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Mr Sean O'Neill: Weekly Update 01/10/2021

Sean O’Neill
Sean O’Neill (52 posts) Head Teacher, Secondary Campus View Profile

Dear BIS Community, 

As we arrive at this weekend, I know we are all  heartened to  finally  reach the end of this period of lockdown. I am so proud of every one of our students and teachers who have each  worked so hard to achieve great learning every day throughout this challenging period.

Since the start of this year, the support and engagement of our parent body has been so important to what we have achieved together. Thank you. It was  fantastic to be joined by so many parents  at this week’s webinar “- A Window into Virtual Learning” held on Wednesday.  If you missed the webinar which showcased the tools and approaches  BIS teachers are using in our Virtual classrooms then please click on the link in the update below. 

We have a number of upcoming events in our “Parent Partnership series” this term. Please join us for our next  Webinar , “Digital Wellbeing: supporting your Child to make Positive Choices “- next Tuesday 5th October, also find below details of how you can join Parent social events organised by our PTG. The aim of these events  is both connecting our BIS community and raising much needed funds for our Community parameters who need our support at this time. I hope you can be involved.

In this week’s update we  share examples of the rich and varied learning from across the curriculum and beyond,  as part of our Virtual School Experience -with this week’s focus on the importance of learning discourse and enquiry. The innovation of our teachers and the appetite for learning of our students never ceases to amaze me.  I hope you enjoy reading just a few examples of the great learning that is taking place each day.

As we now move forward to this next period, we can do so with cautious optimism  and gratitude to all the people who have worked so hard to keep our community safe. There is now much to look forward to as we take the next steps on the path to being back  in school together. 

My thanks once again for your support.

With best wishes to you all for a wonderful weekend with your families.

Sean O’Neill

Virtual Learning: The power of language

“Without language, thought is vague, uncharted nebula.”Ferdinand de Saussure


Enter any classroom at BISHCMC and you will not just see but also hear ‘learning’. The sound of pens scraping across paper as words fill the pages of students’ exercise books, the squeak of teachers’ whiteboard pens constructing visualisations of learning in diagrams and graphs, and of course, the most beautiful sound of all: speech. The entwined mesh of thought, learning and language usually creates a joyous echo throughout the Secondary Campus. It’s a sound that I hadn’t fully appreciated until teaching from home and, through its absence, poses some interesting questions. How do we re-create the gentle purr of students discussing their learning with one another? What happens to the soft whisper of a teacher guiding a student in their learning? Is the inevitable clang when two students have found a different answer to question 3b now lost forever? 

In recent weeks we have grappled with these questions as a teaching team. Through professional development and the sharing of best practice we have developed and embedded approaches that ensure ‘learning discourse’, the language of learning, thrives during virtual school. It was a pleasure to share some of these techniques with you in our recent Parent Partnership Workshop (the recording is available here if you were unable to join). In short, as we unmute our microphones from the comfort of home, the melody of learning may have changed, but the beat remains strong. The snapshots below hopefully prove to any jury that it has been anything but a quiet week of learning at BISHCMC!

Mr Lee Falconer

Assistant Head Teacher - Teaching and Learning

A Window into Virtual Learning Parent Webinar: Watch Again

If you missed this week’s webinar, please click the image below to watch again. 

Simpson on trial in Year 12 Theory of Knowledge

In year 12 TOK, we are learning about the theme of “knowledge and the knower”. To explore our role as “a knower”, students took part in a mini mock court trial: The state versus Bart Simpson. The jurors had to evaluate whether Bart was guilty of vandalising Principal Skinner’s property. After this hands-on experience, we then explored trickier abstract concepts such as “evidence”, “justification” and “certainty”. Each student assumed a different role, ranging from the defendant (Bart), to witnesses, jurors, lawyers and, of course, the judge. Some students dressed up for their role, looking smart and suited up. Judge Jerome even created a wig from cloth tissue, whilst turning a back massager into a court hammer! The students were fully engaged during the interactive activity and proved to be budding legal experts.

Ms An Gulinck

Head of French and Teacher of ToK

BIS World Languages Day 2021 

On Tuesday 28th September, we held our first virtual BIS World Languages Day. To celebrate internationalism and linguistic diversity, students took part in a house competition, which asked them to say “hello” in a world language of their choice with objects that can be found at home.

The MFL department and the Heads of Houses are very proud of the BIS students’ creativity and research skills. The winners will be announced in due course. In the meantime, here is a snapshot of the wonderful submissions.

Ms Zahraoui, Ms Chou and Ms Gulinck.

Heads of Spanish, Chinese and French.

Slideshow with Hello images


Virtual Learning: Scientific Enquiry

IB Biology Online Evolution Experiment

Year 12s have been studying evolution and natural selection in Biology by focusing on the beaks of the Galapagos Finches. As part of this topic, the students carried out an investigation at home looking at how different “beaks” were more suitable to collect different “seeds”. The Y12s used different eating utensils, such as chopsticks, forks, teaspoons etc to represent a difference in the shape of the beaks of the Galapagos Finches. They used different sized food items to represent different sized seeds. The students then raced against the clock to determine which “beak” was better suited to collect which “seed”. This was an enjoyable way for the students to experience how natural selection can provide an advantage to a certain adaptation.

Year 10 Lessons from Bad Physics in the Movies

Bad Superhero Physics from the Movies - Superman Catches a Plane

Year 10 students have been highly engaged during their online lessons this term, asking fantastic questions, and thinking deeply about their conceptual understanding of the nature of motion, forces and the interactions of matter. This culminated in students being set the challenge of estimating the force required for Superman to stop a plane in a short clip from the 2006, Superman Returns movie. Beware of the spoiler, if you enjoy thinking that Superman could truly exist! 

In the clip, the plane is falling out of the air, with Superman underneath the nose of the plane, stopping the plane within 1 minute. It all seemed too good to be true and worthy of some thinking. What developed was a fantastic conversation that linked ideas about acceleration, gravity, energy, forces, air-resistance, weight, energy, velocity-time graphs, turning force, and how the interactions between two objects occur. It was impressive to see the broad range of suggestions for approaching the problem including:

  • Diagrammatic

  • Mathematical

  • Graphical representations

  • Worded conceptual explanations

The students’ understanding of physics allowed them to use different representations of the same situation and combinations thereof in order to understand the world around them in different ways. Our discussion about the nature of understanding in physics and the ways in which we approximate and represent our world - which will be developed further for those wishing to pursue IB physics - was wonderful! It was clear that our students are continuing to develop their ability to think like physicists, and to do physics on unseen problems, even remotely. 

In case you were interested, the Force we estimated is ENORMOUS! Applying this force over an area the size of two hands would cause a pressure so great that Superman would rip straight through the body of the plane. Not only would the plane be destroyed, but Superman would need to be superhuman to survive the equal reaction force applied back onto him from the plane without it snapping every bone in his body - even if his bones were made from steel! 

Unfairly, it appears that Superman can change the laws of physics on a small scale, and has the ability to alter the mass of objects upon touching them - the only plausible explanation? There is a lot more bad physics from the movies for Year 10 to discuss over the next year!

Dan Crittenden

Physics Teacher 

Year 11 Music Update

Year 11 have been studying Music from different parts of the world this term as part of the IGCSE Music syllabus. This week they focussed on music from India, and worked in small groups to compose and perform short pieces based on improvising around the Raga (melody), Tala (rhythm) and Drone (sustained notes). Elijah Eaton and Michelle Vo performed and recorded this fantastic short piece together, and really managed to capture the essence of a traditional classical Indian piece of music. An amazing example of successful collaboration despite the challenges of not being face to face!


Emma Husband

Assistant Head of Secondary Music

Auditions News


The music department would like to say a massive thank you to all students that submitted a video audition for Orchestra, Chamber Choir or Concert Band.  The standard was extremely high and the music teachers enjoyed listening to a wide mix of pieces.  Please note that we will hold further auditions when we return to school for those without instruments at home or with broken reeds/strings etc.

We are looking forward to our first rehearsal when we return to school and will share some music for you to practice when we are able to get back on campus.

Ian Alexander

Director of Music

Dyslexia Awareness 2021

“This week is our sixth annual Dyslexia Awareness Week! This week is dedicated to celebrating our neurodiversity and the different kinds of minds we have at BIS-HCMC. As in previous years, DAW is not only about being aware of the difficulties but also the strengths associated with Dyslexia. More than ever, we understand that, while Dyslexia affects reading and spelling (among other things), that it also leads to excellent problem-solving and other thinking skills. It is the reason why so many successful and well-known individuals are also Dyslexic.

With our current Virtual School format, the Learning Support Department has teamed up with Mr Thurston (and the W&G team) to make next week’s Wellbeing Menu based around Dyslexia. The Decoding Challenge will be making a return this year but in a slightly different form. To participate in the challenge this year, students are being asked to submit a video of themselves reading a block of scrambled text as quickly as they can. Details will be presented during Wellbeing and the contest will run through October 15th and winners will be announced after the half-term.

We hope that you will join us in raising awareness about Dyslexia and in celebrating the differences in our school community that make BIS such a great place to learn!

Ian Young

Director of Additional Education Needs & Head of Secondary Learning Support

NAE Global Campus 2k Virtual Race

It was a great pleasure to receive so many entries into the NAE Global Campus 2k Virtual Race last week and see so many children from all three campuses submitting evidence of their efforts. Those results have now been sent to Nord Anglia to compare our times with the other students from the NAE schools from around the world.  

The next instalment of this competition is the NAE Global Campus 5k Virtual Race. This event is due to take place from Saturday 16 to Saturday 23 October.

As the distance is significantly longer than the first race, for those of you wishing to enter, I am giving you sufficient time and information to form a training programme for this event.

The event is available to all students from Y1-Y13 and to all fitness levels. If you wish to walk the entirety of the 5k virtual race as a personal challenge and for self-satisfaction then that is fantastic. Please complete it at your own pace and still send me your time.

However, if you would like to attempt to run some or all of the race then I have included information here that may be off help. 

Good luck and stay safe!

Philip Husband

Director of Sport

Blue Dragon Marathon Walk 2021

On behalf of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, we would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in this challenge - your enthusiasm and generosity in support of the event has  been overwhelming!  

We are thrilled to let you know that we raised a total of  VND 129,624,275 which has placed us fourth on the BDCF Top Teams list but most importantly, will be used to save and impact the lives of victims and survivors of human trafficking as well as disadvantaged children nationwide.

Congratulations to the Early Years and Infant Campus who raised the lion’s share of donations! Our youngest students may not have the longest of legs but they certainly have the biggest of hearts and reflect the care we have as a school for our local community.

Blue Dragon would also like to invite you to submit any images together with comments and reflections about your experience by sending them to schools@bdcf.org where they will be published on their ’School’s Corner’ website.  They will be celebrating all the walkers/runners of this year’s event and would so enjoy receiving your thoughts, information of where and how you walked together with photographs and videos.

Thank you again from the BIS Community Service Team

Meet the New Teacher

Kim Kruger - English Teacher

BA: (Hons) English Language and Literature, University of the North West:South Africa

PGCE: Secondary English: University of the North West: South Africa

Kim has been in education since 1992. She was a teacher of English, Librarian, Head of Department and Head of Year whilst in South Africa before moving to Brunei in 2004. After working for the Council of British Teachers, teaching ESL and Literature, she joined the International School, where she taught English Language and Literature, was Pastoral Head of House and Wellbeing Coordinator. Kim is passionate about literature, and has a keen interest in politics, philosophy and pedagogy. She enjoys cooking, listening to music, walks in nature and spending time with her family.

Where have you moved to BIS from?


Why did you move to BIS?

I enjoy new adventures. After living in Brunei for 17 years it was time for a new experience. I have had memorable holidays in Vietnam - I can't wait to learn more about the culture, country and community. I also firmly believe that my children will thrive at BIS; the holistic approach to education resonates strongly with me.

What has been the best experience for you since arriving in Vietnam?

I have been touched by the warm, friendly and supportive welcome our family has received - the BIS community have been amazing!

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.

I am an avid (albeit novice) Birdwatcher.

Nigel Fitzpatrick - Geography Teacher

BSc (Hons) Geography & Sports Science Liverpool University, UK

MSc Sociology of Sport, Leicester University, UK

PGCE Secondary Geography & Physical Education, Loughborough University, UK

Nigel joined BIS HCMC in August 2021. Since completing his PGCE, Nigel has worked in a variety of schools in Europe, Africa, and Asia. With over 20 years of experience, he continues to display a passion for education and learning.  Throughout his teaching career, Nigel has always enjoyed getting involved in the wider school community. He has a keen interest in the International Award, health and safety, and integrating technology into the classroom. He is also a certified first aid instructor and has been involved in delivering first aid training to staff, students and parents. When he gets the opportunity, Nigel enjoys the outdoors, hiking, cycling, scuba diving and has also been known to dabble in off-road motorbike adventures.

Where have you moved to BIS from?


Why did you move to BIS?

A new adventure.

What has been the best experience for you since arriving in Vietnam?

Trying out kite surfing.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.

I jumped out of an airplane at 10,000 feet! 

Francesca Hopkirk - Academic English Assistant

BA Spanish, French and Portuguese at the University of Birmingham, UK

MPhil European and Latin American Comparative Literatures and Cultures at the University of Cambridge, UK

Francesca joined BIS HCMC in August 2021. She is a Spanish, French and Portuguese graduate who has recently been working supporting students in UK Higher Education with their academic skills. Alongside this, she has completed a Master’s degree in European and Latin American Literatures and Cultures at the University of Cambridge, UK.  Francesca previously spent time teaching in Peru, where she also volunteered in the Amazon jungle carrying out zoological surveys.

She enjoys playing football and hopes to one day own a cat.

Where have you moved to BIS from?

Cambridge, UK

Why did you move to BIS?

I moved to BIS because I wanted a new adventure and had never been to Vietnam before! The school seemed like such a welcoming, supportive environment, so it was a great opportunity

What has been the best experience for you since arriving in Vietnam?

Watching the thunderstorms out of my window.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.

I play football and (try!) to do yoga everyday.  

Be involved

Invitation to our Parent Partnership Events

We are delighted to invite all Secondary Parents to a series of Parent Partnership Workshops. Our first events focus on Learning and Wellbeing in a Digital environment. I do hope you can join us.

Tuesday 5th October: Digital Wellbeing - how to support your child in making positive choices: join us for a practical workshop to learn more about social media platforms, digital footprints, gaming and how to balance screen time. Our Senior Leadership, Learning Technologies and Welfare and Guidance teams are looking forward to sharing some tips and resources with you in the interactive session. Follow this link to register.


If you missed our first Parent Partnership online workshop held last Tuesday you can watch the meeting recording here: 

Topic: A Window into Virtual Learning

PTG Welcome Back Coffee & Catch-Up - 7th October

The Secondary PTG would like to invite parents new and old to a brief online catch-up to welcome our new families and see old friends.  We will have a few quick get-to-know-you games, a chat and a chance to ask and answer questions for our new parents.  

The registration email for the catchup has already been sent to all parents during the week.

We look forward to seeing you.

Event Details

Date: Thursday 7th October 

Time: 3pm

Register: here is the link.

PTG Virtual Community Quiz

The next exciting whole school event coming up is the “ PTG Virtual Community Quiz” on 14th October from 5:30-6:30pm. More details will be shared over the coming week. We hope we will get more registrations for this quiz too. Please contact primary PTG if you want to donate prizes for the quiz. Any donation is much appreciated.

Our email address is primaryptgbis@gmail.com

Event Details

Date: Thursday 14th October 

Time: 5.30pm to 6.30pm

Join the Novelicious Book Club

The Novelicious book club held their first meeting yesterday and have selected A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza as the first book for the year.  

We look forward to sharing the next book club meeting date in about 4 weeks time.  In the meantime, enjoy your reading. 

  • A Place for Us, Fatima Farheen Mirza 

Dates for your Diary

Tuesday 5th October: Digital Wellbeing - How to support your child in making positive choices when online, 8.30am, For parents of all year groups

Thursday 7th October: The University of Cambridge, 3pm-4pm, online event

Thursday 7th October: PTG Welcome Back Coffee & Catch-Up, from 3pm, parents new and old are welcome

Tuesday 12th October: Boston University, 5pm-6pm, online event

Thursday 14th October:  The University of Toronto, 3pm-4pm, online event 

Thursday 14th October: PTG Virtual Community Quiz, online event, 5.30pm to 6.30pm

With best wishes to you all for a wonderful weekend with your families.

Kind regards,

Sean O’Neill
Head Teacher Secondary Campus