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Mr Sean O'Neill: Weekly Update 18/06/2021

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

Dear BIS community- parents, teachers and students, we made it to the end of an extraordinary school year.


As we reach the last day of term , and look back at the year we have just spent together we do so knowing we can be proud of being part of this wonderful school. 


Each BIS school year has a character of its own - a character shaped by the unique events of that particular time and the unique individuals who form our school community.   These combine to build the experiences that we celebrate today. 


Perhaps the most striking feature of this year has been the  relationships that have guided us through this unprecedented time. It is clear to me as I reflect on this school year, our relationships here at BIS Ho Chi Minh City are strong, purposeful and have enabled us  to lift ourselves and each other, through personal and collective endeavour, to achieve great things across each area of school life. 


Throughout this year, we have learned to notice and value what we have - sometimes it is only when we lose something or it becomes uncertain that we truly value it.  And I believe this is true of school life.  We now know just how precious it is to be learning together face-to-face, to be able to connect and collaborate in the classroom, cafeteria,  sports field or stage. It has been a joy to share your’ enthusiasm, energy and  accomplishment. 


At the start of this year, I challenged our students to enjoy each day in school and squeeze the most out of every opportunity available, to appreciate the teachers and staff here to support them, and, most importantly, to appreciate each other.  

I asked our students to  follow those three simple principles throughout the year: 

  • Be Kind

  • Be Involved

  • Try your best

 When I said that at the start of the year,  none of us knew the challenges that lay ahead -that these 3 things would be even more important than ever  to respond to the challenges of the year- and our students  have shown these 3 qualities in all aspects of school life. In their academic learning, involvement in CCAS and school events, the way they have looked out for each other’s wellbeing - and they  have done this - whether we are in school or learning virtually. 


 I am so proud of them all. 


Whilst for these last weeks of the school year we have had to move to Virtual Learning, I know we all feel appreciation that for the vast majority of the year we have  been able to be here  together in school, able to connect in person with friends and colleagues. 


When we all look back at this year, we will each have our own memories- they might be of an event in the school year – or a moment shared with friends. In every event throughout this year there has been innovation, from our Outdoor International Day Fair to our multi-venue Olympics Style Sports Day, our Promenade-style Wizard of Oz , our Live Streamed Musical extravaganzas,  to our wonderful Week Without Walls – our incredible Bonnie & Clyde Production and through the energy in every classroom - our students  have shown they are able to shine in any situation,  move fluidly between physical and virtual school -  working hard and with a smile.  This year we have adapted to our times, always keeping our BIS values – our commitment to doing things well at our core- and had some great times doing it.


When we remember this year, I want us to remember the spirit of an extraordinary time where we have been resilient, resourceful and relentless, a year where we have seen the BIS spirit stronger than ever- and the people - teachers- support staff, parents  and students  -who have made it so.


Thank you to every single member of our BIS community. You have each played your part in making it a year to treasure.


My very best wishes to you all for a safe and restful holiday.

Sean O’Neill


Graduation Class of 2021 

Despite our best efforts to stay face to face, the Graduation Ceremony 2021 became the first to be conducted virtually. However, it was an amazing ceremony with members of our Year 13 students’ families, all over the world, able to join and be part of this special occasion. It all began the day before, when Year 13 students who were still in HCMC received a personalised box containing their graduation folder and certificate, an alumni card, the year book, and a graduation cap to wear as they watched the ceremony. This was accompanied by a bouquet of flowers. 85 boxes were dispatched and arrived safely. Next, the ceremony itself. This was opened by Anthony Rowlands with speeches from Sean O’Neill, Jane Hall, and our guest speaker Emily Hamblin, British Consul to HCMC. Emily’s advice was invaluable as, having been an IB student herself, she was aware of the complexities and strains that this well regarded qualification places on our students. Thank you Emily.


Prizes were awarded for subject expertise, sporting prowess, and contributions to form life. Special prizes were also announced for specific contributions to different parts of school life. Musical interludes were provided by two of our graduating students and the ceremony was concluded with a delightful video containing baby photographs of each and every graduating student.

Once again, Class of 2021, congratulations to you all, and please keep in touch with us at BIS.


Prize Giving 2021

It was my great pleasure to welcome parents, students and teachers  to our first ever Virtual Annual Prize Giving Ceremony on Thursday. 

Our Annual Prize Giving is an important moment in the school calendar where we recognize the achievement of students across all year groups and across all areas of school life. We celebrated  the months of hard work, effort and deliberate practice that have contributed to each of our Prize Winners accomplishment- whilst also celebrating the role parents, teachers and classmates have played in creating the conditions for each to flourish.  We were also treated to two stunning musical performances from Kun Ho in Year 7 and Caitlin in Year 8. My thanks to them both for their stunning renditions and my congratulations to all our prize winners.

Champion House 2021!


And so we come to the end of another year of House competitions and challenges. As a community, you have been involved in sporting events, writing competitions, art challenges, community clean-ups, and so much more, and the Head of House team is so proud of everything that has been achieved this year.

It’s been a close run contest, but the final standings for the year are as follows:

4th Place – Hanoi

3rd Place – Hue

2nd Place – Saigon

1st Place (for the second year running!) – Dalat

Well done to everyone who has contributed to this success by participating in a House event.

It is with sadness that we say Goodbye to three of our Staff Heads of House this year, with Mr Quarrington, Mr Lozano, and Ms Carter moving on to other schools or other projects. They have been fantastic leaders of their houses, motivating and encouraging students and staff alike. A huge thank you to them for all of their contributions!

Next year we welcome Mr O’Brien as Head of Dalat House, Dr Jones as Head of Hanoi House, and Ms Hollywell as Head of Hue House, to join Mr Barry, Head of Saigon House. We look forward to their first assemblies next year and to all of the new and exciting House Events that you can all participate in!

BIS HCMC Ambassadors 2021


Earlier in the term we undertook our search for our next BIS Ambassadors to the United Nations, who will attend the NAE-UN Student Summit in July to represent BIS alongside other NAE students. Our applicants went through a rigorous selection process, submitting both an application form and a video outlining their thoughts on how we, at BIS, can continue to improve our community in a sustainable and empathetic way.

I am delighted to announce that following this selection process we have appointed two students who will join the Virtual Student Summit to discuss how we continue our sustainability projects. Please join me in congratulating Ngoc Duc Huynh and Nini Pham.

Duc and Nini will share their experiences with us after the summer and take the lead on our World Children’s Day celebrations and Global Challenge projects next year.

Congratulations Duc and Nini!

Final Assembly


It was a pleasure for the community to be able to get together virtually and celebrate the end of the school year. It was an opportunity to recognise the many successes of BIS students this year: their sporting achievements, commendation prizes, outstanding drama and musical performances, and more. For the first time , our assembly was streamed on YoutubeLive. 

Leaving Students


While the end of year is a celebration, it is also always tinged with sadness as we say farewell to our friends for whom today is the last day at BIS. To all of our leaving students, thank you for the contribution you have made to our school. Your commitment to learning, sport, music, drama, community and above all your friends. You have all helped to make BIS special. We all owe you a debt of gratitude, please stay in touch, come back to see us, you will always have a warm welcome waiting for you. Please click below to watch again.

Leaving Staff 


As well as students who are leaving to embark on the next chapter, today we also say farewell to some of our teachers. Each of whom have worked every day with energy, skill, humour and dedication and as a result leave a lasting legacy at our school.  I know you will miss them all as much as we,  their colleagues will. Please join me in wishing them all the best in the next stage in their career. 


Start of Academic year 2021-22

Summer Facilities Projects

At BIS, we place great importance on creating the conditions for our students to thrive. 

Over the summer holidays there are a variety of facilities development  projects taking place on  the Secondary Campus as we continue to ensure excellent learning and social environments for students.  We look forward to revealing these when we return in August, but in the meantime there will be limited access to the campus for safety reasons. If you need support from our staff for urgent access to campus please contact the Secondary Reception for assistance.

Uniform Collection 

As in previous years, new school uniform will be available for collection from the Secondary Auditorium in the weeks prior to the beginning of the academic year.  We know that, for many, this process marks the unofficial beginning of the new school year. 

This year, due to current conditions,  we will also issue the Yearbook, prizes and school photo orders along with school uniforms.

Similar to last year, we will send an email to all secondary parents outlining  the arrangements for uniform collection in line with the conditions and any restrictions in place. 

First Day of School

We are very much looking forward to being able to see all of our students for the first day of school on Wednesday 18th August

Please check in to your regular contact points with us over the holidays for further updates.

Virtual University Visits for 2020-21

The BIS series of ‘Virtual University Visits’ for the academic year 2020-21 drew to a close on Thursday with a Visit from the University of Oxford. The visit, specifically arranged by and hosted by BIS, was unsurprisingly a very popular one, with many attendees from BIS and the wider Vietnamese community. James Brown the International Recruitment manager for Oxford University included an overview of the Vietnamese student population already at Oxford which is small but sure to grow. Oxford always receives large numbers of applications of a high standard from South-East Asia, and this Webinar was arranged particularly for the International School community in Vietnam. BIS has a bespoke program of guidance aimed at those students in Year 12 who are preparing an ‘Oxbridge’ application for when they start Year 13. The webinar along with the earlier visit from the University of Cambridge in March provided a valuable insight for BIS students into the life of an Oxbridge student but also into the nuts and bolts of making an application, the collegiate system, the entrance tests, and the interview process.

Other highlights of the Virtual University Visit program have included virtual visits from Ivy League institutions UPenn and Brown with contributions from BIS alumni, and also some of the other world-leading institutions for which BIS students regularly receive offers, such as Imperial College and UCL in London, NTU and Yale-NUS in Singapore, and the University of Toronto in Canada. If you missed all or some of these visits, the majority of the events are now available to view on the BIS CUG Virtual University Visit page

Staying strong together 



This week the Secondary School Leadership team and Welfare & Guidance Team continued connecting with students from Year 7, 8 and 9 and the feedback from students has been fantastic. The objective of the calls remained simple…..to keep in touch and stay connected. As I wrote last week, at the heart of BIS HCMC are the positive relationships which exist between students, parents and staff. In addition to the excellent lessons which teachers have continued to deliver and the daily Tutor Group conversations, these short calls bring together students from across different year groups and help contribute to ensuring those relationships stay strong during Virtual School. 

Below is just a taste of some of the feedback from students;

I wanted to take the opportunity to share my thoughts on the call which I received last week from Mr Wills. It was nice to connect with other students from different year groups, and share our experiences. We talked about how online learning was the best substitute for physical school, and a great way to communicate amongst peers, considering the current global pandemic. We also shared tips on how to survive virtual learning, and it was nice to have fun moments, even with peers who we might be unfamiliar with. Humour is very important, especially in these times, and fun light moments are greatly valued. The call was also a nice chance to provide feedback, and reflect on how far we have come during virtual learning. Sharing ideas/opinions on the call got me thinking about how grateful we, as a community, should be, to be able to still learn, with the resources, and technology we are privileged enough to have at this time.

Samaira Gupta 8N

I found the talks to be helpful in meeting people that I haven't seen face to face before and to see their points of view about life online. It was a great time to share what I thought was going well and what could be improved with Virtual School.

Tadala Nkhoma 9I

The call was interesting because we got to hear about other year groups and their experiences, and I think it was a good idea because staying in touch with students is important and it allowed us to voice our opinions.  Thank you for arranging them!

Arisu Babakhani 9I

It was pretty enjoyable and nice to share all our thoughts on e - learning.

Jack Campbell 7I

Thank you as ever for your support of the wellbeing programme and for the very positive feedback you continue to send. I will continue to post the weekly Wellbeing Menu on the students Google Classroom pages for the remainder of the term which contains a number of non screen related activities focusing on positive wellbeing. 

Mr Alexander

Head of Middle Secondary (Pastoral & Wellbeing)

Be involved

A Holiday Message from Secondary PTG


The Secondary PTG would like to wish everyone a happy holiday.  Best wishes to all of our families who are leaving BIS, including students and staff.  

Thank you to all of this year’s PTG committee members for all of the time and effort that you have put into the PTG and good luck to members who are moving on. 

Happy holidays and see you all next year.

Dates for your Diary

News & Events

Tuesday 17th August  New Student Orientation, Secondary  Auditorium

Wednesday 18th August       First Day of Term 1

Wednesday 1st September  Welcome Back Coffee Morning, Junior Campus from 8.30am


Have a wonderful holiday,

Kind regards,


Sean O’Neill

Head Teacher

Secondary Campus