“A friend is a gift you give yourself” – R.L. Stevenson
Over the coming days there will be many tears shed over friendships that are to be interrupted. I have already chatted to a number of teary students, some older than you might expect, about the loss of their best friends. Life in a school with an international and mobile population can be cruel indeed. As a teacher there is not much that one can say. The modern world is a place in which international mobility is possible and indeed the experiences that pupils bring to our school having lived elsewhere is one of the most exciting elements of our community. Without mobility our view would be all the more blinkered. But it means people leave.
This year approximately 170 students will leave the school and we are already set to welcome at least 180 pupils next year. This ebb and flow is our circle of life. Few children join us in Reception and leave at the end of Year 13 as is the case in other schools. But what does this mean for the upset child? There is no getting away from it, losing a friend to another country is a traumatic event. The sense of loss is tangible and deeply felt. For the child moving away and for the “remainer” once the loss has been accepted there is the challenge of finding a new friend next year. Whilst the moment is difficult, young people learn from this experience. They become more resilient. They have to think about the value of friendship rather than assuming that friends will always be around. Talking to older students who might have been through the process more than once and having been the leaver and the “remainer” they tell me that they do keep in touch, Facetime and other apps help in this. Holiday opportunities certainly become more interesting! None of them said that they have become more guarded in their approach to making friends, they still value the support they receive and the fun that they have with their friends. I suspect that as a consequence of this change they are perhaps more at ease in new social situations, they find it easier to build networks and friendships, all invaluable assets in the modern world.
Last weekend a group of former pupils met up in London. For some it was twenty years since they last met, for others it had only been a matter of a few weeks since they had last been together. They picked up where they left off; perhaps the sign of real and lasting friendship. Our former pupils share a bond forged here on the banks of the Seine that is unique, they will never forget their school and I hope that they will never forget the friendships that they have made here. Yes, in the coming days tears will flow, this is the sign of good times shared that are coming to a halt, but they do not have to mean an ending. I’d like to think once a BSP student, always a BSP student; once a friend, always a friend.