“Sometimes a poor performance…”

“Sometimes a poor performance is better for enjoyment, because you can look at
those things that were wrong and analyse them.”

Werner Heisenberg

Key performance indicators, now there’s a thrilling topic for some light Friday evening reading. Whilst far from those in industrial or commercial settings, schools have their own brand of performance indicators which can be used to measure progress and development. Whether they would stand up to rigid or methodical scrutiny is a moot point but if nothing else they can be a decent place to start thinking about what is going well and what could be better.

I’m writing this column while in the Auvergne accompanying the Year 5 field class. Our focus is the fascinating volcanic landscape of this region. The pupils’ knowledge of volcanoes in general and their ability to identify the different types of volcanoes they see in this fascinating landscape is impressive, still more laudable their enthusiasm for collecting and identifying the different types of volcanic rock. I’m not entirely sure how you would record levels of practical or intellectual curiosity, but I can assure you that they were high today. Similarly, the issue of grit … I’m not talking about rocks again, but rather determination and stickability. Over the last couple of days, I’ve watched the pupils deal with an orienteering course that was far from easy to complete which they did despite being frustrated at times by not immediately locating the controls. Today I have been impressed with their willingness to walk to the top of an extinct volcano and back down with the minimum of fuss. I’ve witnessed them experiencing communal living, having to compromise over keeping the light on or off at night, dealing with other people’s quirks and habits which they have done with mostly good humour. Their adaptability has been challenged, no screens for a few days, so lots of playing card games and other board games which they have taken up with gusto. They have had to think about the community, they’ve done basic clearing up tasks, cleaning tasks and had to be self-reliant enough to find a way to pack their own bag. They’ve learnt much more than simply the difference between volcano types.

Among all this endeavour, I’ve seen small acts of empathy. The kind word when someone is homesick, the rucksack carried when an ankle is sore. If we are really measuring the success of a school perhaps it is these qualities, qualities of basic human decency and kindness that should be the stuff of performance analysis.

On the basis of this particular year group, in this situation I’d say that things are going well, which is more than can be said for my performance as a Tik Tok dance pupil while waiting to visit the gift shop this afternoon. The teaching was excellent, the execution woeful. My tutors were encouraging but knew when they had a recalcitrant pupil to deal with. All this and we’ve one more day to go.

Well done Year 5, you’ve done us all proud. A performance we can all be proud to mark.

Nicholas Hammond


“Great things are not done by impulse…”

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

George Eliot

We have just passed the Equinox and clocks spring forward this weekend. The year is racing by and this week we’ve enjoyed musicals in both the Junior and Senior Schools. Congratulations to all involved with performing and thanks to the staff who have put so much of their time into the preparation. The opportunity to challenge oneself though performance is a great learning experience.

At this time we begin to learn which pupils will be staying with us for next year and those who are moving on. Every headteacher believes that the school they serve is unique, in the BSP’s case there are features that, whilst they don’t necessarily qualify us to be called unique, do make us notable. We are the only school that I’ve worked in that has a rolling admissions programme, the average stay at the school is a little over three years for pupils – also another feature of note. Whilst I can’t predict exactly how many pupils we will welcome back next year, I do know there will be year groups of different sizes. We tailor our offer to reflect this variation, new classes may be established, new sets added, and we always look carefully at the number of pupils per set. This year the average set size at the BSP is 16.7 in Years 1-9. This is, I believe, a good number, enough for debate and discussion, enough for a variety of views to exist and still enough for a teacher to be able to provide individual attention.

Many headteachers that I speak with talk of growing their numbers, increasing the market share and there is a developing tendency for management speak to creep from commerce to classroom. Often bigger is equated with superior. Perhaps I’m a dinosaur but I am a firm believer that smaller schools are better places to learn. Why? Increased personalisation, better learning relationships between teachers and their pupils and above all in a small school the pupils must “have a go”, there isn’t the same place to hide that there is in a larger school. Take our school productions as an example – I can see performers on stage or in the chorus who will also be playing netball for the school in a week or two. I can see other pupils being given significant responsibilities such as running sound and light in a way that might not be the same if there were more pupils vying for the opportunity. Exposure to a wide range of activities and being in a class where you have to speak up and play a role has to lead to greater levels of character development and intellectual challenge. Easier to do in a small school.

Our young people will go on to play significant roles in their communities. We don’t know what they will do, but we are beginning to see who they will be. Learning how to manage relations in small communities, where difference has to be understood and compromise rather than avoidance is the way to flourish, will develop skills for later life. Similarly, building the confidence to work outside of their comfort zone, to “give it a try” will serve the pupils well as they decide on what the future holds for them.

Nicholas Hammond



“Too much self-centred attitude…”

“Too much self-centred attitude, you see, brings, you see, isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centred attitude is the source of suffering.”

The Dalai Lama

Three years ago, we were in lockdown and the world had stopped. This week it was clear that we have left those days far, far behind. Lessons are face to face, we have a full programme of extra-curricular activities and there are trips and sports fixtures being played. Drama of a very different kind will be seen in both schools next week. The lockdown seems a very long time ago. Last week saw parents in school, something that was unimaginable not so very long ago, but was an enormous amount of fun. Roll on the next Festival of Discovery.

Back in the days of isolation we were readjusting to learning at home and developing a variety of strategies to keep learning. Whatever we achieved in this regard, we also have to recognise that for many this was a time of anxiety and worry. For some, ground was lost, social skills were not given time to develop, and we will be seeing the effects in some pupils for years to come. We will have to work so support these pupils.

Just because we are back to normal it does not mean that there will be no challenges or issues. What is different is that there is a greater opportunity for our pupils to achieve a sense of balance. No pupil should be simply working all the time on academic tasks, nor should they be in a position where they are doing no work at all. Tests and assessments cause a degree of focus, but it should not be to the level of panic. We should all be taking time to do some exercise and get sensible amounts of sleep. There is still time for learning to take place before the end of the term.

This week has been one in which our pupils have looked beyond the confines of the school and indeed are looking well beyond the local environment. For example, our Year 11 pupils are considering A level choices and the path their education will take beyond school. They have also spent time connecting with the situation of others and giving of themselves. Many decided to run or walk on Thursday to draw attention to modern slavery, others joined in with the sport relief activities today. A glance at the Freedom Wall provides proof, if it were needed, that kindness is at the very core of what we believe. Once again, our young people have chosen to take the opportunity to look beyond their own situation, it’s a long way from lockdown. Perhaps having the experience of companionship, community and the collective spirit being removed, these opportunities and experiences are enjoyed with greater appreciation. If nothing else, we should both remember and reflect upon the effects of being removed from companionship and ensure that we make the most of learning from each other in this remarkable community of ours. Conversely, as the world turns now at its customary, furious, rate we should take the small positives that isolation taught us; to enjoy the small things in life that we might otherwise take for granted.

Nicholas Hammond



“We all have a chance.” – Greta Thunberg

As well as providing access to the world’s most prestigious universities and being a sound basis for life-long learning, the UK educational system is one in which choice is a key component. Whilst there may not be a huge amount of choice about the subjects that you study in the primary years, choice begins to appear in the secondary years. At the BSP the first choices are made at the end of Year 7 where there is a chance to study either German or Spanish alongside compulsory French. At the end of Year 9 there is more choice as GCSEs beckon. Whilst a broad base is maintained until the age of sixteen there are opportunities for pupils to make a subject selection in three option blocks. This provides the opportunity to follow academic interests, to focus on the things that matter to the individual, often forming the basis for long term learning. By the time GCSEs are taken and A levels have been selected, the learning pathway is well established. These qualifications are the key to study around the world and give our pupils the opportunities to delve deep, to explore and to understand. They allow for individual study to take place, time for interests to be developed.

But choice can be bewildering. It is definitely a good thing but if you aren’t quite sure where you are going then this can be a concern. We do our best as a school to guide and support our pupils in the right direction. Year 9 had their options evening on Wednesday and are now deciding which three options they will take alongside the core subject load including Maths, English, French and the sciences. Next week Year 11 will stand at a similar fork in the academic pathway and they will consider which A levels they will choose. Our tutorial system and Careers Department provide valuable guidance through a programme of lectures, interviews and individual consultations. The collective wisdom of my teaching colleagues, working in partnership with parents and (of course) pupils almost always means that the right path is chosen and flourishing results.

Our world is a complicated one. Young people are given a bewildering choice when it comes to their future. In this I am talking of more than their academic subjects. We value the choices that are made around participation in activities, about making wise choices in a social capacity and simply knowing when to do the right thing. Whilst we spend a lot of time at this stage of the year talking about academic and subject decisions, it is a year-round task to guide and develop young people of character who will go on to make the right decisions. I hope that this ensures that they grow into the individuals of good character that this world so clearly requires. We are lucky that so many choose to consider the advice that they are given and, having reasoned, make sound decisions.

Have a great weekend.

Nicholas Hammond



“Comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.” – Proverb

Half terms are welcome, but as a rule they pass in a flash. I hope that you managed to make the most of the break. We have returned to school and have picked up where we left off having lost no momentum whatsoever. This has been a busy week and it’s a harbinger of what is to come in the coming five weeks of term.

This week has been varied and there has been much to celebrate. We welcomed a film crew in to school and I am very grateful to all who contributed to the filming. Our partners from Feel Good Films have returned to their base and will be busy editing in the coming weeks. It will be good to see the finished article, I’m sure that we will all be proud of how our school looks on screen.

For those who can’t wait to find out what it is like to spend a day at BSP, then I’m pleased to be able to welcome all members of our community (and their friends) to the Junior School on Saturday 11th March for our second Festival of Discovery day. Building on the success of the last Festival, which focused on all things Senior School (see photo), our attention moves to the exciting learning environment of the Junior School. An action-packed morning awaits all who decide to join us. Almost every time I take a prospective parent on a tour of the school they comment that they’d love to go back to school again, well now you can. Please do sign up to learn something new, try something different and find out why learning at the BSP is such fun.

Year 7 had a parents’ evening on Wednesday and in between the useful discussion about progress that were taking place I was asked if we as a school are going to discuss the use of AI and Chat GPT in particular. This week several high-profile universities announced that they were to a greater or lesser extent (mostly lesser) going to allow use of AI software whilst ensuring that students “be the authors of their own work” and that the International Baccalaureate Organisation has decided to allow students to use the software as long as they reference its use as they would any other source. As our public exams are still sat using paper and pen, we do not have to worry overly about the use of artificially generated essays in that context, and I believe that there can be few objections to the use of Chat GTP as an additional source of information. As ever we will challenge plagiarism where it is found, and this is to a very great extent a modern spin on copying someone else’s homework! We will be reminding pupils that they should demonstrate integrity in their academic work as well as they do in all other areas of their life. Achievement without integrity is a hollow excellence indeed.

To round off a varied week the Junior School were reminded of the importance of being resilient in the face of disappointment – I am not sure if Mr. Potter performed his famous Elvis impersonation, but I do know that “The King” was the subject of this important message. It made a change from them turning up in their pyjamas…

Have a splendid weekend.

Nicholas Hammond