“If you want something done…”

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.”

Lucille Ball

Historians are rather keen on turning points, and whilst the events of this week may not prove historically significant, I do have the sense that we have passed the point of being midway through the term and are now careering towards the end of the school year with (at least from this desk) an alarming speed. It is a busy time of year. Those taking their GCSEs and A levels are approaching the end of this extended season of testing, the Key Stage 3ers have been to the Alps and returned with plenty of tales, the Year 6 have journeyed to Normandy and experienced a great week of learning out of doors. Internal tests are being handed back, teaching takes on a slightly different air and the sun shines. And there are reports, lots of them.

This may very well be a good time to visit a school. Spirits are high, good humour abounds and there are few places in the world better than being on the banks of the Seine in the shade of a generous plane tree. It was a pleasure to have the British Ambassador to France visit on Tuesday. Dame Menna Rawlings enjoyed a tour of the school with pupils, sampled a school meal and was grilled by Lower VI politics students. We were grateful for her taking time from a busy schedule to visit us; we are indeed honoured to have her as our School Patron. Also in school this week were our Governors, the group who provide oversight of the operations of the BSP. One of our Governors, Mrs. Rose Hardy visited the Junior School and was, of course, bowled over by the excellent work that she saw being done there.

Yesterday, I received a letter (always so much better to be sent a letter than an email). It was one that came in a rather impressive envelope and came from none other than President Macron, wishing the school well and sending his best wishes to the entire community following his re-election. It would appear that the good work of the school is being noticed in high places. It was particularly impressive to see that the President, a busy person if ever there was one, had taken the time to comment and sign in his own hand.

We are always grateful when busy people take time to recognise our efforts and wish us well. It is good to learn that even those whose every minute is mapped out for them can enjoy either being here with us or taking the time to notice what it is we are doing for the local community. This is perhaps a lesson for us all. No matter how busy we are, a kind word can go a long way. As we hurtle end of termwards, I hope that our young people have the opportunity to make sure that they enjoy the school, its environment, and community. This is truly a magical place of learning and there is nowhere else quite like it. When the current group of pupils are old and grey I’ll wager they will look back on the time that was spent here as being some of the most significant and influential in the formation of their character.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” – Iyanla Vanzant

Last week I had a conversation that made me stop and think. Such exchanges are always good, a moment to take stock, to evaluate, to reconsider. The topic was comparison, and whilst we did not discuss the topic for any great length of time, it is a subject to which I’ve returned to over the course of the week.

In the conversation that stimulated this consideration we were comparing schools, in this case the comparison was of the most positive kind: “My children liked their last school because of the following reasons…” and they like the BSP because of these following but different reasons. How good to hear of pupils able to be so discerning as to pick out what they like and from what they benefit in such a reasoned and rational way. For me, it is a point of strength that we are not just like another school, and we are good in our own way; we have our own strengths.

Comparison is a dangerous business when it comes to education and learning. That said, it is impossible to ignore the process of exam taking that is going on at present. If ever there was an example of education’s obsession with comparison than the exam season is an obvious place to look. Exams are a mostly artificial construct in which (often) fabricated skills and swathes of knowledge are tested – most of what has been learned is not examined. Who knows, perhaps some days soon a system of teacher assessment supported by exams will be invented to ensure that we reward (and test) pupils on all they know rather than what they are asked about in a 90-minute slot. Still more challenging for our young people are the comparisons that they are forced to make between themselves and the airbrushed individuals that are shown on social media. The pressure to be popular has never been greater, and we as adults should be aware that the consequences of this insidious race to perfection can only ever have casualties. We need to continue to watch this, to challenge this, and to ensure that our young people are all capable of flourishing.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Queen Elizabeth in this, the aftermath of the Platinum Jubilee. Whilst I remain firmly convinced that comparison with others is not a good thing, we may well be profitably served by considering the example set by the Monarch. Service, good humour and an adherence to a clear moral code are the pillars of the Queen’s own brand of service. We should not compare because our situation is different. I do hope that over this last week BSP pupils have taken a moment to think about what the Queen has done and how they may learn from it. Whilst by no means blemish free Queen Elizabeth provides an exemplar for those considering life in the public eye. How appropriate indeed were the celebrations of this time last week – and how worthy of thanks are those staff members who worked so tirelessly to make the event a success.

This week in the Alps, our Key Stage 3 pupils will learn a good deal about how they match up to the challenges they will face. Some will go further, higher, and faster but all will have learned that there is more in them than they think, and that they have the capacity to succeed, even when they are challenged. We learn much about ourselves when we face challenge, it is not a question of how good am I in comparison, but as the Queen has shown us: is this best of which I am capable?

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“To be brief…”

“To be brief is almost a condition of being inspired.”

George Santayana

At the end of the school day we break for a half term holiday. In order to include the local bank holiday we are out of sync with many other schools in the area and those in the UK. Half term in England and Wales is next week and there will also be a welcome break for those who take exams. We return to school on Wednesday 1st June and will start a packed half term of learning. This holiday has been termed a mini-break, although I’d still probably prefer it to be called a half term. But it isn’t the name on which I want to focus, it is the fact that it is a shade shorter than other half terms. The half term is like a comma, if gives a moment to draw breath, not to stop everything but simply to reduce and to slow. It is a time to recover and replenish a stock of energy, and that energy will certainly be needed in the coming weeks for the pace of school life will only accelerate from here on into the end of term. It is important that we use this limited time to gain the most benefit possible.

So having thought about the idea of small but important holidays, I did wonder if there are other areas of school life in which small is beautiful. Take break time, a period as vital for teachers as it is for their pupils, a chance to draw breath and to ready oneself for the next block of lessons. As those on exam leave may have found, the discipline of the bell means that break lasts just long enough but there is no temptation to procrastinate. Revision is a topic very much on the minds of pupils at the moment – again, breaking it up into reasonable chunks is a very good idea. Screen time, now an important element of life can be done in shorter bursts, there is no reason to engage in marathon sessions. This holiday I hope pupils balance indoor time with outdoor time and active time with more restful time. In fact there are many things that benefit from being a little shorter, indeed I can (off the top of my head) only think of one area where I’d never advise a pupil to go short and that is on sleep.

Brevity, it has been said, is the soul of wit. I suspect that it may also be the sign of a good newsletter column. So that’s me done, I hope that you have a restful half term.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Education is for improving the lives of others…”

“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”

Marian Wright Edelman

Schools can be viewed as a collection of small communities all contributing to a larger whole. There are peer communities, friendship groups and classes. We have year groups, houses and activity groups. There are the mysteriously named Key Stages and we have a Junior School and Senior School community. Attached to the school we have other communities, we work in partnership with certain groups, and we have other groups such as the BSPS. It would be remiss of me not to mention the alumni community, a group that is more likely to be found virtually but is alive and active in a variety of places around the world. Community is important.

The sociologist Etienne Wenger describes a community as having three key components:

• mutual engagement whereby diversity is em braced;
• joint enterprise whereby mutual accountability is explored;
• and a shared repertoire which involves styles, stories and of course actions.

Over the course of this week we have had a productive time in school where young people from some 50 nations have worked and played together. I’ve been delighted to see dioramas being brought into school, teams training together and lots of hard work being done in classrooms. We’ve all spared a thought for Year 11 who have started their GCSEs this week. We are all engaged in the common pursuit of learning. Our aim is to develop all that is good in young people and ensure that they have the character to succeed in the future. If the community is to flourish, then we have to accept difference in thought and belief and welcome our diversity. As a I look around, I see a welcoming and tolerant community. I’m sure there is work to be done but we are, I believe, starting from a good place.

This week we were delighted to welcome former BSP student Liselotte back to school. She shared her knowledge and expertise and enthusiasm with our Senior School pupils. I hope that they were inspired by this recent former pupil who has succeeded in so many areas. They have a model on which to build their own success.

Tomorrow we have our first Festival of Discovery with teachers and friends of the school sharing their knowledge and expertise freely. For one day you too can join a new community and join in with our mission of learning. Please don’t be shy, it is still possible to sign up for a few sessions and our caterers are standing by to supply us with fish and chips at lunchtime. The School is a welcoming community and we’d love to see you.

Someone once described a school as a mixed age learning community. Tomorrow we most certainly will live up to that description and I do hope I’ll see you as you come through the school gate ready for some serious fun!

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Time is a sort of river…”

“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by, and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”

Marcus Aurelius

Heraclitus of Ephesus is probably not in the front rank of the ancient philosophers, he’s more Championship than Premier League, the Norwich City of the Classical cogitators and that’s probably why I rather like him. Unlike his better-known followers such as Aristotle or Plato he’s more the sort of thinker who pops up in a quiz in answer to the question “Which ancient philosopher was know as the Weeping Philosopher?” He’s also known as the Obscure which is perhaps another clue as to why he’s not being remembered alongside those who followed him. No great body of writing by him survives, but we do have fragments of his thoughts recorded. He was interested in the essence of the universe and came up with phrases such as “the paths up and down are one and the same” and his most famous thought “no-one ever steps in the same river twice”. As we move through this final term, I can’t help but think about this idea of the ever-flowing river.

Now that we are approaching normal, we have a torrent of events and happenings. In the past seven days alone we’ve opened the school to refugees on the weekend, there have been clubs and activities at lunchtime and after school, a charity concert has been held and we’ve been running our lessons. Our oldest students departed this afternoon for their exam leave only to return for their A levels and for Prize Giving in a haze of signed shirts, cake and mocktails on the lawn. Our river is flowing at a fast pace.

Every school year is different and every year we have a different school population. In this school more than many, change is a constant. Heraclitus would have recognised this. Our Year 13 pupils take the next step on their journey today and whilst this isn’t quite the end it is certainly the beginning of the end for their school days. Other adventures await – some look to the US for university, others to the UK and some have opted for mainland Europe. Whilst the future is exciting, they will be looking at a different experience going forward. There will be no stepping back into this experience, but they will take with them memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. One great thing about the BSP is that no matter where you end up in the world, you are likely to find an alumnus of the school… they are, quite literally everywhere. The network is extensive and supportive.

Whilst I can’t promise a repeat of school days, I can offer a taste of school life for those whose last day at school is becoming something of a distant memory. Our Festival of Discovery gives parents from all elements of the school, Junior and Senior, the chance to spend a day in school and to rekindle some past enthusiasms or try something new. Alongside the chance to engage with a wide range of activities the BSPS will be delighted to see you at their front lawn pop up bar. I do hope you can make it.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“The brain is wider than the sky.” – Emily Dickinson

Brains have been on the menu at the Senior School this week. Not in the canteen (there is no plan to serve tête de veau or other local dishes) but confusingly in the library, during assembly and even on the front lawn. This was all part of Mrs. Wehrli, our librarian’s unique way of promoting Children’s Book Week. It turns out that we have a small but significant collection of zombie related books in the library amongst myriad other subjects. I’m sure that some of our more reluctant visitors to the library will have been enticed to make a visit and pick up a book.

This week also marks the start of exam leave for our Year 11, GCSE pupils. They will be straining their brains both preparing and taking exams. We’ve also told our Year 11s to take care of their thinking equipment, after all their brains are not yet fully developed and the coming month will stretch their “thinking muscle”. This may well be an apposite moment to remind ourselves that to be kind to our minds we should ensure that we not only get enough sleep but that we have great quality kip. I know that advice like this never goes down particularly well but I’d encourage us all to lay off screens an hour before going to sleep, to make sure we are properly hydrated and to get in the fresh air for some exercise each day. Successful study and successful exam taking is about more than just sweating over flash cards.

Taking on a new mental challenge is also a very good way of ensuring that the aging brain is kept in trim. I’m delighted to invite parents our first ever Festival of Discovery. Whilst not quite a rival to Glastonbury, our festival will certainly provide some food for thought, possibly a new discovery and perhaps a lifelong enthusiasm. You can dissect an eye, appreciate poetry, and set fire to things… what’s not to like? Please come along, if nothing else you can enjoy an outstanding lunch of fish and chips followed by a top-class wine tasting. We value discovery as a school, and we would be delighted to provide you with an opportunity to take a glimpse into an almost normal school day. I hope to see you there.

Many and sincere thanks to all parents and friends of the school who have contributed to our Stuff for School appeal. The work of our community has been of profound help to support displaced students and their families. If you haven’t contributed and want to please don’t delay – we have a range of options and every little helps. Your donation allows us to provide continuity of education, there can’t be an appeal that is such a sound investment in the future.

For all who are going (or taking part in) tonight’s Jazz Concert, enjoy your evening and thank you in advance for supporting our good causes.

Have a great weekend.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Keep your face to the sunshine…”

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”

Helen Keller

There is much to look forward to this term. Already we have had trips away, we’ve been mask free for a couple of days and the sun is shining. There is a real feeling in school this week that school is (mostly) back to normal. Public exams look to be going ahead and older pupils are busy preparing for them. Brighter mornings have led to a welcome rash of smiles at drop off time. All is well. Much is as it should be. We’ve also had some visitors including M. Jehan-Éric Winckler the Sous-Prefect for St. Germain and stagiaire Mme Annissa Raharinirina.

This weekend promises to be a busy one. At about the time that this newsletter will drop, we will be hosting a piano recital in the Senior School with our own Jiwan Kim performing before the talented Barbara Gostijanovic takes the stage. The free shop will open tomorrow morning and we are all looking forward to the BSPS/BSP Jazz and Dance Night on Friday 6th May. A few tickets remain so don’t delay in booking your place as this will be a fantastic evening.

Whilst much is the same, this term brings some new opportunities and initiatives. On 21st May we’ll open the Senior School to all parents so they can have a try at some of the activities that our pupils experience on a daily basis (and some that they don’t). Our first Festival of Discovery will include climbing, dissection, wine tasting and vigorous debate. I’ll leave it to you to work out which are the ones we normally do in school. It’s a first for the BSP and it comes from having heard on so many occasions when showing prospective parents on school tours “I wish I could go back to school to have a go at that”. So, I do hope that you can join us for the day on 21st May and bring a friend who doesn’t know about the school. It promises to be a great day and if further encouragement were needed there is a fish and chip lunch on offer. See poster on page 3 of this newsletter.

This week we’ve also welcomed seven Ukrainian students to the school, how good it is to see them integrating into our community so successfully. On Monday we will open a class for those affected by the conflict who don’t have the necessary level of English or French to access mainstream education. Again, these children will be made to feel welcome and I’m sure that they will enrich our community. Thank you to all parents and friends of the school who have contributed to our ‘Stuff for School’ campaign. If you are thinking about donating, can I urge you to do so? Your support means an enormous amount to these young people. Click here to learn more.

Summertime by the Seine is a magical time. Over the course of the coming weeks we will be encouraging pupils to make the most of the opportunities that are on offer here and for the first time we can extend the invitation to our parents to experience what makes the BSP such an inspirational place to learn. I do hope you’ll join us.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Integrity has no need of rules.”

“Integrity has no need of rules.”

The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus

And so, we reach the end of term. I hope that all pupils can reflect upon the last twelve weeks of education and conclude that they have both benefitted intellectually and learned something useful along the way. The pupils have worked hard and have demonstrated admirable resilience, it has also been good to see the reintroduction of after-school activities. The shows and concerts have been fantastic. For teachers it has been a testing time, dealing with high level of absence makes teaching more complicated and I thank them for their commitment and professionalism.

Alongside the inevitable relief of having made it to the end of term there will be some in the community who might say they have struggled more than others. Towards the end of term, tempers fray, patience can be in short supply and at times there is a lack of tolerance. It is a time when certain pupils bump up against the school rules and have to accept lessons of a different nature. Don’t assume from all of this that the BSP is descending into anarchy, far from it, behaviour management is not a topic that we have to discuss very often here and for that I am thankful. But if “it is going to happen” it will usually do so at the end of term.

I was pleased at the end of term to read a column by management guru Charles Handy that addressed, in a roundabout way, our approach to school behaviour guidance. He introduced me to a new word, subsidiarity. He talks about giving his own children the opportunity to make their own decisions, be self-reliant, to take responsibility. Subsidiarity is the delegation of responsibility to an appropriate level rather than relying on top-down measures. In the Junior School we have Golden Rules, positively framed guidance to ensure that we all get along, in the Senior School the framework is more formal, but it is much the same. There is a bit of top down, but the vast majority of interactions are positive because these are young people who know what is right and what is wrong. They demonstrate integrity. When I have to be involved with disciplinary matters, I’m usually heartened by the honesty shown by those who have lost their self-control and the willingness they show to put things right. Clearly only so many chances can be given, happily most never find themselves in the position again.

Part of our role as a school community is to develop a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong in our young people. To give them a framework to use in governing their actions. To give them the confidence to stand apart. This is no easy task, particularly when there are many influences to move them off track. At the end of a busy and tiring term it is perhaps worth reflecting on how few instances of questionable behaviour there have been and how this reflects upon our community and our self-imposed rules. So, a hearty well done to all pupils, not only for their work and commitment but for their excellent behaviour. There are many outside this community who could learn a lesson about right and wrong and integrity from you.

I hope that you have a most relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” – Amelia Earhart

There has been much written in the past few months about the loss of learning caused by the COVID pandemic. Almost as much has been written about our young people’s mental health and following on its heels how their social development has been hampered as a consequence of not being in school. All of these are true and should concern us as a community. What isn’t so often seen as having been missed is adventure. We should be in no doubt, our young people have lost out on opportunities for adventure and both families and schools should work hard to make up for lost time.

Year 5 spent much of the week in the Auvergne. It is one of the BSP’s aims to make the most of the educational opportunities presented by being in France and this trip provided a showcase of what France has to offer. A stunning region, we stayed in the spa town of La Bourboule and spent three days exploring, with the assistance of local guides, the chains of volcanoes that characterise the region. What had been explained in the classroom was in front of us in the great outdoors. Pupils had the chance to stand on the lip of a volcano, they made the earth tremor and examined volcanic ash preserved in this most singular of landscapes. They know about the different types of volcanoes and how they came into being, in doing so introducing them to the awe-inspiring story of our planet. Some overcame their fears and braved a volcano themed roller-coaster ride. There were adventures in many and varied forms.

But residential trips aren’t just about taking lessons from the classroom or textbook into real life. They are, for many, a chance to spend time with friends, to live and work together and to challenge themselves in so many ways. On Tuesday, these 9- and 10-year-olds walked a challenging thirteen kilometres. For some, the furthest they have ever walked and far more than they really knew they could. Others had to cope with living in a dormitory, their first experience of communal living, deprived of some privacy and creature comforts, a similarly important learning experience. Local food was eaten, beds were made and almost everyone faced that field trip conundrum of not being able to put all the stuff they had brought back in their bag at the end of the experience. Why is it that clothes that fitted into bags on the way out so rarely go back into the rucksack or suitcase at the end of the stay? Valuable lessons were learned, and importantly challenges of a variety of types were overcome. Many of these were met by individuals challenging themselves rather than asking an adult for help.

I’m sure that Year 5 will remember a good deal about what was for many their first overnight school trip. They will remember the adventure. Whilst they may, over time, not recall the finer points of volcanic reactions they are likely to be able to draw on the experience and what it taught them about themselves. Key Stage 3 students will travel further afield this holiday and this weekend our Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditioners will challenge themselves rather closer to home. Lessons for life will be learned and friendships enriched through this experience of adventure.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“I think the only expectation…”

“I think the only expectation is that I put on myself to do everything right and to put myself in a position to perform as best that I can.”

Ashleigh Barty

Ashleigh Barty is a supremely gifted athlete and her announcement this week that she is withdrawing from the uber competitive arena that is professional tennis can only be applauded as courageous. Elsewhere this week at the World Education Summit, Professor Yong Zhao likened a child’s progress through education to that of a dead bird.

At this point I would forgive you for wondering where all this is going. Professor Zhao has a distinguished educational pedigree, and he was calling into question the idea that it is education’s job to provide young people with the skills that they require for life in the future. According to Professor Zhao this is impossible because there are simply too many variables when looking at the future. Put plainly, we don’t know what skills or knowledge will be required. He took his thinking further explaining that children are rather more like live birds than dead ones as they fly in all sorts of directions and follow their own routes. To that end the constrictions of the traditional curriculum and associated testing mean that young people follow a path defined by the present that is (supposedly) preparing them for the future. In his mind, they should be prepared to create, shape, and mould their future. In proscribing levels to be reached (marks and grades) we may well be ignoring or failing to develop other talents and skills. Therefore, rather than preparing our pupils to live in the future he urges educators to provide pupils with the knowledge and skills to create their future.

Ashleigh Barty mentioned in her announcement that she may well look to take her talents into coaching. Here is a young person who has dedicated herself in the single-minded pursuit of excellence in one endeavour. She is bowing out at the top of her game, and she appears likely to take her sublime skills and put them to the benefit of others. Having met the demands of the most exacting of measures she provides us with a clear warning as to the dangers of such a single-minded pursuit in an environment where criticism from behind a screen and with the safety of a keyboard is all too easy and oh so damaging. Her example is admirable, and I hope our young people are taking note of the dignity that this athlete has shown in coming to this momentous decision. How easy it would have been to carry on, to go through the motions. To do what is expected. When I ask parents what they want for their children from school most say that they want their children to be happy, well-adjusted, and successful. It is notable that happiness usually sits at the top of the list.

I can’t help but think that Prof Zhao has a point, and that Ashleigh Barty provides us with a lesson in knowing yourself – one of the most important lessons our pupils can learn. I’m not certain that a sudden migration from subject content, skills testing, and exams is quite what we are after, but balance is required. We will never really know What the future holds, and we will never know what skills young people will need to create it. If we are successful in providing knowledge, skills, and character then we will be moving in the right direction. I hope that Prof. Zhao would be encouraged by the way our young people are prepared to take flight.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr