27 August, 2021

Mr Sean O'Neill: Weekly Update 27/08/2021

Mr Sean O'Neill: Weekly Update 27/08/2021 - mr-sean-oneill-weekly-update-27-08-2021
Mr Sean O'Neill: Weekly Update 27/08/2021 I hope you and your families are well at this difficult time for the community here in HCMC. It is so pleasing that our students and teachers have had such a successful start to the year, despite these conditions. My thanks to each of them for their hard work and commitment.

Dear Parents, 


I hope you and your families are well at this difficult time for the community here in HCMC. 


It is so pleasing that our students and teachers have had such a successful start to the year, despite these conditions. My thanks to each of them for their hard work and commitment. 


My thanks also to you, our parents. As  our whole BIS community-  teachers, students, support staff  and parents are working remotely- we appreciate  it can be a challenge as families work from home together - and we know establishing successful routines as our  students begin a school year online takes a real team effort.  


Now that students have enjoyed a full timetable for this week, they are beginning that crucial process of forming relationships.  Our approach for this first period of the year is to ‘keep it simple’, and so we are focussing on establishing routines and relationships that are the building blocks to learning.


I am delighted this week to share  details of our Virtual CCA Programme for Term 1.  One of our aims for the year is to maintain the fabric of school life as much as we can, and our enrichment activities are a huge part of this. Our teachers are determined that our students have the opportunity to participate in clubs and activities that go beyond the academic curriculum, and so have innovated to devise this exciting and varied  programme. 

We know  participation is so important for broadening experiences and connections, and developing character, so please encourage your child to be involved. 


Within this week’s assemblies, I have spoken to each  Secondary student about the current importance of working together -  showing care for themselves, and each other, by giving support when they can, and seeking support when they need it. As we know, we can all achieve more by working and learning together.


Equally at this time, we know the partnership between home and school is more important than ever - so please do get in touch if you have any queries or we can support in any way.


With my best wishes to you and your families,


Sean O’Neill

A window in to Virtual School

Whilst the streets of Saigon have stood still this week, the same cannot be said for our students’ learning which has been anything but sedate! Virtual classrooms have echoed with the sound of excited learning and positive relationships have been forged between students and teachers alike. Year group assemblies, tutor time sessions, small group catch-ups and of course lessons have all played an important role in building relationships and creating connections, upon which all foundations for learning and wellbeing are laid. Please take a moment to glimpse in to some of this week’s learning below:

Calculating the speed of sound in Physics
Speed of Sound Experiment


This week, our Year 11 iGCSE students were performing some practical Physics experiments at home, measuring the speed of sound using nothing but headphones, a ruler, and some toilet rolls!

In this clever practical experiment suggested by Mr Vaughan, students were able to calculate the speed of sound using everyday items. And, thanks to our Year 11 students' practical Science skills, they managed a result with remarkable accuracy: 349 meters per second! This is only 6 meters per second above the accepted value; a supersonic performance indeed.

Creating connections and using retrieval practice in Spanish
Padlet food1jpg


This week, our Key Stage 3 Spanish students have been getting to know one another using Padlet to introduce themselves and describe their likes and dislikes. Ms Balbuena was on hand to provide students with live feedback whilst Ms Feuntes’ Year 8 class were clearly very hungry for learning when recalling food-related vocabulary!


Padlet Personal Info

Designing a social media platform in Year 9 French


This week, students in Year 9 French have been describing and discussing their use of social media, before rising to the challenge of designing and pitching their own social media platform to their classmates. Creativity abounded with platforms being created to cater for the needs of online gamers, vloggers and even household pets! Hopefully one of the platforms for ‘renting a grandpa’ wasn’t aimed at Mr Falconer! 

Virtual Co-Curricular Activities Term 1

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Today, our Virtual CCA sign-up went live for the Secondary Campus and many of our students have already accessed our new SchoolsBuddy platform. We’re excited that, even with a reduced programme adapted to the online environment, there is a wide range on offer and we’re sure all students will find something that they want to get involved in.

Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) are an integral part of the education offered at BIS HCMC and provide our students with a broad range of learning opportunities which positively impact many facets of their development, including academic progress.  The diverse co-curricular programme is designed to enhance the core curriculum and provide opportunities for students to broaden their interests and perspectives of the world as they develop a range of skills including social, emotional, leadership, independence, collaboration, moral reasoning, decision making, problem solving, and critical thinking.

We aim to:

  • Provide a wide range of enjoyable and challenging experiences above and beyond the timetabled curriculum

  • Allow competitive teams, drama companies and music ensembles to reach high standards of team/group and personal performance

  • Provide opportunities for students to aspire to elements of the school’s mission statement

  • Continue to develop our involvement in community work

  • Offer a balance of endeavour which provides the framework for the IBDP CAS Programme

Despite the need for students to remain at home for the start of Term 1, we are delighted to be able to continue with our aims and maintain the fabric of school life by including the CCA programme as part of the BIS Virtual Learning provision. We recognise that students engaging in Virtual Learning have less opportunity for making significant connections and this is even more vital during times of isolation and lockdown. 

Although there are a reduced number of VCCAs to choose from each week at the BIS Secondary Campus, the range is still extensive with options available in each of the 5 categories of Creativity, Action, Service, Sustainability and Study Support.  We would like to encourage each student to sign up for at least one club per week.

Some of these virtual clubs (VCCAs) will be ‘live’ with students able to interact with the teacher in charge as well as their fellow students and others will be pre-recorded allowing students to be more independently involved. We also have a number of paid activities such as Yoga, K-Pop, Hip Hop, as well as kickboxing and even football. These are provided by external individuals and organisations who have collaborated with BIS and understand the importance of their role in supporting the wellbeing of our students by providing meaningful connections and support beyond the context of a virtual classroom. 

All clubs will initially run for a 5 week block from Monday 13th September until Sunday 17th October and, following review, we hope to extend the programme for a further 5 week period after half term.

CCAs will run during lunchtimes, however, the majority are scheduled after timetabled lessons. The Virtual CCA Programme makes provision for two sessions each afternoon from 2:50pm – 3:50pm and from 3:55pm - 4:55pm.

This year we are using SchoolsBuddy to maintain our CCA programme and students have received instructions on how to sign up through email and the CCA booklet.

We look forward to the start of the Virtual CCAs on 13th September and hope that our students are too!

Lauren Binnington
Deputy Head Teacher Enrichment
Regional NAE-UNICEF Lead for South East Asia and the Middle East

BIS Virtual Co-Curricular Sports Season 1

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It is the plan of the coaches of BIS to still run squad CCA sessions to promote knowledge and understanding of the BIS philosophy in each of our sports. For example, activities will include:

  • Styles of play

  • Formations, positions and tactics

  • Set plays

  • Position analysis

  • Match analysis


So that we are stronger and more educated in the correct way of playing when competitive sport resumes, we encourage as many people as possible to learn the BIS way of playing, but especially the following players:

  • Those who were in the squads last year

  • Those who want to be in the squads in the future

  • New students to the school who want to know the BIS way

Sign up will start soon for Season 1 (September - October) sports, so be sure to sign up if you want to be a BIS Sports Star in the above Season 1 Sports. Sign up for the Season 2 (November - December) sports will not take place until October.   

Phil Husband
Head of Secondary PE and Sports Director

Virtual Instrumental lessons

We are very happy to share the following information with parents regarding Instrumental Lessons for your children. As you know, we unfortunately cannot offer our usual Instrumental Lessons Programme at BIS this term.  However, several of our instrumental teachers are offering online lessons.  

If you have an instrument at home, and would like to have online lessons, please see the list below and contact the relevant teacher.  This opportunity is open to students, parents, and teachers of any musical level/ability.

Please note, this would be a private arrangement between you and your instrumental teacher, so you would need to arrange payments and lesson times with them directly. 

Keziah Jacombs

Music Teacher and Head of Instrumental Programme

Instrumental teachers available for online lessons



Phone number

Email address


Mr Viet



Cello / Double bass

Mr Minh




Clarinet / Saxophone

Mr Dung



Drums / Guitar

Mr Davis




Ms Yen




Ms Ha



Guitar / Ukulele

Mr Aaka





Mr Sau




Mr Hoi




Violin / Viola

Ms Huong




Ms Ly




BIS Community Service Update 

Supporting Vulnerable Families During the Summer Lockdown


As Vietnam experienced a surge in Covid-19 community transmission cases over the summer and imposed lockdown restrictions in Ho Chi Minh City, the situation became especially difficult for those in the more vulnerable communities.  Many lost their jobs and therefore their primary source of income and were unable to cover basic expenses such as food and rent.

Our community partner Planète Enfants & Développement (PE&D), who has social workers situated in these communities, identified 100 families with children under the age of 6 years in Thủ Đức and Tan Phu districts who were in desperate need of support.  In the beginning of June 2021 PE&D  reached out to the BIS Community Service department with a request to join them in funding the purchase and distribution of food packages.

We would like to thank the entire BIS community who have supported various events over the past two years such as the Community Book Sales, Community Clothing Swaps, Miscellaneous Parent Donations as well as the Virtual Community Quiz; we were able to pool the cash on hand to support the purchase of 100 food parcels which included: 

● 2 bags of rice (10kg)

● 1 box of instant noodle (30 packs)

● 1 bottle of cooking oil (1l)

● 1 pack of sausage (160g)

● 1 bag of sugar (1kg)

● 1 bottle of fish sauce (900ml)

● 2 tins of fish (310g)

● 1 bottle of chili sauce (270g)



In collaboration with the Ho Chi Minh City Association for Children’s Rights Protection (HACRP), PE&D began the challenging task of arranging for the food to be distributed while ensuring that the 5K safety guidelines were complied with.  They also set up a hotline to support the beneficiaries and a flyer was printed out and attached to each of the packages with information on how to obtain support.


This is an ongoing project and we would encourage you to be on the lookout for more information which will be sent out by a group of Year 12 students who have adopted this cause and campaign as their IBDP CAS Project.  There will be opportunities for all to become involved.

Tracey Brownrigg

Co-Curricular Coordinator and Community Service Project Manager

Secondary Parent Handbook

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We would like to share with you the Secondary Parent Handbook which contains lots of useful information about school life.  With everything from lesson times to contact details, Student Values to curriculum information and everything in between, we hope that you will find this a useful resource for any of your everyday questions.   

If you require any information after reading this, please remember that you can contact us directly. 

As always, If you have any queries related to your child’ learning please  contact your child’s Form Tutor or Head of Year. 

For any issues or queries relating to the wider educational provision at BIS, please contact myself at sean.oneill@bisvietnam.com. I and my colleagues on the Senior Leadership Team are all here to help and will be happy to arrange a conversation. 

BIS Student Expectations During Virtual Learning



Guide to Learning Technology during Virtual Learning

At BISHCMC, students and teachers alike benefit from a technology-rich learning environment, both in virtual and face-to-face school. In order to support students and parents navigate the range of applications and platforms used to support learning, we have created a support guide, the link to which you will find below. 

For families new to BISHCMC there is also a short introductory video to Google Classroom, a cornerstone of our learning technology provision. Within the guide, you will find the email addresses of colleagues and teams who can support your child with any questions or concerns relating to learning technology and virtual school.

Youtube - Intro to Google Classroom

Secondary Students - Learning Tech Guide 

Meet the New Teachers

We are delighted to welcome an incredibly talented and experienced team of teachers to the Secondary Campus this year. Here is the second in our “Meet the New Teacher” Series:

Today's teachers

​​Nadine Mneimne


BSc Double Major Mathematics and Biology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

PGCE Education with distinction, University of Nottingham, UK

Nadine joined BIS in August 2021. She has been teaching Mathematics, in the United Arab Emirates, for 13 years in different British and IB schools. She is deeply committed to doing what she loves: teaching every child to empower themselves. By nature, she takes on challenges with the firmly held belief that there is always a solution to them; that notion comes from the love she has for Mathematics and she tries her best to pass that on to her students.

One of the greatest gifts that brings her joy, is seeing her students develop into engaged thinkers who are capable of truly understanding the subject and applying it to the real world. To see the students’ morale and self-confidence boosted is what drives her passion for teaching. By ascertaining their inner abilities and discovering what truly inspires them, she aims to instil a love of learning and a desire for constant knowledge within her students.

Her personal goal is to encourage student progress, self-discipline and reinforce a good attitude towards their learning inside and outside of the classroom. It has been an exciting challenge in the past few years to take part in Week without walls where she was able to push students through different Service as action activities to think of new and creative ways to give back to the community. It is truly rewarding for her to help in promoting students to increase their cooperativeness, personal fulfillment, motivation and kindness as well as their well-being.

Nadine loves to explore nature and the outdoors and is often found camping, hiking and going on adventures. She also enjoys cardio, playing squash, ping pong and the djembe.

Where have you moved to BIS from?

Dubai, UAE

Why did you move to BIS?

Because I wanted to gain more experience in an international school that is known for its holistic approach to learning and teaching. Also, I love Vietnam and look forward to getting to know more about the culture.

What has been the best experience for you since arriving in Vietnam?

Best experience has been meeting with my Maths team. They are hilarious, kind and efficient.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.

I love to play the djembe and ping pong.

Daniel Crittenden 



Dan Crittenden – Physics Teacher BIS Profile

MPhys (Hons) Physics, University of York

PGCE Science (Physics), University of Cambridge

MEd Physics Education, University of Cambridge

Dan joined BIS in August 2021, having previously taught at Saffron Walden County High School for 5 years where he was Assistant Director of Sixth Form. In this role Dan had responsibility for super-curricular provision, outreach, year 11 into 12 transition and worked as part of the year 12 pastoral team. Dan has a keen interest in physics teacher pedagogy and held a yearly secondment with the Institute of Physics as a coach for non-specialist teachers of physics, has delivered CPD at ResearchED and the University of Cambridge, and completed a Master’s degree in student’s attitudes towards physics. Outside of school Dan can be found hiking in pretty places, running very short distances, and playing classical guitar.

Where have you moved to BIS from?

Cambridge, UK

Why did you move to BIS?

The opportunity to travel more easily in Southeast Asia and to work in an international context.

What has been the best experience for you since arriving in Vietnam?

Watching the sunset, as the bats were flying around, from my new balcony.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.

I am never happier than being outside enjoying a beautiful view be it hiking, running, cycling or wild swimming. I also enjoy singing, play guitar quite well and the banjo terribly (but I'm learning).

Fiorella Balbuena


Licence in Secondary Education, Specialising in Spanish Language and Literature, Instituto Pedagógico Monterrico, Peru

Master in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language,

University of Alcala, Spain

Fiorella joined BIS Secondary in 2021 after working 6 years in Primary Campus. Fiorella has worked as a Spanish Literature Teacher in international schools in Lima as well as teaching as a Pedagogical Institute.

She has taken part in educational projects training teachers in less developed areas of Lima and creating resources to teach Literature in Secondary schools.

Fiorella is an IB examiner in Spanish A: Language and Literature since 2014. She is currently finishing a Doctorate in Sociolinguistic Studies.

Passionate about Literature, she particularly admires Mario Vargas Llosa. Fiorella also enjoys boxing, dancing Salsa and running.

Where have you moved to BIS from?

From BIS Primary Campus

Why did you move to BIS?

I want to continue to develop my career as a teacher in Secondary in a marvellous school, with high standards and lots of exciting challenges.

What has been the best experience for you since arriving in Vietnam?

This is my 7th year in Vietnam. My favourite thing to do is to walk around Saigon, discovering little cafes hidden away and admiring the architecture.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.

My passion is Literature. I love to read novels and stories, particularly 20th Century Latin American literature. I organise a book club for Spanish-speaking people in Saigon and participate in another book club in Lima. I love to dance Salsa y Merengue and I am learning Flamenco. I love boxing and running, particularly ultra-trail marathons.

Virtual Co-Curricular Activities Term 1


For more information about our first provision of virtual clubs for Term 1, please read the full details in the weekly section above.  

Event Details

Clubs Schedule: Monday 13th September to Sunday 17th October 

Club times: two sessions each afternoon from 2:50pm – 3:50pm and from 3:55pm - 4:55pm and some during lunchtimes.

Sign Up: using SchoolsBuddy and instructions have been provided to students through email and the CCA Booklet.

Music and Sports Co-Curricular Activities

We are excited to share the additional details for music and sporting activities above.  The Sign up for Sports CCAs for Season 1 will be coming soon.

The contact details for individual instrumental lessons can be found both above and in the CCA Booklet.  In addition, the details for choir auditions can be found in the CCA Booklet.

We hope to see many of our students taking part.

College and University Guidance Webinars 

The College and University Guidance team are pleased to continue our program of Virtual University Visits. We have already arranged 3 for September with more to come. These events are open to all secondary students and their parents. See below with a link to the registration form for each event.

Forthcoming Virtual University Visits.

Thursday September 2nd 2021. 3pm-4pm VN time.   “Pathways to becoming a Doctor in the US or the UK”

Follow this link to register for the above event.

Wednesday September 8th 2021. 3pm-4pm VN time. “Study in Ireland”

Follow this link to register for the above event.

Tuesday September 14th 2021. 4pm-5pm VN time. “US application essay advice session”

Follow this link to register for the above event.

Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd September 2021: School closed - National holidays

Thursday September 2nd 2021. 3pm-4pm VN time. “Pathways to becoming a Doctor in the US or the UK”

Follow this link to register for the above event.

Wednesday September 8th 2021. 3pm-4pm VN time. “Study in Ireland”

Follow this link to register for the above event.

Tuesday September 14th 2021. 4pm-5pm VN time. “US application essay advice session”

Follow this link to register for the above event.


Have a wonderful weekend,

Kind regards,


Sean O’Neill
Head Teacher, Secondary Campus