As I highlighted in last week’s newsletter we are trying a new style of communication to enable parents to sort through the mountain of information that comes out of school. You will continue to receive a newsletter every two weeks but, instead of writing a long piece in the newsletter, I will write a Principal’s letter on the alternate weeks. We will trial this for a while and see if it works better; if it doesn’t, we will go back to the old system.
Snapshot review by Nord Anglia Education
Firstly, I am delighted to report that, in the week before the holidays, we had a visit from an inspection team from Nord Anglia Education, as part of their regular system of monitoring the school. The last time they came, two years ago, they were pleased to see that the school was on track to achieving the academic improvements that were very much needed at the time, but obviously they were concerned to see whether these would be maintained.
I am delighted to report that, after two days of rigorous inspection, their conclusion was that the teaching and learning they saw here at BSB was amongst the very best they had seen in any of the Nord Anglia schools they had visited, that the behaviour, manners and ethos shown by the students were second to none, and that the spirit of family and community was quite exceptional. One of the inspectors commented that the best test of a school was whether he would want to send his own children there, and he said that, in the case of BSB ‘he would be beating down the door to get in’! They did, of course, work with us to identify some areas for improvement and also any issues – one of the consistent issues raised by parents and students was the cost of overseas sports trips and the difficult choices around participation – and particularly wanted us to evaluate very carefully the impact of the new curriculum changes in the Primary School following the changes in the UK. We will be putting together an action plan over the coming weeks. As I have said on numerous occasions in the past, we know that as a school we can only be good if we always believe we can do better; every child deserves that of us.
Mr Philip Allman
Sadly, my second item this week is bad news for us, although fully understandable for these members of our family. It is the nature of international schools that teachers move on after a few years. At BSB, we have been very fortunate in retaining most of our teachers for at least three or four years (more than the average) but we still have to face up to this reality that teachers get promoted or simply want to experience other parts of the world – despite the next point I make, this is also particularly influenced by issues such as air quality. But it is always especially sad when a senior colleague leaves so am very sorry indeed to inform you that Mr Phil Allman, our Head of Primary School, will leave BSB in August 2016. He has done a really great job for the school in the time with us but, as some parents will know, his wife has experienced quite a lot of poor health and they have also had health issues in the family back home in the UK. He really feels, with great sadness, that his first responsibility is rightly to them so he is moving closer to the UK. I know he will miss us, and we will miss him.
However, I am delighted to say that we have already recruited a very high quality replacement for Mr Allman, in Mrs Nonie Adams. Mrs Adams has been Primary Headteacher of the Nord Anglia Education school at Regents, Pattaya, for the past ten years. She is vastly experienced and has done an outstanding job in developing a school that is very similar to our own Primary School, and I think she will be a fantastic addition to the BSB team. I am certain that parents and students will really like her, and I am particularly pleased to announce that you will have an opportunity to meet her soon. She is paying a visit to BSB on Wednesday 6 April for a planning day with us so we should like to invite parents for coffee and pastries at 8.45 am that day – it will be mainly informal but I will ask Mrs Adams just to say a few words to introduce herself and what she believes in. Please do feel free to join us.
Air quality good news
We know that it has been a quite remarkable winter but I have recently checked and found the news that you may have already seen if you have access to Facebook. Since we returned to school in January, we have not had one single day where the majority of the school has had to remain inside and only five days where our youngest children (where we set a lower limit) have had to remain inside for at least some of their breaks. Compared to previous January/February periods, this is amazing and I do believe it is a real sign that the air quality in Beijing is improving, and perhaps more rapidly than we dared believe. I am certain we will still have some bad days from time to time, and we will continue to robustly develop our facilities and our policies to deal with this, but, as we have said on our social media posts, Beijing really is a great place to be when the air is good!
Power cable update
As promised, we have continued to very closely monitor the installation of the replacement power cables on the road outside school. All the evidence we received is that these are still scheduled to be replacements for the current power cables, of the same voltage, but further away from school. We will continue to press and make sure that this is the case. In the middle of March, there will be a TEMPORARY pylon installed in New Talent Academy grounds to hold the cables whilst the final pylons are built, including the one in our car park (they cannot build the pylons until the cables are moved for safety reasons) and by the middle/end of April the cables will all be transferred to the new cables and the cables which have been near to our school since it was built will be finally removed. Whatever the outcome, we will of course then continue to measure and monitor the electromagnetic field to ensure that the environment is totally safe for our children.
Just in case you have missed them in the huge numbers of events happening in March, there are several really important events coming up in school, amongst many others:
· ‘Primary Matters’ information morning and workshop – 8.45 am Wednesday 2 March. Mr Allman and I will update parents on all things Primary and, of course, there will be plenty of chance for feedback and questions
· Return to the Forbidden Planet – Friday 4 March (7 pm) and Saturday 5 March (2pm and 7pm). This year’s school show promises to be one to remember! Bringing together a combination of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ (very loosely!), 1960s Sci-Fi films and great Rock and Roll music, it really is a show not to miss. Tickets are available from the marketing office or in the school foyer.
· The Big Read – Saturday 12 March (11 am – 3 pm). As part of our ‘Portable Magic’ Book Week, a chance to come into school and experience the love of reading with the entire family. There will be story telling for the younger ones, slam poetry, dramatic readings and, above all, just a chance to enjoy books for a day away from distraction.
· Space Week – Monday 14 – Wednesday 16 March. We have the huge privilege of welcoming the UK National Space Academy for three days of master-classes for our students and teachers. On the Tuesday evening at 5 pm there will be a lecture by the Director of the Space Academy, open to parents and our BSB family. Details are available in the foyer or on the website.
· Date for your diary – Principal’s Update Workshops. Finally, a date for your diary. As our Nord Anglia inspection team commented, we have made a lot of changes over the past two years or so at the school and parents have been very kind in telling us that they appreciate the difference. However, through talking with parents and through what we sometimes see posted on social media, it would appear that there is still a very definite need to give parents a ‘progress report’ on what is happening, and to explain our plans for future developments, as well of course to give a chance for feedback and questions. I therefore plan to hold a ‘Principal’s Progress Report’ meeting on Wednesday 13 April at 8.45 am and 6 pm. More details will follow later in the term and immediately after the Spring Break holiday but please just note the date for now.
Wishing you all a very pleasant weekend and looking forward very much to seeing many of you at all of our many March events.
With best wishes