“Education exposes young people to a broader world, a world full of opportunity and hope.”
As is usually the case the week before half term has been a busy one. We have had trips out for a number of year groups and despite the rain we’ve seen plenty of smiles and enjoyment. Today has been particularly hectic with the excitement of non-uniform day in the Junior School and the always welcome organisation of a cake sale in the Senior School. Parent meetings have started, and it is good to be able to report on the progress that has been made over this half term for much has been achieved. I also had a first which was a visit to the Education Minister’s Office to talk about international education in Paris and we had a school inspection. All in all a week in which we’ve had little time to stand still.
One of our great strengths as a school is that we are a diverse international community. Inspection means that we have to generate a wide range of documents explaining who we are what we do for those who come to look at us. In writing these documents I reflected upon what can be learned from simply bringing together such a wide range of individuals and their experiences. Schools tend to be very good at promoting learning by “doing for or to”, more difficult to discern or measure is what is gained by simply being together, through what could be called passive learning. As I look at the community, I see an enormous amount of personal growth and development in our young people that comes from having the opportunity to be with peers who hail from different countries and cultures. I’m also aware that these relationships last well beyond school with pupils maintaining friendships long beyond their last day in school. Having the opportunity to be part of an international community (we have approximately 50 nationalities represented this year) broadens perspectives and one hopes minds, by simply being with people whose experiences are different means that new perspectives are gained, and barriers broken down. It is part of our hidden curriculum, the learning that goes on outside of lessons and in informal school spaces.
The power of the community to develop and educate was recognised by our inspectors. Their report on us will be published in about a month and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who contributed to the inspection process by completing the online questionnaire, the results of which led to the inspectors developing lines of questioning about what we do as a school. We found the process useful and have learned as a consequence of it. Similar notice of our community of many views was made by the Education Ministry and we look forward to contributing to the debate around development of education in this our host country in the future.
The coming break is well timed, and I hope that everyone has the opportunity to rest and prepare for the second half of this term. The next half will be similarly hectic, and it is important that our young people are ready to take advantage of both learning here and being here. Have a good half term holiday.
As we approach the half term holiday, we have started our season of Parents’ Meetings. These events are a key element of school life and as a school community we place great value on them. Over the pandemic period we held our parents’ meetings online, but now restrictions have lifted we have returned to in-person events. After much discussion we decided to return to this model as we feel that it is beneficial for parents to experience the campus, meet teachers and have the chance to meet other families face-to face.
When I first started teaching, my mother gave me only one piece of advice – whatever else I was to do, I should stick closely to Parents’ Evening timings. I have two brothers and she told me in plain terms that she had spent too much time waiting around at parents’ evenings because people could not follow timings. It is “advice” that I haven’t forgotten. So before going any further it is probably worth saying that if you feel that there is an issue that requires a longer conversation than the allotted 5 or fifteen minutes don’t wait, make contact via the respective school office and an appointment will be organised. We use a bell to remind people to move on these days.
Most slots in a BSP parents evening are short. Teachers have different approaches to the use of time. Some will ask accompanying pupils to provide a quick overview of their progress, others will provide a synopsis of the material covered. It may well be the case that examples of work will be shown to illustrate your child’s progress. In the discussion of your child’s work please do ask questions, we teachers tend to assume that everyone else understands what it is we are going on about and it isn’t always the case.
As a parent on the other side of the parents’ evening desk, I’ve found it a good idea to take notes and have any recent reports or assessment grades to hand. This way I can gain a greater understanding of the progress that has been made, and it is also a means of capturing suggestions for work to be done in support of the subject. Once again, if at the end of your allotted slot you feel that you would like to know more then please do make contact via the relevant School Office.
Often the most significant challenge is to spot the teacher in a crowded hall or to know which floor of the Junior school to go to. Along with your appointment sheet you may have a map or a pupil as a guide. Teachers generally have their names on the door or on their desk. It really helps us if you can wear your name badge too. If you are in doubt, ask, and someone will point you in the correct direction. At the start of the evening please make sure you sign in, so we know you are attending and if you have to arrive late pick up your appointments from the next allotted slot. It may be possible to “make up” appointments, but please don’t jump in and take someone else’s booked appointment slot!
We hope that you find parents’ evenings informative and useful. For us it a great opportunity to celebrate progress and where necessary give pointers for improvement. I hope to see you soon.
“Online safety for our children needs to be a prerequisite not an afterthought.”
William, Prince of Wales
In William Boyd’s latest novel he imagines the life of Cashel Greville Ross, a nineteenth century explorer and friend to the poets Shelley and Byron. It is a “whole life” novel in which we meet the central character in childhood and learn of his adventures as they unfold. The novel is based on a conceit, that the author has found a cache of materials left by Cashel Greville Ross and that this account is truth rather than fiction. Boyd has form in this arena for it was he, along with a little help from David Bowie, who convinced the art world that they had missed a genius in Nat Tate, a hoax that caused a few blushes among experts some years ago.
The suitcase of papers that Boyd describes are a chronicle of his hero’s endeavours. Nowadays our lives are recorded not just on paper but so much more extensively in the digital realm. We are tracked and carefully constructed algorithms feed us material to take us into new and potentially harmful areas. This week we learned the desperate conclusion of the Molly Russell case, a tragedy fuelled by the sort of images and ideas that no parent would want their child to see. The materials seen by fourteen-year-old Molly were described in court by her father as “the bleakest of worlds”. Social media platforms deliberately target young people with content that can be extremely damaging. As we plunge perhaps unknowingly into the metaverse, we cannot be certain that we are placing our young people in danger, but the future will not wait until we’ve caught up with it. Micromanagement is not necessarily the answer, there is a role for this technology and our young people need to learn how to engage with it positively and to make the most of all that is out there. There is always something new. Take BeReal, an app that seems to be an antidote to the cult of the perfect life portrayed on Instagram, as yet a site that seems to be little more than a bit of fun but even this seemingly innocent site can prove disruptive to lessons and family dinner times.
I’m rarely up with the latest trends and most certainly I’m not down with the kids, but if I want to find out about the latest internet trend I find that a simple conversation will give good results. The development of that discussion tends to throw up potential areas of concern if they are there. Our digital leaders are also key players in bridging the gap between adults and young people. William Boyd believes that he is in a position to describe history through fiction more accurately than historians can ever do, because he controls and knows the innermost thoughts of his characters in a way we never truly know the thoughts of others. If we are to keep our young people safe then we need to tread carefully and ask the right questions before we believe there is a problem. It is important that we seek to understand their thoughts and treat them seriously. They are unlikely to volunteer their worries and concerns if they fear getting in trouble for looking at the wrong sort of things. We need to provide opportunities for discussions and to discuss any harmful materials they have seen. If there are concerns, then support is available here in school. If you would like to find out more, I’d recommend the Tech Control resources developed by Digital Awareness for HMC to be found at digitalawarenessuk.com as an excellent point of departure.