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Mr Sean O'Neill: Weekly Update 15/01/2021

Sean O’Neill
Sean O’Neill (37 posts) Head Teacher, Secondary Campus View Profile

Dear Parents, 

It gives me great pleasure to share with you news of a hugely successful week of learning on the Secondary Campus. 

The educator Ken Robinson in making his case for creativity in education argued that,

“We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education which is based on linearity and conformity. .. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process–it’s an organic process.. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which children will begin to flourish.”

What it means to create the conditions for children to flourish and how we do it are the fundamental questions facing all schools. For us at BIS,  it means giving our students as many rich opportunities as possible- opportunities that go beyond the traditional classroom. 

Of course, we  value established subject disciplines and the academic rigour that is the foundation of learning, but we also balance this with learning in a broader sense. We show this is in the innovative teaching and learning in each school day and in our commitment to quality co-curricular experiences.

All institutions and communities have their routines and schools more than most- with its timetables and bells, and fixed routines. It is important that we break out of those norms and routines to give a different space for children to learn.

It is great from time to time to do something different.   And I can assure you that walking the campus this week, a difference has been waiting around every corner. Cookery, Community and Canines to Diving, Drama and Drums with  a sprinkling of archery and aromatherapy- it has been a week like no other.

Whether it was working on Creativity , Activity, Service or Sustainability, the common features on display have been our students solving real-world problems together- taking on new challenges, with new people and learning new things. Perhaps what struck me most as I witnessed the learning this week was how much laughter and energy there was around the campus. A real pleasure to witness.

In next week’s update Ms Binnington will share a full review of the week from our students, but for now here is  flavour of a wonderful BIS week from some of our teachers. 

A huge thank you to all our teachers, support staff, students and educational partners that came together in the biggest Week Without Walls yet.


A Taste of our Week WIthout Walls 2021

MIT Challenge

For the MIT Sustainability Challenge, students were asked to develop a product that helped address a global or local issue,  with the following goal - “to change minds, to change actions and try to make it fun”. 

Working in groups, students were given less than two hours to complete their mind altering project and bring their ideas to fruition.  Friday saw a number of well considered inventions and excellent videos, posters and presentations with fun and creative ways to recycle, reuse and even to regrow. As the 8B team stated in their presentation, “Innovation and Collaboration are the key to success”, and to see the whole of Year 7, 8 and 9 engaged in tackling the global issues of our time was genuinely inspirational. Look out for a full showcase of the winning entries in next week’s update.

Mr Luke Dyer, STEAM Coordinator


Outdoor Activities 

Outwards Bound Vietnam

Outward Bound Vietnam brought the great outdoors to us for this Week Without Walls. In a series of active and fun workshops, more than a hundred students studied Interpersonal Communication, Problem Solving and Leadership Skills. With the organisation’s decades of experience abundantly evident, Outward Bound’s professional instructors facilitated a highly engaging learning experience, leaving the students equipped with transferable skills that could change their outlook forever.

Mr Tim English, Mathematics teacher

Juilliard Music & Drama

This week, many of our Year 8 and 9 students were involved in the Juilliard Music and Drama project for Week Without Walls’ . Because we are now in the third year of the Band, Voice and Strings program in KS3 music lessons, every student in Year 8 and 9 can play an instrument or confidently sing, which gives the students an amazing platform to collaborate.

In this session, we focussed on ‘Film Music’. Half of the students worked on presenting a drama piece to go alongside a film track and the other half rehearsed this same piece on their instruments. The piece we used was the famous theme tune to the movie ‘Mission Impossible’. 

At the end of the session, all the students came together to perform and record their final pieces. Successfully performing music and drama live in front of an audience is a difficult duo to pull off, but our students' enthusiasm and perseverance meant we were able to produce really fantastic pieces in the short time that we had. Well done to all those involved, we’ve had a really fun week!

Ms Emma Husband , Assistant Head of Music


Culture Visit

Throughout our Week Without Walls programme, students in Years 7, 8 and 9 enjoyed visiting some lesser-known parts of Ho Chi Minh City. Whether travelling to Thanh Da Island by waterbus and learning more about life on the opposite side of the Saigon River to D2, or attempting to catch a fish and learning more about aquaculture at Dai Nam Farm, we were all reminded how fortunate we are to live in such a vibrant and diverse city. Our students enjoyed practising their Vietnamese with local people and returned to school with lots of exciting stories to tell! 

Mr Lee Falconer, Assistant Head Teacher


Dog Training


Bake Off

Archery Tag


Community Partnerships

Our students were the teachers this week. They planned a diverse range of Arts and Sports activities, created lesson plans and shared their exciting ideas with students from one of our community partners, Poussieres De Vie. Our students showed excellent leadership skills as well as collaboration and provided our visitors with a fantastic day. We were highly impressed with their confidence in explaining and demonstrating the activities and especially proud of our Vietnamese speakers for translating to the students. The PDV students left with tie dyed shirts, Tet gingerbread men, new sports and dance skills and BIG SMILES! 


Scuba Diving

Primary Visit

This time our year 7s became the teachers. They planned an exciting range of Arts and Sports activities for our visiting group of year 2 students from EY&I. It was great to see Secondary’s youngest year group collaborating with the planning, taking the lead and confidently sharing their experiences of “big” school. The year 7s were left feeling rewarded but also exhausted, with some students saying they have a new respect for their teachers who do this every day. 

Ms Savannah Craig, Art Teacher



Poetry & Percussion

The Performance Poetry and Percussion session began with the students listening to and watching performance poetry by Harry Baker and Kate Tempest, two poets who began their careers whilst still in school. The students then read a selection of fables and legends from different cultures and discussed these as a group. Each group chose one fable, to use as a springboard into a free-writing task, which is used to create a group narrative or poem that will be performed. After a drum circle, to acquaint everyone with various kinds of percussion, the groups are allocated some time to create their own performance poems. And before we know it, each group has creatively collaborated, performed percussively and hopefully has a sense of accomplishment!

Mr Owen McDevitt, Head of Year 10 and English Teacher


Props Decoration

Year 7, 8 and 9 students threw themselves wholeheartedly into the prop-building and set-design tasks this week in preparation for the school production of Bonny & Clyde later this year. A lot of teamwork, ingenuity, problem-solving and creativity was involved, together with whole days of physical effort in painting, cleaning, moving and transforming bland panels of wood and cardboard depicting backdrops from the 1930s. Students took away new skills like dry-brushing wood grain effects, paper-mache, cardboard modelling, machine cut props, and hopefully a whole lot of excitement to see their hard work, and art work, on display as part of the major annual school production.

Ms Yolanda Cottrell - Academic English Assistant 


Healthy Cooking

Grand Prix F1

Precious Plastics


“Self-Care” during Week Without Walls

Throughout the course of ‘Week Without Walls’ students in Year 7-9 had an opportunity to experience a range of self-care activities specifically designed to promote positive wellbeing.

Mr Alexander, Head of Middle Secondary (Pastoral & Wellbeing), shares more about them and why these particular activities, building on Martin Seligman’s “PERMAH'' framework, were a great choice for ‘Self- Care’ during Week Without Walls.



Mock IBDP & IGCSE Examinations 

A huge congratulations to our Year 11 and Year 13 students for successfully completing their IGCSE and IBDP Mock Examinations this week.

As I write this week’s update, the mock examinations are drawing to a close and the exam hall is empty.  My congratulations to all our students for the exemplary approach they have shown sitting this series of mock examinations. The Mock examinations are designed to give an authentic experience in preparation for the final  examinations in May & June this year, and allow each student to gain feedback in each subject area which they use to shape their studies in the term ahead.  In conversations I have  had with the Year 11 and Year 13 students this week,  it has been great to hear how they have supported each other and gained from the Mock experience. My thanks to all  Year 11 and Year 13 parents for your support in ensuring your  sons and daughters were so well prepared and ready for  the challenge of this week. 

Virtual Young Musician of the Year 2021 

Calling all of our young musicians.  You have been invited to share your passion and creativity with all of us in the NAE global community.  

Read the poster above and if you are interested, speak to your music teacher for details about how to enter.  We look forward to hearing some performances from many of our talented students.


Be involved

PTG Newcomers Bus Tour  

We had a great morning well spent with new parents of all 3 campuses on our bus tour on Tuesday 12th Jan. The response was amazing with 26 parents attended. There were a few little ones who joined too. Our bus was totally packed and all seats were taken.

We had our 2 members from PTG Secondary, Gayatri and LG together with PTG members from EY and JC escorting the newcomers.

The bus tour started from EY campus and parents were introduced to Thao Dien area on grocery outlets, restaurants as well as gifts and other shopping outlets.

We proceeded then to D1 to Ben Thanh market, Saigon Square, as well as some historical sights i.e. The Notre Dame Cathedral, Independence Palace, the 150 year old Tan Dinh Church or better known as the Pink Church and the fabric market in Hai Ba Trung, D3.

On the way back, we had a 30 minutes stop in Landmark 81 where most were happy to stretch their legs, had refreshments and even some quick shopping done.

We ended the tour with a set lunch at the Estella Place and then back to EY campus at 2pm in time to pick the children. Throughout the whole bus trip, there were non-stop chatters amongst the new found friends!  Thank you EY and JC PTG members Gayatri and Jana for organising this tour.


LG Brackenbury, Secondary PTG

Community Choir Rehearsals Term 2



On Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd January, the BIS HCMC Community Choir will resume rehearsals.  BIS HCMC Community Choir are a group of singers made up from parents and staff from the British International School, HCMC. We regularly rehearse each Thursday (7.00- 7.45am) in the Secondary Theatre and Friday (1.15 - 2.15pm) in the Junior Campus multi-purpose room, and aim to perform each term.  Anyone is welcome, whatever your experience of singing.


On Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd January, the BIS HCMC Community Choir will resume rehearsals.  BIS HCMC Community Choir are a group of singers made up from parents and staff from the British International School, HCMC. We regularly rehearse each Thursday (7.00- 7.45am) in the Secondary Theatre and Friday (1.15 - 2.15pm) in the Junior Campus multi-purpose room, and aim to perform each term.  Anyone is welcome, whatever your experience of singing.

More information can be found on our choir website here or contact Ian.alexander@bisvietnam.com for further information.


Headteachers Coffee Morning & Parent Workshop 


I am delighted we will be hosting the rescheduled Parent Workshop and Coffee Morning on Tuesday 19th January 8:30-10:30am. 


Join Mr Lambert, members of the teaching team and myself in the Secondary Auditorium for a Practical workshop and discussion forum. The morning will include practical activities where you can learn more about how you can support your child to study effectively at home. I  will also share a Campus Update and there will be an opportunity for a general Q&A and a chance to connect with parents and teachers


As limited spaces are available, please complete the form below to confirm your attendance. 


We look forward to welcoming you on the 19th January.


To sign up click here 


Co-Curricular Activities Term 2, 2020-21

The week beginning 25th January 2021 will see the launch of the BIS Secondary Campus’ CCA (Co-Curricular Activities) programme with all non-paid clubs starting.  These will be followed after the Tet holiday with paid clubs commencing the week Monday 22nd February 2021 – all clubs, with the exception of some sporting ones, will run for a total of 8 weeks. 

We are thrilled to be able to offer over 100 different activities each week in the areas of creativity, action, service, sustainability and study support as we continue to challenge our students in different areas of their personal development.

This term we will also be introducing a few new activities to supplement the tried and tested ones normally on offer and many of these will be led by the students.  Of particular note are five Student Leadership clubs which will have senior students enriching the primary CCA programme by providing arts & craft activities to the younger BIS students on the Junior and Early Years Campuses. This is a fantastic opportunity for the students to exercise their leadership skills through mentorship, creativity, responsibility and collaboration.

We look forward to following the progress of each of these clubs and to sharing the feedback and benefits of them as expressed by our students.

School photos week for Secondary Campus

We are happy to advise that we will be partnering with Picture Day, a Hanoi based photography company, this year for school photos.  To find out more about Picture Day please follow the link here.


The Picture Day team will visit each campus on the following dates.

  • Junior Campus – 11-15/01/2021

  • Early Years & Infant Campus – 18-22/01/2021

  • Secondary Campus – 25-29/01/2021


Full details have been sent to all parents this week and students will receive further information about their Form Group photos next week.  In the meantime, if you would like to book a sibling photo session for your children, please use the booking link here.


Dates for your Diary

Tuesday 19th January Headteacher’s Coffee Morning, 8.30am at the Secondary Campus

Tuesday 19th January PTG Meeting, 10.30am at the Secondary Campus

Monday 25th to Friday 29th January Secondary Campus School Photos

Monday 8th February to Friday 19th February Tet Holiday 


Have a wonderful weekend,

Kind regards,

Sean O’Neill

Head Teacher

Secondary Campus