Dear Parents and Friends
We come to the end of another busy and highly successful term at school, during which we have seen our students and the rest of our community shine in so many ways. Even in the past two weeks, when there have also been some difficult times, our family’s willingness to work together to help each other has been quite remarkable.
The word ‘life-changing’ is overused but there is no doubt that for many of our Year 12 students who went to Tanzania, it is wholly appropriate. Once again, they threw themselves into the community projects and I know that many of them are already looking at ways to continue their involvement. This trip has influenced so many, and I am very proud indeed to be associated with students who are so generous of spirit and give of their energies so freely to help others.
Which can also be said very openly of our Parents’ Association, who once again created for us a ‘Santa’s Secret Shop’ which was incredible fun, and memorable, but also highly educational, as our youngest children learnt, for some for the first time, to handle money and make shopping choices, as well as to develop independence. The amount of work that goes into this is unbelievable, with the shopping, the wrapping, and the time spent here on the actual opening days, and I am just so grateful to the entire team of ladies and gentleman who helped, led exceptionally ably by Pearly Goh and Doris Nestler. They also very firmly but politely ensured their Principal was not allowed to shop before the appropriate time on Thursday!
Last Saturday, I had the immense privilege to attend the under 12 volleyball tournament hosted at BSB, for over 40 teams from across Beijing. It was a fantastic tournament, played in a friendly but competitive spirit, and is a huge credit to all those young people and their families, but also to our own team of staff, who willingly give up almost every Saturday (and quite a few Sundays) to ensure that sport continues not only to flourish, but to grow. Likewise our Music Team, who have now performed in 6 hotels and malls, as well as the usual round of in-school Christmas events. Our school would not be the place it is without the dedication of these colleagues, and we thank them for it.
We have also seen two very different events in music and drama which have been quite astounding. Firstly, last Wednesday and Thursday, we had the Year 5/6 production of ‘The Pen of Shakespeare’. There was a deliberate decision this year to make the Primary productions more stretching by joining two year groups together, and it certainly achieved this end, as our students came together, led brilliantly by their team of teachers and TAs, to produce a play that was the best quality I have seen in BSB Primary since I came in 2013. The complex language was delivered highly skilfully by the students (many of whom do not of course have English as their first language), and there were numerous high quality singing and dancing episodes to keep the audience entertained during quite a long and ambitious production. I’m sure all those who came to watch would add their congratulations to my own.
Then, on Friday 4 December, it was the turn of Secondary House Music. This is an event the like of which I had quite honestly never seen before coming to BSB, and probably one of the events which sums up the spirit of the BSB family. The phrase ‘Be Ambitious’ could never be more appropriate – almost every student in the Secondary School singing, dancing and acting in a show of enormous quality, and an even higher standard than last year. The Vikings just came out on top, beating the Saxons by three points (out of over 300 points).
On a less good note, we have been hit in the past two weeks by few days of really terrible pollution and then the school closure, following Government advice this week. This was a very difficult decision to make, particularly as the notification for the first day came late in the evening, and we had to balance disruption for parents (some of whom may not have received the message) against following the Government directive. This is why we decided to run buses on Tuesday but advise students to remain at home, whilst keeping a staff presence.
We are as committed as ever to making our school safe for our children. We had independent consultants in school during the morning of Tuesday 1 December (the worst day) who checked all our classrooms. The worst reading they had was approximately 90 and almost all classrooms were below 35. After Christmas, with the help of some parents, we are arranging for the monitoring team from Tsinghua University to do an even more detailed survey. Our consultants have also been tasked with seeking further ways to improve air quality on top of the improvements already made in the past two years.
We did have an issue in the main reception area and some corridors, in the first two pollution days, because it was such a busy period with Santa’s Secret Shop, productions, and many other activities around the school. This led to huge usage of these circulation areas, which did mean that the air quality became unacceptable at several stages during the day. We value very much that we are an open school, with parents coming and going throughout the day, and we don’t want to change that, but in hindsight I maybe should have rearranged these events for those days. We are going to review our entire policy on entrances and exits in the next few weeks (you will have seen our first trials of that on Monday this week when we very much limited the doors in use) and aim to publish a revised policy, along with an AQI ‘handbook’ in the New Year.
And so we reach the holidays, and may I wish each and every one of you a very happy, enjoyable and above all Christmas break, and the best possible start to 2016. I look forward to seeing you all again soon.
With my best wishes