign of wisdom…”

“The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.”

Michel de Montaigne

I recently read an article in which the author explained how teenager-caused kitchen mess had been curtailed as a consequence of a simple sign. If I remember correctly the sign was very clear about what should not be done with the used crockery and cutlery and was similarly pointed about use of the dishwasher. Apparently, it worked. No more plates sitting on the countertop and rubbish went in the bin. It seems we follow signs.

Looking at the UK news this week we’ve seen some fairly clear signs about the way that the educational landscape may be configured in the coming months and years. This being the season of political party conferences it was time for the leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer to launch a broadside against independent schools. He has proposed the removal of charitable status from UK independents which will undoubtedly lead to certain schools closing and the taxpayer facing an increased burden. It also suggests that Sir Keir is perhaps a little uncomfortable with the notion of a high performing independent sector sitting alongside the maintained sector although he may well disagree.

Similarly clear was the announcement made this week that, despite a good number of opinions to the contrary, GCSE and A levels will be examined this year using a modified examination system and a similarly altered approach to grading. In certain subjects the content to be examined will be announced beforehand, scientific formulae may well be given out and we will move back to 2019 grades over two years. A sign of an educational establishment that is perhaps less bold than it could be. We will know more in February and the system used this year (TAGs) will remain an option should more lockdowns occur.

The Junior School’s Golden Rules

Signs are common in schools. There is generally a good deal of material letting our pupils know where they can and can’t go and what they can and can’t do. In many cases we phrase this positively – one only has to consider the Junior School’s Golden Rules to see an excellent example of how to signpost positively. For those in the Senior School we approach Assessment 1 – the first clear indication of how the year is going academically and a signpost towards the level of achievement that should be expected in the summer. I hope that they use this information wisely.

One plea from me. I know that there isn’t clear signage at the end of Rue de L’Ecluse where it meets the riverbank, but it has been designated residents access only. So please heed the sign that isn’t there and consider finding an alternative, safer place to turn around after dropping off.

As we move into October, we are beginning to see the tell-tale signs of autumn, a spectacular time for us on the riverbank and another reminder, a sign that the academic year is marching on and that we need to make the most of it both in and out of the classroom.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Politics is too serious a matter…”

“Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians.”

Charles de Gaulle

Constant criticism, public cynicism and a mountain of crises to address. Who’d be a politician these days? That said, we need politicians because, without a doubt, the world has more than its share of challenges; some that are long standing, many that are new, and someone needs to make the all-important decisions on our behalf. Tough political days lie ahead, and public opinion can be fickle as horizons are scanned for coming elections. Much of the modern world is cynical about the motives of politicians, perhaps we should reflect that many start with the very best of intentions. This week the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet and in doing so moved his beleaguered Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson out of post and replaced him with Nadhim Zahawi MP. As the thirty-seventh Secretary of State for Education since 1944 he takes on this most important portfolio at a time when change could well be profound and far reaching. He comes to the job with a degree of experience having been Minister for Children and Families in 2018. Like many new ministers he faces pressing questions. If I were to encourage Mr. Zahawi to prioritise I think I’d be encouraging him to look carefully at the following:

Focus on Student wellbeing: The modern world can be a harsh and unforgiving place, particularly when viewed through the distorting lens of social media where perfection is presented as truth and young people are trapped into feelings of inadequacy. We have digital tools that can be used for great good, and we do perhaps need to consider the responsibilities of large corporations who know that what they sell can have devastating effects. The pandemic has also taken its toll, now more than ever we need to consider the role of high pressure, winner-take-all exams that focus years of work into hours of performance. This is not a way to find the best in our pupils.

Exams (again): More immediately, students in the British system deserve more clarity on how they will be examined next summer. The last two years have proved stressful enough for our young people and they deserve to know in good time how they will have their learning rewarded. This is a moment when a bold Secretary of State could provide an assessment system truly worthy of this generation.

Promote the British Curriculum: The UK system has many strengths, and it would be good to see the Secretary of State particularly championing the almost unique opportunity provided by A levels to allow for students to follow their academic passions and prepare for university study. Studying the subjects that you want to, having received a decent grounding across a wide range of disciplines pre- 16 is a privilege and allows those who want to develop the space and support to do so.

Put the development of character at the heart of education: We know that young people today will need skills for careers that we have not yet created. What will always be required if we are to be a world community that thrives and flourishes are good people. We need to ensure our young people know how to be good colleagues, good friends, good family members and good citizens. We can do much when given the opportunity to link the curriculum to character, to learn not just for the test but for life.

It isn’t a long list, but these are challenging goals to achieve. I hope that Mr. Zahawi has the vision to look beyond the next sound bite or next election to use his high office to the benefit of a cohort who, more than ever, need to be given the opportunity to flourish.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Now slip me snug around your ears…”

“Now slip me snug around your ears,

I’ve never yet been wrong,

I’ll have a look inside your mind

And tell where you belong!”

J.K. Rowling

It may well be one of my favourite scenes in both the book and the movie adaptation… the sorting hat scene. Ushered into the great dining hall the bewildered new pupil is assigned a house that may well define the way that the rest of their time at Hogwarts will play out. The houses, it seems, are as important as the school, the first point of allegiance, the place where support and friendship grow. Houses feature in many books about British schools from Mallory Towers to Tom Brown’s School Days, the house is front and centre.

I’ve just been making a film for next week’s Senior School assembly about why I think the house system is such an important part of life here at the BSP and whilst there are some distinct differences between Hogwarts and the BSP, I do think that we need to make sure that we know why we have houses and appreciate what they can do for us.

School houses may well be a particularly British phenomenon, they originally were actual houses in which pupils lived but over the years this system of belonging has spread from boarding schools to day schools. Indeed, it would be rare for you to find a school in Britain that does not have a house system. I was a proud member of Holkham House (Green) and have been a member of other houses as a teacher: some named after buildings, others after alumni and one case after the Housemaster himself. In some schools, houses are an important element of the pastoral or welfare system, in others they fulfil a different role, providing opportunity to participate in events and a ready band of fellow house members with whom to work. One of the great elements of the house system is that in a year group bubble free world, it is one of the few opportunities for the “vertical mixing” of pupils, a chance for those who are a little older to mix with those who are earlier in their school careers. Support can be provided, good examples set, and inspiration shared. As beneficial as the learning is for younger pupils the benefits for older ones are also significant. The House is often the place where pupils get their first taste of leadership, where they have to organise others to the achievement of a common goal and to encourage others to do their very best for the house. Houses should also be a way of developing a healthy competitive spirit on a local scale, a way of challenging each and every pupil to get involved, perhaps with an activity that they have never tried before. Houses are a low-risk way of having a go at something new with the support of your housemates ensuring that fun is at the fore. Each year we have a multitude of house competitions in which to get involved and every merit counts towards the House Cup, often the prize most eagerly sought at the end of the school year. The weekly assignment of house points is a much-anticipated element of the weekly Junior School assembly.

So, parents, if you are feeling a little “houseless” may I invite you to follow your children into the world of the house system? You too can share the allegiance of being in the house. Alongside questions about what you learned today, why not ask about house activities and opportunities, you may just find out about one of the most exciting elements of life here at the BSP.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Intelligence plus character…”

“Intelligence plus character, that is the true goal of education.”

Martin Luther King

Some pupils arrive at school knowing where they are headed, in their mind their life goals are decided, and they are focused on realising the prize. Many who have certain ideas now find that these seemingly fixed ideas will, over the months and years, change. Some have no idea and that is perfectly fine too. As a school our role is to provide the conditions in which all our young people will develop the character they require to support their ambitions. In this context character is a mix of intellectual developments, moral growth, the development of an understanding of civic duty and the realisation of talent. This week in the Senior School pupils were treated to a pop-up concert by Tatiana DeMaria a former pupil of the BSP. She played a short set and in between reminisced about her time at the BSP and in particular those who inspired her to follow a career in music. She spoke of a teacher who put a guitar in her hands and gave her the confidence to have a go, to dare to dream and to realise those ambitions. She also spoke of the sometimes bumpy road to success.

During the coming year we will see pupils trying new things both in and out of the classroom. Some will succeed and others will find new things far more challenging. A few may well fail. I feel certain that lessons will be learned. Some will surprise themselves with what they can actually do, they will find that there is more that they can do than they ever imagined possible, and their confidence will grow. That said, they will only experience this true learning if they involve themselves, if they have a go.

Schools should be seedbeds for character development. Places where young people have the support to grow in mind and body and spirit. A place in which the development of independent thought and integrity is at the core of all we do. The Greeks had a word for this, ‘eudaimonia’. Human flourishing. School should be a place where pupils learn not only for themselves but how they can assist in the development of a better community. It was encouraging to see so many Sixth Formers helping to prepare the charity stall for the welcome event this week and there will be plenty more opportunities for development in this area during the term. Jeans for Genes day is approaching fast.

We don’t always know what this flourishing will look like in each individual pupil, but we know that the potential is there. As we start out on this year it is with a real hope that external factors will not interfere with this important work of pupil development. The restarting of co-curricular activities next week will be a first step and I know that colleagues will be doing all that they can to ensure that both learning and character development go hand in hand this year.

I do hope that you are able to join us for our annual welcome event tomorrow. We feel particularly lucky this year to be able to run an event and have every confidence that whatever the weather may decide to do our community will have the chance to come together once more.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“The future rewards those who press on.” – Barack Obama

Whilst plenty of staff have been in school over the past few weeks it only ever seems like school is really school again when we hear the voices of pupils on our campuses. So, the end of this week has made this place seem that bit more normal as the sound of excited voices has been heard once more. We are looking forward to working with the pupils this year to ensure that they realise their potential both in and out of the classroom.

There is a palpable sense of excitement about the rentrée this year. Whilst that may well be the case every year, this year may well be a little more exciting than normal. As well as getting back to the classroom we anticipate recommencing with activities that have been on hold for the last year. Despite the masks, year group bubbles, gel, and temperature checks we will move forward with positivity (and lots of handwashing). We will be encouraging pupils to challenge themselves and to make sure that they develop their whole selves thus following our school motto: strength in mind and body.

There might be a danger in looking too far into the future (a lesson from last year) but I think that we can all look forward to our welcome event for families which is scheduled for Saturday 11th September. I do hope that you can make it, it has always been a great gathering and a wonderful opportunity to see the BSP community in action. The pizza on offer will be pretty special too. (See page 2)

This academic year has every possibility of being both a fabulous and a stimulating year for our pupils and their development. They will need to grasp opportunity when it comes, and we will be supporting them every step of the way. Now is the time for everyone to look forward to what promises to be a great academic year.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr