Principal's Message

Principal's Message - Friday 5th March 2021
Paul Tough

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

This week I have been struck by the importance of remembrance and commemoration to a community such as ours. Shared experience and past events lay the groundwork for strong and resilient communities. As a history teacher, I feel strongly that no place is a community until it has an awareness of its history and the events that have shaped and defined it. Indeed our connections and commitment to one another are strengthened when we share stories and experiences. Two dates in March have been present in my mind this week as they represent two significant events in the history of the school, Tokyo and Japan. The dates are March 11, 2011, and March 4, 2020.

Thursday, March 11th marks the 10th anniversary of the Great Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Although I was not a BST community member, I still vividly remember watching in Hong Kong the dramatic and startling images covered on live television. For those members of the school community present in Japan, I am sure that the events are unforgettable and remain stark in their memories. Who could surely forget the experience and aftermath of a magnitude 9.1 earthquake, the 4th largest ever recorded and a series of massive tsunami waves. The scale of the destruction caused by this disaster to people and infrastructure remains shocking to this day. However, the countless acts of compassion, generosity and resilience in the face of such chaos is inspiring and a testament to humanity’s spirit of hope and community resilience. I’m sure we will all take a moment on March 11 to remember those who suffered and lost their lives due to the earthquake and tsunami.

On Monday, March 4th 2020, the school moved to a remote learning environment for the first time following the request of then Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. The events that followed over the next 12 months and the impact on our community we are, of course, fully aware of. In my opinion, although challenging, these events have strengthened the school community and the bonds of mutual support and understanding. The events have also significantly impacted the use of educational technology to enhance learning, aiding collaboration, and providing opportunities for the school to communicate better and engage. These are all positives to recognise and build upon as a school community. 

On a practical note, with the likely extension of the State of Emergency in Tokyo for another two weeks, activities will remain on hold. However, we are hopeful to have a near to full programme as possible back in action soon. Mr Thomas and Mrs Loran refer to this in more detail in their missives today.

The March meeting of the School Advisory Committee (SAC) took place this week and included agenda items on COVID-19, tuition fee increase and the school’s new fundraising approach. Minutes from the meeting will be published in next week’s edition of the Lion.

The Head of Secondary recruitment process has moved to the final stage with shortlisted candidates presenting and being interviewed by students, staff, parents and Trustees between Monday, 8 March and Thursday, 11 March. We received fifty applications from a diverse field, with nine interviewed as part of the longlist stage. Five candidates have been confirmed as part of the shortlist. I hope to make you aware of the outcome soon after March 11.

I wanted to make you aware that last school year we formed a gender diversity working group comprised of staff and parents to evaluate the school’s current position about this important issue. The group was tasked with proposing a set of recommendations to the Leadership Team to provide a supportive, non-discriminatory environment for all students, including gender diversity and gender fluid children. We anticipate that the group will report its recommendations soon with a series of action points for consideration and implementation.

Finally, thank you to everyone who took the opportunity to dress up today and throughout the week to appreciate the importance of reading. It was wonderful to see the array of costumes on display to celebrate our favourite books and characters. It was also great to see over one hundred parents in attendance at last night's Primary Forum on reading and literacy. 

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. In the meantime, best wishes to everyone, and I hope you enjoy the weekend.

 

Paul Tough
Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

Principal's Message - Friday 26th February 2021
Paul Tough

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

The continued impact of the pandemic on education globally remains significant. Millions of young people around the world have been learning online for the last twelve months. Thankfully, the position here in Japan has been different, although as we know, our own school community has not escaped disruption. Indeed, the end of the last half term’s hybrid model for Years 7-10 is a relief. I am sure students, parents and staff are pleased to be operating with everyone on the Showa campus next week. In addition, some extracurricular activities in both the Primary and Secondary Schools are at the point of restarting, which is an added joy after the last half term's hiatus.

However, for our students in Year 13 and Year 11, the pandemic's consequences remain constant with uncertainty relating to how students' (i)GCSE and A level results will be awarded, a feature until yesterday's news from the UK. With examinations cancelled for a second year in succession, a range of evidence is to be used with teacher assessments to the fore and algorithms banished for good. In normal times, the final years for students studying at (i)GCSE and A-Level are stressful enough, but without doubt, the fog associated with final grades has added to anxiety levels.

To their credit, BST students have shown great resilience and calmness through a protracted period of uncertainty and stress. The manner in which Year 13 students undertook their mock examinations this week was inspiring. Year 13 have been resolute and committed throughout while BST staff have provided excellent support. Further clarity from the examination boards and the UK government will follow shortly, but in the meantime, as BST Trustee and CEO of COBIS, Colin Bell, wrote in the Times Educational Supplement this week, “students cannot and should not be overlooked or discounted as mere statistics – their futures are at stake, and their concerns are valid.” Equally, for us, as a school, I feel more strongly than ever that now is the time to begin an “evaluation of our future assessment provider” and devote significant time to considering our Senior School curriculum into the future. More on this in due course.

Sincere thanks to all the parents who attended this week’s various forums. It has been fantastic to see such great participation. I believe that over 150 parents attended Mrs Loran’s sessions and nearly 100 joined Dr Lomax and the PTA. Next on the schedule are two Primary sessions with a focus upon Reading and Mathematics (flyers in Primary section), two further sessions on the School’s new Learner Profile hosted by Mrs McCallum and Mr Kean (HERE), followed by two forums ‘Health & Well-Being During COVID’ led by the School’s counsellors, Dr Nakamura and Mrs Reyes  in March. We look forward to seeing as many parents in attendance as possible.

Thank you to all the students in Year 3 for their outstanding Amazon Exhibition today. It was a joy to visit each classroom and listen to the students to speak with so much passion about this important and endangered habitat. Year 3 produced some impressive learning outcomes and demonstrated great confidence when expressing their understanding and knowledge. Very well done to everyone involved. 

The next School Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting takes place on Monday, 1st March. Thank you to the parents who suggested topics for the agenda. Next week’s meeting will include a discussion on COVID-19, school tuition fees, educational technologies, Head of Secondary recruitment and fundraising. Minutes of the last meeting can be accessed HERE and items for April’s agenda can be sent to the Committee using the following address schooladvisory@bst.ac.jp

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. In the meantime, to all the Welsh members of the BST community and members of the St David’s Society of Tokyo, I have attached a brief message here.

Best wishes to everyone and I hope you enjoy the weekend.

Paul Tough
Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

Principal's Message - Friday 12th February 2021
Paul Tough

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

The half-term holiday is upon us, marking the end of a tough period for the school since January 4; a period which has seen several COVID-19 cases within our community which have impacted school life intermittently and required different modes of learning in various classes, year groups and phases. To say the period since the start of the term has been challenging is, of course, an understatement. The start of 2021 like much of 2020 has truly tested our resilience if not our resolve.

I want to acknowledge this and thank students, staff, and parents for being so adaptable, calm and supportive throughout. I am aware of the impact the situation has had upon the school and the wider BST community.  What is remarkable, but not surprising, is that there remain admirable levels of energy and positivity across the school in these most difficult of times.

Our aim after the half-term break is to restart school without a COVID-19 impact resulting from holiday travel. To do this, we continue to need the cooperation of every member of the school community. It seems that the winter peak is behind us, but travel and social interaction in groups remain a concern. I ask again that we prioritise our own health and the health of our community during the break. Please stay safe and consider the potential consequences of our actions upon others. 

That said, I hope the break will give us all some much-needed time to disconnect from our various devices and spend more time doing the things that re-energise us. I also trust that we will take time to reflect on all the joy and happiness that fill the school and our lives daily. The remaining part of the school year promises to excite with much to look forward to and celebrate.

This week provided one such moment for celebration and joy. Kent Rogers from Reception Giraffes took part in the All Japan Junior Classic Music Competition. Kent performed with distinction and successfully progressed to the next round of the competition. We are all very proud of Kent and wish him further success. Kent’s performance can be accessed here HERE

Participation in this week’s Parent forums on the BST Learner Profile has been excellent with over one hundred parents in attendance. Two repeat forums are scheduled after half term hosted by Mrs McCallum and Mr Kean. Please also remember that Mrs Loran and colleagues in the Primary school are also hosting three forums after the break. We would welcome seeing as many parents in attendance as possible. Please use the link HERE to register your attendance if you have not done so already. 

Also, looking ahead to the next half term, I wanted to make you aware that the School Advisory Committee’s (SAC) next meeting takes place on March 1st. Minutes of the last meeting can be accessed HERE, and items for the next meeting’s agenda can be sent to the Committee using the following address schooladvisory@bst.ac.jp

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.

Best wishes,

Paul Tough
Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

Principal's Message - Friday 5th February 2021
Paul Tough

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

Last week, I began the newsletter by referencing my Shibuya office's view where a beautiful sunrise was reflecting upon the roof of the Olympic stadium. I mentioned that this augured well for the weekend and the year ahead. In a similar vein, I note today that near balmy temperatures are forecast this weekend, which will hopefully herald the onset of spring. I trust we will all take time away from our devices and enjoy the relative warmth and sunshine.

As you will have read in this week’s mid-week COVID-19 update the school has been settled and incident free. Primary students at the Showa campus have revelled in being back in class while secondary students have continued to approach hybrid learning with high commitment levels. Although we have extended the hybrid approach in secondary for another two weeks, the prospect of having all secondary students back on campus in early March is a priority. With the city's wider situation seeming to improve and the peak winter cases in the past, this priority will be realized as planned.

This week the Board of Trustees met for the first time in 2021. A range of areas was discussed during the meeting, including the school’s COVID-19 response, finances, property, legal affairs, development, education, and staffing matters. During the meeting, I was able to update the Trustees on recent appointments to the Leadership Team for next year including the recent recruitment process for the Deputy Head of Primary vacancies.

We have indeed concluded the Deputy Head recruitment process in the Primary school and I am delighted to inform you that Mrs Hannah Pinkney and Mrs Nicola Hill have been appointed from August onwards. Both Mrs Pinkney and Mrs Hill impressed with their vision for learning and approach to supporting children during the interview process and I am confident they will make an outstanding contribution to the Primary School's new leadership team. As you are aware, Mrs Pinkney is currently Head of Primary English at BST while Mrs Hill is an Assistant Head of Primary in Hong Kong.

Additionally, with the school’s challenging and bold strategic plan in mind, we have recruited Mr David James as Deputy Principal (whole school) from August onwards. Mr James is currently Deputy Head at Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur. In recent interactions with Mr James through a different recruitment process, it became apparent that his considerable skill set and range of experience would be of great value to BST and help support the school with our broad range of priorities. Mr James has previously worked in two other international schools in Japan, is a Japanese speaker, and has an extended family living here in Tokyo.

Starting next week, a series of parent forums will begin with a focus on the new BST Learner Profile and Teaching Framework. Thank you to everyone who has already registered their interest. If you haven’t already and would like to attend one of the sessions, please do so here. Registration for Mrs Loran’s Primary introductory and curriculum session (English and Mathematics) after half term can be accessed here

Finally, at the end of next week, we bid farewell to Mrs Fiona Read as she returns to the UK with her family and begins a new role at Bedales School in Hampshire. Mrs Read has been Head of Primary at BST since August 2018, and during this time, she has been responsible for a range of developments and has steered the Primary school with a steady hand through the challenges posed by the pandemic. Throughout Mrs Read has approached the various challenges with commitment, dedication and determination while always seeking to achieve the very best for the students in her care. As a respected and valued member of the BST community, I know you will want to join me in thanking Mrs Read for her leadership and wish her all very best for the future.

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.

Best wishes for the weekend.

Paul Tough
Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

Principal's Message - Friday 29th January 2021
Paul Tough

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

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” – Maya Angelou

As I write today’s piece for the Lion from my office at the top of the Shibuya building, the sun is rising, and its light is starting to glisten on the roof of the Olympic stadium in the distance. It’s a beautiful morning which augurs well for the weekend and I'm sure represents a metaphor for the year ahead.

This week has remained challenging as different school sections moved in and out of remote learning. Students, staff and families have needed to be adaptable, flexible and resilient. Overwhelmingly I have been very proud of our students, staff and wider community in responding to changing circumstances almost daily. Although this is likely to be the school’s fate for some time yet, this morning’s glorious weather attests a brighter and more stable time will return.

The first School Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting of 2021 took place this week. Mr James Thomas, Mrs Fiona Read and Mr Ben Loran joined the meeting to discuss a range of issues including the school’s COVID-19 response, secondary school examinations and our new communications strategy. The meeting was lively and informative, with lots of questions and discussion. The meeting’s minutes will be published in next week’s Lion.  This week, a series of Trustees’ subcommittees convened before the next full Board meeting on February 4. During the meetings, there were various updates relating to education, finance, property and legal affairs.

A significant amount of staff professional development has occurred since the start of this term with this week being a particular highlight. Staff have been accessing a series of sessions taking place as part of the 21st Learning Conference -  https://www.21clhk.org/. This online conference is timely and relevant, of course, given our increased use of technology to deliver the curriculum over the last twelve months. I‘m also pleased that secondary students can access the sessions as there are many great workshops on offer. This week our PE staff have benefited from FOBISIA membership by joining the organization’s e-conference for PE teachers across Asia. - https://www.fobisia.org/conferences/pe-conference. Lots of interesting conversations have taken place, and it has been great to see BST reconnect with the organisation meaningfully again.  My colleagues Mr Tom Kean and Mrs Caroline McCallum also led an excellent session earlier in the week for all staff on the school’s new learner profile and teaching framework.

You will remember that we have scheduled a series of parent forums in Primary and Secondary with the BST Learner Profile and Teaching Framework as a focus. These forums take place on the following dates (8th & 11th Feb, 4th & 8th Mar), and we would be delighted to see as many parents in attendance as possible. If you are interested to know more about these developments in teaching and learning, please use the following link to register your attendance (LINK)

On the theme of parent forums, I also wanted to give our Primary parents advance notice that Mrs Eleanor Loran as the school's next Primary Head will be hosting an introductory forum immediately after half term with further sessions in quick succession on aspects of the Primary curriculum. Scheduled first are forums focussed on English and Mathematics the Primary school.

Head of Primary introductory sessions – Tues 23rd Feb  (9:30 - 10:15 am) and Wed 24th Feb (5:30 - 6:15 pm).

Primary Home Reading Workshop - Thurs 4th Mar (5:30-6:30 pm)

Primary Maths Workshop - Thurs 18th Mar (5:30-6:30 pm)

Finally, this week, we are in the last stages of recruitment for the position of Deputy Head of Primary for August. We have interviewed several excellent candidates during a rigorous process and I will make you aware of the outcome next week in addition to other important changes to the leadership team for next school year.

Please do contact me if you have any questions about the item in today’s newsletter or would like to arrange a meeting with me. In the meantime, enjoy a peaceful and safe weekend.

Paul Tough
Principal
The British School in Tokyo