Dear Parents, Staff, Students, and Friends of BST,
I wrote last week in The Lion that the pandemic has demonstrated the interconnectedness of the school, national and global communities. Little did I know that the events of this week in Tokyo, around Japan and at our own Shibuya campus would illustrate this truism in stark fashion.
It has been another challenging week for sure, with some uncertainty and anxiety. Our Shibuya campus remained closed today, and our youngest students are, once again, at home and learning remotely. I am sincerely grateful to our Shibuya colleagues for the seamless transition to remote learning over the last two days. They have truly done a stellar job. Also, much appreciation to the children’s parents for working with the school to address the situation at home at short notice.
Earlier this term, we received feedback on the school’s operation as part of the Trustees’ Questionnaire. One of the questions asked was – “Given the high possibility of pandemics or natural disasters requiring periods of remote learning in the future, what should the school look to prioritise in its planning for those periods in the future?” With over 450 respondents the top three answers to this question were:
- Continuity of learning for students. In particular, the balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning for different age groups.
- The health and safety of the community. In particular, the social and emotional welfare of students, staff and parents.
- Clarity of communication. In particular, timely updates, opportunities for feedback and transparent decision making.
Hopefully this week, the school’s actions have addressed these three priority areas. We have certainly thought deeply about the nature of remote learning and what needed to be considered when switching online again. Our youngest students are without a doubt the ones that need the most support from both home and school. Therefore, foremost in our mind were the following areas:
- Identifying what is the core curriculum and how this can be boosted in an online environment rather than replicating a normal school day.
- Utilisation of all staff to deliver core areas of the curriculum and support students in smaller groups.
- How to achieve the correct balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning for all year groups.
- Publishing plans, schedules and expectations in advance.
- Purposeful assessment and meaningful feedback on student learning.
- Providing help to parents on how to best support home learning.
Our new Remote Learning Plan and Hub has been tested earlier than we had thought, but on the bright side, it has given us a chance to address the areas above. As a consequence, we welcome feedback on Nursery to Year 3 parents’ initial experience of the school’s Remote Learning Hub.
It is never an easy decision to keep the campuses closed. I feel every day the strong inclination to have our students with us in person, and I do not take lightly the responsibility of taking every sensible measure to maximise the face to face time we have in classrooms this year. However, the health of our whole community is our highest responsibility. By minimising the health risks, we protect not only the health of our students but also that of other people in our community to whom our students are connected, including people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.
Yesterday Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike stressed the importance of social responsibility and our interconnection as citizens and residents of Japan. The Governor urged all of us to cooperate in fighting the coronavirus as she raised the city's alert to the highest level. Clearly, our individual and collective actions matter as they have a direct impact upon others. We have been fortunate until this week not to have been impacted by a COVID outbreak at school, but the events of this week demonstrate that we do not exist in splendid isolation from the world around us. I ask, therefore, that all of us as members of the BST community redouble our efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. It is easy for us to become complacent and fatigued by the pandemic but now more than ever, our full attention to national and school safety guidelines are essential. In the word of Governor Koike - "cooperation will determine our fate".
Looking ahead to next week, I wanted to make you aware that the School Advisory Committee (SAC) is meeting to talk through a range of topics. The minutes of October’s meeting are available HERE for your reference. Also, next week we are conducting the shortlist interviews as part of the Head of Primary recruitment process. Students, staff, parents and trustees will be meeting and evaluating three excellent candidates, and I look forward to making the community aware of the outcome in due course.
If you have any questions about any of the topics in today’s newsletter or would like to arrange a one to one meeting, please let me know.
The British School in Tokyo