“Politics is too serious a matter…”

“Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians.”

Charles de Gaulle

Constant criticism, public cynicism and a mountain of crises to address. Who’d be a politician these days? That said, we need politicians because, without a doubt, the world has more than its share of challenges; some that are long standing, many that are new, and someone needs to make the all-important decisions on our behalf. Tough political days lie ahead, and public opinion can be fickle as horizons are scanned for coming elections. Much of the modern world is cynical about the motives of politicians, perhaps we should reflect that many start with the very best of intentions. This week the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet and in doing so moved his beleaguered Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson out of post and replaced him with Nadhim Zahawi MP. As the thirty-seventh Secretary of State for Education since 1944 he takes on this most important portfolio at a time when change could well be profound and far reaching. He comes to the job with a degree of experience having been Minister for Children and Families in 2018. Like many new ministers he faces pressing questions. If I were to encourage Mr. Zahawi to prioritise I think I’d be encouraging him to look carefully at the following:

Focus on Student wellbeing: The modern world can be a harsh and unforgiving place, particularly when viewed through the distorting lens of social media where perfection is presented as truth and young people are trapped into feelings of inadequacy. We have digital tools that can be used for great good, and we do perhaps need to consider the responsibilities of large corporations who know that what they sell can have devastating effects. The pandemic has also taken its toll, now more than ever we need to consider the role of high pressure, winner-take-all exams that focus years of work into hours of performance. This is not a way to find the best in our pupils.

Exams (again): More immediately, students in the British system deserve more clarity on how they will be examined next summer. The last two years have proved stressful enough for our young people and they deserve to know in good time how they will have their learning rewarded. This is a moment when a bold Secretary of State could provide an assessment system truly worthy of this generation.

Promote the British Curriculum: The UK system has many strengths, and it would be good to see the Secretary of State particularly championing the almost unique opportunity provided by A levels to allow for students to follow their academic passions and prepare for university study. Studying the subjects that you want to, having received a decent grounding across a wide range of disciplines pre- 16 is a privilege and allows those who want to develop the space and support to do so.

Put the development of character at the heart of education: We know that young people today will need skills for careers that we have not yet created. What will always be required if we are to be a world community that thrives and flourishes are good people. We need to ensure our young people know how to be good colleagues, good friends, good family members and good citizens. We can do much when given the opportunity to link the curriculum to character, to learn not just for the test but for life.

It isn’t a long list, but these are challenging goals to achieve. I hope that Mr. Zahawi has the vision to look beyond the next sound bite or next election to use his high office to the benefit of a cohort who, more than ever, need to be given the opportunity to flourish.

Nicholas Hammond



“Now slip me snug around your ears…”

“Now slip me snug around your ears,

I’ve never yet been wrong,

I’ll have a look inside your mind

And tell where you belong!”

J.K. Rowling

It may well be one of my favourite scenes in both the book and the movie adaptation… the sorting hat scene. Ushered into the great dining hall the bewildered new pupil is assigned a house that may well define the way that the rest of their time at Hogwarts will play out. The houses, it seems, are as important as the school, the first point of allegiance, the place where support and friendship grow. Houses feature in many books about British schools from Mallory Towers to Tom Brown’s School Days, the house is front and centre.

I’ve just been making a film for next week’s Senior School assembly about why I think the house system is such an important part of life here at the BSP and whilst there are some distinct differences between Hogwarts and the BSP, I do think that we need to make sure that we know why we have houses and appreciate what they can do for us.

School houses may well be a particularly British phenomenon, they originally were actual houses in which pupils lived but over the years this system of belonging has spread from boarding schools to day schools. Indeed, it would be rare for you to find a school in Britain that does not have a house system. I was a proud member of Holkham House (Green) and have been a member of other houses as a teacher: some named after buildings, others after alumni and one case after the Housemaster himself. In some schools, houses are an important element of the pastoral or welfare system, in others they fulfil a different role, providing opportunity to participate in events and a ready band of fellow house members with whom to work. One of the great elements of the house system is that in a year group bubble free world, it is one of the few opportunities for the “vertical mixing” of pupils, a chance for those who are a little older to mix with those who are earlier in their school careers. Support can be provided, good examples set, and inspiration shared. As beneficial as the learning is for younger pupils the benefits for older ones are also significant. The House is often the place where pupils get their first taste of leadership, where they have to organise others to the achievement of a common goal and to encourage others to do their very best for the house. Houses should also be a way of developing a healthy competitive spirit on a local scale, a way of challenging each and every pupil to get involved, perhaps with an activity that they have never tried before. Houses are a low-risk way of having a go at something new with the support of your housemates ensuring that fun is at the fore. Each year we have a multitude of house competitions in which to get involved and every merit counts towards the House Cup, often the prize most eagerly sought at the end of the school year. The weekly assignment of house points is a much-anticipated element of the weekly Junior School assembly.

So, parents, if you are feeling a little “houseless” may I invite you to follow your children into the world of the house system? You too can share the allegiance of being in the house. Alongside questions about what you learned today, why not ask about house activities and opportunities, you may just find out about one of the most exciting elements of life here at the BSP.

Nicholas Hammond



“Intelligence plus character…”

“Intelligence plus character, that is the true goal of education.”

Martin Luther King

Some pupils arrive at school knowing where they are headed, in their mind their life goals are decided, and they are focused on realising the prize. Many who have certain ideas now find that these seemingly fixed ideas will, over the months and years, change. Some have no idea and that is perfectly fine too. As a school our role is to provide the conditions in which all our young people will develop the character they require to support their ambitions. In this context character is a mix of intellectual developments, moral growth, the development of an understanding of civic duty and the realisation of talent. This week in the Senior School pupils were treated to a pop-up concert by Tatiana DeMaria a former pupil of the BSP. She played a short set and in between reminisced about her time at the BSP and in particular those who inspired her to follow a career in music. She spoke of a teacher who put a guitar in her hands and gave her the confidence to have a go, to dare to dream and to realise those ambitions. She also spoke of the sometimes bumpy road to success.

During the coming year we will see pupils trying new things both in and out of the classroom. Some will succeed and others will find new things far more challenging. A few may well fail. I feel certain that lessons will be learned. Some will surprise themselves with what they can actually do, they will find that there is more that they can do than they ever imagined possible, and their confidence will grow. That said, they will only experience this true learning if they involve themselves, if they have a go.

Schools should be seedbeds for character development. Places where young people have the support to grow in mind and body and spirit. A place in which the development of independent thought and integrity is at the core of all we do. The Greeks had a word for this, ‘eudaimonia’. Human flourishing. School should be a place where pupils learn not only for themselves but how they can assist in the development of a better community. It was encouraging to see so many Sixth Formers helping to prepare the charity stall for the welcome event this week and there will be plenty more opportunities for development in this area during the term. Jeans for Genes day is approaching fast.

We don’t always know what this flourishing will look like in each individual pupil, but we know that the potential is there. As we start out on this year it is with a real hope that external factors will not interfere with this important work of pupil development. The restarting of co-curricular activities next week will be a first step and I know that colleagues will be doing all that they can to ensure that both learning and character development go hand in hand this year.

I do hope that you are able to join us for our annual welcome event tomorrow. We feel particularly lucky this year to be able to run an event and have every confidence that whatever the weather may decide to do our community will have the chance to come together once more.

Nicholas Hammond



“The future rewards those who press on.” – Barack Obama

Whilst plenty of staff have been in school over the past few weeks it only ever seems like school is really school again when we hear the voices of pupils on our campuses. So, the end of this week has made this place seem that bit more normal as the sound of excited voices has been heard once more. We are looking forward to working with the pupils this year to ensure that they realise their potential both in and out of the classroom.

There is a palpable sense of excitement about the rentrée this year. Whilst that may well be the case every year, this year may well be a little more exciting than normal. As well as getting back to the classroom we anticipate recommencing with activities that have been on hold for the last year. Despite the masks, year group bubbles, gel, and temperature checks we will move forward with positivity (and lots of handwashing). We will be encouraging pupils to challenge themselves and to make sure that they develop their whole selves thus following our school motto: strength in mind and body.

There might be a danger in looking too far into the future (a lesson from last year) but I think that we can all look forward to our welcome event for families which is scheduled for Saturday 11th September. I do hope that you can make it, it has always been a great gathering and a wonderful opportunity to see the BSP community in action. The pizza on offer will be pretty special too. (See page 2)

This academic year has every possibility of being both a fabulous and a stimulating year for our pupils and their development. They will need to grasp opportunity when it comes, and we will be supporting them every step of the way. Now is the time for everyone to look forward to what promises to be a great academic year.

Nicholas Hammond