Communication from the Headteacher - BJAB - British Junior Academy of Brussels

Communication from the Headteacher

For all information regarding the school’s response to COVID-19, please check here.

Newsletter, Friday 27/03/2020

Dear Parents, 
As the second week of Distance Learning comes to an end, I continue to be impressed with the teachers’ commitment to their pupils and the standard of work produced by the children. We are all enjoying the energy and fun provided by the activities but, as I have said previously, if you feel that you need to have a break, please take one. 
I am grateful for your overwhelmingly positive comments and the suggestions you have made will be taken into consideration for future planning. 
On that note, I am sure, like me, you would like to know when we will all be back at BJAB. As there is due to be an announcement later in the day from the Belgian Government, it would not be advisable for me to make predictions. Therefore, I hope to give more clarity in the Monday Reminders. 
I hope you are able to have a weekend filled with family fun and relaxation. 

Newsletter, Friday 20/03/2020

Dear Parents, 
To begin this newsletter with something different, may I make the happy announcement that last Saturday my daughter gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy named Joseph. The witnessing of his birth is one I will treasure for the rest of my life. Amid the turmoil of our current situation, there are always blessings to be counted. 
BJAB started the week very differently, with the introduction of our distance learning platforms. I must thank all the staff of BJAB who have worked tirelessly to prepare for this development. I have been fortunate enough to see some of the online learning provided by other international schools around the world and I am proud to say that BJAB is offering very high-quality  and appealing material, supported by skilful teachers.  I have already received many emails of praise for all that is being provided and I have seen some excellent work as evidence that the children are engaged fully. As with any new system, there have been some ‘teething’ problems and I am pleased that Ms Benitez has been able to sort most of the technical issues quickly.
Three main points have come to my attention during the week. A small number of parents have asked about the timeframe for when children can expect to receive feedback from teachers. Due to the high volume of responses, feedback is unlikely to be instantaneous and, depending on the nature of the task, it may not be until the following day. May I request you to assist your eager learners with patience? The procedure in Seesaw is that your children’s work, when uploaded, must be ‘approved’ by a member of staff before it is seen. Please do not upload it more than once because the system is becoming very crowded with over-zealous contributors. Finally, I am certain your children are enjoying the ‘fun’ activities provided by our talented LSAs, but please make sure that the more academic work is completed first! 
Parents of children in the Early Years are being given work through a platform called Early Essence. I have loved seeing the many activities being provided, from Miss Angela reading a story to Mrs Philips baking flapjacks. We would like to know your experience of the system so please email me with your thoughts on the number of activities and how easily you are accessing the material. 
This is an interesting time for us all to reflect on the purpose and process of school. I am sure many of you now agree with the memes on social media about home schooling, such as, ‘I am 30 minutes into home schooling my 6 year old. I suggest that all teachers are paid £1m per year from now on!’ In reality, teaching is a true vocation and the satisfaction my colleagues and I derive does not have a monetary value but I must tell you how impressed I have been this week with the number of BJAB teachers who are genuinely missing personal interaction with your children. We will continue to offer our characteristic care and professionalism in the coming weeks and I thank you for your support. 

Newsletter, Friday 06/03/2020

Dear Parents, 
World Book Day takes place at a perfect time of year as the colourful costumes and associated ebullient role-play always brighten up the grey Belgian drizzle. This year has not been a disappointment and I congratulate everyone for the special effort they have made to dress up as their favourite book character. The Year 6 pupils co-ordinated their costumes and Irene’s interpretation of the Mad Hatter deservedly won the best overall costume. Despite the book sale being cancelled, we had great fun including a parade of the winning costumes, a quiz and many antics during the school day. I am grateful to Miss Rogers whose love of literature provides an inspiring role model for us all. It is a joy to work with such enthusiastic and fun-loving children and  colleagues. 
There is an attachment with this newsletter which gives information about Healthy Week which will take place after the Easter holiday. Please take special note of the activities for parents – we are keen to keep you healthy too! 
Covid-19 virus 
I am pleased to note that you are finding my regular updates reassuring and I plan to continue writing frequently as the situation unfolds. 
There will be no PE (including swimming) or trips off-site until Easter. There is one small exception for the Netball and Soccer after-school clubs which use the nearby small ING park. If you do not want your child to attend, please do let the school office know. 
I am also asking the parents of pupils in Years 6 and 7 to be aware that we are continuing to use the ING park for break-times. If you do not want your child to do so, we are very happy to accommodate them in school so please let us know. 
Outside providers have given written confirmation that they have not visited any of the restricted areas or that they have been in close contact with anyone infected with the virus. As you might imagine, I  continue to insist on good hygiene throughout the school day. It is the advantage of a small school that I am able to be highly observant and thorough whilst at the same time, discreet and caring. 

Newsletter, Thursday 20/02/2020

Dear Parents, 
As we arrive at the half term holiday I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues and your children for their hard work and good humour since our return to school in January. The teachers, learning support assistants and administration staff have worked tirelessly this term and, despite some nasty sickness, have put the pupils’ education above all else. I am sure you would like to join me in wishing them a well-earned and relaxing break.   
Tomorrow, I will be analysing the progress of each child using data from the assessment tests and information from the class teachers. I have already heard indications from Mr Moran of some promising results, so I am certain the reports issued at Easter will reflect clear progress by all.  
Miss Simpson will be taking maternity leave from today and in the words of the song we sang to her in assembly, we hope she will ‘leap and sing’ in all she does for the next few months! She goes with our love and we send our best wishes to all her family. For the remainder of the year, the class will be expertly taught by Miss Faye Bailey who is an experienced teacher joining us from England. She has met the class on several occasions and has had plenty of time to understand each child’s strengths and personality. 
There has been a great deal going on ‘behind the scenes’ at BJAB this term. Mme De Maertelaere, Mr White, Ms De Maertelaere and I are immersed in the detail of the specifications for the renovation of our new building at Boulevard Louis Schmidt, 101, which we refer to as the BJAB Prep building. As I have informed the parents of children in the older years, the building has impressive potential but there is no doubt there is much to be done to ensure the building is safe, practical and well-presented. Mme De Maertelaere has given her assurance that phase one will be completed in the Easter and summer holidays so that our older children will be in situ from September 2020. Now that our plans have finalised, I am pleased to announce that pupils in years 5, 6, 7 and 8 will all be accommodated in the new building. I will meet with parents of the current year 4 pupils in the first week of March (date below) to give details. Furthermore, I invited Mrs Gabler, parent Governor, to visit the Prep building yesterday. Her reaction was heartening and she will be pleased to add her assurances from an informed view if you would like to approach her at any stage.  
The addition of the Prep building means that the children in Boulevard St Michel and Marlowe House will have more space, inside and out. They will also benefit from some of the facilities in the new building, such as the theatre and the sports pitches. It may be pertinent to mention that the class structure of no more than two classes per year group and small cIass sizes will remain. I have no intention of BJAB losing its family atmosphere. As always, if you have any comments or questions, I am happy to correspond or meet. 
Our footballers played a match with week against ISF. I’m told they displayed excellent skills and character in their narrow loss. Years 6 and 7 visited the Jewish Community Centre on Wednesday as part of their work in philosophy and theology. 
I am excited to announce that the long-awaited BJAB Ball will be on Saturday 9th May at The Hotel Brussels. The Friends of BJAB, and in particular the indefatigable Sallie Payne, are busy organising this wonderful event which will bring us together for aperitifs, a delicious meal, entertainment, dancing and a silent auction. Details will follow but I urge you to keep this date free – I have already chosen a beautiful dress but don’t tell my husband! 
I wish all families and staff a well-deserved holiday. 

Newsletter, Friday 14/02/2020

Dear Parents, 
During these winter months, colds, coughs and snivels circulate quickly. For the general well-being of everyone it is very important that children (and staff) do not attend school during the infectious stage and do not return until they are fully recovered. If this common-sense practice is not adhered to we cannot break the cycle and the whole school community is affected. I would ask that you all be vigilant and understanding of this guidance.  
On the specific topic of the Corona 19 virus, the Belgian authorities are offering schools advice which I am following carefully. I am sure I do not need to repeat here the procedures recommended by the World Health Organisation, but if you have travelled recently to the parts of the world which are affected, please take the necessary precautions.  
The LAMDA examinations have long been an important feature of the BJAB curriculum and I applaud the children’s determination to learn the poetry and to perform with such panache. The examiner echoed these observations and was at pains to tell me how impressed she was with the BJAB pupilsperformances, their general demeanour and the warmth of the school. We were the only school in Belgium which promoted the Shakespeare examinations and, having heard the polished performances, I am astounded by the pupils’ mature comprehension. They have been ably taught by Mr Seal and the unit of work culminated in a trip to a local performance of Much Ado About Nothing last Saturday. 
This week has seen the completion of formal assessment in Years 1 to 7 and I am pleased to report that the pupils have worked diligently and with resilience. I am confident that Mr Moran and I will see encouraging progress when we meet with teachers next Friday to analyse the results. 
I wish you a happy and healthy weekend. 

Newsletter, Friday 07/02/2020

Dear Parents, 
Last weekend many of us ventured into the forest near Ghent to plant trees: an initiative of the Jane Goodall Institute.  The rain was persistent, the wind cruel and the field muddy, but spirits were high. The act of planting a tree – or ten – was quite salutary and made me think of all the little human saplings we have at BJAB. We tender and care for each of them, trusting that one day they with mature into sturdy oaks. My thanks to Mrs Bird, Ms McConochie and Mr Viola for organising our participation in the event and for adding to it with face-painting and other activities for the children.   
The school has been hard at work this week and LAMDA examinations have begun. I have also been informed that BJAB classes in Years 3, 4 and 5 now occupy the top five places in Europe for Mathletics. I am feeling very proud indeed and congratulate those who are battling hard! 
On Sunday 15th March the Lions Splash Marathon returns to Piscine Neder-Over-Heembeek. Between 10:00 and 11:00am BJAB has exclusive use of the entire pool to attempt to raise as much money as possible for the Lions International relay for life, with all proceeds will go towards the charity Foundation Against Cancer. Children from Years 1 to 7 are encouraged to come and swim as many lengths as possible within the hour. Every ability and confidence is welcome, parents and BJAB alumni are also encouraged to join the children in swimming. As an added competition, this year the houses and lanes with the most participants and lengths will gain extra class dojos points. Please sign-up to the event by clicking here.  
I wish you all a good weekend.  

Newsletter, Friday 31/01/2020

Dear Parents,
On this historic day, as Britain leaves the European Union, it is highly appropriate that BJAB pupils were chosen by the BBC to offer opinions on a subject which affects so many of the families in our school community.  Please watch here at 4 minutes and 50 seconds. The children involved spoke from the heart and I am sure you will join me in congratulating them on their eloquence and ease in front of the camera. I will make no more comment on Brexit except to point out that your children constantly impress me, and other adults, with their knowledgeable outlook on world politics and diverse cultures. I am proud to say that BJAB pupils are true citizens of Europe and the world.
As the BBC was recording the Brexit feature on Thursday morning, the rest of the school was being entertained by a Scottish singer, Robyn Stapleton. She sang traditional songs, unaccompanied, which the children found beautiful and evocative.
This week, I have had the privilege of taking our Year 7 pupils skiing, with Mr Mitchell and Mrs Johnson. We have been staying in the Italian Dolomites and treated to sunshine and fresh snow each day. These young people have impressed us all (Stefano, the instructor, included) with their plucky approach which has resulted in each participant nimbly negotiating blue runs and, for some, the more advanced red runs. I am sure I do not need to tell you that progressing from absolute beginner to skiing with confidence and control down a blue run is most impressive in just four days. The experience, for all of us, was character-building and illustrated how we exhibit kindness, resilience and a team spirit. A couple of the evenings were spent practising soliloquys from Shakespeare, the literary equivalent of red runs, perfectly illustrating the breadth of the Prep curriculum. It seems that my vision of excellence across all areas of learning has been evident this week and I must thank my fit and accomplished skiing colleagues, Mr Mitchell and Mrs Johnson, for the care bestowed on each pupil, accompanied by a keen sense of fun.
The children’s outlook I spoke of earlier is very much inspired by the talented teachers we have at BJAB and an example is Mr Seal and Mrs Bird who are working hard to educate children on how to help the planet. The Eco-council is active within the school building but you are also invited to join us on Sunday to plant trees in support of the Jane Goodall Institute.
Miss Rogers has launched our annual Reading Challenge and would like to remind you that children may submit their book reviews on Junior Librarian. Both the username and password are the number listed on pupils’ borrower barcodes, e.g. B00123.
I wish to thank Miss Cowx, Mrs Bird and Ms Benitez for their organisation of the school in my absence. They have kept me informed of every event, however small, and I am confident that everything ran with customary efficiency.
I wish you a happy weekend and hope to see some of you on Sunday.

Newsletter, Friday 24/01/2020

Dear Parents,
It is always a pleasure when one is thanked and this week, I was thrilled to receive a letter from the Australian Ambassador, Justin Brown, recognising the whole BJAB community’s recent fund-raising efforts. Please read the letter here.
Yesterday’s Pizza and Pyjama Party was a great success, as always. I am told that the children loved the films and consumed admirable amounts of pizza. Special thanks go to David Durkee, Miss Cowx and Miss Rogers for delivering the pizza and Mr Mitchell and Ms Benitez for organisation of the films. As the children and teachers were happily occupied, the adults were consuming tasty treats and answering some tough questions in the multi-media quiz! We are fortunate to have Jac Cooke’s baking skills in evidence at BJAB and she was ably supported by Holly Ruthrauff. It is always a treat to see the BJAB parents join Friends’ activities with such good humour and enthusiasm. Sallie Payne and Jevon Snell (Jess’ parents) were wonderful quiz masters and general organisers of the whole event.

Yesterday morning I, with Mme De Maertelaere, held a briefing on the progress of the new Prep building. The design layout has been completed and a detailed schedule of work is being prepared to renovate the building. As it is such a large building, the work is being phased and we are confident we will have an operational building for September. It was interesting to note that on my visit to the school in Geneva last week, they recounted a very similar path of expansion from one additional room of Year 7 into a dedicated space for their Prep department. One of the first priorities is to create a new multi-purpose theatre, which is in a separate building at the rear of the property, as this will immediately be of benefit to the whole school. Alongside further updates to the building work during the coming months, I will be announcing details of the academic arrangements.

The broad curriculum at BJAB offers wonderful opportunities for our pupils to benefit from the rich diversity of museums and cultural institutions in Brussels. This week, both Year 5 and Year 7 went to the Cinquantenaire Royal Museum of Art and History as part of their studies of ancient Greece. My thanks to all the teachers and helpers for organising these trips.
Regarding the annual BJAB Reading Challenge, Miss Rogers writes:
The BJAB Reading Challenge is now under way! Pupils in Years 3 to 7 will challenge themselves to read a certain number of books, agreed with their teacher, by the end of the spring term. They are encouraged to take on the additional challenge of writing book reviews through our online library catalogue system, Junior Librarian. Children are learning how to post a review in class, but the instructions can also be found in the attached PowerPoint. The system can be accessed via the following link:
Pupils can earn points for their house with every book they read and review they write and have the opportunity to boost their contribution with bonus challenges. All those who complete the challenge they set themselves will receive a certificate of achievement, and there will be prizes awarded for outstanding effort. Have fun reading!
Next week I shall be accompanying the Year 7 ski trip to Italy: a BJAB first! I shall be in daily contact with the school, but all members of the Senior Leadership Team are in school to assist with any issues.

BJAB receives thanks from Australian Embassy

Following our fundraising efforts for bushfire relief in Australia, BJAB was proud to receive a touching letter from Mr Justin Brown PSM, Australian Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the EU and NATO.

Read Mr Brown’s message to BJAB here.


Newsletter, Friday 17/01/2020

Dear Parents,
Part of BJAB’s success is my insistence on the very highest of academic standards in all curriculum areas. I do this by ensuring all our teachers are supported and developed in their professional practice and by keeping abreast of current educational conversations and debate on all aspects of the curriculum. This term, I am turning my focus to the teaching of French.  Today I am visiting the Geneva English School, an excellent school which I consider to be comparable to BJAB, to learn more about their approach. Mme De Maertelaere and I have had most interesting discussions and I will have much to share with the French department and class teachers in due course. Naturally, I would value your views on the subject, so please do send me your thoughts via email.
I hope you found this week’s meetings with your class teachers informative and useful. They are a valuable opportunity to further our working partnership through shared understanding.  As you are aware now of how your children are doing academically I would like to share an email Mr Mitchell sent me this week highlighting the progress the older pupils have made in Physical Education:
With weekly swimming lessons, games afternoons and extra-curricular sport our Year 6 and 7 pupils are continually exposed to opportunities for raising their heart rate. In September, as part of our continued efforts to improve and build upon pupils’ fitness levels, I tested and recorded baseline fitness data from the commonly used 12 minute Cooper Run. Running continuously around an evenly measured square, participants record how many laps they can complete in twelve minutes. On Friday afternoon several of our Years 6 and 7 pupils repeated the test to measure any improvements in their cardiovascular fitness. Our sporting efforts are paying dividends as every pupil was able to improve upon the score recorded in September. In summary, pupils were able to run between 1.5km and 3km in 12 minutes; a significant achievement for all. We look forward to repeating our tests in the summer term.
This week I am announcing that Mr Mitchell will join the Senior Leadership with the specific remit of developing years seven and eight. He will continue to champion PE and other events across all year groups. I congratulate him on his promotion and look forward to his contribution during this exciting period in the school’s development. Relevant parents will be aware of a briefing on BJAB Prep on the 23rd January.
Thursday saw the whole school engaged in a wonderful response to the devastating effects of the bushfires in Australia. We had a bake sale, non-uniform day and fancy dress which has raised over 800 Euros – which is an even more impressive 1300 Australian dollars. My thanks to Mrs Cooke and all the staff who have promoted this important cause. Miss Rogers deserves an extra special mention for her frill-necked lizard costume. It was a masterpiece.

Newsletter, Friday 10/01/2020

Dear Parents,
Returning to the routines of work and school after the festivities in December can be a shock, so the STEM Week of dedicated talks and activities were very well-received. The week has had plenty to offer. I’m grateful to Mrs Bird for her organisation and to all our visitors, especially the Taylor family in its entirety!
Activities included a talk to the pupils of Years 4, 5, 6 and 7 about water purification tablets and safe drinking water by Mrs Taylor (mother of Helen). After completing an exciting experiment, there was an interactive quiz using the iPads. These children also attended a talk about energy, entitled, ‘How the world runs today and how it will change in the future’ from Wim De Peuter, who was Head of Research and Design at the European Space Agency for 20 years. When Mrs Mace is not helping to run the school, she keeps bees and she showed the children in Kindergarten, Reception, and Year 1 some of the specialised equipment she uses before sharing some of her delicious honey! The work of Dr Goodall was described by a member of the Jane Goodall Institute, Tanya Parys, and included touching videos of chimpanzees. The day has ended with Mr Taylor (father of Helen) demonstrating how a 3D printer works.
This Friday afternoon you will have seen the supplementary investigations by the pupils in each of the classrooms and I trust you had the opportunity to talk to your children about their discoveries.
This month’s Value, Kindness, was movingly brought to life by Mrs Cooke (mother of Sebastian and Adalita) in Wednesday’s assembly when she spoke about the devastating bush fires in Australia. The children, without exception, listened with rapt attention and some of the adults were even reduced to tears. Not surprisingly, this has prompted the school community to suggest ways to raise money for two chosen charities (the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) who are volunteer fire-fighters and the Australian Koala Foundation which helps to rehabilitate injured koalas).

Newsletter, Thursday 19/12/2019

Dear Parents, 
Season’s greetings from everyone at BJAB! We look forward to seeing you back at school in January. 

Newsletter, Friday 13/12/2019

Dear Parents,
This afternoon’s newsletter is unashamedly practical but, nevertheless, I must report that the atmosphere in school is busy and somewhat excited! Lessons continue as normal and we even have a trip for Year 5 to Ypres today.
Carol Concert
This traditional event is very popular with parents and I expect all pupils from Years 1 to 7 to attend.
The venue is Holy Trinity Church, Rue de Capitaine Crespel 29.
Pupils must be at the church by 18.00 
The concert will start at 18.30 
There will be mulled wine and mince pies after the event, kindly organised by Sallie Payne and the Friends of BJAB.
Pupils must be in smart uniform with polished shoes! 
BJAB can provide a coach to transport children to the church from Garderie. Please sign up here.
If your child is getting the bus, please provide a snack for them to eat in Garderie.
The closing date for applications is today.
This is an important part of our curriculum and the examination provides pupils with an invaluable experience.
Please may I encourage you to sign up quickly?
Examinations will take place in February.
Bake Sale
I am enormously proud of Isabella Weiss-Somers who has offered to run a bake sale on Tuesday 17th December in aid of charity.
Pupils will buy cakes for 50 cents to eat during their snack time.
This is a one-off event which I hope you will support.
I look forward to seeing you all on Monday evening to celebrate the end of a hugely successful term.

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, we drew and we are now looking forward to a rematch!
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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