"Normally I would begin by addressing ‘ladies and gentlemen, students, colleagues’ and so forth but for this evening lets just say ‘ Friends’.
Friends, - If a fortune teller had told me six months ago that I would be leaving BISB for another school I would not have believed it, but such is the reality of change. So let’s enjoy this evening as a time to celebrate the success that is BISB.
In this speech tonight I would like to talk about the special community that has embraced me here at BISB and put out the simple request that I might also stay a little part of it, like a distant family member who comes back from time to time to enjoy seeing the processes of continuing growth and improvement in the community. If you afford me this then tonight I am not saying goodbye – but rather ‘farewell’ and ‘a bientot’.
And in saying ‘farewell’ I am reminded of a time when I was a little boy – I was in Primary school, it was the long summer holiday and as my Father was away my Mother decided to take my brother and I all over England by bus and by train to visit friends of hers from school and from university. It was a very different time and looking back on it probably quite an adventure and quite a logistical exercise for a young mother to engage in nineteen sixties. And I remember her drumming it in to me as sat on what seemed like endless slow train journeys with my younger brother asleep in his pram –
“Matthew”, she said, “Whatever you do whatever you think of all the people that you meet, you must always be polite then tidy up your room, pack your bags and make your bed when we leave. You must always leave things ‘ship shape’ and tidy for the future”.
This was strong advice for a seven year old and as I think of it today as I prepare to move on to another of our schools in Dubai my message is that we are indeed ‘ship shape’, tidy, well formed with a great future in store at BISB.
We share a very special community here at BISB where forty two different nationalities come together , where children feel safe and feel happy. Without exception, visitors who come into our school always speak of how happy the children seem and yes, what a privilege it is for us as teachers to interface with that energy , to come into school and know that our positive smiles will be redoubled by the energy that comes back to us from the young people we spend time with every day.
And actually, yes, the children have much to smile back about as they spend time in a community which is becoming a truly outstanding school because it has outstanding teachers and outstanding individuals working here. BISB is a great place to work and in terms of professional development I think we have gone a very long way since January 2014 raising the self-esteem of all staff through personal professional challenge and engagement, through coaching and by taking responsibility to train others in our group of forty two schools worldwide through Nord Anglia University.
Communities always strengthen as they grow and in terms of student enrolment we have grown from 627 in January 2014 to a current 717 with the expectation of further continuing growth in the years ahead. With growth comes investment in the facility. We have spent some 150 0000 euros upgrading our wireless potential and bringing in new hardware and software to better integrate technology in the learning. We have upgraded all of our communications systems as we established a higher levels of transparency and closer communication with the home. (Having said that, we also know that communication is the area where all people based organisations can always improve. ) We have built in new science laboratories; a new IB learning Centre; we brought in a second bubble for sports; we upgraded Dolinskeho throughout creating much improved outdoor learning areas; we have acquired and reconstructed the White House to serve as a new Early Years Centre; we have commissioned the builders to start working on our new Performing Arts Centre; and we have started negotiations to purchase the adjacent ‘Pink House’ which we will then knock down and rebuild completely as an additional purpose built wing to the school. This is a multi-million euro investment. In five years I believe we will have a fully integrated campus to support an enrolment of up to twelve hundred. We are the leading international school in Slovakia with a reputation in the region.
In terms of our academic results we have evidenced year on year improvements in all phases of Primary and Lower Secondary with the marked exception of IGCSE where things certainly went wrong last year - and I look forward to the positive relief that I believe we will find on results day in August. As for the IB – our results continue to be distinguished and well above world averages with some possible 44 or 45 this year.
Additional to the academic progress that is always our first concern, we have fully embraced the Nord Anglia ‘Be Ambitious’ agenda by embedding enrichment activities for all and stepping up the range and intensity of these experiences both within school for sport, music, drama, service work and clubs and outside as well with discovery days, expeditions, trips and cultural tours. BISB is a great place to be young.
We have just had our annual inspection visit from the education team of Nord Anglia and I am delighted to report that we are green throughout – their judgment indicating that we are a school that is very good indeed and in many areas outstanding – and no surprise, so we should be!
Well, I trust that you can see, the room is quite tidy, the bed has been made up, we are ‘ship shape’ but before I depart it is right and appropriate to give my thanks, and my thanks are most sincere . And here it can get like the Oscars, so please bear with me.
Thank you to Bratislava and to Slovakia who have taught me that here is my home in Europe which I shall delight to return to at every long weekend that Dubai affords.
Thank you to the children of our school whose smiles and positivity keeps my wellbeing bucket pretty full on a daily basis.
Thank you to all of the parents of BISB, present and absent, to the parent association and other important stakeholders who I see in the hall today who have not only entrusted their children to BISB but who make special contributions to the life of the school whether it is supporting arts events, preparing international days, coming in as guest speakers, helping arrange work experience or simply offering sensible advice and enjoying the conversations at the end of the day.
Thank you to the staff of the school who are outstanding in so many ways, who truly believe in BISB and who are the crew to take it to the next levels in the years ahead. Outstanding teachers, teaching assistants and supporting staff for an outstanding school.
Thank you to Petra who is the most superlative Personal Assistant that anyone could ever wish for, interpreting my every need and reminding me of all that I may have overlooked.
Thank you to the members of the leadership team – Sasha and Sasha, Bernie and Becks and Milina. Thank you for your discretion and support throughout negotiating the rough waters as well as the calms alongside Barbara, Sue and Karen.
And finally, an especial thanks to Sue and to Barbara and Karen who have been the core of our leadership team, helping to create the vision and ensuring the multiple operational improvements that take place each and every day. Thank you. It has been a privilege to work together and as I prepare to move on I draw a certain strength from the knowledge of knowing just how good that team can be.
So, Karen, here we are – you are the captain of this good ship, you hold both the sextant and the compass, we are ‘ship shape and we are tidy’ - please take the helm and for fear of misquoting the closing words of Shakespeare’s The Tempest:
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours our sails
Must fill, or else our projects fail,
Which are to educate and care …
For Karen and for BISB , - Be Ambitious.