Principal's Message

Principal's Message - Friday 27th November 2020
Paul Tough

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:

  1. Continuity of learning for students. In particular, the balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning for different age groups.
  2. The health and safety of the community. In particular, the social and emotional welfare of students, staff and parents.
  3. 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.

Best wishes,

Paul Tough
Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

 

Principal's Message - Friday 20th November 2020
Paul Tough

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

In last week’s edition of the Lion, I expressed my pride in all things BST. I also finished the newsletter by sharing my belief that as members of the school community and wider society, we are all interconnected and have a responsibility to each other. This theme was expanded this week so thoughtfully and eloquently by my colleague Mr Grant Fraser (Head of Languages) and members of the Secondary school during an assembly on the importance of international mindedness at BST (LINK TO THE ASSEMBLY VIDEO).

As you will be aware, the school has recently revised its guiding statements – our Vision, Mission, and Values to articulate its ethos and identity clearly. As part of this process, we spent time carefully thinking about what it means to be a British international school in Japan with a diverse community of families and staff. As an outcome, we defined our commitment to international-mindedness and have begun a deep conversation about how this is shown in our daily actions and guides our development into the future. This conversation also includes our friends and partners at Showa Women's University (SWU) and Temple University Japan (TUJ), and over the coming months and years, it will be fantastic to see the positive outcomes of this dialogue and thinking upon the school.

Our collective experience in dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also placed a spotlight on humanity’s interconnectedness and upon the theme of social responsibility. This week’s news that COVID-19 numbers in Tokyo, across Japan and much of the world are again rising is unsettling. As such, I trust that all members of the school community will be careful and take all the necessary precautions during the upcoming holiday season.

It would be remiss of me not to remind everyone to adhere to any precautionary measures that may apply overseas and here in Japan. These measures, of course, include the Japanese governments’ quarantine requirements on re-entry to the country. Indeed, all students, staff and parents must follow the 14-day quarantine period before returning to school. With this in mind, we will be asking all families and staff to register their holiday plans with the school via an online form accessible HERE. I am confident that the school has a robust remote contingency learning plan if we need to close the campuses at any time. However, I am sure we all hope that these are not needed any time soon. Please also be aware that at the start of Term 2 on January 5, BST teachers will be at school teaching and as a result, online lessons for families quarantining at home will not be possible.

Finally, I wanted to make you aware that the week has involved numerous subcommittee meeting of the Board of Trustees at which some lively discussion has taken place relating to education, property and finance. I had the opportunity with James Hollow (BST Chair of the Board) to meet Matt Wilson, Dean of TUJ. Matt is new in post, and it was great to start discussing ideas for collaboration between BST and TUJ which will be of benefit for our Senior student in particular. Also this week the application process for the Head of Primary position at BST ended, and I pleased to report that an excellent long list of candidates with broad experience has been drafted. We will be conducting interviews next week with shortlisted candidates meeting with staff, students, parents and the Trustees the week of November 30. I look forward to providing the community with positive news soon after.

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 13th November 2020
Paul Tough

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

We may be surrounded by uncertainty and instability but seeing children of all ages smile, while enjoying school life, is such a tonic. This week has been no different as it’s been wonderful to see children on both campuses with so much energy and positivity. I often get asked do I enjoy being a principal. Every time I am asked, my answer comes and quick and is always the same. “I have the best job in the world.” The opportunity to work with exceptional young people, dedicated colleagues and committed parents is truly something special. Equally, having the opportunity to liaise and collaborate with the school’s various partners whether on the new campus project or developing new learning opportunities at the Showa or Shibuya campuses is a bonus. Moreover, seeing young people develop into principled, compassionate and active members of society brings enough joy and satisfaction in itself.

This week my joyful feeling was exceeded by a sense of pride in our school and BST students. Pride in the way in which our senior students represented the school with distinction at last Sunday’s Remembrance Service at Yokohama Commonwealth War Ceremony hosted by the Indian Embassy. Pride in the commitment of secondary students to environmental sustainability through their involvement in Operation Wallacea. Pride in the “kindness superstars” celebrated in today’s primary assembly. Pride in the role played by our school in developing a shared cultural understanding as part of a community of educators at the Showa campus. Also pride in my colleagues who are working with United World Schools (UWS) to establish BST Global, an online curriculum for use by educators and children around the world who are not as fortunate as ourselves.

I could continue with many more examples of why I am proud of our school community in so many different ways. I know that my sense of pride is shared by staff, students and parents alike. Of course, we are all individuals, but we are also all connected as part of a broader school community. As demonstrated this week in a myriad of ways, we are all part of something bigger than ourselves and our actions matter and have value. I know we will feel it each morning when we walk through the doors of the school in either location. It’s pride, it's caring, it's treating each other with respect, and it holds an extraordinary place for us all at BST.

Best wishes for the weekend.

Paul Tough
Principal
The British School in Tokyo

 

 

Principal's Message - Friday 6th November 2020
Paul Tough

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

Much of my time this week has been spent at the Showa campus observing lessons and meeting staff and parents. It’s been great to see Secondary and upper Primary students so engaged in their learning with great examples of critical thinking in English and Science lessons in particular. At the time of writing today’s missive, I’m eagerly anticipating visiting Reception children’s art gallery event where I’m sure there will be some excellent examples of creativity on display.

As I often remark, it has been truly joyous to have the school back in full swing since August, and I have been so pleased with the range of learning taking place across the campuses. That said, as we are all aware there is a need for us to be prepared for periods of disruption and in particular for the school to ensure continuity of learning for all students during enforced campus closure. As a result, we have created an emergency contingency plan, which will ensure a robust and responsive online approach. I am grateful to my colleagues and in particular, Mr Iain Crummie, School Development Leader for Educational Technology, for creating a centralized platform for both the Primary and Secondary schools which can be accessed from today onwards if there was a need for us to move to a remote learning scenario again. The Remote Learning Emergency Contingency Plan can be accessed using the following links, and we welcome ongoing feedback to ensure that the approach can be refined in advance of any emergency.

Primary

https://sites.google.com/bst.ac.jp/bstonline-learning-at-home/remote-learning

Secondary

https://sites.google.com/bst.ac.jp/remote-learning-secondary/remote-learning

In a similar vein, thank you to all the parents who commented on our recently published and revised COVID and Influenza protocols. I am pleased that the documents have provided clarity and reassurance as we begin to approach the winter months. If you do have any questions about the school’s approach or are unsure of what to do in a particular circumstance, please do let the school nurses, Mr Thomas, Mrs Read or me know.

As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, the School Advisory Committee (SAC) has been an invaluable forum for discussion on a range of areas during the term. The SAC meets monthly with the third meeting of the year taking place on November 30. From this month onwards I will publish the minutes of the meetings in the Lion for the wider school community to read. The minutes from October’s meeting will appear once the SAC has approved their contents, but in the meantime, please find (HERE) the minutes from the September meeting drafted by my colleague Mrs Gonzalez. In advance of this month's meeting, I encourage everyone to use the SAC email address (HERE) to suggest discussion items or pose questions.

Finally, I wanted to confirm that teacher recruitment season for next year will start in December, but before this, we are in the midst of an international process for securing BST’s next Head of Primary. The application window for the position will close on November 16 with the long and the shortlisting process taking place between November 20 and the start of December. Shortlisted candidates will take part in a range of sessions with students, staff, parents and members of the Board of Trustees after which I am confident we will have secured an outstanding new addition to the school’s senior leadership team.

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 30th October 2020
Paul Tough

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

I think that we would all agree that conversation and ongoing dialogue is a characteristic of any successful and high functioning organisation, community or society. A school such as ours is no different. Engagement, connection and open communication between all stakeholder groups are essential, especially during times of change and development. This week has seen a range of different forums and meetings taking place across the school where a fantastic level of discussion has taken place. These have included last night’s Trustees’ Strategy Evening, Parent Forums on the Strategic Plan and this month’s School Advisory Committee meeting (SAC).

At the SAC meeting, valuable feedback was provided on the school’s COVID and Influenza protocols. As a result, I am delighted that we can now publish these important documents with a high level of clarity (HERE). While at the Strategy Evening, some invigorating and creative thinking took place about the school’s long-term future. Equally, at the Parent Forums, we were able to talk through a range of areas relating to school finances, teaching and learning and curriculum development. Thank you to all the parents, staff and trustees who attended the meetings as the level of commitment and discussion were superb.

On a similar theme this week my colleagues in the BST leadership group met with our counterparts, Showa Women’s University (SWU) and Shibuya Kyoiku Gakuen (SKG), at separate sessions to talk through our plans for the future as documented in our Strategic Vision and Plan (HERE). I am delighted to report that both meetings were incredibly positive and underscored the deep ties of friendship between our communities. As a specific outcome, I am particularly thrilled by the prospect of working with SWU and potentially Temple University Japan (TUJ) on a project where we explore perspectives within our communities on the concept of international-mindedness over the coming year.

Finally, on a related note this week I wanted to make you aware that my colleague Mr Ben Loran (BST Director of Operations) is currently leading a full review of the school’s external and internal communication methods. Various groups within the school have contributed to the first phase of this process but the second phase will start soon with the wider community and I know, as much parent involvement and feedback would be appreciated.

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