“The Commonwealth Games is an event for everyone. I believe it continues because of the unity and appreciation in respect of diversity, different nationalities coming together to compete under one Commonwealth banner.”Denise Lewis
I am sometimes asked why the school flies a European Union flag post Brexit and I’ll normally give a response focused on us being a school of many nationalities and that as a school in France we are still part of that grouping of nations. This week it isn’t there. Those who are particularly observant will have noticed that the circle of stars is not flying this week and we have another blue and yellow flag flying from the Debussy building. This week is the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and as we have a Commonwealth flag, I thought that we should fly it in recognition of the meeting taking place in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Commonwealth is an interesting group. 54 Nations, nearly as many as we have represented at the school, 2.5 billion people most under the age of 29 and a place where small nations are represented with 32 of the world’s 42 small states in membership. There are nations from Africa, Europe and the Pacific, the Americas and the focus of the group is on the future with the environment, justice, youth, and democracy all featuring prominently in discussions. Alongside the debate and thought there are the Commonwealth Games, the friendly games which will take place in Birmingham in July and August. A chance for athletes to come together to compete in a setting other than the Olympic games or a World Championship.
As nations form particular clubs and groupings, so it is with schools. The BSP is a member of a variety of representative organisations who lobby on our behalf and provide opportunities for discussion, training and the sharing of good ideas and approaches. HMC, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference is focused on leading UK independent schools but has an International Division of which we are a part. COBIS, the Council for British International Schools provides a forum for discussion of international education and IAPS, the Independent Association of Prep Schools provides opportunities for discussions and representation of primary matters. We are also part of a more local network of schools, ELSA, the English Language Schools Association which is a grouping of anglophone schools in France. By being part of these organisations we can learn from other schools and develop our unique approach to education. We aren’t bound to be like the other schools in the group, we can share ideas and develop our own offer. Such is the benefit of being independent and having close ties with schools with similar interests.
Our school is fortunate indeed to have a wide representation of different nationalities. This is one of our strengths. We benefit from having pupils from different parts of the planet coming together to study and enjoy themselves. This is an experience that goes beyond the classroom and is invaluable for the development of a global mindset, something that will be of benefit in later life. We are proud of our British roots, and we are equally proud to be international in our outlook. The qualifications that are earned here will be valued around the world. Still more important the attitudes shaped by this most varied of populations will, I suspect, go on to make our world a better place.