“Time is a sort of river…”

“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by, and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”

Marcus Aurelius

Heraclitus of Ephesus is probably not in the front rank of the ancient philosophers, he’s more Championship than Premier League, the Norwich City of the Classical cogitators and that’s probably why I rather like him. Unlike his better-known followers such as Aristotle or Plato he’s more the sort of thinker who pops up in a quiz in answer to the question “Which ancient philosopher was know as the Weeping Philosopher?” He’s also known as the Obscure which is perhaps another clue as to why he’s not being remembered alongside those who followed him. No great body of writing by him survives, but we do have fragments of his thoughts recorded. He was interested in the essence of the universe and came up with phrases such as “the paths up and down are one and the same” and his most famous thought “no-one ever steps in the same river twice”. As we move through this final term, I can’t help but think about this idea of the ever-flowing river.

Now that we are approaching normal, we have a torrent of events and happenings. In the past seven days alone we’ve opened the school to refugees on the weekend, there have been clubs and activities at lunchtime and after school, a charity concert has been held and we’ve been running our lessons. Our oldest students departed this afternoon for their exam leave only to return for their A levels and for Prize Giving in a haze of signed shirts, cake and mocktails on the lawn. Our river is flowing at a fast pace.

Every school year is different and every year we have a different school population. In this school more than many, change is a constant. Heraclitus would have recognised this. Our Year 13 pupils take the next step on their journey today and whilst this isn’t quite the end it is certainly the beginning of the end for their school days. Other adventures await – some look to the US for university, others to the UK and some have opted for mainland Europe. Whilst the future is exciting, they will be looking at a different experience going forward. There will be no stepping back into this experience, but they will take with them memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. One great thing about the BSP is that no matter where you end up in the world, you are likely to find an alumnus of the school… they are, quite literally everywhere. The network is extensive and supportive.

Whilst I can’t promise a repeat of school days, I can offer a taste of school life for those whose last day at school is becoming something of a distant memory. Our Festival of Discovery gives parents from all elements of the school, Junior and Senior, the chance to spend a day in school and to rekindle some past enthusiasms or try something new. Alongside the chance to engage with a wide range of activities the BSPS will be delighted to see you at their front lawn pop up bar. I do hope you can make it.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“The brain is wider than the sky.” – Emily Dickinson

Brains have been on the menu at the Senior School this week. Not in the canteen (there is no plan to serve tête de veau or other local dishes) but confusingly in the library, during assembly and even on the front lawn. This was all part of Mrs. Wehrli, our librarian’s unique way of promoting Children’s Book Week. It turns out that we have a small but significant collection of zombie related books in the library amongst myriad other subjects. I’m sure that some of our more reluctant visitors to the library will have been enticed to make a visit and pick up a book.

This week also marks the start of exam leave for our Year 11, GCSE pupils. They will be straining their brains both preparing and taking exams. We’ve also told our Year 11s to take care of their thinking equipment, after all their brains are not yet fully developed and the coming month will stretch their “thinking muscle”. This may well be an apposite moment to remind ourselves that to be kind to our minds we should ensure that we not only get enough sleep but that we have great quality kip. I know that advice like this never goes down particularly well but I’d encourage us all to lay off screens an hour before going to sleep, to make sure we are properly hydrated and to get in the fresh air for some exercise each day. Successful study and successful exam taking is about more than just sweating over flash cards.

Taking on a new mental challenge is also a very good way of ensuring that the aging brain is kept in trim. I’m delighted to invite parents our first ever Festival of Discovery. Whilst not quite a rival to Glastonbury, our festival will certainly provide some food for thought, possibly a new discovery and perhaps a lifelong enthusiasm. You can dissect an eye, appreciate poetry, and set fire to things… what’s not to like? Please come along, if nothing else you can enjoy an outstanding lunch of fish and chips followed by a top-class wine tasting. We value discovery as a school, and we would be delighted to provide you with an opportunity to take a glimpse into an almost normal school day. I hope to see you there.

Many and sincere thanks to all parents and friends of the school who have contributed to our Stuff for School appeal. The work of our community has been of profound help to support displaced students and their families. If you haven’t contributed and want to please don’t delay – we have a range of options and every little helps. Your donation allows us to provide continuity of education, there can’t be an appeal that is such a sound investment in the future.

For all who are going (or taking part in) tonight’s Jazz Concert, enjoy your evening and thank you in advance for supporting our good causes.

Have a great weekend.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Keep your face to the sunshine…”

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”

Helen Keller

There is much to look forward to this term. Already we have had trips away, we’ve been mask free for a couple of days and the sun is shining. There is a real feeling in school this week that school is (mostly) back to normal. Public exams look to be going ahead and older pupils are busy preparing for them. Brighter mornings have led to a welcome rash of smiles at drop off time. All is well. Much is as it should be. We’ve also had some visitors including M. Jehan-Éric Winckler the Sous-Prefect for St. Germain and stagiaire Mme Annissa Raharinirina.

This weekend promises to be a busy one. At about the time that this newsletter will drop, we will be hosting a piano recital in the Senior School with our own Jiwan Kim performing before the talented Barbara Gostijanovic takes the stage. The free shop will open tomorrow morning and we are all looking forward to the BSPS/BSP Jazz and Dance Night on Friday 6th May. A few tickets remain so don’t delay in booking your place as this will be a fantastic evening.

Whilst much is the same, this term brings some new opportunities and initiatives. On 21st May we’ll open the Senior School to all parents so they can have a try at some of the activities that our pupils experience on a daily basis (and some that they don’t). Our first Festival of Discovery will include climbing, dissection, wine tasting and vigorous debate. I’ll leave it to you to work out which are the ones we normally do in school. It’s a first for the BSP and it comes from having heard on so many occasions when showing prospective parents on school tours “I wish I could go back to school to have a go at that”. So, I do hope that you can join us for the day on 21st May and bring a friend who doesn’t know about the school. It promises to be a great day and if further encouragement were needed there is a fish and chip lunch on offer. See poster on page 3 of this newsletter.

This week we’ve also welcomed seven Ukrainian students to the school, how good it is to see them integrating into our community so successfully. On Monday we will open a class for those affected by the conflict who don’t have the necessary level of English or French to access mainstream education. Again, these children will be made to feel welcome and I’m sure that they will enrich our community. Thank you to all parents and friends of the school who have contributed to our ‘Stuff for School’ campaign. If you are thinking about donating, can I urge you to do so? Your support means an enormous amount to these young people. Click here to learn more.

Summertime by the Seine is a magical time. Over the course of the coming weeks we will be encouraging pupils to make the most of the opportunities that are on offer here and for the first time we can extend the invitation to our parents to experience what makes the BSP such an inspirational place to learn. I do hope you’ll join us.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Integrity has no need of rules.”

“Integrity has no need of rules.”

The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus

And so, we reach the end of term. I hope that all pupils can reflect upon the last twelve weeks of education and conclude that they have both benefitted intellectually and learned something useful along the way. The pupils have worked hard and have demonstrated admirable resilience, it has also been good to see the reintroduction of after-school activities. The shows and concerts have been fantastic. For teachers it has been a testing time, dealing with high level of absence makes teaching more complicated and I thank them for their commitment and professionalism.

Alongside the inevitable relief of having made it to the end of term there will be some in the community who might say they have struggled more than others. Towards the end of term, tempers fray, patience can be in short supply and at times there is a lack of tolerance. It is a time when certain pupils bump up against the school rules and have to accept lessons of a different nature. Don’t assume from all of this that the BSP is descending into anarchy, far from it, behaviour management is not a topic that we have to discuss very often here and for that I am thankful. But if “it is going to happen” it will usually do so at the end of term.

I was pleased at the end of term to read a column by management guru Charles Handy that addressed, in a roundabout way, our approach to school behaviour guidance. He introduced me to a new word, subsidiarity. He talks about giving his own children the opportunity to make their own decisions, be self-reliant, to take responsibility. Subsidiarity is the delegation of responsibility to an appropriate level rather than relying on top-down measures. In the Junior School we have Golden Rules, positively framed guidance to ensure that we all get along, in the Senior School the framework is more formal, but it is much the same. There is a bit of top down, but the vast majority of interactions are positive because these are young people who know what is right and what is wrong. They demonstrate integrity. When I have to be involved with disciplinary matters, I’m usually heartened by the honesty shown by those who have lost their self-control and the willingness they show to put things right. Clearly only so many chances can be given, happily most never find themselves in the position again.

Part of our role as a school community is to develop a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong in our young people. To give them a framework to use in governing their actions. To give them the confidence to stand apart. This is no easy task, particularly when there are many influences to move them off track. At the end of a busy and tiring term it is perhaps worth reflecting on how few instances of questionable behaviour there have been and how this reflects upon our community and our self-imposed rules. So, a hearty well done to all pupils, not only for their work and commitment but for their excellent behaviour. There are many outside this community who could learn a lesson about right and wrong and integrity from you.

I hope that you have a most relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” – Amelia Earhart

There has been much written in the past few months about the loss of learning caused by the COVID pandemic. Almost as much has been written about our young people’s mental health and following on its heels how their social development has been hampered as a consequence of not being in school. All of these are true and should concern us as a community. What isn’t so often seen as having been missed is adventure. We should be in no doubt, our young people have lost out on opportunities for adventure and both families and schools should work hard to make up for lost time.

Year 5 spent much of the week in the Auvergne. It is one of the BSP’s aims to make the most of the educational opportunities presented by being in France and this trip provided a showcase of what France has to offer. A stunning region, we stayed in the spa town of La Bourboule and spent three days exploring, with the assistance of local guides, the chains of volcanoes that characterise the region. What had been explained in the classroom was in front of us in the great outdoors. Pupils had the chance to stand on the lip of a volcano, they made the earth tremor and examined volcanic ash preserved in this most singular of landscapes. They know about the different types of volcanoes and how they came into being, in doing so introducing them to the awe-inspiring story of our planet. Some overcame their fears and braved a volcano themed roller-coaster ride. There were adventures in many and varied forms.

But residential trips aren’t just about taking lessons from the classroom or textbook into real life. They are, for many, a chance to spend time with friends, to live and work together and to challenge themselves in so many ways. On Tuesday, these 9- and 10-year-olds walked a challenging thirteen kilometres. For some, the furthest they have ever walked and far more than they really knew they could. Others had to cope with living in a dormitory, their first experience of communal living, deprived of some privacy and creature comforts, a similarly important learning experience. Local food was eaten, beds were made and almost everyone faced that field trip conundrum of not being able to put all the stuff they had brought back in their bag at the end of the experience. Why is it that clothes that fitted into bags on the way out so rarely go back into the rucksack or suitcase at the end of the stay? Valuable lessons were learned, and importantly challenges of a variety of types were overcome. Many of these were met by individuals challenging themselves rather than asking an adult for help.

I’m sure that Year 5 will remember a good deal about what was for many their first overnight school trip. They will remember the adventure. Whilst they may, over time, not recall the finer points of volcanic reactions they are likely to be able to draw on the experience and what it taught them about themselves. Key Stage 3 students will travel further afield this holiday and this weekend our Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditioners will challenge themselves rather closer to home. Lessons for life will be learned and friendships enriched through this experience of adventure.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“I think the only expectation…”

“I think the only expectation is that I put on myself to do everything right and to put myself in a position to perform as best that I can.”

Ashleigh Barty

Ashleigh Barty is a supremely gifted athlete and her announcement this week that she is withdrawing from the uber competitive arena that is professional tennis can only be applauded as courageous. Elsewhere this week at the World Education Summit, Professor Yong Zhao likened a child’s progress through education to that of a dead bird.

At this point I would forgive you for wondering where all this is going. Professor Zhao has a distinguished educational pedigree, and he was calling into question the idea that it is education’s job to provide young people with the skills that they require for life in the future. According to Professor Zhao this is impossible because there are simply too many variables when looking at the future. Put plainly, we don’t know what skills or knowledge will be required. He took his thinking further explaining that children are rather more like live birds than dead ones as they fly in all sorts of directions and follow their own routes. To that end the constrictions of the traditional curriculum and associated testing mean that young people follow a path defined by the present that is (supposedly) preparing them for the future. In his mind, they should be prepared to create, shape, and mould their future. In proscribing levels to be reached (marks and grades) we may well be ignoring or failing to develop other talents and skills. Therefore, rather than preparing our pupils to live in the future he urges educators to provide pupils with the knowledge and skills to create their future.

Ashleigh Barty mentioned in her announcement that she may well look to take her talents into coaching. Here is a young person who has dedicated herself in the single-minded pursuit of excellence in one endeavour. She is bowing out at the top of her game, and she appears likely to take her sublime skills and put them to the benefit of others. Having met the demands of the most exacting of measures she provides us with a clear warning as to the dangers of such a single-minded pursuit in an environment where criticism from behind a screen and with the safety of a keyboard is all too easy and oh so damaging. Her example is admirable, and I hope our young people are taking note of the dignity that this athlete has shown in coming to this momentous decision. How easy it would have been to carry on, to go through the motions. To do what is expected. When I ask parents what they want for their children from school most say that they want their children to be happy, well-adjusted, and successful. It is notable that happiness usually sits at the top of the list.

I can’t help but think that Prof Zhao has a point, and that Ashleigh Barty provides us with a lesson in knowing yourself – one of the most important lessons our pupils can learn. I’m not certain that a sudden migration from subject content, skills testing, and exams is quite what we are after, but balance is required. We will never really know What the future holds, and we will never know what skills young people will need to create it. If we are successful in providing knowledge, skills, and character then we will be moving in the right direction. I hope that Prof. Zhao would be encouraged by the way our young people are prepared to take flight.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Variety is the soul of pleasure.” – The Rover, Aphra Behn

If variety is the spice of life, then its importance in school is vastly underrated. Variety is more than the spice, it is a crucial, a core ingredient. I would go so far as to say that if we don’t have variety in school then we go stale very quickly indeed. So, to start, a quick quiz…

Minister Franck Riester visits the BSP

What links: a government minister, a pipe cleaner buttonhole decoration, a tug of war, an assembly held in person, pupils interviewing school governors, Irish dancing, a whole school macarena and a huge cake icing competition? The answer is as I am sure you have guessed, a week at the BSP. This week in fact.

Over the last two years we have, for very good reasons, been circumspect in the offer that we have made to our pupils. We’ve stayed in bubbles, our assemblies have been by Teams or recorded, and we have had our lessons. It is the bits around the edge that have been missing, the things that don’t happen every week, but do happen from time to time. These are the things that are often most memorable. It is great to have them back. In this variety we find great enjoyment.

It isn’t every day that a pupil has the chance to ask questions of a senior politician, but this week our pupils engaged Minister Franck Riester in debate. In the Junior School the first “in person” assembly was held in two years and how good it was for the community to come together for celebration and reflection. All those involved in and all those who watched the BSP Great International Bake off will not forget the creations that were produced in a hurry. Add to that Sports Relief activities and you get the picture of what has been a varied and enjoyable week. I certainly appreciated the staff team’s mighty victory in this morning’s tug of war, and it isn’t every day I have the chance to sport a magnificent pipe cleaner creation in the buttonhole of my jacket. These things don’t happen every day, but they do stay in the memory.

We have learnt a good deal about school and about ourselves over the past two years. We’ve got on with school and we should be thankful that we have not missed many days of learning. We should also be thankful that as we emerge from the shadow of the pandemic, we can return to a bit of variety in our routine. This will undoubtedly enrich our experiences in school. We need something different every now and again. Next week we will be treated to the Year 6 show and from what I’ve seen of the rehearsal it will be a barnstorming epic – Ye Ha!

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“There’s nothing that’s more unfair…”

“There’s nothing that’s more unfair or unjust than people using their power to try to make other people feel small, to tell them who they are or what they are capable of, to say their identity doesn’t belong.”

Jill Biden

Around here there tends to be a week in March when the weather turns, and the skies seem to be rather bluer than greyer. This week was that week. Whilst spring has not fully happened, we’ve been given a quick sight of what is to come. We know that there will be some turbulent weather before the winter is finally done with us but at least we know that spring is coming.

The half term is well underway, and it is a real pleasure to see pupils engaging in a wide range of activities and paying the right levels of attention to their academic work. The week has been a busy one and I apologise for picking out only a couple of examples of the widespread and evident commitment to activities.

This week sees the Senior School production Legally Blonde take to the stage, we’ve sports players heading to play fixtures in Brussels and our Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditioners are off in the wilds. It all feels a bit 2019, almost dare I say it, normal. We have received clarification of the new protocols for schools and I think that we will all welcome the changes that have been suggested.

One of the other notable happenings of this week has been the running of the Sport Relief 5km challenges along the riverbank. I remember cross country running at school. It was a fairly miserable experience and I appreciate that pounding the path is not everyone’s idea of a good time. I was therefore impressed to see the levels of commitment that were shown by such a wide variety of pupils to this event – unsurprising to see talented runners giving it their all, perhaps still more impressive to see those who don’t find running so easy “getting involved”. These events provide a real challenge, and it is important that during a school career we experience activities that we do not find easy, that we experience activities that we might not at first enjoy. In doing so we appreciate that no-one is so perfect as to be good at everything.

Many young people face what is often called confirmation bias; the feeling that in comparison to the false perfection they see on social media they are less worthy and consequently less comfortable about being themselves than they should be. It is all too easy to become bound by what other people define as successful, beautiful, or talented. We are proud to be a school in which we both challenge and support. A school in which we recognise the development of character alongside the certificates of academic success. We have a broad spectrum of experiences and abilities. I was so proud to see the levels of support being given pupil to pupil as each individual made their way along the riverside. For some it was easy, for others it was a genuine challenge. On stage tonight we will have the chance to see the cast of Legally Blonde do their stuff once more. Some are confident, others will find being up there much more difficult, but all will grow. For some it will be the start of a life-long enthusiasm for the theatre, others may never tread the boards again. I hope that by giving these experiences to a wide range of pupils they understand themselves a little better and that they learn how to be content within themselves and not being defined by the often unrealistic and commercially driven expectations made by others.

Having slogged up the river bank this week I can tell you there is a real satisfaction in just making it to the finish!

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Hope is being able to see…”

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

Desmond Tutu

Schools all around the world make statements about what it is they stand for and they often accompany these statements with explanations of how they go about achieving their goals. What is less often asked is what schools stand for when they are placed in a wider context, in the context of society. For me it is simple, schools are a symbol of hope. A school in whatever form is a sign of a society that chooses to invest in its future. A sign that it is ready to create young people who understand what they see around them and, hopefully, are able to make the right decisions about what the future may look like. Our pupils are the decision makers and leaders of the future. They will be faced with the challenge of cleaning up the mess being created right now.

At the BSP I’m filled with hope when I see young people from a wide variety of backgrounds working and playing together. I’m even more hopeful when I see them learning together, when they are seeking to understand each other, when they not only learn together but learn from each other.

In recent days hope has been in rather short supply. The world around us is a place where despair, anxiety, anger and concern are more often experienced or reported. Some in our community are directly affected. But among all this there is hope. In the last few days our community has responded to the appeal for humanitarian aid in a staggering fashion and the rapid organisation of this collection by Mrs Kopczynska and Mr Bates is a very real symbol of our investment in hope as a community. These donations turn hope into practical assistance. We have joined with a wider effort to ensure that those in need will be looked after, that those who face strife will be provided with shelter, the shivering will find warmth and those who feel that they are ignored are being seen. The response from this community to the plight of displaced persons has been inspiring. Thank you to the many hands that have sought to support this project. Hope vanishes when we stop seeing there being a point in investing in the future. We have made a small investment and who knows how much more will be required in the coming weeks. We are indebted to the Polish community who will ship our donations to the border tomorrow.

On a different note as we move to a less restricted COVID regime and with the first signs of spring pointing to the coming summer so we edge slowly back to normality.
We are once again starting to enjoy the opportunity to play sports, to meet and even perform – yes this year’s Senior School show, Legally Blonde, a production not to be missed, premieres this coming week so please do secure your places by clicking the link on page 3.

Whilst I fear that we may need to provide further support for those affected by conflict and I’m realistic enough to think that there may well be additional COVID hurdles to overcome, the announcements of this week suggest that our future and that of the world may be a hopeful one. As long as schools and their communities continue to invest in the future then the world at large has every reason to remain hopeful that better times may lie ahead.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

“Fortuna est…”

“Fortuna est quae fit cum praeparatio in occasionem incidit.” (1)

Seneca

If all the world’s a stage, then there are many mini acts of a theatre in every school day. Performance is an integral part of school life and this week I have had the opportunity to see plenty of excellent performances.

This week we gained a little more information on what our public exam taking pupils will be required to do in the summer, for them performance in the exam hall will be at the forefront of their minds as we break for a well-earned half term holiday. They deserve to rest and revise in equal measure.

I had the privilege of seeing our Year 9s engage is some exuberant performances on the theme of James Bond movies working with Beauville Arts this week. How splendid to see adolescents having the confidence to be able to stand up with their contemporaries and perform: singing, dancing, and acting. A sure sign that they are growing in confidence and become assured of their talents.

I saw a group of Lower VI formers starting to express their opinions through the medium of thunks. The started tentatively and quietly but by the end of the session the debate was raging, opinions were being formed and refuted in equal measure. Perhaps you too would like to give it a go? Here’s a classic thunk: If I paint over a window and can’t see through it, is it still a window? Fancy some more? If a lion could speak, would I understand it? Just two of the questions that they debated. Learning how to find a voice is an essential skill, having the opportunity to develop opinions is equally as important – there is no better way to develop than to put yourself out there and have a go. I’m pleased to say our Lower VI did just that!

Today, I popped into Year 3 who were being treated to an introductory session in the Latin language by Mr. Frank. How good to see the confidence with which verb endings were being performed. From knowing nothing about Latin the pupils were able to translate the school motto and decline the verb to play.

Our basketballers and rugby players have been performing on the court and sports field. They have experienced both success and defeat. In doing so they had to risk something by going out and performing. No matter what the score, they have grown and will take these experiences into their next matches and into other spheres of their development.

Immediately prior to writing today I had the chance to hear the Senior Jazz band performing Uptown Throwdown and saw our junior rugby players carrying on undaunted as strong winds blew carefully weighted passes awry. Whilst our performances do not always turn out the way we might like they most certainly teach us a good deal about ourselves and of what we are capable.
If we are to build resilience in our young people, we need to encourage them to perform. Not simply to do so in a quiet exam room, but to find a voice, develop their opinions, to share their learning and enjoy their knowledge. The last two years have curtailed this opportunity and it is certainly encouraging to see, as we draw to the end of this half term, that we have made the most of every chance to perform.

All this said performing can be a little bit exhausting, so our half term comes at an opportune moment. I hope that the entire community has a moment to daw breath and will return ready to take the stage once more when we start again.

Nicholas Hammond

Headmaster

www.britishschool.fr

(1) As Year 3 will tell you this means something like “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation”.