The end of the summer term…

When I had the opportunity to study anthropology the seeming obsession of some academics with the concept of rites of passage was striking. It appeared that it wasn’t possible to pick up a monograph without finding some sort of ceremony or event that was, in the observer’s mind at least, the marker of a significant occurrence in the passage of an individual’s life. The longer I am in schools the more important these markers seem to be (and the faster they come around – that is, however, age). From the start of term assembly by way of the Christmas concert via fixtures, performances and exhibitions we always end up back at the same place – the end of the summer term. What anthropologists regard as passage through a liminal zone we simply see as moving up a year group or going to another school or heading off to university. Perhaps this year, more than others, how we should commemorate the end of this most remarkable of years is a question to be answered. Perhaps we have the chance to build new traditions.

This year will, of course, be different. To some extent we have lost the anchor points of the school year, there is a danger of being adrift. I can’t help but spare a thought for those of our pupils who, for whatever reason, won’t finish the year with their friends and their teachers and whose end of term is likely to end (to borrow from T.S Eliot) not with a bang but a whimper. Those in school have had the chance to enjoy time with friends and to consolidate their learning but the end of this year will be different, it will not be the same even for those who are able to be present. Who knows what new ceremonies or customs will develop from our experiences over the last three months?

Whilst it remains difficult to gather, we can, without doubt celebrate. Our Junior School final assembly may be a little less well attended than normal and our Prize Giving may be virtual, but it would be wrong to view them as some ersatz version of the real thing. Both events have been filmed and the resulting productions will be shown in something similar to the normal way – Parents if you wish to put champagne in the fridge before starting it should be chilled by the time the films end! In taking a new approach we record for posterity the achievements of our whole community and who knows, in years to come it might be the sort of thing that is watched again. If nothing else, it will bear witness to the concept of lock-down hair in its many and varied forms.

Our pupils have had an extraordinary year. Many have been given a chance to work in a genuinely independent manner. Perhaps their way of viewing the world will have been shaped by this period of difference. I hope so. If it were the case that this experience leads to a new way of configuring the world and a re-ordering of priorities, then it may well have been time well spent. This has been a time of tragedy and uncertainty. Perhaps it has been a rite of passage that few generations will have the need to experience but it will have profound effects.

Nicholas Hammond


Year 12 student Rayan shares his opinion…

Student voice is one of the buzzwords ringing around education these days. Here it is in the School’s DNA. Allowing space for young people to express their opinions and giving them the confidence to do so is part of the BSP’s mission. Therefore I am delighted to be able to pass my column over to Rayan this week.

Nicholas Hammond


“Pluralism does not mean the elimination of difference, but the embrace of difference. Genuine pluralism understands that diversity does not weaken a society, it strenghtens it.”

His Highness the Aga Khan

As a student, and a person of colour, I have closely watched the ongoing anti-racism protests and rallies in the USA and around the world. Thousands have mobilized and assembled to stand up against racism. And, finally, governments, business and everyday people are listening and beginning the long process of instituting change.

I want to acknowledge the deep damage to humanity caused by racism. Racism exists everywhere, in all societies, even within our own BSP community. As students we have the right to be loved, respected, and supported for who we are if we are to become the best version of ourselves.


As another school year comes to a close, I would like everyone to please remember that the important work of creating the conditions for students to thrive involves all of us. This is not a single moment in time, but rather a moral imperative to create positive and lasting change. We have a collective responsibility to make our community, and the world, a better place. Our teachers have inspired us as students to bring our best, each and every day, inside and outside the classroom. We have been asked to model excellence in scholarship, character and leadership. From the beginning of our student experience, the values of student voice, choice, and agency have been instilled on us.

We can all do something. We can sign a petition. We can (safely) join a protest. Read a book – This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell or Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi. Watch TED Talks such as: The Path to Ending Systemic Racism in the US. Talk with your family about what is happening in the world today. Have they experienced racism? Have they subjected someone to racism? What were they taught about different races in school? What about their parents? Let’s not be afraid to ask the hard questions. And let’s not be afraid of the answers to those questions.

Now is the moment to show our true character as leaders. We have a unique and unprecedented opportunity to commit to the important, ongoing work of learning, understanding, and advocating. Open and honest discourse, standing up for what is right, respecting different perspectives, recognizing the strength which comes from diversity and plurality, and taking visible action are what we do. Let’s challenge each other, on a daily basis to make our school, homes, and community reflective of who we are and what we stand for. It is only in this way that we will be able to embrace our differences and become a stronger and more united society.

Rayan Adatia

Year 12

“How can you hate me when you do not know me?” – Darryl Davis

Thirty years ago, I spent a year in Minneapolis as an exchange student. For me it was a formative experience. An opportunity to live in a vibrant, progressive and exciting city. Skyscrapers, huge cars, baseball and all the other clichés of American life were there. I was impressed with its adherence to the Scandinavian roots of the city’s founders and I believed it was one of the most forward thinking of US States. More recently Minnesota elected Ilhan Abdullahi Omar to the House of Representatives, one of the first Muslim women to hold such office. Further proof to me that the city of Hubert H. Humphrey, one of the architects of the 1968 Civil Rights Act maintained its status as a city that welcomes all who seek to pursue the American dream.

As is so often the case, my illusion covered an uncomfortable truth. Somewhere well away from the experiences of a naïve 18-year-old something was rotten in this wholesome state.

Colston statue – empty pedestal

Rather more recently I lived in the City of Bristol a place built on the profits of slavery (and tobacco). On my daily commute to school I used to pass the Empire Museum and the now toppled statue of Edward Colston. Another progressive city with an uncomfortable past. A place having to realise that there remains a discussion to be had about what should be remembered and how the experience of the many should be balanced with the fame of the few.

The College I attended as an undergraduate has embarked on a sometimes painful but frank discussion of its past and indeed the source of some of its endowment with current students and alumni. The past cannot be undone but it should be acknowledged. It most certainly should not be ignored. It cannot be rewritten. There is a rational discussion being conducted about the statue of Robert Clive in Whitehall, a man vilified in his own lifetime for his actions in India whose reputation was restored as a hero of empire by supporters in the early Twentieth Century. Whilst this school has no uncomfortable skeletons hidden in the closet of its endowment it, like all other institutions, should pause and reflect. We teach a history of Empire that reflects the brutal truth of exploitation and the industrialisation of slavery, it addresses the horrors of the Nazi death camps and the role of Empire in the world wars. We have a PSHE programme that both addresses and challenges injustice and intolerance. That we could do more is without question. But our diverse population is something that gives me hope that the wrongs of the past can be acknowledged and that our young people will not be condemned to simply missing inherent prejudice and discrimination. Our community is perhaps uniquely placed to answer the question posed by Darryl Davis: “How can you hate me when you do not know me?”

Before coming to Paris, I was the headmaster of a school in a tucked away and often overlooked part of the United Kingdom. It was a school with a long past; it was founded in 1379 with a continuous history of providing education to young people. One such student was Thomas Clarkson and his efforts supporting William Wilberforce in the anti-slavery movement are all but forgotten today. If there is a lesson we can take from the current wave of protest it is that this should be the start of a long, careful and mature debate. It should not be hijacked for photo opportunity or for commercial gain. A movement like this will not be sustained by black squares posted one day on social media but requires long term commitment, it requires education, it requires us all to pay attention.

Nicholas Hammond


It’s not unusual…

New normal. Altered reality. Unprecedented. All in this together. The list of pandemic clichés is undoubtedly longer than the four phrases highlighted but there can be little doubt that certain words have been overused in the last twelve weeks or so. I’m probably not reading the right newspaper columns, but I think that the word unusual might need more of an airing in the coming months. After all this isn’t the new normal because things will change. We might have to wait until there is a vaccine, but we are not going to be wearing masks when the Reception children are in Year 13 or if we are it will be a consequence of air pollution rather than COVID 19. This isn’t unprecedented, the world has experienced numerous pandemics. The Black Death wiped out a third of Europe’s population and I am reliably informed that Spanish ‘flu was a far more significant killer. I am not saying this to trivialise or to make light of what has been for some a tragic period and for many the most significant upheaval that they have experienced in a lifetime. There is no doubt that these times have been most unusual.

Closer to home it is unusual to see teachers in masks. Similarly, it is odd seeing Year 7 and Year 8 wearing facial coverings in school this week. Classrooms are still set up in rigid rows like a Victorian Schoolroom or exam hall – not normal for us here in the BSP. It is unusual to see pupils spending break between pegs or cones. Necessary but unusual. Lockdown hair is also pretty unusual. I’d never seen a teacher with a mohawk until Tuesday, but I have now. Sadly, the hair didn’t make it until Wednesday. Lurking under masks there are new beards and there are more than a few longer fringes. I’ve rarely been in school without a tie. Not many are wearing them at the moment. Unusual.

Will it be so unusual in September? Who knows? Plans are undoubtedly being drawn up as we speak, and we will learn more on 22nd June. Until then school life will be unusual. We are currently organising our traditional end of year events, they are more than likely to occur virtually but we will seek to give our Year 13s an appropriate send off. Prizes will be awarded and celebrations of a year well spent will be held but not as we normally would. If it is safe to do so we can all hope for a less unusual start to next year while being prepared for other eventualities.

Happily, some elements of school life are, to borrow from Sir Tom, not unusual. Great academic work is being done, a particular shout out to all who have done online exams this week. You are amazing. Our pupils are well behaved, thoughtful and work hard to follow the new rules in place to keep them and their peers safe. Teachers are working indefatigably to provide remote and in place learning. Parents have been both patient and supportive of what has been put in place. Whilst this may not be the way that any of us would choose to work it is not unusual to see the best being made of a most difficult situation by the BSP community.

Nicholas Hammond