“To be brief is almost a condition of being inspired.”
At the end of the school day we break for a half term holiday. In order to include the local bank holiday we are out of sync with many other schools in the area and those in the UK. Half term in England and Wales is next week and there will also be a welcome break for those who take exams. We return to school on Wednesday 1st June and will start a packed half term of learning. This holiday has been termed a mini-break, although I’d still probably prefer it to be called a half term. But it isn’t the name on which I want to focus, it is the fact that it is a shade shorter than other half terms. The half term is like a comma, if gives a moment to draw breath, not to stop everything but simply to reduce and to slow. It is a time to recover and replenish a stock of energy, and that energy will certainly be needed in the coming weeks for the pace of school life will only accelerate from here on into the end of term. It is important that we use this limited time to gain the most benefit possible.
So having thought about the idea of small but important holidays, I did wonder if there are other areas of school life in which small is beautiful. Take break time, a period as vital for teachers as it is for their pupils, a chance to draw breath and to ready oneself for the next block of lessons. As those on exam leave may have found, the discipline of the bell means that break lasts just long enough but there is no temptation to procrastinate. Revision is a topic very much on the minds of pupils at the moment – again, breaking it up into reasonable chunks is a very good idea. Screen time, now an important element of life can be done in shorter bursts, there is no reason to engage in marathon sessions. This holiday I hope pupils balance indoor time with outdoor time and active time with more restful time. In fact there are many things that benefit from being a little shorter, indeed I can (off the top of my head) only think of one area where I’d never advise a pupil to go short and that is on sleep.
Brevity, it has been said, is the soul of wit. I suspect that it may also be the sign of a good newsletter column. So that’s me done, I hope that you have a restful half term.
“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”
Marian Wright Edelman
Schools can be viewed as a collection of small communities all contributing to a larger whole. There are peer communities, friendship groups and classes. We have year groups, houses and activity groups. There are the mysteriously named Key Stages and we have a Junior School and Senior School community. Attached to the school we have other communities, we work in partnership with certain groups, and we have other groups such as the BSPS. It would be remiss of me not to mention the alumni community, a group that is more likely to be found virtually but is alive and active in a variety of places around the world. Community is important.
The sociologist Etienne Wenger describes a community as having three key components:
• mutual engagement whereby diversity is em braced; • joint enterprise whereby mutual accountability is explored; • and a shared repertoire which involves styles, stories and of course actions.
Over the course of this week we have had a productive time in school where young people from some 50 nations have worked and played together. I’ve been delighted to see dioramas being brought into school, teams training together and lots of hard work being done in classrooms. We’ve all spared a thought for Year 11 who have started their GCSEs this week. We are all engaged in the common pursuit of learning. Our aim is to develop all that is good in young people and ensure that they have the character to succeed in the future. If the community is to flourish, then we have to accept difference in thought and belief and welcome our diversity. As a I look around, I see a welcoming and tolerant community. I’m sure there is work to be done but we are, I believe, starting from a good place.
This week we were delighted to welcome former BSP student Liselotte back to school. She shared her knowledge and expertise and enthusiasm with our Senior School pupils. I hope that they were inspired by this recent former pupil who has succeeded in so many areas. They have a model on which to build their own success.
Tomorrow we have our first Festival of Discovery with teachers and friends of the school sharing their knowledge and expertise freely. For one day you too can join a new community and join in with our mission of learning. Please don’t be shy, it is still possible to sign up for a few sessions and our caterers are standing by to supply us with fish and chips at lunchtime. The School is a welcoming community and we’d love to see you.
Someone once described a school as a mixed age learning community. Tomorrow we most certainly will live up to that description and I do hope I’ll see you as you come through the school gate ready for some serious fun!
“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by, and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”
Heraclitus of Ephesus is probably not in the front rank of the ancient philosophers, he’s more Championship than Premier League, the Norwich City of the Classical cogitators and that’s probably why I rather like him. Unlike his better-known followers such as Aristotle or Plato he’s more the sort of thinker who pops up in a quiz in answer to the question “Which ancient philosopher was know as the Weeping Philosopher?” He’s also known as the Obscure which is perhaps another clue as to why he’s not being remembered alongside those who followed him. No great body of writing by him survives, but we do have fragments of his thoughts recorded. He was interested in the essence of the universe and came up with phrases such as “the paths up and down are one and the same” and his most famous thought “no-one ever steps in the same river twice”. As we move through this final term, I can’t help but think about this idea of the ever-flowing river.
Now that we are approaching normal, we have a torrent of events and happenings. In the past seven days alone we’ve opened the school to refugees on the weekend, there have been clubs and activities at lunchtime and after school, a charity concert has been held and we’ve been running our lessons. Our oldest students departed this afternoon for their exam leave only to return for their A levels and for Prize Giving in a haze of signed shirts, cake and mocktails on the lawn. Our river is flowing at a fast pace.
Every school year is different and every year we have a different school population. In this school more than many, change is a constant. Heraclitus would have recognised this. Our Year 13 pupils take the next step on their journey today and whilst this isn’t quite the end it is certainly the beginning of the end for their school days. Other adventures await – some look to the US for university, others to the UK and some have opted for mainland Europe. Whilst the future is exciting, they will be looking at a different experience going forward. There will be no stepping back into this experience, but they will take with them memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. One great thing about the BSP is that no matter where you end up in the world, you are likely to find an alumnus of the school… they are, quite literally everywhere. The network is extensive and supportive.
Whilst I can’t promise a repeat of school days, I can offer a taste of school life for those whose last day at school is becoming something of a distant memory. Our Festival of Discovery gives parents from all elements of the school, Junior and Senior, the chance to spend a day in school and to rekindle some past enthusiasms or try something new. Alongside the chance to engage with a wide range of activities the BSPS will be delighted to see you at their front lawn pop up bar. I do hope you can make it.
Brains have been on the menu at the Senior School this week. Not in the canteen (there is no plan to serve tête de veau or other local dishes) but confusingly in the library, during assembly and even on the front lawn. This was all part of Mrs. Wehrli, our librarian’s unique way of promoting Children’s Book Week. It turns out that we have a small but significant collection of zombie related books in the library amongst myriad other subjects. I’m sure that some of our more reluctant visitors to the library will have been enticed to make a visit and pick up a book.
This week also marks the start of exam leave for our Year 11, GCSE pupils. They will be straining their brains both preparing and taking exams. We’ve also told our Year 11s to take care of their thinking equipment, after all their brains are not yet fully developed and the coming month will stretch their “thinking muscle”. This may well be an apposite moment to remind ourselves that to be kind to our minds we should ensure that we not only get enough sleep but that we have great quality kip. I know that advice like this never goes down particularly well but I’d encourage us all to lay off screens an hour before going to sleep, to make sure we are properly hydrated and to get in the fresh air for some exercise each day. Successful study and successful exam taking is about more than just sweating over flash cards.
Taking on a new mental challenge is also a very good way of ensuring that the aging brain is kept in trim. I’m delighted to invite parents our first ever Festival of Discovery. Whilst not quite a rival to Glastonbury, our festival will certainly provide some food for thought, possibly a new discovery and perhaps a lifelong enthusiasm. You can dissect an eye, appreciate poetry, and set fire to things… what’s not to like? Please come along, if nothing else you can enjoy an outstanding lunch of fish and chips followed by a top-class wine tasting. We value discovery as a school, and we would be delighted to provide you with an opportunity to take a glimpse into an almost normal school day. I hope to see you there.
Many and sincere thanks to all parents and friends of the school who have contributed to our Stuff for School appeal. The work of our community has been of profound help to support displaced students and their families. If you haven’t contributed and want to please don’t delay – we have a range of options and every little helps. Your donation allows us to provide continuity of education, there can’t be an appeal that is such a sound investment in the future.
For all who are going (or taking part in) tonight’s Jazz Concert, enjoy your evening and thank you in advance for supporting our good causes.