“Hope is the thing with feathers…”

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul…”

Emily Dickinson

A little under three weeks to go until the end of term and some good news from the President. It seems that all the hard work and self-control that has been in evidence from our pupils has not been in vain. Reasons for optimism are starting to show themselves. As I wrote last week, we have been impressed with both the rate and progress of pupils’ academic endeavours, something of which they can feel proud indeed. Now we can look forward to doing some of the things that we really enjoy outside of lessons, including a limited amount of outdoor sport. Pent up steam will undoubtedly be discharged.

So as from Monday pupils will be able to spend a little more time playing organised or supervised team sports outside, but other change will be slow to emerge. I’m sure that everyone will make the most of the easing of restrictions around being out of doors and the lure of retail therapy may well prove a long overdue distraction for others; face coverings will be more important than ever.

The end of term will see a further lifting of restrictions but not so early that it will benefit us as a school. Happily increasing options for the Christmas break will benefit families who have spent time apart. Sadly, many will still face the stress of separation. At a time which is difficult for a good proportion of our community it has been

extremely heartening to see our pupils thinking of others through the Love in a Box Scheme. These gifts will bring happiness, a commodity in short supply this year.

One of the most difficult aspects of this entire situation is that our year groups have not been able to mix as they normally would. Our school is a relatively small school and one of its strengths is that pupils of different ages have the opportunity to mix, valuable learning can take place though these interactions and that has been something missing over the last few weeks with bubbles, distancing and varying degrees of separation. Collaborative learning has also been a once normal element of school life that has to be restricted. Perhaps when the New Year arrives, we will once more be able to learn by working together, perform as groups and learn from each other.

All positive so far and whilst I don’t wish to rain on any parades (particularly at this time of Thanksgiving) I hope you will forgive a word of caution. I’m not an epidemiologist, I’m an historian. I don’t know about virus spread patterns but I can see that after periods of greater interaction infections rates tend to rise, and to that end I would ask expectations to be managed about what restrictions we will face in January. The New Year can often bring that feeling of “here we go again”, next year perhaps more so than most.

In the meantime, we can do some more of what we have become so good at – enjoying what we can do, living for today and making the most of what we have. There has been plenty of this at the BSP this week.

Nicholas Hammond



“It is a narrow mind…”

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”

George Eliot

In a recent meeting discussion turned (as it almost inevitably does) to the COVID situation. This term, the School has not been operating as normal, nor indeed has the world outside of the School gates. Our pupils have been working well and have had the opportunity to enjoy something that resembles business as usual but as the term goes on external restrictions are causing frustrations. Seeing the benefits of patience and dealing with frustrations are all challenges for young people and lockdown is certainly testing for them. As a school we are endeavouring to offer not only support but also a necessary release in this challenging situation. A quick sounding of Year 10s in the lunch queue suggests that there will be fewer concerns around lockdown this weekend as the newest version of a well-known video game has been released. They would by their own admission barely surface from their bedrooms this weekend during normal times. I’m not sure that this is what I talk about when extolling the benefits of subject mastery but a recent ISFE-commissioned Ipsos MORI report suggest that these games have a positive effect with 30% of players saying video games have helped them feel happier, less anxious and less isolated and 29% of players claim that video games had a positive impact on their mental health during lockdown, especially those who play multi-player games. Perhaps the Year 10s have a point.

It is of course very easy to dwell upon the disruption and restrictions. There aren’t always obvious upsides to this second period of lockdown, a period of time that seems to be more challenging than the first. We are certainly glad to be in school. The rate of infection seems to be falling and there appears to be some optimism about the forthcoming holiday season. Many scientists seem to be certain that they have a vaccine that may very well unlock this conundrum. Who knows, by the summer this all may seem like a distant memory, a period of history soon to be poured over. As for the scars it will undoubtedly leave, many will be affected and will continue to feel the effects of the virus long after the streets are full of people and the shops have opened again.

Back to the meeting. Looking ahead to the coming weeks we discussed how we are going to adapt as many of our usual activities for the last weeks of November and December. Performances will be online, there will be Christmas lunches and talent shows will happen. When we looked back over the term there is one thing that stood out as being out of the ordinary levels of pupils’ academic achievement have surpassed those of other years, perhaps as other distractions have narrowed the focus has sharpened. Our teachers have worked incredibly hard to provide stimulating lessons despite restrictions on group work and other elements of effective learning that are routine here. The pupils have also channelled their energy and we have indeed seen an overall rise in performance. Homework is being done, our libraries are busy, class time is being used effectively and an enthusiasm for learning is obvious. Three weeks or so out from the end of a long term, and under the current conditions that has to be worth a “well done one and all”. So, consider yourself duly praised!

Nicholas Hammond



“Some are born grateful…”

“Some are born grateful, some achieve gratefulness, and some have gratefulness thrust upon them.”

(Not) William Shakespeare

Whilst there are distinct benefits of a four day week, a quick straw poll of people in Thursday’s lunch queue revealed that it is more difficult to haul oneself out of bed the next day at the normal time for school. It was also clear that having that mid-week breathing space was considered “a good thing”. On balance most people were grateful for having had a bank holiday this week. Many were grateful for having a day on which being grateful was the main purpose of the holiday. The high priest of positive psychology Martin Seligman is big on gratitude. Look closely (he tells us) at those who are grateful, and you will find people that are generally happier. It seems that there are benefits in saying thank you for the giver as well as the receiver.

Our school community is coming to the end of a week of remembrance activities. A time when we do not celebrate war, but we acknowledge the debt we owe others who have died to ensure that we can enjoy the privileges that we most certainly experience. Remembrance this year is per-haps easier than many previous years as we have so much to thank the thousands of people who have chosen to put themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others. This isn’t a celebration of national fervour, more it is a chance to celebrate the contribution, to feel grateful for the mil-lions of small acts of bravery and courage and selflessness that make human existence slightly better. If you want to gain an understanding of what I’m saying then do, (if you haven’t already) take a few minutes to look at our remembrance film. My thanks to all who contributed by reading and by playing and also to our Communications Team who pulled it all together.

We perhaps show our gratitude most effectively in School when we do something for someone else. I was very politely “nobbled” on Thursday by a senior student with a proposal that the Sixth Form come to school in pyjamas or onesies today to raise money for our partner schools in Cambodia. I’m a grumpy Headmaster sometimes and I usually don’t go for fancy dress, but this time I could only say yes to a group of people who have chosen to think of others when they could (with justification) be feeling rather sorry for themselves. At the other end of the School I am grateful to all our younger pupils who have been so good about protecting others by wearing their masks so sensibly. They’ve been stars. Our maintenance team have provided excellent dining booths for the Senior School and our cleaners are working their socks off to make school safe for us. How fortunate we are.

We may well be confined to a 1km ring around our homes, there may well be a pandemic, and we may not know what tomorrow will bring but today I saw children pleased to be in school and doing the normal things that young people do at school – laughing and learning. And the sun came out. It could be so very different. Thank you for making it to the end of this week’s offering. I’m grateful for your patience!

Nicholas Hammond



Back in the Classroom

Another week, another wave of negative and disturbing headlines. If our young people are to judge the state of the world by the front pages of news websites and newspapers then they would have every reason to feel disheartened and wonder what on earth is going on with the world they are set to inherit.

The restart of term after a half term holiday is always a mix of emotions. Pupils have unwound and need to gear up once more. Our youngest pupils are normally super keen to rejoin friends and continue with the excitement of their learning and the older pupils are looking at a period of the year where serious academic progress has to be made – this half term is the engine room of academic progress. Across the board there is a little bit of self-doubt, some exhilaration, and this year a more significant degree of uncertainty. There is a job to be done both at home and in school to ensure that this feeling is kept in check, that our young people are not only affected by COVID concerns but also the seemingly unstable world in which we live.

It would be nothing short of fantastic to be able to offer a clear prediction of what will happen over the coming six weeks. Sadly, I can no more do this with any degree of accuracy than can our political leaders, distinguished scientists, or eminent statisticians! There are some possible scenarios for us that we need to consider – carry on with everyone onsite, a partial lockdown or a full lockdown. Having just read the tea leaves at the bottom of my morning cuppa, I’d say we are wise to consider the likelihood of a partial lockdown. From my (admittedly) local view of life outside our gates it seems to be fairly normal and as such infections rates could well rise. M. Blanquer has recently mooted split year attendance in the upper secondary years, albeit heavily caveated and very much being left to the school’s judgement. For us, a relatively small school with dispersed optional classes in the upper years, I am not (presently) looking at this as a viable possibility for the BSP. We are at our most effective when we have pupils in class and teachers in front of them. We can take reasonable and proportionate measures to protect, our aim is continuity of learning.

Being in the classroom is the core of what we do. It applies to both our youngest learners and those in Year 13. Alexander Pope said something along the lines of “education is experience understood upon reflection”, the presence of both pupil and teacher in the same space make this process far easier. Charles Handy once said he had seen some ancient graffiti carved on a school desk that simply read “It is the job of the teachers to bring out the genius that is in each pupil.” Not so easy when both pupil and teacher are behind a mask, even more difficult when they are not in the same room. Clearly we will follow the instructions that we are given and we will not knowingly put people at risk, but as far as possible this half term will be about making progress in school, about learning and about finding that academic spark in every one of our pupils. If we can do that amid the turmoil that surrounds us it will have been a successful term indeed.

Nicholas Hammond