It is a very exciting time in the history of the British International School, Ho Chi Minh City. The opening of the BIS Early Years and Infant Campus in January 2018, will bring together all members of the BIS community into one place for the first time.
Having been designed to be the first green LOTUS school in Vietnam, the building has many features to ensure that its carbon footprint is minimised including a green roof, a central atrium to allow air circulation and shaded windows to the south side of the building to prevent the build-up of heat. It is good to know that our school will contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of creating sustainable cities and communities. Attaining the green LOTUS status will be a wonderful achievement, however, it is secondary to achieving the goal that Einstein referred to, namely, creating the best conditions for great learning.
We recognise that in order to achieve the success that we do with iGCSEs and IB, it is essential that the foundations for learning are secure. The structure of the new ‘Fundinotots’ area for children under 2 years, which adjoins the sunken courtyard, is nearing completion. This area will be more than a place for children to play; it will be a focal point of the community where new mums and dads can introduce their children to the school environment, but also be a place where they can get support and advice about raising children.
The ground floor of the new building is exclusively for Foundation Stages 1 and 2 (age 2 to 4). Rather than the children learning in classrooms, we know that at this age, a play-based approach will provide the opportunity to develop the 3 prime areas; communication and language, physical development, and personal, social and emotional development. Learning spaces are shared across the year group with outdoor learning environments designed to extend learning in all the prime areas within easy access.
Each teacher, supported by our fabulous team of teaching assistants, will create opportunities for the children to develop across all 7 areas of the Early Years Framework. Activities on offer vary daily and are driven primarily by the children’s interests. Whilst the children are engaged, the teachers and teaching assistants continually assess each child’s learning against age related expectations. Photos, videos and notes are uploaded to ‘Tapestry’, an online platform specifically designed for assessment in the early years and to enhance the parent partnership which is so important during this phase of a child’s development. Tapestry allows our teachers to build up an individual profile of each child, and then design a personalised programme to meet their needs. These practices are fully embedded within BIS, so when the new campus opens, the transition for the pupils will be seamless. The use of Tapestry is highly dependent on using mobile technology so the new campus has full Wi-Fi coverage to allow for the learning to be captured whether the children are in one of the large shared learning spaces, or outside in the ‘mud kitchen’.
The outdoor areas of the new campus are more than simply playgrounds – they are outdoor classrooms. Although principally designed to enhance physical development with a sensory walkway, cycle tracks, sand, water, and climbing and crawling areas, in addition, the opportunities to explore their understanding of the world are all around. Mark-making areas surrounded by the natural environment, will provide the stimulus for the children’s initial stages of writing. In addition to the areas adjoining the learning areas on the ground floor, the roof space is also a learning area with shelters for making dens, a climbing wall and plenty of natural grass, contributing to the eco-friendly nature of the school.
From the sunken courtyard to the rooftop outdoor learning area, from the library designed with features that will engage younger readers, to the sports hall and auditorium with the movable partition to create separate spaces, every part of the building has been designed to provide the best conditions for our children’s learning.
Ian Battersby, Head of Tu Xuong Campus