“No-one is bigger than the team” – John Kirwan and Sean Fitzpatrick, 1999

U18 girsl foot ASPWe are entering the time of year where sports players shift their attention from autumn sports to winter sports. I had the pleasure of watching the boys’ 1st XI play their final game on Saturday morning and round off their season with an emphatic win. Regular readers of the newsletter will be aware that our girls’ 1st XI had their most successful season on record remaining unbeaten in the regular season. This magnificent achievement is testament to their extraordinary team spirit and skill. They have been coached effectively and have worked together to produce exceptional results. I suspect that all of the players in this all-conquering side will remember this season as being one of the best, no matter how long they continue to play the game. Chapeau.

An ability to be an effective team player is valuable skill indeed. Over the course of a pupil’s time at school they will be put into a team. Sometimes they will be with their
friends and often they won’t. In many ways I favour the latter. As an educational experience there can be little that is more valuable than to be placed in a situation
where one is forced to co-operate with other people, to communicate clearly and to support a collective endeavour. At the BSP many opportunities to be part of a team
exist. Obviously there are sports teams but the cast of a play is also a team. Our orchestras and ensembles are also areas of mutual co-operation and I am looking forward to seeing these teams in action at the end of term concerts. But the experience of co-operation is not limited to co-curricular activities. We regularly build teams in the
classrooms. Group work when I was at school was always a bit of an excuse to skive off and let someone else do the heavy lifting. Now group work tasks are established that
really test students’ knowledge and develop their team working skills. Today I observed some Year 12 Economics students work in teams for ten minutes to produce mini presentations on a topic that they had not known before they started. This is a real and meaningful learning challenge which develops both skills and knowledge. The results were very impressive. I would never have envisaged a Hackathon team – but we have one.

I am not a huge fan of management books but James Kerr’s “Legacy” is something of an exception. Whilst on the surface it is about rugby we have used it as a staff to consider the way in which we approach our roles in the various teams that we belong to. Kerr, in looking at the recent culture of leadership in All Black rugby provides us as teachers or adults working in a school with many useful lessons concerning the way we play our part. It is well worth a look. I believe that we have learned from it.

So be it a Maths Challenge team or a rock band, the cast of a musical or being the substitute on the bench, I hope that every member of this school has the opportunity to be part of a team each term. We won’t all have an unbeaten season but we will develop a vital life skill.

Nicholas Hammond

More important than Dora…

JL EtienneIt took Jean-Louis Etienne an epic 63 days to single-handedly drag a sled to the North Pole. Once at the Pole he had no-one to celebrate with so he shared his achievement with his cooking stove and his sledge. Thirty odd years later he has become one of the world’s most celebrated and well respected explorers. He joined the Senior School and Year 5 in the newly refurbished Redgrave Multi-Purpose Hall this morning to share his thoughts about his lifetime of achievements and to challenge us to think about the threats to the world that we face today. You can read about his inspirational story on his website which tells you much about the man behind the legend:

As a school we have joined with wider communities in behaving in a more environmentally responsible fashion. We’ve reduced our consumption of single use plastic, we harvest rainwater, we have energy efficient lighting and we have a beehive. What Dr. Etienne made clear was that whilst such measures are good, we as a global community have far to go. We should be in no doubt that the crisis that we face today will only be solved with the application and dedication of the next generation. Young people like ours have the key to saving the planet. I suspect that, having listened to Dr. Etienne some will have been inspired to consider being part of the solution. Whilst he claimed not to be a “superman” just a person who persisted with their dream, I find it hard to believe that there are not pupils who will be thinking differently today as a consequence of having met him.

If you don’t have a chance to look at the recording of the event here are six key points from the talk:
• Passion might mean that you start a project. Perseverance is the thing that will see the project to success. So follow your idea and don’t give up.
• Expect difficulties. Few things in life come easily and if you give up because the going gets tough you should never have started in the first place.
• Cold temperatures won’t kill you. Ill winds will.
• Language is a tool. Use it to increase your knowledge. Never stop exploring.
• Don’t push your boundaries. Discover your boundaries. Find opportunities to discover how great you really are.
• Change is sometimes necessary.

In summing up his thoughts, Dr. Etienne told some older students that his experiences of fundraising for expeditions have taught him that it is normally the case that a few well-chosen words make more of an impact than many. I thought that was excellent advice so I’ll stop now.

Nicholas Hammond

When will we ever learn?

It would be interesting to know if, one hundred years from today, British Schools will still spend so much time studying the First World War. To some extent modern British culture is considered to have been shaped by the First World War. At least in the public imagination it was a war of stiff upper lips and playing the game, of noble sacrifice gone wrong as warfare changed beyond all recognition to harness the industrial power of nations. Poetry, novels, plays and films have been written; it is a conflict that has stamped itself on the national psyche of the UK in a way that it hasn’t in other countries. The idea of lions led by donkeys and the dangers of unchecked nationalism also weigh heavy on our latter day interpretations.

This week I had the great fortune to go with Year 9 to the First World War battlefields of Northern France and Belgium. We were blessed with both exceptional weather and engaged, interested students. Many of them asked the inevitable questions about the futility and waste of war, after all, who could not be moved standing in front of a pristine war grave for a fifteen year old boy who died under fire? The answers don’t get any easier to find.

As we stood looking at the Menin Gate, bathed in early morning sunlight, I was struck that as teachers we have an obligation to ensure that the First World War does not slip into the mists of time. It was a modern conflict in which the world was forced to understand, for the first time, that targets could be found far from the immediate battlefield. It was perhaps the first mass media war with its own brands of propaganda and fake news. It had unexpected consequences, positive ones, such as votes for women. It was a crucible of nations with Canada, Australia and New Zealand asserting their independence from Britain, the old order was questioned. But at what price? Carnage, sorrow, dispossession. Without World War 1 the Middle East situation would be different indeed. These are not easy concepts for young minds but it is important that we challenge our pupils to consider the views they need to develop, to compel them engage with “difficult” subjects. In doing so we have to, as parents or as teachers, allow them to disagree from time to time.

I have written before that we are developing a new generation of leaders at this school. Our young people will, I am sure, go on to make a massive contribution to their communities (wherever they may be) and it is important that they are ready to apply the lessons of the past to their futures and the decisions that are made for them and on their behalf.

AlexWe are right to remember and right to commemorate. All who had the opportunity to hear Georgie Green’s poem in Notre Dame on Sunday cannot help but consider the cost of conflict and those who heard Nicholas Lo’s stirring playing have been given pause for thought. I hope that 100 years from now we are still commemorating Alex’s great, great grandfather and his comrades who gave so much.

Nicholas Hammond

“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” – Edmund Hillary

Perhaps it is a consequence of living in a world governed by bells, timetables and a prescribed year that there is a danger of allowing the school year to roll along “as normal”. On Monday, teaching staff had an INSET (training) day. On Tuesday the half term started – the school picked up where it had left off ten days before with a few new faces. All very familiar, all very normal.

Despite this seeming familiarity an event occurred during the half term that has shaken many from this comfortable routine; former BSP teacher, Nicholas Lowndes, sadly died following an accident at his home. Nicholas Lowndes joined The British School of Paris in 1974 and he left our immediate community for retirement in 2015. Those who were not taught by him may have met him doing stalwart service on the second hand book stall at the summer fair. Nicholas was always going to make the most of retirement. Having already lovingly restored a house in Brittany, he had other plans. Some will know of his exceptional woodworking skills. There are few among us with the expertise to create a lute. Retirement was not an end to learning or talent development, it merely signalled a new phase in a life where learning remained central.

The loss of a long-serving member of staff is a matter for sorrow. Our deepest sympathies are with Mrs Lowndes our Junior School Librarian and wife of Nicholas and also with their children who all attended the BSP. I know that friends and colleagues will rally round and support; such is the way of this school.
Loss affects a community, but the institution carries on. Sometimes this is a comfort. Death is not necessarily a comfortable subject for adults and it is perhaps more alien for children. That acknowledged we should confront the subject. There are members of this community who have lost parents, siblings and a significant number will have lost grandparents. Loss can come in many forms and it is generally traumatic. But in a school, a place dedicated to making the most of talent and to the realisation of potential it also provides a powerful reminder. Very little in life is guaranteed and to that end we must make the most of every day that we wake up to. Whilst comfort, familiarity and routine are all good, we must never forget that we have, each day, the chance to do not just something extraordinary but many extraordinary things.

British-School-of-Paris-1280I wonder if, over the course of this coming week, we can reflect upon something that we have done that is worthy? Have we used the extraordinary opportunities that we have here? Have we used our talents wisely? Sometimes the jolt of tragedy serves to remind us that this life of ours is indeed precious. This half term we should avoid the trap of simply going through the motions and ensure that we continually strive for excellence. This may mean doing different. If we are able to achieve this then it will have been a half term well spent.

Nicholas Hammond