Nord Anglia Education
Nord Anglia
03 May, 2019

‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.’

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This quote is attributed to Epictetus, a Greek philosopher who spent his youth as a slave in Rome before gaining freedom after the death of Nero, under whom he served until around 60 AD.

His words still ring true today and are a timely reminder in a world where some of our leaders espouse their views so quickly via social media without really thinking through the repercussions of what they’ve actually said.  The same is true within our school community and we encourage our students to listen and learn from each other in group situations during lessons.

Perhaps, through reading my blog or attending events at the school, you may think that I also do a lot of speaking.  Maybe even too much! However, I’d like to reassure you that listening is also very important to me and my team of staff, in terms of responding to the needs of our pupils and your concerns or questions, to try to ensure that the children in our care are safe, happy and thrive. 

Communication is vital in ensuring that we are aware of your observations, thoughts, ideas and suggestions.  Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences (SPTCs) are good examples of where open, three-way conversations focused on the progress of your son or daughter, requires excellent communication skills.  By the end of the short amount of time that the three protagonists have to spend together, the trio need to have listened carefully to each other. There needs to be an agreed set of outcomes that are desirable, as well as, a method of achieving those outcomes (a plan of action) and an agreement on the resources required to succeed.  Year 13 students had their SPTC last week.  The stakes are very high at this level.  Questions included “What is my prediction in this subject?”; “What do I need to do to improve my IA in this subject?”; “How do I revise this topic?” and “What should I include in my personal statement for university?” I’m confident that the teachers will have listened to the questions asked of them and hope that the advice given, and future support offered (the action plan), were useful and have helped your child to progress in the areas identified.

The stakes are no less high in Year 7 and our SPTC on Monday will no doubt have a focus on supporting your child in settling in to the secondary school.  We’ve tried hard to make the transition as smooth as possible from the primary school through the events we held in Year 6; through Orientation Day, by easing the homework into student timetables slightly later than other year groups and through our KS3 Information Evening.  However, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily have been a smooth and easy process for all of our children and I imagine that many of the conversations that take place will focus on how many of our children in Year 7 are actually finding the adjustment a challenge.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that we’re now five weeks into a full term, with ECAs taking place every night (and early morning) of the week, as well as the adjustment to full homework timetables.  Some of them are now tired and the demands of staying organised with deadlines, remembering equipment and PE kit, iPads, locker keys, library books and textbooks may be daunting to some.  By working together as staff and parents, by listening to their concerns, I hope that we’re all able to support them effectively.  Of course, there’ll also be a lot to celebrate in terms of their successes in this first half of the term – all pupils will receive their first report of the year next week and this will be a time for our youngest students in the secondary school to reflect upon the journey that they’ve made in the last six and-a-half weeks.

This week I was fortunate to meet with our very hardworking team of Room Parent Coordinators.  These are the kind volunteers who help to keep the communication channels open between school and home. We’re a large school and with so many opportunities on offer, the complexity of organisation and information exchange means that the help we receive from the Room Parents in sending out reminders about events shown on our school calendar, as well as, the support in guiding parents to the right staff in school for support, is invaluable.  It’s also a group which helps to channel your concerns and thoughts, and an opportunity for me to gain a better understanding of these and think together about the next steps in addressing these.

Our meeting this week was open, honest and healthy.  It was extremely valuable listening to the feedback from parents via this network of volunteers and to discuss issues such as traffic safety, Computer Science, the school’s air pollution policy, letters to parents and university information and advice.  I’d also like to add my own appreciation as this is a group that brings ideas and suggestions, support and advice: challenging BISS to listen and live up to our collective vision of ‘Being Ambitious’ for our students.

Andrew Lancaster, Head of Secondary