“If you’ve heard this story before…”

“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.”

Groucho Marx

We have had stories for as long as we’ve lived in communities. It seems that we are all interested in hearing a good story be it fictional or factual. As the embers of the fires burnt down, the stories would have started, possibly as a means of passing on vital information, of building identity and keeping memories alive. Homer, the bard who originally performed Gawain and the Green Knight and the Norse poets who declaimed the sagas all provided their share of entertainment and wisdom. Look carefully enough and you’ll see a story just about everywhere.

You’ll find stories in most classrooms on most days. Not just ones that are in books but ones that are written by the pupils themselves. Stories are told between pupils and to teachers. We tell ourselves stories. I’d probably not remember much about genetics but for the story of Mendel and his sweet pea plants, physics was livened up when I learned about the innovative way in which Nils Bohr passed his university oral exams and I liked the whole Archimedes’ story – maths was just that little bit more fun. No surprise that I chose history as a discipline, it is of course, a form of academic storytelling.

Stories help us to learn languages and allow for the development of understanding without even noticing that it is going on. They ignite curiosity and teach us about behaviours in society. They can be funny, salutary and developmental. Whilst modern literary analysis has identified that there are only seven basic plotlines that seems two be enough to keep us educated and entertained.

Sir Michael Morpurgo is a master storyteller. A knighted teller of tales and singer of songs. It was an absolute pleasure to have the chance to welcome him to the BSP this week. His stories have entertained and perhaps more importantly have taught us, shown us, many of the values and virtues that make us better people. His stories are stories of hope. Hearing him read his newest poems and talk about how he gains inspiration from things around him (even boring grown ups at a dinner party) was an important reminder that we learn better when we take some notice of those around us and when we keep hope in our hearts.

We were fortunate to hear one of Sir Michael’s newest poems about the human cost of war. He has written movingly about previous conflicts, but this poem addressed the eternal questions of the futility and waste of war. Sadly, the conflict being addressed is all too close. We’ve heard the stories and today we bid farewell to two young gentlemen who joined our community as a consequence of conflict. Andrii and Ivan have been quietly active members of our community for a little over a year now, they have been good humoured, hardworking and committed to the activities programme. As well as following our curriculum and adding to our lessons they have followed the Ukrainian curriculum in the evenings and now they return home to take up well deserved places at university. Just as Sir Michael’s stories remind us that there can be hope in dark times, these two unassuming yet courageous students have built a quiet narrative of strength and integrity for us to witness. If we ever needed a story of fortitude, of good humour and of hope then this is it. As you take your leave lads, we wish you every good fortune. You will go home to build a community in which bright futures will follow dark storms and hope will grow ever taller and ever stronger like a glorious sunflower bringing joy to all who witness it. Your nation can be proud of you. So, here’s to stories, particularly those with happy endings.

Nicholas Hammond



“Creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy…”

“Creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy, and I actually think people understand that creativity is important – they just don’t understand what it is.”

Sir Ken Robinson

A high point of this week was a visit to the magnificent Junior School Art and D&T Gallery. All years (and parents) were represented and the work on show was truly uplifting and inspiring. There were some arresting pieces produced on a grand scale and other more delicate and nuanced works that repaid careful examination. Every painting, drawing and sculpture was the product of careful endeavour, and the results are remarkable.

Art is one of a few school subjects that has the potential to spread itself across all others. Increasingly educationalists talk not only of STEM but STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) and those who spent time looking at the go-carts or the fairground rides in the exhibition will know quite how well these subjects fit together.

One particular strength of the British curriculum is the opportunity it provides to pursue art beyond primary and lower secondary. If you are curious about the standard of work produced by our seniors then please do come along to their exhibition later in the year. Engaging in “practical” art gives pupils the chance to look at the world afresh and with a different perspective. I’m sure that messages around environmental stewardship are better understood though art rather than through a (possibly) drier approach. This year’s Davos forum took as its theme Growth. Sadly, my invitation seemed to have been lost in the post, so I have found out about discussions via the magic of the internet. Following on from one of the many discussions that took place two “top ten” documents were published: The ten most important skills in 2023 and The ten skills that will be required in the future. Number one on the 2023 list; analytical thinking. Number two; creative thinking. The emerging skills list put creative thinking ahead of analytical thinking. Of course, creative thinking does not simply mean “doing art” but by doing art we are, on occasion, given new and novel insights into solving problems. If you want to understand a landscape then draw it, if you need to learn the organs of the body sketch them out. Art can provide an opportunity to find a flow state, a chance to lose oneself in a task, a therapeutic action in anxious times. When pupils are challenged to be creative, they learn how to fail fast and how to build on their mistakes; art and other creative subjects improve personal resilience. We may not all be “good” at it, but it is undoubtedly good for us.

We do not often have the chance to meet our creative heroes but next week there is a chance to hear from an author who rightly deserves our admiration as a creative force. Sir Michael Morpurgo is one of the world’s great storytellers and we are fortunate that he will be joining us here in Croissy. It promises to be a wonderful chance to lose yourself in an evening of stories. I do hope that you will come along and hear from the author of War Horse, the international bestselling book.

I do hope that you have a good weekend.

Nicholas Hammond



One of our pupils just finished his A levels…

One of our pupils just finished his A levels.  He studied the music of the 1970s, Scandinavian culture, Eurovision and outlandish fashion…. What grades did he get? A,B,B,A.

And so it ends, with a week of fancy dress and some letting off steam before the exam season gets going.  Tonight, there will be a ball, laid on by our sixth form team, admin and support colleagues and the indefatigable BSPS This morning there was a special breakfast and in between it all a few last words of wisdom. The final advice has been given and Year 13 move into the exam season proper. 

During the Spring Term both Year 11 and Year 13 pupils enjoyed their normal lessons, but as this moment of exam leave has crept ever closer there has been a subtle change as week-by-week teachers transitioned to ‘exam preparation mode’. This is a sad necessity, and with it sees a slight departure from our routine academic ethos. Normally, we would want to avoid the ‘do we need to know this for the exam?’ type mentality, and revel in that process of learning our subjects, simply for the intellectual joy that it brings. That changes in the exam term. We now find ourselves embroiled in a tactical game, allied with the pupils, against an exam board opponent.  Whether it be “how exactly do you write a ‘six-marker’?” or “what mnemonic can we use to remember the names of the alkanes?”, we narrow our focus on precisely what is needed for every possible question. This might sound reassuring, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Patience and discipline are required to set about the hundredth past paper question of the week with fresh energy and intelligence. This style of learning is not the most stimulating, but repetitive practice is good preparation for doing well at the final test. I think we need to acknowledge with the pupils that they’ve got a tough job to do.

Why do we push them to do well? For me, public exams be they GCSE or A level are about giving young people an opportunity to validate their efforts. I want them to learn how their careful planning, exhaustive practice, collaboration, creativity and simple hard work can materialise into something.  On results day I want them to be able to reflect with pride that they did something positive for themselves. We ought to give them the best possible chance at experiencing that sense of purpose and subsequent reward. It’s not about whether they can remember the chambers of the heart, or quote accurately from Shakespeare, it’s about whether they have grown as learners and as people by the end of it. I hope that having this experience of a high-stakes moment in their lives will build their resilience and make them better equipped to tackle the next challenge, whether it be their A Levels, completing a degree, building a company, getting a job or training for a marathon – all of these things bring emotional rewards and psychological growth – their personal journey is what gives us the motivation to keep pushing them, not a string of numbers on a spreadsheet.

So as our pupils leave the warm embrace of the classroom for the more austere environment of the exam hall it is important that we praise the work that is done in preparation as heartily as the results that come from it.  And should help be required in the meantime, it remains on hand in school. 

I’d wish them good luck but I’m sure they won’t need it.

Nicholas Hammond



“And all the people rejoic’d, and said” – Zadok the Priest, G.F. Handel

At the BSP we promote life-long learning. We want our learners to leave the school inspired to maintain their natural curiosity about the world around them and equipped for life’s challenges. We want to provide the skills and inspiration for a life-long journey of learning, fulfilment and flourishing. But how long is life-long? I’m always inspired reading about people who take up new skills in their retirement, of the octogenarian who decides to do the degree that they always wanted to. Why? I suppose that it is something to do with the purity of motivation, of learning for learning’s sake. This is study not for career advancement, but for fulfilment and flourishing, because the subject is fascinating.

If we were to look at someone who has, perhaps as a force of circumstance, engaged in a process of life-long learning we should consider King Charles III. Tomorrow he will be crowned King amid the customary ceremony and pageantry associated with a royal event. Behind the ritual is an individual who has spent his life learning from others, most notably his mother who provided a lesson in service and quiet dignity. His has been a long apprenticeship and now he takes his place. Along the way he has demonstrated a curiosity about the world around him. He began to champion organic farming and environmental causes long before they were fashionable. He established the Prince’s Trust to support the learning and development of young people, he paints, plays the ‘cello, trumpet and piano and has a developed interest in hedge laying. He is the only British monarch to have a degree (in history) and was the first to attend a school (all previous monarchs had been tutored privately). He has learned Welsh, has qualified as a pilot and a diver and has appeared in both stage plays and TV shows (and not only as himself). And he’s authored a children’s book. His school report as Prince of Wales would be glowing in its “all roundedness”.

Education, learning and curiosity have been at the heart of King Charles’ endeavours. He has been unafraid to promote ideas that have yet to receive wider acceptance. He pointed out the dangers of pollution and plastics as early as 1970 and he has supported many others in their education. He is crowned at a time when attitudes around the Commonwealth are changing to monarchy, but he provides, if nothing else, a consistent thread of thought, behaviour and wise counsel as a national figurehead that seems less likely than one who has not “studied for the job”. As he said himself: “As you may possibly have noticed from time to time, I have tended to make a habit of sticking my head above the parapet and generally getting it shot off for pointing out what has always been blindingly obvious to me.”

Above all King Charles seems to have a reassuringly clear-sighted view of both our limitations and our potential. Having had the immense privilege of seeing extraordinary things and witnessing remarkable technological developments he is realistic about our human failings: “As human beings, we suffer from an innate tendency to jump to conclusions; to judge people too quickly, and to pronounce them failures or heroes without due consideration of the actual facts and ideals of the period.”

Perhaps King Charles is also a rarity among monarchs as one who has the courage to admit that things go wrong and we are all, all too human.

So, it seems we are in good hands. Three cheers for that.

Nicholas Hammond