“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
Henry David Thoreau
Whilst we are still in the midst of a busy term it is worth noting that we have a mere three weeks left before we break for the holiday. Before then there is much to be done and considerable amounts of fun to be had. This week was a busy one, the next should be even busier.
Over the course of this week we’ve had our termly visit from the governors, their first in person meeting at the school since COVID took hold, we’ve run assemblies, had sports fixtures (well done Year 6 on a notable victory), lessons have been running at full pelt, we are rehearsing for end of term shows, there are talent show acts to be prepared and in the Senior School preparation for international day commenced. As if the weekdays weren’t busy enough, we have a large group of student supporters assisting the Red Cross with the preparation of food parcels tomorrow. As ever it is heartening to see our pupils giving of their time in support of others.
Congratulations are due to our Sixth Form Scholar group; the governors were delighted to be able to present certificates to Year 12 pupils for their performance in the summer GCSE exams. They can feel proud of all that they have achieved and indeed of the start they have made to studies this year.
This week also saw the issuing of a new set of rules to follow regarding instances of COVID infection. Overall, I think that the new rules simplify what seems to be an ever-changing situation and I hope that the consequence will be a lessening of the impact of class closures. It probably goes without saying, but I make no apologies for writing once again, that we stay at our safest when we are taking the mundane precautions of washing hands, wearing masks, and using anti-bacterial gel. Distancing and being outdoors are also a great help. How good it would be to make it to the end of term without asking more pupils to isolate.
We continue to try to carry on with business as usual, but as our visiting lecturer mountaineer Jerry Gore explained even the best laid plans can go awry and so having a plan B is always a good idea. Jerry also stressed the importance of picking your companions carefully, be it climbing K2 or negotiating the sometimes uphill struggle of daily life. Looking around the school I am impressed with the support that is given peer-to-peer and as the end of term creeps closer and with it levels of tiredness grow, we all need to remind ourselves that good friends show patience with each other.
The coming fifteen days promise much to enjoy. I hope that you have left a space in your diary for the coming Christmas Fair, it promises to be a magical occasion. Have a most restful weekend.
“If we are strong and have faith in life and its richness of surprises and hold the rudder steadily in our hands, I am sure we will sail into quiet and pleasant waters…”
Schools are sometimes surprising places. On Tuesday it was the surprise of seeing ancient Egyptians alighting from very modern cars. Similarly, I was a shade taken aback by the enthusiasm of our estimable maintenance team who have put up our Christmas decorations this week, something of a surprise for someone who generally endeavours to avoid Christmas until, well, as late as I can in December. Monday provided me with another moment, odd socks had broken out across the Junior School and some thought-provoking posters made an appearance in the Senior School. I am not surprised that BSP pupils are the sort of young people who want to make a stand against bullying in our community and it was certainly reassuring to see them openly expressing their feelings in such a manner. Yesterday, I popped into the Junior School Minecraft Club – who would have thought that this game has a UNESCO unit on sustainable building and how inventively pupils have engaged with it – I am sure the bag of Haribo for the best structure had nothing to do with it!
I was surprised by a quotation that I came across this week from the Dalai Lama. It was about the idea of being wisely selfish. Being wisely selfish it turns out is all about taking care of others, about developing a sense of service. Our community is an ever changing and ever developing one. It is a place where there are almost weekly comings and goings. Pupils leave and join throughout the year. Consequently, our young people develop an extraordinary capacity for welcoming and something of a resilient streak when it comes to the goings. That charity and service activities have one of our highest rates of pupil participation comes as no surprise. This morning there was another surprise, Year 7 having put their baking skills to good use thinking of others. How good to see (and what a treat)!
It shouldn’t be unexpected because after all it has become a regular occurrence but glimpsed behind the masks there are a fair few new moustaches being sported by staff and some senior pupils. Another type of service, another example of thinking of others and of not taking ourselves too seriously for a worthwhile charity (Movember). If you do have the opportunity to support our hirsute pioneers, then do give generously before the end of the month – their itchy faces are all in a good cause.
What isn’t so surprising is that COVID rates are rising. The rest of France has joined us in extending mask wearing in school. Neighbouring countries seem to be tightening up on what had been relaxed and there are gloomy words about the coming month. We have had two year groups affected by contact cases, learning disrupted and families inconvenienced. Time to be wisely selfish. No bad thing to consider how our actions might affect others. We will be reinforcing messages about distancing, hand washing and will be pushing plentiful supplies of hand gel. It would helpful if you could reinforce this with a conversation at home too. Thank you.
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”
I suppose that it was inevitable that there would be a moment or two of uncertainty, that comes with the territory when you have the opportunity to work with a street artist. This week some pupils from both elements of the school met with Stéphane Bausch (renowned artist) to collaborate on the creation of a mural concerned with the COP26 gathering in Glasgow. Stéphane is a charismatic individual, and he was introduced to us by KPMG, who funded the project. Creating the work was only one part of the enterprise, the time lapse film gives an idea of his creative process – so far so good. Artist, paint and canvas, what could possibly go wrong? The uncomfortable bit came next. Pupils were invited to express their thoughts and feelings about the environmental crisis and then write over the original work. For Stéphane this is an essential part of the process, young people and other people have to sign up and take responsibility for their thoughts, they have a duty to communicate their emotions, and the canvas is the place to do it. So, there we were, groups of pupils with pens, and they had been given licence to write what they wanted. Literally anything. What could possibly go wrong? Levels of engagement were high as were levels of excitement. What became clear very quickly was the level of commitment and the level of anger about the climate situation. Some expressions spoke of frustration, others sadness, a few were hopeful. Some were expressed through sketches, a few formally and one or two in, shall we say, the vernacular. But as an adult, I was struck by the energy that was in the process, perhaps COP26 would achieve so much more if we stopped planning for the coming generation and let them sort out what needs to be done. There is most certainly a will.
Similarly uncomfortable for a Head who likes to be in control was the next part of the endeavour. The canvas was shipped to the Residence of the British Ambassador to be seen by guests of KPMG who were raising awareness of corporate responsibility for climate change. The assembled CEOs had the mural explained (not to a script approved by me) but by our students. The captains of industry wrote their comments. It seems that there is a universal language of graffiti as an act of protest. As the guests had their meeting, the pupils divided up morsels of the canvas and framed each one to give to the guests as a promise to consider the future. A large piece was requested by the British Ambassador, and we look forward to seeing it displayed in the embassy. Once again I was reminded of quite how capable young people are and that we do them a great disservice when we underestimate them.
This week also saw us mark Remembrance Day. My thanks to Nicolas Lo who went to play The Last Post at the Embassy, to our Head Girl who read Simon Armitage’s poem Sea Sketches at our act of remembrance on Wednesday and to Chrissie for writing a poem for the event, the text of which is included in this newsletter. Again, a reminder that our young people are able to think about the world around them, have clear views on both the past and the future and that we as those who work with them have a responsibility to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills to make the change that is required.