Anxiety – noun

  1. a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
    “he felt a surge of anxiety”

2. strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen.
“the housekeeper’s eager anxiety to please”

It may come as no surprise that this year’s Young Person’s Word of the Year 2021 as defined by the Oxford University Press is “anxiety”, it received 21% of the vote from a sample of 8,000 young people. Not an obvious word for pupils to be choosing – previous years have produced results from the world of social media such as “selfie” and “photobomb”. Other words that were runners up were “wellbeing” (13%) and “challenging” (12%). Perhaps more positive in nature, but yet another example of how the pandemic has affected the way our young people think. As has been said before we are only starting to understand the impact that long term exposure to the stress associated with the pandemic will have. What we do know is that if we keep school open and can offer a range of activities our pupils will benefit. Apparently, the teachers’ word of the year was “resilience” and for the population at large, we are told that “vax” has “injected itself into the bloodstream of the English language” during the pandemic (ouch).

For two of our year groups, Year 11, and Year 13 stress and anxiety have been more obvious. Mock exams are something of a New Year ritual, an essential part of preparation for public exams, but always a challenge. The last two weeks will have provided challenge and given experience in equal measure, these pupils have earned a weekend off before they pick up and start again on Monday. It remains to be seen what public exams will look like this summer. The impression being given is that we will continue with some degree of normality. I suspect that few in our public exam years would agree with Kierkegaard in defining anxiety as the “dizziness of freedom” although having worked well now, the summer exams will be a lesser challenge.

It is sometimes good to gain a sense of perspective in the current state of confusion, stress, and worry. Today, many Senior School pupils and parents joined together to hear the story of holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper. Our concerns quickly and rightly recede in the face of a story like Zigi Shipper’s. Our struggle is one in which there is opportunity for communities to co-operate, to share and to think more widely. Today we were reminded of the danger that sits with the prosecution of hate and when rational thought and human tolerance breaks down. Ours is an international community and I hope that the pupils in this school, so privileged to meet and appreciate the experiences of their peers from around the world, will be the torch bearers, the leaders of their communities in the future and will have the courage to speak up for others as well as for themselves. We all do well to be reminded of the danger of closing our ears to the lessons of history. Perhaps today of all days we would also do well to recognise the incredible spirit that lies within each and every one of us when faced with challenges of whatever scale and the fundamental importance of remaining positive even when feeling a little anxious.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“The key thing is knowing how to adapt.”

“The key thing is knowing how to adapt.”

Didier Deschamps

If gaining understanding is one of the hallmarks of a good education, then we are perhaps fortunate to have teachers as demanding as the Omicron variant. Since the middle of last month, we’ve begun to understand what “the same but different” means when it comes to this new variety of COVID and how it requires us to think in new and original ways about the things that we want to do. Without doubt the holiday period was a time of uncertainty and worry for many as well laid travel plans were modified, adjusted or sadly abandoned, but judging by the cheery faces of returning pupils fun was had. I hope that everyone in our community found the chance to rest and enjoy some festive cheer. We return to slightly more stringent protocols in some areas but greater freedom in others. Thus, we are perhaps starting to understand the nature of the long road to normality and also some of the challenges that we may face along the way.

At the start of term, it is good to consider what it is we would like to achieve. The School’s overriding aim is to ensure continuity of high quality education. This is already proving challenging as some in our community have tested positive, others are searching for tests as cas contacts, and the rest wonder when it will be that they will be affected. On Thursday morning there were only 2 classes in the Junior School that had not been affected by Omicron in some way, the Senior School had only one unaffected year group. As a right we have cases in all years. Judging by these numbers we are all wise to have a Plan B. Our aim is to stay open for as long as it is safe to, we are looking to provide materials for those who are forced to learn at home and if necessary (or instructed to do so) we will teach remotely. Experience over the last year and a half has taught us that running a hybrid system of teaching in place and remote learning is not effective; we are better to be doing one thing or the other – educating remotely or education in person. We’ve been fortunate so far in only having to move to remote learning for a comparatively short period of time. I commiserate with colleagues elsewhere in the world who are now counting the length of remote schooling in half yearly chunks or longer. What effect this will have for children is difficult to predict. It may be the case that we decide, should numbers increase dramatically, that we will move to remote teaching but will remain able to have pupils on site so that alongside effective online lessons, social interaction (however limited) can be enjoyed. We are trying to find ways to preserve sporting, musical, dramatic and other activities – we want to provide these opportunities for development and enjoyment. Postponement may occur but we are looking to do as much as we are able within the rules. Virtual events help us here, next week holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper will speak to the school and parents are warmly invited to join us via their devices.

The Spring Term is a demanding one. Those preparing for exams start to move up a gear and for some this is the end of their first week in a new school. It can be a term of great advances as we look to build on all that was achieved in the first term, so we will not be coddling, we will be challenging! Our calendar and programmes may well have to be adapted but our aim is to preserve continuity and to give opportunity for growth and development Above all we will endeavour to be supportive.

Here’s to a great Spring Term, whatever it throws at us.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“To expect the unexpected…”

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.”

Oscar Wilde

This term we haven’t quite seen it all but there have been a few moments of unanticipated excitement. On a Friday a few weeks ago a digger driver on a building site in Nanterre severed our internet cable and cut off our access. It was all back by Monday, and it was good to know that the whole of Croissy was not denied access for the entire weekend. If you ever want to see a look of genuine panic on the face of teenagers just tell them that it looks like they won’t have access to the internet for a weekend – truth be told many were quick to let me know that they had already considered contingency arrangements but there was a flash of panic. At the start of the half term holiday a tree on the riverbank entered the school site (entry was unplanned) and it made a mess of the fence, once again all was put right soon enough. Some of you may have spotted the small tree stumps around the Christmas tree on Saturday at the Fair – we’ve benefitted from the tree’s misfortune! We’ve had just about every type of weather (often in the same day) throughout this half term. It is also worth remembering that this is a term that started bathed in sunshine and finishes rather soggy with rain. We’ve welcomed new pupils and bid farewell in equal measure and as we draw to the end of another eventful term, we will say good luck to pupils who depart for the next part of their educational journey.

So, whilst there are new and different challenges there is also much that remains the same. This is perhaps a mark of our school values. Events occur but the spirit that underpins the school remains the same. On Wednesday night a group of senior pupils played for the residents of a local care home, others have supported the special school in St. Germain, not for any credit or praise but because they know it is the right thing to do. Kindness in this challenging time has been evident and with another magnificent collection of Love in a Box we can be certain that this kindness extends far beyond our school gates. The BSPS took the bold decision to relocate the Christmas Fair – it was the first time outside and what a triumph it was. Out thanks to Mrs. Matthews and her excellent team who made a much-needed social event happen. Along the way they also raised a staggering amount for our partner schools in Cambodia.

Pupils are seeing the benefit of their hard work in ever rising assessment grades and our most senior pupils are being recognised with university offers from around the world as well as the UK and France. Whilst all around may have been uncertain, and we’ve faced our fair share of random unexpected challenges as a school, the pupils have carried on with their all-important task of learning.

Normality tends to be seen as being a little bit dull. This term normality has been welcome. We’ve run clubs after school and benefitted from trips. As we draw to an end of this marathon term it is good to recognise that it has been both fulfilling and enriching. Congratulations are due to the pupils for all of their efforts both in and out of the classroom. Thanks are due to colleagues for their dedication and unwavering support of those in their care, and also thanks to parents, your support of the school is greatly appreciated.

The coming weeks will give the opportunity to refresh and recharge. A New Year awaits and whilst there will be challenges, we have in all that has been achieved this term the right to feel confident that we are more than ready to meet what 2022 may bring.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“There is no such thing as bad weather…”

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

John Ruskin

It is lost in the midst of time as to whether it was a host of Scandinavian mums or Billy Connolly who first said that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Whoever it was, they had a point. Connolly, who hails from Glasgow, knows a thing or two about rain and he is a vocal proponent of raincoats, while Scandinavian wisdom has brought us the concept of friluftsliv or open-air living. Both are instructive exhortations to get out there and enjoy yourself whatever the local meteorology may be doing. My own mother used to remind my brothers and I that skin is waterproof, which I now understand is both biologically inaccurate and is probably a sure-fire way of getting hypothermia, but it speaks to the same spirit of resilience.

Tomorrow is the Christmas Fair and all week our maintenance team have been readying the front of the Senior School for the event; a winter wonderland has emerged from the autumnal gloom and I know that the BSPS will have a wonderful array of treats and activities to enjoy. Alongside that many involved have been anxiously checking weather apps and looking to the skies for the answer to the question what will the weather be like on Saturday? I am no meteorologist, but I am British and so the weather is an endless source of fascination, my prediction is that it may be rather chilly and there is a danger of it being a bit damp. It may well rain. So, if tomorrow you glance out of the window and think you might be put off by the weather then please put on a suitable collection of layers and remember your raincoat… as a community we need to have chances to congregate safely and there is plenty of space for all to enjoy this festive event. Please do come along and enjoy all that is on offer as it promises to be a great way to start the season of goodwill. Tom Lehrer once quipped that “bad weather always looks worse through a window”, and I agree.

Resilience is one of those buzz-words that flies around the educational firmament with great regularity. It is an important concept, and it concerns not just the ability to dress appropriately for the weather or to go outside, but to be mentally prepared to withstand all that is thrown at us. Our young people face another period of anxiety and uncertainty and having seen them cope well in the recent past I have no doubt that they will do so again. We need to do as much as we can to carry on as normal. It is a fact that young people are capable of extraordinary feats. Earlier this term I visited a nursery and pre-school that has no buildings, it takes place outdoors whatever the weather. Whilst our pupils have buildings, we are spending more time out of doors and this has to be seen as a good thing, after all we have a magnificent location and enjoy the benefit of space. They are developing reserves of resilience and I hope that they will put this spirit to good use in these last two weeks of the longest term in the school year.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, dressed for the weather and ready to demonstrate the formidable spirit of the BSP- we will enjoy ourselves! Have a most restful weekend.

Mr Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“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