“People wish for criticism but what they want is praise.” – W. Somerset Maugham

“I love criticism, just so long as it is unqualified praise.”

Noël Coward

Who doesn’t like a little bit of praise? Well probably those of us who like a lot of praise.

Affirmation, reassurance, and a warm fuzzy glow come when we hear nice things about what we have done, and young people can be lifted high when praise is given. When it isn’t forthcoming it can be disappointing and frustrating. Schools tend to have formal methods of praising what they regard as being of value. Soon enough there will be the first progress tests – good scores often result in praise. We are getting to understand the levels that we should expect from pupils now and as time goes on, we should be able to reward work well done with the praise it deserves. But as important as praise is, it is not without its challenges. Too much praise, it could be said, devalues the currency. Empty praise where standards have been reached without particular or noteworthy endeavour or effort are just that – empty. It is probably the case that praise won too easily or offered too readily is not worth having. That is perhaps why encouragement exists.

Schools in general are probably guilty of looking to praise that which is excellent. I’m not for a minute suggesting that we ditch Prize Giving or Achievers’ Assemblies, but I do sometimes wonder if we could or should reward with praise other actions. I’m not sure I have ever used an official channel to praise a pupil who has demonstrated integrity. More fool me, that is something to correct. Similarly, how should we reward those who strive to discover their limits and who do not achieve the highest grade or breast the final winning tape in first position? At the BSP we are good at recognising improvement, at lauding those whose effort and engagement with whatever it is they are doing demonstrate perseverance, but perhaps we could go further. Imagine a report that explicitly focused on character development alongside academic achievement. It would make for interesting reading. Writing it would require a different type of knowledge.

This week I had interesting conversations with a variety of pupils on this topic. A group arrived at my Tuesday breaktime drop in to discuss this very issue, and a convincing case they made for their perspective. Later in the week I had the good fortune to discuss the idea that adaptability is a value, I think we agreed that it is a laudable character trait and could well be termed a value. Both encounters set me thinking. Samuel Johnson was clear about praise telling us that “like gold and diamonds, [praise] owes its value to its scarcity.” I’m not sure I fully agree with this, but I do think we could look to spread our approval a little wider. Carol Dwek perhaps summed it up well when she wrote “the wrong type of praise creates self-defeating behavior. The right kind motivates students to learn.” Perhaps we as educators or parents should consider how and what we praise. Above all else it is important that in the sometimes-difficult world in which our young people live, where life is examined and perfection seen as an everyday achievement through airbrushed snapshots of fictional life, we teach them to recognise when they should praise themselves, reward themselves or allow themselves to feel some satisfaction or contentment in what they have achieved. That praise might be the very best form of this valuable commodity.

Nicholas Hammond



“We have normality…”

“We have normality. I repeat, we have normality.”

Douglas Adams

Regular, unremarkable, average… normal. Normal, not exactly a word to set the heart rate soaring. Not the state of things that is usually celebrated but, this week, here at the BSP I am delighted to report that everything has been, well, normal.

Let’s start with the Welcome Event. Strictly speaking this occurred last week but we can start there. It was a lovely event and so good to see families making all important connections and renewing friendships for the academic year. Then a week of school. As any Headteacher will tell you, there is no such thing as a normal week in a school, each one is unique, each one is different but as far as I can see this week has been normal. Rather like that quotation about a week in politics, a week is a long time in a school. We’ve had excellent stimulating lessons, homework tasks have been completed (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), we’ve had brilliant co-curricular activities, there was a cake sale in the Senior School for gene research, teams have departed for other European capitals to compete and we will have a national netball tournament here in school tomorrow. Normal, for us.

The Autumn term is a breathless one. It starts in bright sunshine and ends often with weather that is slightly less pleasant. We have long bright evenings after school that encourage dawdling and it ends with us hurrying home in the dying light by December. It is also our longest one. We are moving into the period of the term where some of the most significant academic development takes place. The foundations have been laid, previous ideas revisited and now we are moving on, moving forward, ensuring that progress is made. Before long initial impressions will be shared, targets revised and levels of ambition fixed. If a shaky start has been made this is as good a time as any to regather and relaunch. Ground can still be made up if it has been missed. And none of this all-important progress will be made if sleep is neglected or activities are out of balance. Now is a good time to review how the settling in period has gone. It is good to see how normal it has been. Progress should be normal for the BSP pupil.

I was fortunate to spend some time with Nursery and Reception this week and their enthusiasm is infectious, it is good to be reminded how exciting the “normality” of school can be. I’ve also spent time with Year 13s who are considering their next step, the one that takes them out of school, they too are aware that the normality of school, so often not praised, will soon come to an end for them.

Our normal is vibrant and exciting. It is a normal that rarely stands still and one in which we all strive to do our best in all endeavours. As our school values so clearly state, our normal is to strive for excellence, to act with integrity and to work for the benefit of many. That, I hope you will agree, is a normality that is worthy indeed. Perhaps normality should be rebranded as being something exciting?

I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Nicholas Hammond



“Grief is the price we pay for love.” – Queen Elizabeth II

Rivers of ink have been spilt in the wholly appropriate appreciation of our late Queen’s dedicated service and her uncanny ability to move with the times. As a monarch who did National Service, made early use of broadcast media then moved on to social media and even allowed herself to have some fun in this most august of roles, there is much on which to reflect and learn. The King has taken up his mother’s good example and we look forward to a similarly dynamic Carolingian Age.

Whilst witnessing the ceremony associated with this State occasion, I’ve been struck with the limited time that a family has had to grieve, quietly and privately. Now that the Queen lies in state the family may be afforded this necessity. Today they will take part in the vigil in Westminster Hall a place of silence and contemplation. As Prince William admitted yesterday, the process is not an easy one.

Losing a family member is one of the most challenging situations for any child to overcome (no matter what their age). It is particularly difficult for school age children. Sadly, we have had experience of this loss as a school community, and I believe that we have provided appropriate levels of care and support. But this most public outpouring of sorrow may well affect children in school who have lost a relative, particularly during the pandemic. If you have concerns about this, please do contact our welfare team who are in a position to help and assist. Grief can lay hidden for some time, and it is difficult to predict when it may surface.

On Monday we will have another opportunity to remember the Queen’s life of service. We plan to have a two minute silence, a small gesture in recognition of this extraordinary life. Please do remember that if you would like to watch the coverage of the State Funeral live then you may withdraw your child from the school for the day and this will be recorded in our registers as an authorised absence, please send an email to the appropriate School office. A Service of Thanksgiving for the life of the Queen will be held at St. George’s Church in Paris on Saturday (see page 3 of this newsletter for further details).

Unlike last weekend in the UK, there is no interruption to sports fixtures, theatrical productions or other events. We have decided that our Welcome Event will continue as planned. This is an opportunity for us to come together as a wider school community, to make new friends and renew older friendships. I really hope that you will be able to attend. Our school charity shop will be open, pre-loved uniform items will be available for purchase and a range of local groups will also attend to provide information about joining. Our parents’ association the BSPS will run their ever-popular bar and I can thoroughly recommend the pizza on offer! Do join us.

Nicholas Hammond



“The lessons from the peace process…”

“The lessons from the peace process are clear; whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load…”

Queen Elizabeth II

The start of a new school year is a time for optimism. “This is the year I will not be late”, “this is the year I will stay on top of my homework”, “This year I will try my best” are all common refrains when you speak with young people in September. It is also a time of year when Heads reflect on the last year’s exam results, on last year’s achievements and think about what is to come. In short there is an air of purpose and recognition of the endeavour that awaits.

Our term started on Monday, and with it the school year. A five-day first week is always a challenge, particularly for the youngest members of our community and those who have become accustomed to a post-lunch summer holiday afternoon nap. I’m delighted to report that everyone was still coming into school with a discernible spring in their step this morning – a commendable display of energy.

Of course, the end of this week has been dominated by the sad news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We joined as an entire school community this morning to reflect upon the lessons that we can learn from this remarkable individual. As one who did not choose her path in life her dedication to the service of the nation is an important example to follow. Her ability to reconcile communities in conflict, to demonstrate public forgiveness and to move on positively from loss are perhaps some of the less often recognised elements of her character. Her Majesty lived a life with purpose and in doing so provides our young people with a lesson that they would do well to heed. Perhaps just as important as these characteristics was her ability to put people at their ease and ensure that even some of the most important of occasions had their humorous side. How can we forget her cameo appearances with 007 and alongside my favourite bear, Paddington. Many of our pupils will go on to play a significant role in their communities in later life, I hope that they, in having had time to reflect upon this particular life, will follow the example we have been fortunate to witness.

President Macron’s words last night should also give us pause for thought. A kind-hearted Queen was how he described her. As we plunge into a year of excitement and possibility, we would be wise to put kindness at the core of all our endeavours. As a counsel to no less than fifteen British Prime Ministers the Queen was mindful to remind them to be kind to themselves, to ensure that they were not overwhelmed by the pressures of their role. Where challenges are faced, we should share the load, co-operate and support each other. These too are lessons for us to consider at the start of this new school year.

Our thoughts are with King Charles and his family as they mourn the loss of a family figurehead, a much-loved mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Her steadying influence will be missed as this the modern Elizabethan age closes. The success of a new age is in the hands of the generation I had the privilege of addressing this morning. They are indeed capable of taking inspiration from Queen Elizabeth and moulding a better future. There can be no more appropriate legacy from this most extraordinary person.

Nicholas Hammond