“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”
There is much to look forward to this term. Already we have had trips away, we’ve been mask free for a couple of days and the sun is shining. There is a real feeling in school this week that school is (mostly) back to normal. Public exams look to be going ahead and older pupils are busy preparing for them. Brighter mornings have led to a welcome rash of smiles at drop off time. All is well. Much is as it should be. We’ve also had some visitors including M. Jehan-Éric Winckler the Sous-Prefect for St. Germain and stagiaire Mme Annissa Raharinirina.
This weekend promises to be a busy one. At about the time that this newsletter will drop, we will be hosting a piano recital in the Senior School with our own Jiwan Kim performing before the talented Barbara Gostijanovic takes the stage. The free shop will open tomorrow morning and we are all looking forward to the BSPS/BSP Jazz and Dance Night on Friday 6th May. A few tickets remain so don’t delay in booking your place as this will be a fantastic evening.
Whilst much is the same, this term brings some new opportunities and initiatives. On 21st May we’ll open the Senior School to all parents so they can have a try at some of the activities that our pupils experience on a daily basis (and some that they don’t). Our first Festival of Discovery will include climbing, dissection, wine tasting and vigorous debate. I’ll leave it to you to work out which are the ones we normally do in school. It’s a first for the BSP and it comes from having heard on so many occasions when showing prospective parents on school tours “I wish I could go back to school to have a go at that”. So, I do hope that you can join us for the day on 21st May and bring a friend who doesn’t know about the school. It promises to be a great day and if further encouragement were needed there is a fish and chip lunch on offer. See poster on page 3 of this newsletter.
This week we’ve also welcomed seven Ukrainian students to the school, how good it is to see them integrating into our community so successfully. On Monday we will open a class for those affected by the conflict who don’t have the necessary level of English or French to access mainstream education. Again, these children will be made to feel welcome and I’m sure that they will enrich our community. Thank you to all parents and friends of the school who have contributed to our ‘Stuff for School’ campaign. If you are thinking about donating, can I urge you to do so? Your support means an enormous amount to these young people. Click here to learn more.
Summertime by the Seine is a magical time. Over the course of the coming weeks we will be encouraging pupils to make the most of the opportunities that are on offer here and for the first time we can extend the invitation to our parents to experience what makes the BSP such an inspirational place to learn. I do hope you’ll join us.
And so, we reach the end of term. I hope that all pupils can reflect upon the last twelve weeks of education and conclude that they have both benefitted intellectually and learned something useful along the way. The pupils have worked hard and have demonstrated admirable resilience, it has also been good to see the reintroduction of after-school activities. The shows and concerts have been fantastic. For teachers it has been a testing time, dealing with high level of absence makes teaching more complicated and I thank them for their commitment and professionalism.
Alongside the inevitable relief of having made it to the end of term there will be some in the community who might say they have struggled more than others. Towards the end of term, tempers fray, patience can be in short supply and at times there is a lack of tolerance. It is a time when certain pupils bump up against the school rules and have to accept lessons of a different nature. Don’t assume from all of this that the BSP is descending into anarchy, far from it, behaviour management is not a topic that we have to discuss very often here and for that I am thankful. But if “it is going to happen” it will usually do so at the end of term.
I was pleased at the end of term to read a column by management guru Charles Handy that addressed, in a roundabout way, our approach to school behaviour guidance. He introduced me to a new word, subsidiarity. He talks about giving his own children the opportunity to make their own decisions, be self-reliant, to take responsibility. Subsidiarity is the delegation of responsibility to an appropriate level rather than relying on top-down measures. In the Junior School we have Golden Rules, positively framed guidance to ensure that we all get along, in the Senior School the framework is more formal, but it is much the same. There is a bit of top down, but the vast majority of interactions are positive because these are young people who know what is right and what is wrong. They demonstrate integrity. When I have to be involved with disciplinary matters, I’m usually heartened by the honesty shown by those who have lost their self-control and the willingness they show to put things right. Clearly only so many chances can be given, happily most never find themselves in the position again.
Part of our role as a school community is to develop a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong in our young people. To give them a framework to use in governing their actions. To give them the confidence to stand apart. This is no easy task, particularly when there are many influences to move them off track. At the end of a busy and tiring term it is perhaps worth reflecting on how few instances of questionable behaviour there have been and how this reflects upon our community and our self-imposed rules. So, a hearty well done to all pupils, not only for their work and commitment but for their excellent behaviour. There are many outside this community who could learn a lesson about right and wrong and integrity from you.
I hope that you have a most relaxing and enjoyable holiday.
There has been much written in the past few months about the loss of learning caused by the COVID pandemic. Almost as much has been written about our young people’s mental health and following on its heels how their social development has been hampered as a consequence of not being in school. All of these are true and should concern us as a community. What isn’t so often seen as having been missed is adventure. We should be in no doubt, our young people have lost out on opportunities for adventure and both families and schools should work hard to make up for lost time.
Year 5 spent much of the week in the Auvergne. It is one of the BSP’s aims to make the most of the educational opportunities presented by being in France and this trip provided a showcase of what France has to offer. A stunning region, we stayed in the spa town of La Bourboule and spent three days exploring, with the assistance of local guides, the chains of volcanoes that characterise the region. What had been explained in the classroom was in front of us in the great outdoors. Pupils had the chance to stand on the lip of a volcano, they made the earth tremor and examined volcanic ash preserved in this most singular of landscapes. They know about the different types of volcanoes and how they came into being, in doing so introducing them to the awe-inspiring story of our planet. Some overcame their fears and braved a volcano themed roller-coaster ride. There were adventures in many and varied forms.
But residential trips aren’t just about taking lessons from the classroom or textbook into real life. They are, for many, a chance to spend time with friends, to live and work together and to challenge themselves in so many ways. On Tuesday, these 9- and 10-year-olds walked a challenging thirteen kilometres. For some, the furthest they have ever walked and far more than they really knew they could. Others had to cope with living in a dormitory, their first experience of communal living, deprived of some privacy and creature comforts, a similarly important learning experience. Local food was eaten, beds were made and almost everyone faced that field trip conundrum of not being able to put all the stuff they had brought back in their bag at the end of the experience. Why is it that clothes that fitted into bags on the way out so rarely go back into the rucksack or suitcase at the end of the stay? Valuable lessons were learned, and importantly challenges of a variety of types were overcome. Many of these were met by individuals challenging themselves rather than asking an adult for help.
I’m sure that Year 5 will remember a good deal about what was for many their first overnight school trip. They will remember the adventure. Whilst they may, over time, not recall the finer points of volcanic reactions they are likely to be able to draw on the experience and what it taught them about themselves. Key Stage 3 students will travel further afield this holiday and this weekend our Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditioners will challenge themselves rather closer to home. Lessons for life will be learned and friendships enriched through this experience of adventure.