It is my very great pleasure to welcome you to another year at the British School of Beijing, Shunyi (BSB) and, for those of you who are new to the school, a very warm welcome to the BSB family. I used to worry whether I use the word ‘family’ too much when I am talking about our school, but that is very much what we aim to be and I hope you will be extremely happy during your time with us. Please feel free to pop in at any time if there is anything you need to discuss – my office is right beside the front door and it will always be good to see you.
We welcome approximately 230 new students to the school this year to replace the approximately 200 who left in the summer (as with all international schools, it is normal that we have a regular turnover of students each year due to the nature of parents’ employment contracts). I am delighted to say therefore that we are experiencing moderate growth which will enable us to continue to provide the very best that we can for our children. We also welcome a number of new teaching staff and these will be introduced to you in the first full newsletter of the term (although you may have already seen their profiles on the website or indeed on Facebook).
As you will have doubtless heard by now, our examination results last year were fantastic. Two years ago, we had a grave concern about the state of secondary achievement and committed ourselves to radical improvement. I am delighted to say that, although we saw some great gains in 2014, 2015 has been the breakthrough we had been working towards. In this set of results:
91% of all grades were at A*-C (2014 – 84%; 2013 – 65%)
55% of grades were A/A* (2014 – 35%; 2013 – 33%)
46% of students achieved 5 or more A/A* grades (2014 – 24%, results not available for 2013)
These results place us amongst the very best schools and I am particularly delighted as we have stayed true to our philosophy of believing that all our students will achieve best if we are a school for all, and do not use ability tests to select on entry. We do believe that this enables our teachers to teach better, and avoid the danger of becoming an exams factory, and prepares students well for the global world in which we will live, but it is also a philosophy that must be tested by the fire of examination success.
With so many students achieving top A and A* grades, there are so many who have shone, but I would like to mention three in particular, whose achievement would place them at the top of the tree in any school:
Jenny Hwang achieved 12 straight A* grades
Emily Liu achieved 11 A* and one A
Tony Choi achieved 10 A* and one A
These achievements are quite phenomenal and a real testament to the wonderful talent and commitment of each and every student, the support of their dedicated parents, and outstanding hard work and professionalism of their teachers. It is something of which we can all be justifiably very proud.
However, you know us well enough to know that we will not rest on this and we believe we can do better yet. Our teachers’ first reaction was to be overjoyed (rightly) but their second reaction, swiftly afterwards, was to look at ways of improving where there were slight shortfalls, or where individual students didn’t do quite as well as they hoped. We will continue to look for those ‘marginal gains’ in everything we do.
It’s been a busy summer at school, as it always seems to be, with a lot of investment in our buildings to keep us where we need to be. Please do come and have a look when you are in school – the major works have been a complete refurbishment of the Teddies area, to complete the work on our Early Years corridor, the construction of a specialist pool for Early Years and a much better viewing area for the swimming pool, a new sandwich and snack bar on the third floor for Secondary students, and a new multi-purpose room on the lower floor between the swimming pool and the theatre, as the first phase of our extension project, and giving us a fantastic new space for play and performance. Alongside this, there has been quite a lot of refurbishment and redecoration, the biggest of which has been the complete overhaul of the dining room and the multi-purpose room to make them really pleasant and attractive spaces. I very much hope that our students have enjoyed seeing the changes in their first week back at school.
May I thank you for your support so far with our new ‘smart card’ parent ID system. This is the first stage of some more ambitious plans to aid both security and organisation:
- The new parent ID cards will be used to register with security in school and next year we will be introducing automatic security doors for that purpose;
- Students in the Secondary school will be able to load money onto their ID cards for purchases at the new snack bar and, eventually, other purposes in school. In the future, we also intend to use these cards, in Primary and Secondary , for library, buses etc, and for printing from mobile devices;
- Staff cards will be used for access to secure areas in addition to the above.
The safety of our children is of course our number one priority and we feel that this is a real move forward in this area. Please do remember to collect your card, and any you need for ayis, drivers etc. from School Reception as soon as you can.
You may have also seen in the Foyer a poster detailing the new education ‘philosophy’ that has been adopted by Nord Anglia Education – Be Ambitious. I was privileged to be invited to be part of a group of Principals who worked on this initiative. There was a strong feeling that our previous philosophy was excellent in principle, and in the idea that every child can achieve the highest levels in every field if we provide the correct motivation and support, and with the highest aspirations and expectations – but that the underpinning structures of this philosophy were over-complicated and hard to understand for many people. We have therefore retained all the principles but made it much more straightforward and relevant to children of all ages. What we will not lose is the practice of relentlessly talking with each other, and with children, about the characteristics of highly effective learning, as this is what we believe has underpinned our successful academic drive. Please take a few moments to acquaint yourself with the ‘Be Ambitious’ ideas (click here to view on our website) and don’t hesitate to contact me with any comments or queries.
Attached to this letter, you will find a letter written jointly by the Heads of the four largest international schools in Beijing. As you know, there was a really unnerving time earlier in the year when students from another international school were arrested and imprisoned for possession and use of drugs. Rather than only approach this on an individual school basis, my colleagues and I have decided to adopt, at least partially, a combined approach. Please do read the letter and feel free to join the meeting if you would like. It is obviously aimed more at the parents of secondary age children, but the information is relevant to us all. We are very fortunate that we don’t experience serious drugs issues at BSB, but we need to all remain committed to keeping it that way.
As I write, I have had the honour to be present at the Einschulung for the Klasse 1 students in the 2015 German Primary School intake. This is a wonderful tradition in Germany, where the first day of school is a very significant celebration for the family. I hope that all our children have had an equally joyous experience of the first day of the new year.
I wish you every success for the coming year, and looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible in the coming days and weeks.
With very best wishes