Communication from the Headteacher

Newsletter, Friday 07/12/2019

Dear Parents,
The arrival of St Nicholas at our door each year is a wonderful tradition bringing colour, mystery, tradition and fun into our lives. It makes a change from shaking my hand each morning. Without breaking too many secrets I’d like to thank St Nick’s helpers and everyone involved – you know who you are! This month’s value is simplicity and there is nothing more apposite than the modest gifts from St Nicholas which carry so much symbolism.
In Early Years, Mrs Bird held a Learning Journey parent partnership meeting. This highly informative session was well attended and demonstrated how carefully we consider each individual child’s social and academic progress.
I would like to congratulate those pupils who played netball against BSB yesterday afternoon. We put on a terrific show but were beaten in the last few minutes which Mrs Johnson and Mr Mitchell thought terrific bad luck!
The children are hard at work preparing their various Christmas performances and Mr White was impressed with the turnout and quality of the parent choir, which began rehearsing on Thursday evening. It really shows how fresh mince pies and vin chaud really improve the vocal cords. The final rehearsal is next Thursday evening.

BJAB Mud Run

On Saturday 16th November, the regular BJAB Mud Run returned to Parc Woluwé. Hats and gloves at the ready, the blue sky and Autumnal chill were a perfect setting for children from Years 1 to 5 to run, duck, crawl and jump around the 1km course around the forest and park. This year saw the introduction of a 5km run. Open to adults and children from Years 5,  6 and 7, the brave competitors toed the line and were treated to a cross-country course worthy of any county race. Battling pavements, soft ground, fast descents and sharp inclines, the runners completed the three loop course in impressive times with nearly all runners clocking in under 30 minutes. Once over the finish line, Mud Runners and 5km racers alike were treated to a well-deserved mug of warming hot chocolate. This regular event is always popular and we eagerly await next year.

Newsletter, Friday 29/11/2019

Dear Parents,
This week came to a wonderful conclusion with a visit this morning from some talented Scottish musicians playing the fiddle and clàrsach (violin and harp). The pupils listened to some beautiful melodies and learned a traditional song called All for Marie’s Wedding. The performance ended with a memorable rendition of Auld Lang Syne!
This week, Year 7 pupils welcomed the Financial Times’ European correspondent, Michael Peel. Mr Peel has also worked in Thailand, West Africa and the Middle East. One of the issues on which he has reported is the partial destruction of forests in South East Asia due to the demand for rosewood. He gave expert advice on how to interpret news and events, perhaps the most poignant being the need for accuracy when reporting on a story rather than aiming to be the first to publish, even in the case of social media accounts.
The festive season is drawing closer and Mr White is inviting all those who enjoy singing a chance to join the Parents and Staff Choir for their annual contribution to the Christmas Carol service on Monday 16th December. There will be two Thursday evening rehearsals, on 5th and 12th at 7pm. It’s always a very sociable affair.

Newsletter, Friday 22/11/2019

Dear Parents,
 As a child, I spent many precious hours with my Grandmother, parents and aunt, listening to their enthralling and dramatic tales of UK war-time evacuation, rationing, loss, separation and extreme hardship. They bore, and continue to bear, their past experiences with acceptance and fortitude, exemplifying the value of forgiveness, enabling them to build lives and relationships which have sustained them for many happy years.
It was a huge privilege on Tuesday morning to hear Hugo MacPherson and Veronika Burget talk  about their personal stories to pupils in Year 5, which of course came from the British and German perspective. The similarity of their situations was startling and gave a clear message: BJAB pupils are in a remarkable environment. They can learn first- hand about diversity and different points of view.  This is in marked contrast to many international schools I’m aware of, where certain historical and social topics are either “brushed under the carpet” or actually forbidden. We are blessed to be living in a free, democratic and tolerant environment. I am indebted to Hugo and Veronika for their calm, unbiased and moving accounts and for the teachers’ skilful conduct of the age-appropriate discussion with pupils which followed.
 A significant way in which we are able to understand other cultures is to teach our children a variety of languages. To this end, I have introduced Flemish and German as pilot initiatives. In Year 7, the pupils are beginning to use humour in German compositions which the following, by Ciara, Nour and Chenoa, demonstrates:
Ich habe eine Familie. 
Ich habe zwei Eltern. 
Ich habe drei Brüder. 
Ich habe vier kleine Brüder. 
Ich habe fünf kleine Schwestern. 
Ich habe sechs Haustiere. 
Ich habe sieben größer Brüder. 
Ich habe acht größer Schwestern, 
Und wir müssen uns alle das Badezimmer teilen! 
Finally, but of no less importance, I must thank everyone involved in making last Saturday’s Mud Run such a success. The Brorsens showed such generosity of spirit in opening their home to all the enthusiastic participants. It is a wonderful BJAB event which chases all the cold away!

Newsletter, Friday 15/11/2019

Dear Parents, 
As the pupils’ diligence in academic areas continues apace, social and seasonal events begin to escalate. This is welcome news as the days become shorter, the skies greyer and the temperature falls.  Always at this time there is an increased need for coats, gloves and hats (red, labelled BJAB ones please – they are part of the uniform too and we will be checking!) 
Tomorrow’s much-anticipated Mud Run is once again kindly hosted by the Brorsen family. It is forecast to be cold and bright so I suggest wrapping up very warmly. Mr Durkee is providing a warming cup of hot chocolate to successful participants and this year we are asking you to bring a reusable cup to support our efforts in becoming more environmentally friendly. I remind you that the event costs 5 Euros per participant or 10 Euros per family. I look forward to jogging with you! 
Just in time for Christmas, we have a sale of books which is kindly organised by Ms Rogers. She writes: 
The November Book Club leaflets have been sent home this week, and all orders and payments should be made through the Scholastic website. Go to (it works best if you copy and paste this link into your browser) to browse the full catalogue and place your order. Please note that the deadline is Thursday, November 28th, 2019.  
Please let the front office know if your order is intended as a gift and you would prefer your child not to know about it. For every €1 you spend with the Book Club, BJAB will earn €0.20 in credit with Scholastic to buy new books for our library!”  
I would also like to give you details, well in advance, of this year’s Christmas Carol Concert which is being held once again at Holy Trinity Church in Rue Capitaine Crespel 29, 1050 Bruxelles. I know that many parents see this as the start of the festive season and all pupils from Years 1 to 7 are expected to attend this magical event. In order to assist in the travel to the church, the school will provide a coach at the cost of 5 Euros per child. I will send more details nearer the time but I thought you might appreciate the time to plan ahead. 
At the start of next term, we will have STEM week which is all about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. If you, or anyone you know, works in these fields and would be willing to talk to our naturally inquisitive pupils, we would love to hear from you. 

Newsletter, Friday 8/11/2019

Dear Parents, 
This school term (from September to December) is the longest and usually the most productive in terms of academic progress. Our expectations of the pupils are ambitious, and I am pleased to report that an industrious atmosphere prevails around school. That said, I am always proud to point out that BJAB’s curriculum is broad and balanced as this week’s appreciation of Brussels has illustrated. The photographs below of Colette (Y5) and Sebastian and Oceane (Y4) show some of the outcomes of the study of famous monuments of Brussels. 
Your support of the children’s participation in regular and varied sporting events is appreciated. Please sign up for the Mud Run here which is always a popular event and, this year, adults and older pupils are able to challenge themselves by running a 5k race. I would like to thank the Brorsen family in advance for hosting the event
Our pupils are always keen to help those less fortunate than themselves and our latest appeal has been no exception. We collected an impressive 55 rucksacks which will go to the Samusocial charity to help some of the homeless in Brussels throughout the winter months. My sincere thanks go to all those who gave so generously and to Miss Cowx for her organisation. 
Mr Seal writes; 
Ciara, Felix, Gruff, Leila and Oliver from Year 7 have won a place in the second round of the national UK Townsend-Warner History Prize. This prestigious award, which started 135 years ago, is one of the oldest institutions in the preparatory school world. It has proven to be enduringly popular in encouraging the study of history. It is not linked to any national testing or examinations, but aims to provoke interest and delight in historical reading, facts and analysis. The next round will be in early January, and I wish our historians luck. 
Of course, I add my own congratulations to the talented Year 7 pupils and all those who have worked hard in this week’s Brussels Week.  
Finally, Miss Bird writes; 
The third annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Week, is approaching and will take place during the first week of January! We invite any parents who are in STEM fields to come and tell the children about your roles or do a short experiment with them. Please do let me know if you are willing to help. 

Newsletter, Friday 18/10/2019

Dear Parents, 
It is an absolute privilege to conduct inspections and immerse oneself in the life of another international school for a period of time. I have enjoyed my week in Moscow and have collected some useful insights and ideas which I know will help us at BJAB. The BJAB staff is always open to professional dialogue and they constantly seek opportunities to improve our own practice. 
It has been an exciting and productive week in the French department with the start of their special project “Des Racines pour grandir” animé par Vinciane Hanquet, en photo ci-dessous, et ses deux assistantes. Madame Barbier is sending out further information and I am sure it will be a great success.  
Whenever I am away from school and can benefit from some objective reflection, I am reminded of our own excellence and what a very special community we have in the heart of Brussels. I must thank the exceptional staff for covering my absence with such efficiency and I look forward to seeing everyone on Monday. 

Newsletter, Friday 11/10/2019

Dear Parents,

The description of BJAB as a ‘family’ may sometimes seem a little fanciful, until you attend a Wednesday morning assembly when pupils from Key Stages One and Two (and Year Seven, once a month) come together with parents and staff. Almost every week, there is a ‘magical moment’ created by the words of the children when they are not thinking about the academic curriculum. This week was no exception and I am grateful to those parents who wrote or spoke to me about how much they enjoyed the hour spent in our company. As my first ‘musings’ (a blog-style article on our website) will illustrate, parental involvement is linked directly to a child’s educational success.

An appreciation of those less fortunate than ourselves and the ways to support their difficulties are an example of the caring ethos of the school. In assembly this week, Miss Cowx introduced our charitable focus for the term and I attach the Powerpoint Presentation for your perusal. In short, we are asking families or groups of children to fill an old rucksack with items which will help the homeless this winter.
Please may I remind you that swimming is an integral part of the curriculum? If your child is well enough to be at school, he/she is well enough to swim. If they are unwell, the school requires a doctor’s certificate to clarify the reason. Thank you for your support of all aspects of school life.
Next week, I will be undertaking an inspection of another school but will be ably kept up-to-date by my colleagues, Miss Benitez and members of the Senior Leadership Team. 

Newsletter, Friday 04/10/2019

Dear Parents,
As you will know, I place great emphasis on our programme of Values Education at BJAB. Each  month, a global moral value is introduced in assembly and a discussion of its relevance follows in class. This month our value is Humility. In assembly on Wednesday I illustrated what humility means and outlined the main concepts. As humility is a relatively complex value, I urge you to have some discussion at home (at an age-appropriate level) about how individuals and societies can be more humble. I would be interested to hear some feedback from your discussions.
Mr Mitchell, Mr Seal and I have just returned from a night’s camping trip with the Year 7 pupils to the beautiful National Park in Limburg. Erecting tents, organising sleeping arrangements, orienteering on a 15 kilometre hike and sleeping outside in October proved that stoicism, humour and practical aptitude abounds in the older BJAB years. Mr Mitchell should be congratulated for this trip which will become a feature on the school’s calendar.
I do hope that you will consider attending the musical soiree with your older children. The programme will showcase some BJAB musical talent and there will be wine/soft drinks and nibbles to enjoy during the performance. The event will be free and will last no longer than an hour.

Newsletter, Friday 27/09/2019

Dear Parents,
I am writing this newsletter only a stone’s throw away from the Houses of Parliament in Westminster: what a time to be in such close proximity to this icon of British democracy and the rule of law. I can almost feel the passion and tension emanating from the towers and turrets!
The last three days of conference have been a marvellous opportunity for me to absorb the current educational issues facing UK independent and international schools which, like BJAB, are members of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS.)
Sessions such as the mentoring and appraisal of staff, GDPR and the teaching of Classics have been engaging and informative. Perhaps the most exciting session concerned the developments around the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in education. In time, AI is, without doubt, going to change the way future generations learn. Interestingly Belgium is one of the first countries to introduce some of the latest technology into its schools in Flanders. Over time, I intend to observe the use and impact of this fascinating application of new technology and assess its suitability. Please do not be alarmed, however, at BJAB your children will never be taught by robots but by talented teachers who may simply have their administrative workload reduced by AI.
I have been particularly pleased that the well-being of school communities is at the forefront of many educational leaders’ minds. You may recall that following our mindfulness sessions last year I re-affirmed my commitment to this aspect of BJAB life at the beginning of this year. Hence the hashtag  #happyBJAB which I use frequently. On the subject of hashtags, please note that I have been tweeting from this conference with the Twitter handle @sarahbjab. For those of you who do not use Twitter, the feed is automatically updated onto the BJAB website’s home page along with Facebook posts. Love it or loathe it, social media is an efficient way for parents, grandparents and friends to keep up to date with all things BJAB. I encourage you to log in, comment and share our content.  A short reminder, however of our Privacy Policy, the guidelines about not taking photographs of children other than your own at school events and taking care on social media. All designed to keep our children safe.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the conference was hearing the school choir from Westminster Under school sing three beautiful pieces in St Margaret’s Church (next door to Westminster Abbey) and discovering former pupil, Alejandro Enriques, singing in the choir! Such enormous pride and happiness overcame me as I remembered Alejandro as a year one child when I first visited BJAB. A perfect illustration of  #BJABexcellent!


I am grateful to the Senior Leadership Team and all staff who have ensured that work and fun have continued to abound in my absence.

Newsletter, Friday 20/09/2019

Dear Parents,

In Wednesday’s assembly, the concept of Democracy was energetically introduced by Mrs Bird. The etymology and definition of the word, the concepts of equality and inclusion and the reasons for fair and unbiased elections were illustrated and discussed.  The European Parliament’s role in representing many nations and working for peace and human rights led to the ethos behind BJAB’s own democratically elected School Council Representatives.  I look forward to hearing the suggestions from School Council Reps as the year progresses.

Parents can support the school (democratically!) in many ways and I was pleased to hear some ideas from Parent Representatives this morning. Please expect informative emails from your class reps soon. I am also grateful to those teachers and parents who have volunteered to play or sing in the forthcoming musical soiree on 23rd October. It promises to be great fun and I encourage you all to mark your diaries.

School uniform is an important part of BJAB’s identity and I am grateful to those who support me in this. A year ago, we introduced a new on-line supplier who provides uniform at a more competitive price than previously and, in some areas, we found more up-to-date styles. Although it is acceptable for some pupils to wear the old-style items of clothing for another few months, please do replace with the new versions as your children out-grow their current uniform. I must also insist on black/navy leather shoes with a buckle or velcro and the school navy-blue winter coats which are warm and smart. Please do not be surprised if I ask you or your child about their clothing if it does not conform to our rules. Once again, thank you for your support.

I am grateful to the Senior Leadership Team and all staff who have ensured that work and fun have continued to abound in my absence.

Newsletter, Friday 13/09/2019

Dear Parents,
This week, the pupils in Years 1 to 6 have been formally assessed by their teachers using standardised tests in English, mathematics, spelling, reading and reasoning. The information gathered through these assessments is important when teachers plan their lessons for this academic year. At BJAB we pride ourselves on knowing each child’s strengths and personality and we create individualised learning using a wide variety of criteria. I am confident you will see some impressive progress throughout the coming weeks and months which our regular written reports will document.
Ms Naslin is now on maternity leave and I am sure you all join me in wishing her well. She will be missed over the coming months but Miss Benitez, Mrs Mace and Ms De Maertelaere will be able to help you with any queries.
The range of clubs available at BJAB shows our commitment to offer a as broad an education as we can. A new club is now available on Thursday afternoons from 16.00-17.00. Mr. Seal’s chess club begins next week and is open to all pupils in Years 3-5, from absolute beginners to grand masters. We also have two new teachers of the violin and piano. Please contact Miss Benitez to register as the website registration is now closed.
Music at BJAB is having a boost and we are planning a musical soiree on Wednesday 23rd October in order to inspire budding talent. We would like a variety of musical styles and participation, so if you are a musician and would like to contribute, please do get in touch with me. Miss Caroline and I are hoping to sing in a small group and would welcome moral support!
There are still opportunities for parents to volunteer to be class representatives. We have spaces in RB, RS, 1W, 2S, 3R, and 5V. If you would like to put yourself forward please mention it to your class teacher.
Do enjoy the late summer weather this weekend.

Newsletter, Friday 06/09/2019

Dear Parents, 
The first week of the academic year has come to a conclusion and I am pleased to note the teachers and children are all enthusiastic and positive. (If a little tired and eagerly anticipating the weekend!) 
Last evening’s Meet the Teacher event was well-attended and the atmosphere typically warm. If you were unable to attend, you will find the teachers’ PowerPoint Presentations on the Parent Portal of the website. My speech will appear on Communication from the Headteacher. Do also take the opportunity to read the ISI Inspection Report: it’s an “excellent” read! 
I am pleased to see that the Year 6 pupils have been active in their special roles and responsibilities. As ICT monitor, Leo recorded me speaking last evening and the edited version should be available very soon. I was enormously proud of Irene and Ilaria yesterday afternoon as they interviewed the school’s catering company, TCO. Their request for ‘special’ meals, such as taco and vegetable kebabs, was well-received and I have no doubt that these young ladies will exercise their unique form of quality control this term! I am always impressed when BJAB children speak to adults with such confidence and mature turn of phrase. In Early Years, I’m pleased to see the children are settling into the school routines and are already delighting us all with their effervescence. 


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