Principal's Message

Principal's Message - Friday 14th May 2021
Paul Tough

Dear Parents, Staff, Students, and Friends of BST, 

As I write today’s piece for the Lion a clear blue sky has replaced Thursday’s dark, misty and wet conditions, and my colleague Mr Webb assures me that the day will only get better with a forecast temperature of twenty-eight degrees. Hopefully the glorious weather will remain as we start the weekend and have an opportunity to step away from our electronic devices and enjoy some fresh air.

Parent Forum

Managing devices time was one of the themes of Mr Crummie's webinar this week for Primary parents. Yet again, the attendance at the session was excellent, and I’m sure all concerned found the discussion useful and informative. We are currently redrafting our electronic device policy for the whole school, and this will be discussed by the leadership team later this term before it is published in Term 1 on the new school year.

UWS Ambassadors

The work of our UWS Ambassadors, including today’s dress casual day and the Read-A- Thon, has been a highlight of the week across both campuses. The UWS student team, under the guidance of Mr Sewell, are an outstanding group and their passion and commitment to supporting our partner schools in Nepal and Cambodia has been exceptional. Thank you to all the students, staff and parents who have also participated in this week's events, as your support has also been invaluable.

Board of Trustees 

This week the Board of Trustees met for an extended session online. This week’s meeting was slightly different to the norm as we looked ahead with a focus upon long-term strategy. Much discussion took place with lots of creative collaboration as we used Miro, an online visual collaboration platform. 

School Advisory Committee 

On a similar note, the next School Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting is scheduled for 31st May and the members are keen to receive items for discussion. The minutes of the previous meeting can be accessed HERE, and suggestions for the next agenda can be sent to the Committee using the following address. schooladvisory@bst.ac.jp

Ambassador Longbottom

Later today, I am attending with a group of BST senior students a session held by the BCCJ to welcome the new British Ambassador to Japan, Julia Longbottom. The ties between BST & The Embassy are already robust and we are thankful for the Ambassador’s team’s ongoing support and advice – particularly the fantastic work of Greg Mulheirn and Sue Kinoshita as BST trustees. 

COBIS 

This week in the evenings, I have also had the pleasure of attending an online conference hosted by the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). You will be aware that the CEO of COBIS, Colin Bell, is also a BST trustee. Our association with Colin and COBIS is priceless as it provides BST with access to ongoing support and insight into educational developments within the UK and various government departments. 

During Term 1 of next school year, BST will be one of the first schools internationally to complete the new COBIS Patrons Accreditation process, which will be a mark of distinction and provide ongoing quality assurance concerning the education we provide. More of this in due course, as my new colleague David James will be leading this process and the Council of International Schools (CIS) accreditation process for BST next year and in proceeding years. 

If you have a question about any of the topics in today’s newsletter or would like to arrange a one to one meeting, please do get in touch.

In the meantime, best wishes for the weekend.

Paul Tough

Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

Principal's Message - Friday 7th May 2021
Paul Tough

Dear Parents, Staff, Students, and Friends of BST, 

Last week I wrote about BST as a community of caring and supportive members who recognise their obligations and responsibilities to each other within the context of the ongoing pandemic. This week I wanted to use the concept of a community again but in the context of reading.

Since joining BST in 2019, it was clear to me that we have many keen, eager and prolific readers throughout the school. You would think that it can be difficult to promote the timeless pleasure of reading a book for enjoyment in a world full of digital distraction. This is not the case at BST, our School is a community of avid and accomplished readers from the Early Years to Years 13, and I have been reminded of this countless times this week in different contexts. 

The first reminder came as I walked through the secondary library at Showa, where Mrs Grey (our Secondary teacher librarian) talked with a group of Year 7 students who were eagerly discussing their latest read. At the same time, the sounds of joyful reading aloud filled the rest of the room.

The second reminder came as I sat in on Mr Girling’s lesson with Y4R, which began with a short reading section from the class text, the Iron Man. To listen to all the children read individually in front of the class with enthusiasm, confidence and passion were truly impressive.

While my third reminder came from Mr Stevens as he made me aware of the amazing achievement of Taiga Lewis Tamura in Y6B, who has read a staggering 85 books from this school year's Sakura competition. In fact, Taiga has read every single book in every single category - Chapter Books, Middle School Books, Graphic Novels, Japanese Chapter Books and High School Books. I think we would all agree that this is an incredible feat for a student in Year 6, and Taiga is deserving of huge praise.

Without a doubt, reading standards at BST are exceptionally high and rank with the best schools globally. This is due, of course, to the culture of reading fostered by staff at BST and the importance placed upon reading by parents at home. As we all know, great readers are not made by genetics or destiny but by the habits they build personally and the habits that their teachers and parents intentionally reinforce. However, the aspect that pleases me the most is the genuine love of reading that children at BST clearly have. Yes, of course, there are some reluctant readers, but generally speaking, the pleasure that so many children at our school derive from reading is something special and represents a genuine strength of our school community.

With this in mind, I am looking forward to next week’s "Read-A-Thon" during our United World Schools (UWS) Week, where our community of readers will be able to demonstrate its prowess while raising money for such a worthy cause.  A huge thank you to the School's UWS ambassadors, who have organised the “Read-A-Thon” event as a way of celebrating reading and raising money for our partner schools in Nepal and Cambodia. I hope to see lots of students and staff involved and demonstrate the power of reading. 

If you have any questions about the topics in today’s newsletter or would like a one to one meeting, please let me know.

Best wishes for the weekend, and I hope you take time away from your devices and invest the time in a good book. 

Paul Tough

Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

Principal's Message - Friday 30th April 2021
Paul Tough

Dear Parents, Staff, Students, and Friends of BST, 

In last week’s newsletter, I wrote that in the face of the climate crisis, my hope for humanity stems largely from the activism and sense of responsibility of young people and students such as ours at BST.

This week in a similar vein, I wish to concentrate upon the responsibilities and obligations that we all have as members of the BST community to each other and society more broadly. My return to the concept of community stems, of course, from the events of this week and the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic upon our school and lives more generally.

For those who read my weekly musings or have met me in person you will know that values associated with community are of fundamental importance to me. What else would you expect, of course, from someone born, raised and educated in the industrial and now post-industrial valleys of South Wales in the UK.

In my opinion, strong communities are essential features of all cultures and societies irrespective of their location in the world. Communities are enduring, and there is something universal in the draw, appeal and turn to community at times of crisis. During times of uncertainty, strong and resilient communities offer security and a sense of belonging. Members of communities such as these work together in collaboration and mutual support, secure in the knowledge that through unity, there is strength.

Since March 2020, our own school community has played a prominent role beyond its principal focus of education in the lives of students, staff and parents alike. A source of information, a place of refuge and a social network for those isolated from family and friends. A healthy diversity of thought, ideas and perspectives has characterised interactions. Respectful dialogue, open exchange of opinions and purposeful communication has been the norm, not the exception. A sense of responsibility to others and an understanding that our actions have implications for those closest to us and a much wider group have predominated. Knowing that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves and that in times such as these more than ever, care and respect for others guide our actions. 

As we continue together to face the impact of the pandemic it is now more than ever that the characteristics of our resilient and proud school community need to come to the fore. Placing the School’s values at the heart of our actions, it is now that we all must remind ourselves of our responsibilities and obligations to each other.

For the school to manage the ongoing COVID-19 situation effectively with little disruption, we must cooperate as a community – students, staff and parents. Therefore, I ask each of us to think carefully about our behaviours and abide by the government’s requests during the current State of Emergency. Specifically, I stress again:

·  Read the school’s health and safety guidelines carefully.

·  Inform the school immediately of any COVID-19 related issues impacting you or your family by using this new email address -  covid@bst.ac.jp 

·  Do not gather in large groups, host parties and mix households.

·  Do not send children or family members into school if household members take COVID-19 tests.

As I have written before, it is easy for us to become complacent and fatigued by the pandemic, but now more than ever, our full attention to the health and wellbeing of our community is needed. As such, in the words of a famous politician of my youth - “community membership is not simply about rights; community is about responsibilities and obligations".

Stay healthy and safe during the long weekend.

Paul Tough

Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

Principal's Message - Friday 23rd April 2021
Paul Tough

Dear Parents, Staff, Students, and Friends of BST,

I trust you are all well and have enjoyed the week. Happy St George's Day and best wishes to all the English members of the BST community. I hope you have or will celebrate in some small way today. 

Earth Day

American President Joe Biden’s assertion yesterday that the climate crisis is the “existential crisis of our time” was echoed by students at BST as the school marked Earth Day. Listening to our students discuss the global situation confirmed that there is hope in the face of significant challenges and that humanity will find ways to defeat global heating. That hope stems largely from the activism and sense of responsibility of young people and students such as ours. As yesterday demonstrates, students' efforts worldwide have raised public consciousness to new levels and pushed political leaders to develop bold and ambitious ideas to confront this challenge.

However, it will require all of us to heed our students’ call to action as this “existential fight” is not theirs alone. As I was reminded by one passionate Year 13 student, the time for dithering and prevarication in the face of environmental degradation has passed. As a society, school community and individually, we must play our part during this “decisive decade” in the fight against climate change. One of the ways that BST is looking to make a significant difference in this area is through the E-Cool Team's work and a structured programme for education and action through the Eco-Schools framework https://www.ecoschools.global/.

COVID-19 and State of Emergency

One of the other challenges of our age is, of course, the pandemic. The impact remains an immediate reality that continues to affect our lives daily. From recent news, the authorities will likely announce another State of Emergency in Tokyo this weekend to mitigate the impact of Golden Week on the rising case numbers of COVID-19 across the country. As I write today’s newsletter, the details of the government’s actions are yet to be announced. However, it seems retail and hospitality venues will be the main target of any restrictions. As such, I anticipate that the school’s daily operation will continue with all classes on campus but with visitors to the campuses and extracurricular activities suspended for the duration of the State of Emergency. Once we know the details, I will write separately to the BST community outlining the school’s response. 

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

On the theme of COVID-19 mitigation strategies, I wanted to acknowledge the work of BST student Yukina Kasai in Year 12. Yukina has produced an outstanding research project as part of her Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), which has positively impacted the way the School has implemented health and safety guidelines on both campuses. The standard of Yukina’s project is exceptional, and as Yukina’s teacher, Mr Groarke, commented, neither of us “have ever seen such an innovative and professional EPQ / research project by a senior school student.” Yukina’s project has just been submitted for marking but once done we want to publish Yukina’s work for the entire BST community to read as it is worthy of a wider audience. 

School Advisory Committee (SAC)

This week the School Advisory Committee (SAC) met with an excellent discussion on a range of issues taking place, including COVID-19, assessment and reports in the Primary School, PTA updates, an update on the new Primary School campus, educational technology developments and teacher recruitment. The minutes of the meeting will be published in next week’s Lion and I welcome suggestions for the next meeting’s agenda (schooladvisory@bst.ac.jp).

Curriculum Review

The Japanese Language curriculum and teaching review started this week, and it has been great to speak with colleagues, students and parents about the programme. Lots of lesson observations have taken place. We also welcomed Shibuya Junior and Senior High School staff plus staff from Showa Women’s University Junior-Senior High School as part of the review team. The team will now take some time to evaluate the range of evidence and feedback compiled this week to produce a series of commendations and recommendations in due course. Also as part of the review, we are working with a team of staff to identify several Japanese festivals and events, which will be celebrated next school year as part of the school's calendar. Once these have been decided we will be asking parents to participate and help with their organisation. 

Internationalism Symposium

Finally, I want to make you aware that planning between BST, Temple University Japan (TUJ) and Showa Women’s University (SWU) for our first joint symposium on internationalism is in its advanced stages. My colleague Nora Yamada, leading the BST team, has confirmed that the project is proceeding apace with July 10th scheduled for the event. The title of the symposium is: “The Future of Japan, The Future of the World: The Responsibilities of Living in a Global Society.”

Students will host three seminars on the following subtopics after the keynote by Kyoko Yonezawa:

  • How can we overcome intolerance towards other cultures or fears of losing one’s culture?
  • What is a multicultural society? What does it mean to live in a multicultural society?
  • What qualities and skills are needed in a globalized world? How can we learn them?

 

The symposium will involve students and staff from BST and both universities. It will also be open to parent attendance via a webinar format. Our Comms Team are in the process of finalising communications which will be published soon. The day promises to be thought-provoking and engaging, and I am delighted with the level of collaboration between the institutions. Moreover, this is another example of BST students leading from the front and recognising that collaboration across cultures and nations is crucial to humanity’s future.

If you have any questions about the topics in today’s newsletter, or would like a one to one meeting, please let me know.

Best wishes for the weekend.

Paul Tough
Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

Principal's Message - Friday 16th April 2021
Paul Tough

Dear Parents, Staff, Students, and Friends of BST, 

It has been a positive start to the term, with lots happening across both campuses. In particular, it has been wonderful to see the students’ enthusiasm and happiness at being back at School. Equally, staff have enjoyed seeing their classes and colleagues again at the start of the new term. Without a doubt, school buildings are sad and lonely places when empty over the holidays and are transformed once a new term begins, thankfully!

This week’s highlights have included Monday’s professional development day, where teachers and educational assistants experienced several sessions focussed on different educational research and approaches to learning. (See BST - Start of Term Update - https://tinyurl.com/3uwyy755 ). We also had two successful earthquake drills involving both campuses.

I am looking forward to the Japanese Language Curriculum Review and the next School Advisory Committee meeting taking place next week. The Language Review is part of the School’s new self-evaluation process and is linked to priorities in our Strategic Plan As an outcome of these reviews; we aim to make clear the School’s commitments to students in all areas of their learning including languages.

Of course, as a School we believe it is crucial to ensure every student is supported to access the curriculum and culture of the school through the medium of English. We also believe it is important to foster an inclusive environment for students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds and value multilingualism as an important part of the BST experience. 

Equally, as a British international school in Tokyo, I believe that it is crucial that we enable students to achieve proficiency in Japanese. Clearly, as a school community, we value the Japanese language and believe that Japanese learning provides insights and perspectives into Japanese culture, traditions and history. Moreover, given the nature of our community and our location, it is incumbent upon the School to provide opportunities appropriate to all students to their level of ability and background in learning Japanese. 

The outcomes of next week's review will help us develop the Japanese language programme at BST and make clear our commitment to language acquisition. As part of the review, we will be observing lessons, speaking to students, staff and parents. We are also gaining valuable insights into our programme from staff joining the review team from Shibuya Junior and Senior High School plus Showa Women’s University Junior-Senior High School. In due course, I will make you aware of the review’s outcomes, including an updated Languages Policy for BST.

In the meantime, as ever, if you have any questions about the topics in today’s newsletter, or would like a one to one meeting, please let me know.

Best wishes for the weekend.

Paul Tough
Principal
The British School in Tokyo