“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
A week of crisp mornings and glorious, sunny afternoons. There can be few places better to learn than Croissy when the weather is like this. So good also to see our pupils enjoying the benefits of being outside for activities and indeed some lessons. Who knows, this fine spell may even last into next week when half term will be upon us, I do hope so.
Over the course of the half term, we have seen our youngest pupils make a positive start to school, they are gaining in confidence and developing independence. New pupils have become established pupils and the oldest pupils have started to apply for university. The year so recently started is progressing quickly. Much has been achieved, the foundations for a successful year have been laid. This newsletter has something of an end of term feel with so many highlights from this week and previous weeks featured. I was particularly inspired by the Junior School rendition of that autumn favourite “Conkers” sung simultaneously but separately this morning, you can enjoy the same uplifting joyful noise by following the link inside.
This half term has been a term in which we have seen school life return to some sort of normality. There has been some sport, expeditions and the odd school trip all led by our dedicated staff. But we cannot escape the continuing threat of the pandemic and I would ask you to be particularly vigilant for COVID like symptoms appearing over the holiday. We have been fortunate indeed to only have had to move one class to remote learning for a week this half term (and well done to 6T for continuing to learn despite this interruption), as the term continues, we run the risk of being affected once again so please do take care this holiday and avoid infection as far as you are able.
I am fully aware that the last paragraph may sound rather Eeyore-ish. I am not particularly anxious about the coming half term because I know that our pupils will take whatever comes in their stride. In truth, I’m with the American scientist Amory Lovins. He said: “I am neither an optimist not a pessimist, because they are just two different forms of fatalism. The optimist says things have to get better, and the pessimist says things have to get worse. I believe in applied hope. Things can get better, but you have to make them so.”
If ever we needed an example of how to make things better through applied hope, then it is to be found in the activities of this half term. Our pupils, our teachers and parents deserve to feel very satisfied with all that has been achieved. There has been much hard work and a great deal of enjoyment. We are back in school on Wednesday 3rd November to do it all again. I hope that you have a great half term, when it starts!
“Taking on a leadership role doesn’t mean that you only have to be personally ambitious.”
If you spend enough time reading the education press you are likely to come across the idea that schools are involved in the task of preparing young people for careers that have yet to be created. A history of education will show that this is not a particularly new situation. Who’d have thought that influencer would have been a career a decade ago? New and unforeseen employment opportunities develop quickly, and education is rarely fast on the heels of such developments. This is a time of year when older students are working hard on university applications, and many are thinking not only of the coming three or four years but to what a more distant future may hold. Fortunately, they are supported by an experienced set of tutors who will guide them in their applications. Soon there will be offers arriving and new plans being formed. Who knows what careers will follow?
One aspect of pupil development that will undoubtedly remain a key element in future success is to be found in the field of leadership. No matter what the nature of roles in the future it would seem likely that leadership will be a quality that is sought. It is therefore important that schools provide opportunities for pupils to develop these vital skills so that they are ready to flourish in the wider world.
Leadership opportunities have been to the fore this week. House captains have been elected in the Junior School and Form representatives have been voted into office in the Senior School. Some will have the chance to lead sports teams or perhaps provide direction of a musical group. Taking the lead role in a school production is another obvious opportunity to provide direction and shape the development of a particular project. But these opportunities are only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the most courageous acts of leadership are to be found hidden in plain sight and often during the course of the day. It is the leadership of small acts, the pupil who is ready to answer questions in class when no-one else is ready to risk being wrong. It is to be found in the pupil who welcomes a newcomer to the class or is the first to step forward when service is required. It is the leadership that is needed to stand apart on social media rather than following the herd. It is the courage to lead on the development of thought around diversity and inclusion, the bravery to be ready to confront ideas. It’s the pupil who decides to debate a challenging topic to gain a greater understanding of all points of view. Leadership at the BSP is not about titles but about everyday actions.
Some pupils may seem to receive all the accolades, but there are undoubtedly leadership opportunities for all. Perhaps we are wise to promote the leadership opportunities that come, not with title or accolade, but are done for the benefit of others, for the good of the community, for the realisation of shared goals. If we do our job well as educators, as the guides of personal development (be we teachers or parents), then we will provide the world with both influencers and leaders that it so desperately requires for the benefit of the global community.
“The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.”
Michel de Montaigne
I recently read an article in which the author explained how teenager-caused kitchen mess had been curtailed as a consequence of a simple sign. If I remember correctly the sign was very clear about what should not be done with the used crockery and cutlery and was similarly pointed about use of the dishwasher. Apparently, it worked. No more plates sitting on the countertop and rubbish went in the bin. It seems we follow signs.
Looking at the UK news this week we’ve seen some fairly clear signs about the way that the educational landscape may be configured in the coming months and years. This being the season of political party conferences it was time for the leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer to launch a broadside against independent schools. He has proposed the removal of charitable status from UK independents which will undoubtedly lead to certain schools closing and the taxpayer facing an increased burden. It also suggests that Sir Keir is perhaps a little uncomfortable with the notion of a high performing independent sector sitting alongside the maintained sector although he may well disagree.
Similarly clear was the announcement made this week that, despite a good number of opinions to the contrary, GCSE and A levels will be examined this year using a modified examination system and a similarly altered approach to grading. In certain subjects the content to be examined will be announced beforehand, scientific formulae may well be given out and we will move back to 2019 grades over two years. A sign of an educational establishment that is perhaps less bold than it could be. We will know more in February and the system used this year (TAGs) will remain an option should more lockdowns occur.
Signs are common in schools. There is generally a good deal of material letting our pupils know where they can and can’t go and what they can and can’t do. In many cases we phrase this positively – one only has to consider the Junior School’s Golden Rules to see an excellent example of how to signpost positively. For those in the Senior School we approach Assessment 1 – the first clear indication of how the year is going academically and a signpost towards the level of achievement that should be expected in the summer. I hope that they use this information wisely.
One plea from me. I know that there isn’t clear signage at the end of Rue de L’Ecluse where it meets the riverbank, but it has been designated residents access only. So please heed the sign that isn’t there and consider finding an alternative, safer place to turn around after dropping off.
As we move into October, we are beginning to see the tell-tale signs of autumn, a spectacular time for us on the riverbank and another reminder, a sign that the academic year is marching on and that we need to make the most of it both in and out of the classroom.