Dear BSM Primary Families,
A final day of my strangest year in teaching. The end of a quarter of a century for me at The British School Manila and not the way I expected to see this milestone in! It has been a period of learning for all and as has been said before, none of us had even heard of Zoom three months ago.
Thank you for your support all year, not least during the quarantine period where we very much appreciate your efforts. Have a wonderful break, look after yourself, recharge batteries and we look forward to seeing you all again refreshed and raring to go on Monday 17 August whatever school looks like at that point. We have planned for different scenarios and you will have seen our documentation on this in the week.
I also want to say a huge thank you to my teaching colleagues and learning assistants. They have worked incredibly hard in difficult circumstances to provide quality learning experiences for the children.
This is also a time to say goodbye and good luck to colleagues who are leaving, not least to my two primary Deputy Heads Janine Bradshaw and Anna Power who have both done sterling jobs in primary leaving behind lasting legacies. I wish them well in their new venture in Saudi Arabia. George Pearson and Laura Clark will step into their shoes for KS2 and EYFS/KS1 respectively. Cheryl Meredith is moving on also and we thank her for her efforts over the past 2 years in Year 2 and Year 3, her caring approach has fostered much development in her students. Jude Prasad-Smith has done wonders with both our gymnastics programme and dance curriculum and we wish her all the best as she returns home. Shannon Chaytors, our first ever Occupational Therapist at BSM, is moving back to Australia. Her knowledge and professionalism has had an impact with teachers, the Learning Support department and most noticeably the students she has worked with.
I would also like to thank Rebekah Russell for her significant input to our practices at BSM. Her work on developing the Well-being Framework amongst other things will be part of the BSM curriculum for the long term. Her influence spread further as founding Chair of the FOBISIA Safeguarding Exec. leading FOBISIA schools in this key area. I wish her the best of luck in her next headship.
Lewis Keens, our Director of Sport and Activities, worked closely with Rebekah developing our well-being curriculum and has been instrumental in the huge growth of our extra curricular programme, offering wonderful opportunities for all students. His work at BSM and as head of FOBISIA PE and most recently with Alan Dunstan leading web discussions on PE practice, put both at the very top of their field.
Alan Dunstan, our Head of PE, has redesigned our Physical Education curriculum. A research backed physical literacy programme enabling all students to successfully access physical pursuits will be a lasting legacy for all students at BSM. I have also learnt much from him as a football coach and I wish him well on his move to head up PE in Riyadh.
I also want to wish our leaving families all the best on their next moves and hope they stay in touch with their BSM family wherever they are in the world. I know part of the leaving experience is the leaver’s bag – don’t worry, these will be sent to all leaving students so they don’t miss out.
We will miss you all and are so sorry we did not get to say proper goodbyes.
We have had a couple of key events in the last week. Firstly, last Saturday saw our annual Speech Day. Although ran virtually, it was still a wonderful celebration of what we stand for at BSM and I highlighted the award areas in my newsletter last week. The musical performances were as ever superb and I was very proud of the three primary speakers, Alexis, Julia and Maria. They did a wonderful job capturing their time at BSM and calmly but persuasively delivering their thoughts. I particularly liked their reflections on lessons learnt on their journey, references to developing resilience and the importance of self belief. They also mentioned the impact of sports and how being part of a team has helped them grow and understand this dynamic. They wrapped up with a message that spoke to our vision and mission saying that despite being isolated in the quarantine period they still felt part of a strong supportive community that helped them through difficult times. A strong foundational message to end on.
We ran our online Shine Day yesterday and it was great to see how many of you have remained creative in this period. Over the weeks I have been shared into many videos of fabulous artistic performances, from musical to drama and art works so it was great to be able to share many of these to a broader audience.
Thank you to Lillie Roth and Joseph Sartre who also spoke very well in the Whole School Assembly today. They gave a summary of the year – one that saw both Taal erupt and the corona virus causing school closure. Lillie expressed a similar viewpoint to her Year 6 colleagues from the week before in saying “Through it all we stayed together, strong in our community spirit and ensured the learning continued.” Adding: “we missed seeing our friends face to face each day though, their smiles, laughter and community spirit that makes BSM special.”
We were lucky to get most of the primary residential trips and overnight stays completed before quarantine. These provided a unique level of challenge, with children taken way beyond their comfort zone. Whether it be in the Subic jungle, a beach in Bataan or the Sierra Madre Mountain Range there is designed challenge and difficulty to foster resilience.
Reflecting on her trip experiences from previous years (unfortunately Year 6 were not able to go on their trip) Lillie thinks that “Out of this adversity we see ourselves grow and glow, returning through our gates proud, taller and tougher.”
This year saw the opening of our wonderful Creative Arts Centre and Joseph began by talking about this: “We went to the Creative Arts Centre for the first time and loved the new building. The Bayanihan is a great performance venue and we as Year 6s were the first students this year to do an assembly there.”
Our Primary assemblies are a vehicle to showcase our broad curriculum from Global Citizen topics, to Well-being and Learning Power themes and the ones we managed to do before quarantine covered these broad topic areas:
- Year 6 looked at mindset and mindfulness
- Year 5 covered well-being – who can forget the synchronised swimming scene!
- Year 4 looked at diversity focussing on the Boy in the Dress book, human rights and respecting all (a very current topic)
- Year 3 highlighted the climate crisis and prompted us to act
Joseph then reflected on the recent quarantine period and learning at this time:
“Online learning was a different challenge but helped develop our independence and organisational skills. Our teachers put so much effort into planning learning for us that kept us engaged and inspired.
Even COVID-19 couldn’t stop us from enjoying our Science Week and Earth Day projects. It was always very interesting learning about new facts and exploring all the fascinating concepts science has to offer, especially the experiments which were some of the hardest things to organise with online learning.”
Thank you to both for your reflections and clarity and enthusiasm of your delivery – well done.
Well-being Looking Back (and forward)
We have just reflected on the year and our well-being task this week is about reflection also. You have completed a very difficult period and should be congratulated for your efforts. Have a read of the slide and think about what it asks you to do.
As we look forward to August, we really hope we will be able to resume face to face learning at school. Although, you will have seen from our planning that we have considered all scenarios. We miss seeing the children and their smiles and enthusiasm. Schools are wonderful social organisations where the dynamics of a classroom are magical and we long for that again.
I wish you well over the Summer vacation. Hopefully, a time away from screens and a time of relaxation and rest. If you are travelling I hope your journey is a safe one and there is joy at your destination. Stay safe, we are thinking of you all and look forward to being together again (either virtually or face to face) in August.
Head of Primary School