“Creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy…”

“Creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy, and I actually think people understand that creativity is important – they just don’t understand what it is.”

Sir Ken Robinson

A high point of this week was a visit to the magnificent Junior School Art and D&T Gallery. All years (and parents) were represented and the work on show was truly uplifting and inspiring. There were some arresting pieces produced on a grand scale and other more delicate and nuanced works that repaid careful examination. Every painting, drawing and sculpture was the product of careful endeavour, and the results are remarkable.

Art is one of a few school subjects that has the potential to spread itself across all others. Increasingly educationalists talk not only of STEM but STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) and those who spent time looking at the go-carts or the fairground rides in the exhibition will know quite how well these subjects fit together.

One particular strength of the British curriculum is the opportunity it provides to pursue art beyond primary and lower secondary. If you are curious about the standard of work produced by our seniors then please do come along to their exhibition later in the year. Engaging in “practical” art gives pupils the chance to look at the world afresh and with a different perspective. I’m sure that messages around environmental stewardship are better understood though art rather than through a (possibly) drier approach. This year’s Davos forum took as its theme Growth. Sadly, my invitation seemed to have been lost in the post, so I have found out about discussions via the magic of the internet. Following on from one of the many discussions that took place two “top ten” documents were published: The ten most important skills in 2023 and The ten skills that will be required in the future. Number one on the 2023 list; analytical thinking. Number two; creative thinking. The emerging skills list put creative thinking ahead of analytical thinking. Of course, creative thinking does not simply mean “doing art” but by doing art we are, on occasion, given new and novel insights into solving problems. If you want to understand a landscape then draw it, if you need to learn the organs of the body sketch them out. Art can provide an opportunity to find a flow state, a chance to lose oneself in a task, a therapeutic action in anxious times. When pupils are challenged to be creative, they learn how to fail fast and how to build on their mistakes; art and other creative subjects improve personal resilience. We may not all be “good” at it, but it is undoubtedly good for us.

We do not often have the chance to meet our creative heroes but next week there is a chance to hear from an author who rightly deserves our admiration as a creative force. Sir Michael Morpurgo is one of the world’s great storytellers and we are fortunate that he will be joining us here in Croissy. It promises to be a wonderful chance to lose yourself in an evening of stories. I do hope that you will come along and hear from the author of War Horse, the international bestselling book.

I do hope that you have a good weekend.

Nicholas Hammond



One of our pupils just finished his A levels…

One of our pupils just finished his A levels.  He studied the music of the 1970s, Scandinavian culture, Eurovision and outlandish fashion…. What grades did he get? A,B,B,A.

And so it ends, with a week of fancy dress and some letting off steam before the exam season gets going.  Tonight, there will be a ball, laid on by our sixth form team, admin and support colleagues and the indefatigable BSPS This morning there was a special breakfast and in between it all a few last words of wisdom. The final advice has been given and Year 13 move into the exam season proper. 

During the Spring Term both Year 11 and Year 13 pupils enjoyed their normal lessons, but as this moment of exam leave has crept ever closer there has been a subtle change as week-by-week teachers transitioned to ‘exam preparation mode’. This is a sad necessity, and with it sees a slight departure from our routine academic ethos. Normally, we would want to avoid the ‘do we need to know this for the exam?’ type mentality, and revel in that process of learning our subjects, simply for the intellectual joy that it brings. That changes in the exam term. We now find ourselves embroiled in a tactical game, allied with the pupils, against an exam board opponent.  Whether it be “how exactly do you write a ‘six-marker’?” or “what mnemonic can we use to remember the names of the alkanes?”, we narrow our focus on precisely what is needed for every possible question. This might sound reassuring, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Patience and discipline are required to set about the hundredth past paper question of the week with fresh energy and intelligence. This style of learning is not the most stimulating, but repetitive practice is good preparation for doing well at the final test. I think we need to acknowledge with the pupils that they’ve got a tough job to do.

Why do we push them to do well? For me, public exams be they GCSE or A level are about giving young people an opportunity to validate their efforts. I want them to learn how their careful planning, exhaustive practice, collaboration, creativity and simple hard work can materialise into something.  On results day I want them to be able to reflect with pride that they did something positive for themselves. We ought to give them the best possible chance at experiencing that sense of purpose and subsequent reward. It’s not about whether they can remember the chambers of the heart, or quote accurately from Shakespeare, it’s about whether they have grown as learners and as people by the end of it. I hope that having this experience of a high-stakes moment in their lives will build their resilience and make them better equipped to tackle the next challenge, whether it be their A Levels, completing a degree, building a company, getting a job or training for a marathon – all of these things bring emotional rewards and psychological growth – their personal journey is what gives us the motivation to keep pushing them, not a string of numbers on a spreadsheet.

So as our pupils leave the warm embrace of the classroom for the more austere environment of the exam hall it is important that we praise the work that is done in preparation as heartily as the results that come from it.  And should help be required in the meantime, it remains on hand in school. 

I’d wish them good luck but I’m sure they won’t need it.

Nicholas Hammond



“And all the people rejoic’d, and said” – Zadok the Priest, G.F. Handel

At the BSP we promote life-long learning. We want our learners to leave the school inspired to maintain their natural curiosity about the world around them and equipped for life’s challenges. We want to provide the skills and inspiration for a life-long journey of learning, fulfilment and flourishing. But how long is life-long? I’m always inspired reading about people who take up new skills in their retirement, of the octogenarian who decides to do the degree that they always wanted to. Why? I suppose that it is something to do with the purity of motivation, of learning for learning’s sake. This is study not for career advancement, but for fulfilment and flourishing, because the subject is fascinating.

If we were to look at someone who has, perhaps as a force of circumstance, engaged in a process of life-long learning we should consider King Charles III. Tomorrow he will be crowned King amid the customary ceremony and pageantry associated with a royal event. Behind the ritual is an individual who has spent his life learning from others, most notably his mother who provided a lesson in service and quiet dignity. His has been a long apprenticeship and now he takes his place. Along the way he has demonstrated a curiosity about the world around him. He began to champion organic farming and environmental causes long before they were fashionable. He established the Prince’s Trust to support the learning and development of young people, he paints, plays the ‘cello, trumpet and piano and has a developed interest in hedge laying. He is the only British monarch to have a degree (in history) and was the first to attend a school (all previous monarchs had been tutored privately). He has learned Welsh, has qualified as a pilot and a diver and has appeared in both stage plays and TV shows (and not only as himself). And he’s authored a children’s book. His school report as Prince of Wales would be glowing in its “all roundedness”.

Education, learning and curiosity have been at the heart of King Charles’ endeavours. He has been unafraid to promote ideas that have yet to receive wider acceptance. He pointed out the dangers of pollution and plastics as early as 1970 and he has supported many others in their education. He is crowned at a time when attitudes around the Commonwealth are changing to monarchy, but he provides, if nothing else, a consistent thread of thought, behaviour and wise counsel as a national figurehead that seems less likely than one who has not “studied for the job”. As he said himself: “As you may possibly have noticed from time to time, I have tended to make a habit of sticking my head above the parapet and generally getting it shot off for pointing out what has always been blindingly obvious to me.”

Above all King Charles seems to have a reassuringly clear-sighted view of both our limitations and our potential. Having had the immense privilege of seeing extraordinary things and witnessing remarkable technological developments he is realistic about our human failings: “As human beings, we suffer from an innate tendency to jump to conclusions; to judge people too quickly, and to pronounce them failures or heroes without due consideration of the actual facts and ideals of the period.”

Perhaps King Charles is also a rarity among monarchs as one who has the courage to admit that things go wrong and we are all, all too human.

So, it seems we are in good hands. Three cheers for that.

Nicholas Hammond



“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

It is often said that we live in a complex world and that our existence is ever more complicated. In the Senior School assembly this week we had the chance to think a little about the benefits of simplicity and recognising that often complicated problems have relatively simple solutions. I told the following story to illustrate my point. Over the holidays I was fortunate enough to go to a restaurant to celebrate a relation’s birthday. During the meal a magician came to the table to perform a trick. He asked for a watch to use and I duly gave up my timepiece. He put the watch in the back and smashed it on the side of the table with a hammer. He opened the bag with a flourish and rather than seeing the watch miraculously still intact there was a smashed watch… not quite what he had in mind. The magician was apologetic and not only offered to replace the watch but said that he would pay for my dinner too. He said I could have anything on the menu and so I chose the lasagne. Can you guess what was in the lasagne? You’ll never guess… That’s right, meat, pasta and cheese, it was lovely.

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one. We are starting the final term of the year and the start of a term is a good time to set some goals. Simple goals. I’ve encouraged the Senior School pupils to not overcomplicate this term. Those who have public exams should prepare for them. Regular, structured revision we all know is better than a cramming session the night before. We all know that we should seek to achieve a balance in our activities if we are to get the most from the term. We all know that it is good to establish regular sleep patterns, spend time out of doors, read books, talk to friends face to face, make the most of all that Paris has to offer and of course a little time on screen doesn’t do any harm. I know that this is all obvious but isn’t it amazing how often we are prepared to give complex or fanciful explanations to avoid confronting a simple truth?

The summer term is truly special, it should be enjoyable, and it should be fulfilling. There are no first term nerves, winter is behind us and there are few places that can be as pleasant as the riverside in Croissy during the summer. I hope that our pupils make the most of their talents, the opportunities that are on offer, and the chance to spend time with their friends. Whilst there are exams, they can be taken in as part of the term, they are not all that exists this term. For some, this will be the last term that they spend with us, it is important that it is as enjoyable as it is productive. Put simply this is the very best term in which to work hard and play hard. And for those of you who are worried about my watch, it didn’t really happen…

Have a wonderful, balanced, enjoyable and fulfilling summer term.

Nicholas Hammond



“I am just a child…”

“I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.”

Stephen Hawking

Questions are to be found at the heart of every school. We’ve had a week of questions, some are the sort of questions that everyone recognises, others are the questions that we ask of ourselves. Today a panel of students went to the British Embassy to grill the British Ambassador and other pupils have asked questions of themselves through performance.

Let’s consider the most obvious type of questions. In many lessons there will be an element of questioning. Many lessons start (and end) with a question-and-answer session, a vital element of the lesson for a teacher who is assessing levels of prior knowledge and working on recall skills. It is also a valuable way of assessing if work presented by pupils is work they have actually done, rather than outsourcing their thinking to an AI programme.

Most teachers are happy to have an element of volunteering to answer, but it is ever more common to see the teacher making the choice of who should answer rather than asking for hands to be raised. There is often some sort of lottery to this – lollypop sticks with names written on them are a favourite. These are often relatively closed questions. In some lessons, PSHE springs to mind, it is more common to see open ended questions being asked, the “what ifs?” and “what do you think?” type of question. Many academic subjects will ask for questions that outline a point of view or explain a situation. My Year 9 historians were grappling with the thorny issue of what is a war crime in their last lesson, not as easy as it might seem. Some pupils relish the chance to speak about their knowledge, for others it is more of an ordeal. We seek to create a classroom atmosphere that encourages all to “have a go”. Questions and the debates that they provoke are where young people can test their ideas and subsequently make decisions about what it is they believe to be true. It is a valuable element of the learning process.

In an age of fake news and misleading information it is vital that we equip our pupils with the wherewithal to ask the right questions. This is surely one of the greatest skills that we can provide. Alongside this external questioning, it is also important that we challenge and question ourselves to provide an honest answer as to whether we are doing our best. This week we had the Senior School Spring Concert. It was a joyful affair, but I could not but help be filled with admiration with those performers who had put themselves in a position in which they asked the question “How will I do in this situation?”. Standing up to improvise a solo, playing in a small ensemble, singing in a small group to friends and the school community is a nerve-wracking affair and they answered the question with distinction. For even the most seasoned performers there are questions that emerge every time they take the stage and that our young people are willing to do this is testament to their strength of character.

Of course, there is one question that must be asked at this point in the term. It’s one with a simple answer. Are you ready for a holiday? After a busy and successful term such as this the answer is a resounding yes. The holiday is well deserved and falls just as we are likely to benefit from better weather. I hope that you have a good break and look forward to seeing everyone back in school for the summer term.

Nicholas Hammond



“Sometimes a poor performance…”

“Sometimes a poor performance is better for enjoyment, because you can look at
those things that were wrong and analyse them.”

Werner Heisenberg

Key performance indicators, now there’s a thrilling topic for some light Friday evening reading. Whilst far from those in industrial or commercial settings, schools have their own brand of performance indicators which can be used to measure progress and development. Whether they would stand up to rigid or methodical scrutiny is a moot point but if nothing else they can be a decent place to start thinking about what is going well and what could be better.

I’m writing this column while in the Auvergne accompanying the Year 5 field class. Our focus is the fascinating volcanic landscape of this region. The pupils’ knowledge of volcanoes in general and their ability to identify the different types of volcanoes they see in this fascinating landscape is impressive, still more laudable their enthusiasm for collecting and identifying the different types of volcanic rock. I’m not entirely sure how you would record levels of practical or intellectual curiosity, but I can assure you that they were high today. Similarly, the issue of grit … I’m not talking about rocks again, but rather determination and stickability. Over the last couple of days, I’ve watched the pupils deal with an orienteering course that was far from easy to complete which they did despite being frustrated at times by not immediately locating the controls. Today I have been impressed with their willingness to walk to the top of an extinct volcano and back down with the minimum of fuss. I’ve witnessed them experiencing communal living, having to compromise over keeping the light on or off at night, dealing with other people’s quirks and habits which they have done with mostly good humour. Their adaptability has been challenged, no screens for a few days, so lots of playing card games and other board games which they have taken up with gusto. They have had to think about the community, they’ve done basic clearing up tasks, cleaning tasks and had to be self-reliant enough to find a way to pack their own bag. They’ve learnt much more than simply the difference between volcano types.

Among all this endeavour, I’ve seen small acts of empathy. The kind word when someone is homesick, the rucksack carried when an ankle is sore. If we are really measuring the success of a school perhaps it is these qualities, qualities of basic human decency and kindness that should be the stuff of performance analysis.

On the basis of this particular year group, in this situation I’d say that things are going well, which is more than can be said for my performance as a Tik Tok dance pupil while waiting to visit the gift shop this afternoon. The teaching was excellent, the execution woeful. My tutors were encouraging but knew when they had a recalcitrant pupil to deal with. All this and we’ve one more day to go.

Well done Year 5, you’ve done us all proud. A performance we can all be proud to mark.

Nicholas Hammond


“Great things are not done by impulse…”

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

George Eliot

We have just passed the Equinox and clocks spring forward this weekend. The year is racing by and this week we’ve enjoyed musicals in both the Junior and Senior Schools. Congratulations to all involved with performing and thanks to the staff who have put so much of their time into the preparation. The opportunity to challenge oneself though performance is a great learning experience.

At this time we begin to learn which pupils will be staying with us for next year and those who are moving on. Every headteacher believes that the school they serve is unique, in the BSP’s case there are features that, whilst they don’t necessarily qualify us to be called unique, do make us notable. We are the only school that I’ve worked in that has a rolling admissions programme, the average stay at the school is a little over three years for pupils – also another feature of note. Whilst I can’t predict exactly how many pupils we will welcome back next year, I do know there will be year groups of different sizes. We tailor our offer to reflect this variation, new classes may be established, new sets added, and we always look carefully at the number of pupils per set. This year the average set size at the BSP is 16.7 in Years 1-9. This is, I believe, a good number, enough for debate and discussion, enough for a variety of views to exist and still enough for a teacher to be able to provide individual attention.

Many headteachers that I speak with talk of growing their numbers, increasing the market share and there is a developing tendency for management speak to creep from commerce to classroom. Often bigger is equated with superior. Perhaps I’m a dinosaur but I am a firm believer that smaller schools are better places to learn. Why? Increased personalisation, better learning relationships between teachers and their pupils and above all in a small school the pupils must “have a go”, there isn’t the same place to hide that there is in a larger school. Take our school productions as an example – I can see performers on stage or in the chorus who will also be playing netball for the school in a week or two. I can see other pupils being given significant responsibilities such as running sound and light in a way that might not be the same if there were more pupils vying for the opportunity. Exposure to a wide range of activities and being in a class where you have to speak up and play a role has to lead to greater levels of character development and intellectual challenge. Easier to do in a small school.

Our young people will go on to play significant roles in their communities. We don’t know what they will do, but we are beginning to see who they will be. Learning how to manage relations in small communities, where difference has to be understood and compromise rather than avoidance is the way to flourish, will develop skills for later life. Similarly, building the confidence to work outside of their comfort zone, to “give it a try” will serve the pupils well as they decide on what the future holds for them.

Nicholas Hammond



“Too much self-centred attitude…”

“Too much self-centred attitude, you see, brings, you see, isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centred attitude is the source of suffering.”

The Dalai Lama

Three years ago, we were in lockdown and the world had stopped. This week it was clear that we have left those days far, far behind. Lessons are face to face, we have a full programme of extra-curricular activities and there are trips and sports fixtures being played. Drama of a very different kind will be seen in both schools next week. The lockdown seems a very long time ago. Last week saw parents in school, something that was unimaginable not so very long ago, but was an enormous amount of fun. Roll on the next Festival of Discovery.

Back in the days of isolation we were readjusting to learning at home and developing a variety of strategies to keep learning. Whatever we achieved in this regard, we also have to recognise that for many this was a time of anxiety and worry. For some, ground was lost, social skills were not given time to develop, and we will be seeing the effects in some pupils for years to come. We will have to work so support these pupils.

Just because we are back to normal it does not mean that there will be no challenges or issues. What is different is that there is a greater opportunity for our pupils to achieve a sense of balance. No pupil should be simply working all the time on academic tasks, nor should they be in a position where they are doing no work at all. Tests and assessments cause a degree of focus, but it should not be to the level of panic. We should all be taking time to do some exercise and get sensible amounts of sleep. There is still time for learning to take place before the end of the term.

This week has been one in which our pupils have looked beyond the confines of the school and indeed are looking well beyond the local environment. For example, our Year 11 pupils are considering A level choices and the path their education will take beyond school. They have also spent time connecting with the situation of others and giving of themselves. Many decided to run or walk on Thursday to draw attention to modern slavery, others joined in with the sport relief activities today. A glance at the Freedom Wall provides proof, if it were needed, that kindness is at the very core of what we believe. Once again, our young people have chosen to take the opportunity to look beyond their own situation, it’s a long way from lockdown. Perhaps having the experience of companionship, community and the collective spirit being removed, these opportunities and experiences are enjoyed with greater appreciation. If nothing else, we should both remember and reflect upon the effects of being removed from companionship and ensure that we make the most of learning from each other in this remarkable community of ours. Conversely, as the world turns now at its customary, furious, rate we should take the small positives that isolation taught us; to enjoy the small things in life that we might otherwise take for granted.

Nicholas Hammond



“We all have a chance.” – Greta Thunberg

As well as providing access to the world’s most prestigious universities and being a sound basis for life-long learning, the UK educational system is one in which choice is a key component. Whilst there may not be a huge amount of choice about the subjects that you study in the primary years, choice begins to appear in the secondary years. At the BSP the first choices are made at the end of Year 7 where there is a chance to study either German or Spanish alongside compulsory French. At the end of Year 9 there is more choice as GCSEs beckon. Whilst a broad base is maintained until the age of sixteen there are opportunities for pupils to make a subject selection in three option blocks. This provides the opportunity to follow academic interests, to focus on the things that matter to the individual, often forming the basis for long term learning. By the time GCSEs are taken and A levels have been selected, the learning pathway is well established. These qualifications are the key to study around the world and give our pupils the opportunities to delve deep, to explore and to understand. They allow for individual study to take place, time for interests to be developed.

But choice can be bewildering. It is definitely a good thing but if you aren’t quite sure where you are going then this can be a concern. We do our best as a school to guide and support our pupils in the right direction. Year 9 had their options evening on Wednesday and are now deciding which three options they will take alongside the core subject load including Maths, English, French and the sciences. Next week Year 11 will stand at a similar fork in the academic pathway and they will consider which A levels they will choose. Our tutorial system and Careers Department provide valuable guidance through a programme of lectures, interviews and individual consultations. The collective wisdom of my teaching colleagues, working in partnership with parents and (of course) pupils almost always means that the right path is chosen and flourishing results.

Our world is a complicated one. Young people are given a bewildering choice when it comes to their future. In this I am talking of more than their academic subjects. We value the choices that are made around participation in activities, about making wise choices in a social capacity and simply knowing when to do the right thing. Whilst we spend a lot of time at this stage of the year talking about academic and subject decisions, it is a year-round task to guide and develop young people of character who will go on to make the right decisions. I hope that this ensures that they grow into the individuals of good character that this world so clearly requires. We are lucky that so many choose to consider the advice that they are given and, having reasoned, make sound decisions.

Have a great weekend.

Nicholas Hammond



“Comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.” – Proverb

Half terms are welcome, but as a rule they pass in a flash. I hope that you managed to make the most of the break. We have returned to school and have picked up where we left off having lost no momentum whatsoever. This has been a busy week and it’s a harbinger of what is to come in the coming five weeks of term.

This week has been varied and there has been much to celebrate. We welcomed a film crew in to school and I am very grateful to all who contributed to the filming. Our partners from Feel Good Films have returned to their base and will be busy editing in the coming weeks. It will be good to see the finished article, I’m sure that we will all be proud of how our school looks on screen.

For those who can’t wait to find out what it is like to spend a day at BSP, then I’m pleased to be able to welcome all members of our community (and their friends) to the Junior School on Saturday 11th March for our second Festival of Discovery day. Building on the success of the last Festival, which focused on all things Senior School (see photo), our attention moves to the exciting learning environment of the Junior School. An action-packed morning awaits all who decide to join us. Almost every time I take a prospective parent on a tour of the school they comment that they’d love to go back to school again, well now you can. Please do sign up to learn something new, try something different and find out why learning at the BSP is such fun.

Year 7 had a parents’ evening on Wednesday and in between the useful discussion about progress that were taking place I was asked if we as a school are going to discuss the use of AI and Chat GPT in particular. This week several high-profile universities announced that they were to a greater or lesser extent (mostly lesser) going to allow use of AI software whilst ensuring that students “be the authors of their own work” and that the International Baccalaureate Organisation has decided to allow students to use the software as long as they reference its use as they would any other source. As our public exams are still sat using paper and pen, we do not have to worry overly about the use of artificially generated essays in that context, and I believe that there can be few objections to the use of Chat GTP as an additional source of information. As ever we will challenge plagiarism where it is found, and this is to a very great extent a modern spin on copying someone else’s homework! We will be reminding pupils that they should demonstrate integrity in their academic work as well as they do in all other areas of their life. Achievement without integrity is a hollow excellence indeed.

To round off a varied week the Junior School were reminded of the importance of being resilient in the face of disappointment – I am not sure if Mr. Potter performed his famous Elvis impersonation, but I do know that “The King” was the subject of this important message. It made a change from them turning up in their pyjamas…

Have a splendid weekend.

Nicholas Hammond