A very warm welcome (back) to the school year 2016/17 at BSB! It looks like being another amazing year at school with so much to look forward to, and I am very excited as ever to have the privilege of working with your wonderful children. My family and I have been back at work for approximately four weeks and schools seem very strange places without the students there – it was a truly great experience to see them all come back on Monday morning, smartly dressed, smiling and definitely ready for work. As I said at the parents’ orientation day last week, I still believe (and always will) that I have the best job in the world – the chance to work with young people in education, in the full knowledge that they will create a better future for our world, is an honour to be cherished.
For those of you that were not here, we have had a fantastic summer here at school. We received our first set of IB results a few weeks ago and we are very pleased indeed with the outcomes. You will hopefully have seen the posters in the foyer, giving the key messages that our average points score (of 34) was 10% above the global average, and that we had two students who came so very close to achieving the maximum score of 45 – Amy Wei gaining 44 points and Sumin Kang 43. This is a wonderful achievement in any school – as far as we know, nobody achieved better in any international school in Beijing this year, and very few achieve better globally.
And, as ever, please do remember that we are a genuinely non-selective school, because we believe that children learn better in this environment and that we can bring out the very best in every single child that way, from the top high flyers (like Amy and Sumin) to those who only just manage to get the full diploma but would not have done so without the quality of teaching they receive. The fact that our average points score is only just below that of schools that select only very able students when they come to the school is, I believe, proof of that. There were many of these schools that wanted everyone to believe that, because it was our first year, the results would not be so good. We do expect even better results next year for the simple reason that, with every passing year, students start thinking about and preparing for IB Diploma earlier and earlier – this year’s Year 13 students have been preparing since they were in Year 10!
We have also undertaken quite significant building and refurbishment work over the summer, as we do every summer. This year, almost all of the work has been designed around continuing to improve safety for your children and all of our BSB family. The new front gate and security building allows for separate entrances for cars and buses, cyclists and pedestrians, as well as providing a reception and waiting area in the secure area before visitors enter the building. One very important change for staff and parents is that your identity card will now activate the automatic barrier to allow you in – and out – of school. Please do not forget your ID card when you come to school or you will have to formally sign in as a visitor. This will be implemented in the coming few days – please do bear with our security guards if there are any teething problems.
We have also replaced the doors and windows across the ground/first floor. As you know, we have excellent air purifications systems throughout the school, which filter the air and keep the PM2.5 at a very low level, but we were having problems with the old doors and windows leaking poor air. The replacements, along with positive pressure systems at the main entrances, will make our building even safer, including on the most polluted days outdoors. There have been many other minor works and I do encourage you to visit the whole building and see what has been taking place.
And finally during the holidays, a number of our teachers went to the USA to receive training in our two brand new partnership programmes which launch this year, and about which we are very excited indeed. We now have a formal partnership, through Nord Anglia Education, with MIT University – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (consistently ranked number one university in the world) who will jointly develop and train our teachers in innovative programmes in STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics) at the very highest level. Our Music teachers are now also fully trained in delivering the new Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme curriculum in association with The Juilliard School in New York (again consistently receiving number one spot in the world rankings). Your children deserve the best and we will continue to look for outstanding partners in making sure that this is what they get.
Again, as I explained in my welcome talk, I should like to outline some improvements we have made in parent communication this year. It was identified in the parent survey last year that, whilst parents are usually very pleased with the communication they get from individual teachers, we could do better at keeping you generally informed. We have looked into this very carefully and I should like to keep you updated on this:
- Firstly, we have worked hard to make sure the school website has all the information you need. Please do refer very regularly to the blogs accessed from the front page, which give loads of news but also information about upcoming events.
- A key part of the website is the ‘Parents' Essentials’ section (the tab at the top right of the home page). In this you will find the absolute up-to-date calendar, the canteen menus, details on school buses, as well as a lot of other general information including what is happening in the Parents’ Association.
- We are introducing an event management system called SOCS this week – accessed from the ‘Parents' Essentials’ section. This will give you up-to-date information on everything that is happening in After School Activities (ASAs) and other extra-curricular activities such as sport, music and drama. All team lists, schedules, venues, results etc will be posted here, and the site will also keep you quickly informed about cancellations and any other changes. We will also use this site to register students for all ASAs, in Primary and Secondary School. We believe this will be a real move forward in an area that parents have sometimes found a little irritating in the past. Please note that this is the only way NOW to sign up for Sport (23rd August) and ASAs (from 25th August). Please click here for further information and guidance on the new system.
- In the Primary School, we are introducing a new parent portal called Firefly, which will massively extend the amount of information teachers can give you about what children are doing in class. Parents have told us that they like the IDEA of the daily email but that it only gives them general information (and sometimes too much in one go), whereas Firefly will allow you (once it is fully up and running) to access videos, presentations, curriculum materials, photos etc – it will be updated very regularly so that you can really stay in touch with what your children are learning. We are not YET introducing it in Secondary School, for the simple reason that it currently works very well when the children only have one teacher, but does not yet work well when a child is studying a range of subjects with different teachers – we trialled it with Year 10 in the summer and parents found it difficult to ‘click’ into each subject in turn, so we are sticking with the daily email in Secondary for the time being. Firefly have told us they will be launching a parent app in the summer which will resolve this, and we should certainly like to move in this direction when they do.
- These systems are keeping your children safe as they are behind usernames and passwords. Please contact your class tutor if you are having difficulty logging on at any time.
Please do give us feedback once these systems are fully up and running – we hope and believe it will enable much better communication, but we really value your thoughts in time.
Finally, our wonderful Parents’ Association really needs your support:
- At the Welcome picnic on Sunday 28 August selling drinks and ice pops to our parents and children. Please click here to sign up to volunteer your time if you can.
- At Chatterbox café – Is our Parent run café supported completely by volunteers. Please email Charlotte Beckett if you can volunteer your time, even once a week .
- For setting up the Roundabout book fair this Friday. Please contact Roundabout if you can help set up books for this weekend.
For further information about the PA and upcoming events please click here.
So, looking to the year ahead…..our mission remains the same to make sure that every single child and student is enable to achieve the very best they can, not only in their academic studies but in any area of their lives. We hope that they will ‘dare to dream’, to attempt those things they previously thought impossible (and some that they had never even thought of), to take every opportunity that is offered to them, and to continue to grow as caring, responsible and well-rounded citizens in every respect. As I said to our new teachers last week – who have settled well into the school already and show every sign of being the best we have ever had – we have all shared the same vocation and love of working with young people throughout our teaching careers, or we wouldn’t do it, but the students at BSB are something really quite special, the like of which I have never met before. Every day I am reminded of this and that it is they, along with your support and that of their teachers, who make this school a place to which it is a joy for me to come every day, and which I hope will be the same for you throughout the coming year.
I look forward to seeing very many of you at the Welcome Back Picnic this Sunday (from 12 to 3pm).
With my very best wishes as ever
Please click below to see this message in Chinese and Korean.