“Taking on a leadership role…”

“Taking on a leadership role doesn’t mean that you only have to be personally ambitious.”

Jacinda Ardern

If you spend enough time reading the education press you are likely to come across the idea that schools are involved in the task of preparing young people for careers that have yet to be created. A history of education will show that this is not a particularly new situation. Who’d have thought that influencer would have been a career a decade ago? New and unforeseen employment opportunities develop quickly, and education is rarely fast on the heels of such developments. This is a time of year when older students are working hard on university applications, and many are thinking not only of the coming three or four years but to what a more distant future may hold. Fortunately, they are supported by an experienced set of tutors who will guide them in their applications. Soon there will be offers arriving and new plans being formed. Who knows what careers will follow?

One aspect of pupil development that will undoubtedly remain a key element in future success is to be found in the field of leadership. No matter what the nature of roles in the future it would seem likely that leadership will be a quality that is sought. It is therefore important that schools provide opportunities for pupils to develop these vital skills so that they are ready to flourish in the wider world.

Leadership opportunities have been to the fore this week. House captains have been elected in the Junior School and Form representatives have been voted into office in the Senior School. Some will have the chance to lead sports teams or perhaps provide direction of a musical group. Taking the lead role in a school production is another obvious opportunity to provide direction and shape the development of a particular project. But these opportunities are only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the most courageous acts of leadership are to be found hidden in plain sight and often during the course of the day. It is the leadership of small acts, the pupil who is ready to answer questions in class when no-one else is ready to risk being wrong. It is to be found in the pupil who welcomes a newcomer to the class or is the first to step forward when service is required. It is the leadership that is needed to stand apart on social media rather than following the herd. It is the courage to lead on the development of thought around diversity and inclusion, the bravery to be ready to confront ideas. It’s the pupil who decides to debate a challenging topic to gain a greater understanding of all points of view.
Leadership at the BSP is not about titles but about everyday actions.

Some pupils may seem to receive all the accolades, but there are undoubtedly leadership opportunities for all. Perhaps we are wise to promote the leadership opportunities that come, not with title or accolade, but are done for the benefit of others, for the good of the community, for the realisation of shared goals. If we do our job well as educators, as the guides of personal development (be we teachers or parents), then we will provide the world with both influencers and leaders that it so desperately requires for the benefit of the global community.

Nicholas Hammond



“The most certain sign of wisdom…”

“The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.”

Michel de Montaigne

I recently read an article in which the author explained how teenager-caused kitchen mess had been curtailed as a consequence of a simple sign. If I remember correctly the sign was very clear about what should not be done with the used crockery and cutlery and was similarly pointed about use of the dishwasher. Apparently, it worked. No more plates sitting on the countertop and rubbish went in the bin. It seems we follow signs.

Looking at the UK news this week we’ve seen some fairly clear signs about the way that the educational landscape may be configured in the coming months and years. This being the season of political party conferences it was time for the leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer to launch a broadside against independent schools. He has proposed the removal of charitable status from UK independents which will undoubtedly lead to certain schools closing and the taxpayer facing an increased burden. It also suggests that Sir Keir is perhaps a little uncomfortable with the notion of a high performing independent sector sitting alongside the maintained sector although he may well disagree.

Similarly clear was the announcement made this week that, despite a good number of opinions to the contrary, GCSE and A levels will be examined this year using a modified examination system and a similarly altered approach to grading. In certain subjects the content to be examined will be announced beforehand, scientific formulae may well be given out and we will move back to 2019 grades over two years. A sign of an educational establishment that is perhaps less bold than it could be. We will know more in February and the system used this year (TAGs) will remain an option should more lockdowns occur.

The Junior School’s Golden Rules

Signs are common in schools. There is generally a good deal of material letting our pupils know where they can and can’t go and what they can and can’t do. In many cases we phrase this positively – one only has to consider the Junior School’s Golden Rules to see an excellent example of how to signpost positively. For those in the Senior School we approach Assessment 1 – the first clear indication of how the year is going academically and a signpost towards the level of achievement that should be expected in the summer. I hope that they use this information wisely.

One plea from me. I know that there isn’t clear signage at the end of Rue de L’Ecluse where it meets the riverbank, but it has been designated residents access only. So please heed the sign that isn’t there and consider finding an alternative, safer place to turn around after dropping off.

As we move into October, we are beginning to see the tell-tale signs of autumn, a spectacular time for us on the riverbank and another reminder, a sign that the academic year is marching on and that we need to make the most of it both in and out of the classroom.

Nicholas Hammond



“Politics is too serious a matter…”

“Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians.”

Charles de Gaulle

Constant criticism, public cynicism and a mountain of crises to address. Who’d be a politician these days? That said, we need politicians because, without a doubt, the world has more than its share of challenges; some that are long standing, many that are new, and someone needs to make the all-important decisions on our behalf. Tough political days lie ahead, and public opinion can be fickle as horizons are scanned for coming elections. Much of the modern world is cynical about the motives of politicians, perhaps we should reflect that many start with the very best of intentions. This week the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet and in doing so moved his beleaguered Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson out of post and replaced him with Nadhim Zahawi MP. As the thirty-seventh Secretary of State for Education since 1944 he takes on this most important portfolio at a time when change could well be profound and far reaching. He comes to the job with a degree of experience having been Minister for Children and Families in 2018. Like many new ministers he faces pressing questions. If I were to encourage Mr. Zahawi to prioritise I think I’d be encouraging him to look carefully at the following:

Focus on Student wellbeing: The modern world can be a harsh and unforgiving place, particularly when viewed through the distorting lens of social media where perfection is presented as truth and young people are trapped into feelings of inadequacy. We have digital tools that can be used for great good, and we do perhaps need to consider the responsibilities of large corporations who know that what they sell can have devastating effects. The pandemic has also taken its toll, now more than ever we need to consider the role of high pressure, winner-take-all exams that focus years of work into hours of performance. This is not a way to find the best in our pupils.

Exams (again): More immediately, students in the British system deserve more clarity on how they will be examined next summer. The last two years have proved stressful enough for our young people and they deserve to know in good time how they will have their learning rewarded. This is a moment when a bold Secretary of State could provide an assessment system truly worthy of this generation.

Promote the British Curriculum: The UK system has many strengths, and it would be good to see the Secretary of State particularly championing the almost unique opportunity provided by A levels to allow for students to follow their academic passions and prepare for university study. Studying the subjects that you want to, having received a decent grounding across a wide range of disciplines pre- 16 is a privilege and allows those who want to develop the space and support to do so.

Put the development of character at the heart of education: We know that young people today will need skills for careers that we have not yet created. What will always be required if we are to be a world community that thrives and flourishes are good people. We need to ensure our young people know how to be good colleagues, good friends, good family members and good citizens. We can do much when given the opportunity to link the curriculum to character, to learn not just for the test but for life.

It isn’t a long list, but these are challenging goals to achieve. I hope that Mr. Zahawi has the vision to look beyond the next sound bite or next election to use his high office to the benefit of a cohort who, more than ever, need to be given the opportunity to flourish.

Nicholas Hammond



“Now slip me snug around your ears…”

“Now slip me snug around your ears,

I’ve never yet been wrong,

I’ll have a look inside your mind

And tell where you belong!”

J.K. Rowling

It may well be one of my favourite scenes in both the book and the movie adaptation… the sorting hat scene. Ushered into the great dining hall the bewildered new pupil is assigned a house that may well define the way that the rest of their time at Hogwarts will play out. The houses, it seems, are as important as the school, the first point of allegiance, the place where support and friendship grow. Houses feature in many books about British schools from Mallory Towers to Tom Brown’s School Days, the house is front and centre.

I’ve just been making a film for next week’s Senior School assembly about why I think the house system is such an important part of life here at the BSP and whilst there are some distinct differences between Hogwarts and the BSP, I do think that we need to make sure that we know why we have houses and appreciate what they can do for us.

School houses may well be a particularly British phenomenon, they originally were actual houses in which pupils lived but over the years this system of belonging has spread from boarding schools to day schools. Indeed, it would be rare for you to find a school in Britain that does not have a house system. I was a proud member of Holkham House (Green) and have been a member of other houses as a teacher: some named after buildings, others after alumni and one case after the Housemaster himself. In some schools, houses are an important element of the pastoral or welfare system, in others they fulfil a different role, providing opportunity to participate in events and a ready band of fellow house members with whom to work. One of the great elements of the house system is that in a year group bubble free world, it is one of the few opportunities for the “vertical mixing” of pupils, a chance for those who are a little older to mix with those who are earlier in their school careers. Support can be provided, good examples set, and inspiration shared. As beneficial as the learning is for younger pupils the benefits for older ones are also significant. The House is often the place where pupils get their first taste of leadership, where they have to organise others to the achievement of a common goal and to encourage others to do their very best for the house. Houses should also be a way of developing a healthy competitive spirit on a local scale, a way of challenging each and every pupil to get involved, perhaps with an activity that they have never tried before. Houses are a low-risk way of having a go at something new with the support of your housemates ensuring that fun is at the fore. Each year we have a multitude of house competitions in which to get involved and every merit counts towards the House Cup, often the prize most eagerly sought at the end of the school year. The weekly assignment of house points is a much-anticipated element of the weekly Junior School assembly.

So, parents, if you are feeling a little “houseless” may I invite you to follow your children into the world of the house system? You too can share the allegiance of being in the house. Alongside questions about what you learned today, why not ask about house activities and opportunities, you may just find out about one of the most exciting elements of life here at the BSP.

Nicholas Hammond



“Intelligence plus character…”

“Intelligence plus character, that is the true goal of education.”

Martin Luther King

Some pupils arrive at school knowing where they are headed, in their mind their life goals are decided, and they are focused on realising the prize. Many who have certain ideas now find that these seemingly fixed ideas will, over the months and years, change. Some have no idea and that is perfectly fine too. As a school our role is to provide the conditions in which all our young people will develop the character they require to support their ambitions. In this context character is a mix of intellectual developments, moral growth, the development of an understanding of civic duty and the realisation of talent. This week in the Senior School pupils were treated to a pop-up concert by Tatiana DeMaria a former pupil of the BSP. She played a short set and in between reminisced about her time at the BSP and in particular those who inspired her to follow a career in music. She spoke of a teacher who put a guitar in her hands and gave her the confidence to have a go, to dare to dream and to realise those ambitions. She also spoke of the sometimes bumpy road to success.

During the coming year we will see pupils trying new things both in and out of the classroom. Some will succeed and others will find new things far more challenging. A few may well fail. I feel certain that lessons will be learned. Some will surprise themselves with what they can actually do, they will find that there is more that they can do than they ever imagined possible, and their confidence will grow. That said, they will only experience this true learning if they involve themselves, if they have a go.

Schools should be seedbeds for character development. Places where young people have the support to grow in mind and body and spirit. A place in which the development of independent thought and integrity is at the core of all we do. The Greeks had a word for this, ‘eudaimonia’. Human flourishing. School should be a place where pupils learn not only for themselves but how they can assist in the development of a better community. It was encouraging to see so many Sixth Formers helping to prepare the charity stall for the welcome event this week and there will be plenty more opportunities for development in this area during the term. Jeans for Genes day is approaching fast.

We don’t always know what this flourishing will look like in each individual pupil, but we know that the potential is there. As we start out on this year it is with a real hope that external factors will not interfere with this important work of pupil development. The restarting of co-curricular activities next week will be a first step and I know that colleagues will be doing all that they can to ensure that both learning and character development go hand in hand this year.

I do hope that you are able to join us for our annual welcome event tomorrow. We feel particularly lucky this year to be able to run an event and have every confidence that whatever the weather may decide to do our community will have the chance to come together once more.

Nicholas Hammond



“The future rewards those who press on.” – Barack Obama

Whilst plenty of staff have been in school over the past few weeks it only ever seems like school is really school again when we hear the voices of pupils on our campuses. So, the end of this week has made this place seem that bit more normal as the sound of excited voices has been heard once more. We are looking forward to working with the pupils this year to ensure that they realise their potential both in and out of the classroom.

There is a palpable sense of excitement about the rentrée this year. Whilst that may well be the case every year, this year may well be a little more exciting than normal. As well as getting back to the classroom we anticipate recommencing with activities that have been on hold for the last year. Despite the masks, year group bubbles, gel, and temperature checks we will move forward with positivity (and lots of handwashing). We will be encouraging pupils to challenge themselves and to make sure that they develop their whole selves thus following our school motto: strength in mind and body.

There might be a danger in looking too far into the future (a lesson from last year) but I think that we can all look forward to our welcome event for families which is scheduled for Saturday 11th September. I do hope that you can make it, it has always been a great gathering and a wonderful opportunity to see the BSP community in action. The pizza on offer will be pretty special too. (See page 2)

This academic year has every possibility of being both a fabulous and a stimulating year for our pupils and their development. They will need to grasp opportunity when it comes, and we will be supporting them every step of the way. Now is the time for everyone to look forward to what promises to be a great academic year.

Nicholas Hammond



More fantastic results at GCSE

Congratulations are due to our Year 11 pupils on achieving a fantastic set of GCSE grades this year.  In a year when debate has begun about the future of this qualification, the restrictions of COVID and unprecedented levels of anxiety about the manner of assessment combined to create a feeling of uncertainty, their performance is all the more impressive. 

The grades achieved this year reflect the hard work put in by year 11s over the entire GCSE course and are not simply a snapshot of ability based on one single set of exams.  They can feel very proud of their achievements on an individual and year group basis.  The headline statistics make impressive reading with 26.3% of grades receiving the prestigious top grade of 9, and 65% of all grades receiving a grade in the 7-9 range, the old A*-A category.

In a year when all pupils have had to give of their best in trying circumstances we congratulate Year 11 on the depth and strength of their resilience and their outstanding performance in what remains a genuine academic challenge.  Our thanks also go to parents who have supported our work and to the staff whose reassuring professionalism has been a constant in a testing year.

We are looking forward to working with many of these talented young people in the Sixth Form and hope that they can enjoy their last few weeks of holiday!

Nicholas Hammond



55% Top Grades at A Level

Exam results days always come with a fair degree of nervousness and often a frisson of excitement. This year has been no different. In a year when pupils had to dig deep in terms of resilience as well as performing academically it is perhaps a set of results of which our pupils can feel particularly proud.

In many years we choose to highlight individual performances as being of note, this year we can be general in our praise for our Upper VIth (Year 13) pupils who have managed to record excellent results at a time when anxiety and uncertainty could all too easily have distracted them from their endeavours.  There have been great individual performances but today we should recognise the achievements of all pupils.   They have studied with rigour, have taken mock exams, sat mini-assessments and have worked consistently in class.  For all this they deserve our congratulations.  Make no mistake, the examination results gained this year have been hard won and praise is due.  No-one had the luxury of a late sprint to cram in a good final performance; this year was all about working consistently, performing at a high level regularly and ensuring that effort was shared appropriately between subjects.

Alongside the constraints imposed by COVID in the classroom, our Year 13 have also had to show considerable reserves of patience in coping with lockdowns, having to isolate and not being able to engage with a full range of activities as would be the case in a more normal year.  In doing so they will have developed a depth of character that is more profound than would be expected in many of their age.

The cohort achieved a 100% pass rate with 55% of the grades achieved being at A*- A level and over 75% A*-B.  Whilst the academic laurels go to our pupils, thanks are also due to parents for their support of the school’s work and to our teachers who have both provided inspiration and encouragement throughout the year.  

Our Year 13 now take the next step.  The vast majority will go on to their first-choice university and we look forward to hearing of their future successes.  As they leave the BSP they do so knowing that they can face just about any challenge that the future may pose having overcome much at this early point in their development. 

Nicholas Hammond



“The real voyage of discovery…”

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

Who doesn’t like a treasure hunt? Tales of lost riches are common in fiction and even in real life we speak of discovery with some excitement whatever our age. In education we discuss strategies for discovery-based learning, allowing pupils to find out for themselves and to make progress through doing. Over the last months where we have been necessarily more confined to campus, we have perhaps been more appreciative of what is to be found on our doorstep by looking more closely. You do not have to go far to discover.

Discovery in the classroom is not always as easy to achieve as may be thought. Some teaching has to be more didactic, more teacher led but there are usually some opportunities to allow for students to find out for themselves. The British curriculum is particularly strong when it comes to creative subjects, an area where there is an opportunity for pupils to discover their style. The educationalist Kurt Hahn wrote that in every young person there is more than they thought. The journey of education is not simply focused on subjects, skills and acquiring knowledge but it also about learning of what we are capable, developing self-control and unearthing an unbridled curiosity about the world around us. This self-discovery is at the heart of education. Interestingly it is sometimes discovered in those times when formal teaching is not happening.

Two notable annual events occurred yesterday. The Nursery Class visited the Debussy Building where they discovered the story of the school dog Cleo. Something of a celebrity in the late 1950s when she appeared in adverts for Hush Puppy shoes and Vittel water she was also a much-loved part of the school establishment. Nursery were able to follow a trail, discover clues about Cleo and eventually build a word from letters that they found as they went. There was, of course, a valuable reward in the form of biscuits at the end of the search. In this case there was both discovery and delight.

The Senior School had their sports day. Always a day for some to discover that there is indeed more in them than they know. Some found that they were perhaps a little faster than they might have thought or that they can leap just a little bit higher. Others simply discovered that despite their worries they can run 800m without stopping and that spectators at the BSP cheer as heartily for the final finisher as they do for the winner.

Over the course of the year, restrictions have meant that we have had to curtail some of the activities of discovery that we would normally enjoy, opportunities that would often lead to discovery. As we look to the end of term and perhaps allow ourselves a little hope that we may return to something like normal next year, we plan to restore these activities, provide these opportunities, and allow our young people to discover even more about themselves.

Nicholas Hammond



One stage at a time?

Our first week of warmer weather and following it the storms arrived. The Year 6 pupils have been to visit the Senior School and Year 11s have morphed into Sixth Formers for the next two weeks. The School bees are roaming far and wide as if making up for lost time during our dismal May. It is perhaps one of the first weeks in which things have almost felt normal. We are doing the things that we do each year, and this is positive indeed. Next week the Nursery class will come to the Senior School to learn about Mrs. Cosyn’s dog Cleo. Familiarity is re-establishing itself. At the end of the week we have had some officially permitted mask free outdoor play thanks to the slight relaxation of rules.

Some elements of this scene are not quite back to normal. Senior School departments have been busily gathering evidence for the exam boards to use in the award of grades later in the summer, we are still temperature testing and there remains a nagging feeling that just one case will result in a year group staying at home. Now is not the time to simply assume that we are beyond risk, care is still required.

Something to look forward to is the opening of our new outdoor performance space. Not the snappiest of titles but in the spirit of “what it does on the tin” it will have to do until we have an official naming of the space. If you would like to have a view of this new addition to our suite of facilities, then please enjoy Mr. Porter’s exciting drone footage.

Learning out of doors is undergoing something of a renaissance. I’m sure that what has been done to this previously underused area of the school will become a place that figures large in the memories of pupils long after they have left the school. It will be a place that is used for quiet thought during the bustle of the school day, it could be the venue for a first musical performance or perhaps it will be a place where dramatic skills are given space to take flight. I can certainly see it become a place for debate and mock elections, who knows orators may hone their skills in this space.

Perhaps the most important comment to make about this new development is that the initial design was devised by our own Design & Technology students who pitched their plans to the Governors’ Campus Development Committee. It was constructed in part using recycled stone from our campus by our maintenance team and whatever happens there in the future it will be the product of pupil endeavour. It was funded by donations made by parents, former pupils and friends of the school. From start to continued use it is a BSP production that will be enjoyed for years to come. A great community effort. One more stage in the return to normality.

Nicholas Hammond