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Thoughts from the Head

Discover our Head of School's blog

The Learning Curve
  • Thoughts from the Head
James Wellings

Welcome to the Learning Curve, 

It’s International Day and as I type the sun is shining. Different weather apps are showing different possibilities for this afternoon and I find myself praying to Anẓar, Hyades and Varshini not to bring their rain today (rain gods from Africa, India and Europe, I looked them up). 

The very word inter - national is an interesting one. National and nationalism certainly have negative connotations from both history and the present. They conjure up images of building walls, placing our own above all else and limiting rather than seeking cultural understanding. 

I listened to a talk a number of years ago that argued we should stop using this word and instead consider referring to ourselves as cosmopolitan which comes from the Greek work kosmopolitēs meaning “citizens of the world”. This is a lovely idea. If we see ourselves as citizens of this planet we might do better at looking after it and each other. 

That talk has stayed with me for a long time because I’ve had to wrestle with the ideas within it. I’m being completely genuine about this, I’ve thought about it more than is normal. 

My conclusion - I think we should seek to be citizens of the world. However,  the reality is that we are people of places, cultures and groups that have an identity that is important to the individuals who hold them. In the effort to be cosmopolitan we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, we are much more likely to become true world citizens if we can seek to better understand, celebrate and respect the places and histories of those who are from different places to our own. 

This does not stop us from celebrating our own cultures and backgrounds but should help us to ask questions as to whether there is anything in those backgrounds that might get in the way of better understanding others. Nationalism is often ugly but truly understanding our own cultures and histories can help us better to both celebrate them and to see any barriers they may place between us and cosmopolitanism. 

This is called intercultural competence. It is something that I hope we can all strive for here at our school. It cannot be achieved only between the hours of 8.30am to 4.00pm so today offers us all the opportunity to find out more about another culture, ask questions and have conversations. It should be a fun day with a serious message. As I shared last week, equality and diversity are two areas for exploration in our strategic plan for next year and today is a great way to kick that off. 

At the last count over 100 parents have volunteered to bring this event to life. This is amazing. With teachers and students all heavily involved, this is a wonderful celebration of our international community. Thank you to you all. 

So, with a last wish to Chaac (Mayan rain god, I looked this up too) to keep his downpour for another day, I hope you all have a wonderful day. 

 

Have a lovely weekend everyone. 

James Wellings 

 

The Learning Curve
  • Thoughts from the Head
James Wellings

Welcome to the Learning Curve, 

The next “thoughts from the head” is likely to be one of thanks and well wishes so I thought I’d discuss a few important topics today. The first is attendance.

We have this year introduced a new attendance policy and this will remain a focus for the 22/23 school year. You can access the policy on the Parent Room HERE

Attendance is a key metric when it comes to student progress and achievement. Therefore, it is very important that students are in school. In the policy we clearly set out what will be regarded as authorised and unauthorised absences. Please familiarise yourself with this policy and the attached procedures. It’s important and hopefully useful. 

Looking forward to next year, I would like to highlight some strategic areas for development. There is a danger that this could result in a dissertation so I am going to try and set it out in a “punchy” format. This will be followed up with a more detailed Take the Stairs podcast next week. 

So, next year… 

We want to improve academic tracking and outcome…

So we will be implementing a triangulated approach to data collection and analysis that will allow us to effectively explore aptitudinal (potential), attitudinal and attainment metrics to better highlight progress and wellbeing. 

We want to commence phase two of our reporting plan …

So we will be looking at individual student data (see above) for more personalised targets and tracking. We will also be implementing a new booking system for teacher parent conferences. 

We want to continue to develop and improve the use of technology in the school… 

So we will be implementing further training and support of our 1:1 program and upgrading many classrooms in the secondary school with new “clevertouch” interactive 82 inch screens. This will roll through the next few years to upgrade all classrooms. 

We want to grow the school in a healthy and sustainable way… 

So we will be adding a new Year 2 class with the longer term view to be a two form entry school all the way through. 

We want to improve and modernise the internal parts of the school…

So we are renovating a number of classrooms including two brand new rooms for Year 6. We will also be modernising the reception area and creating a fit for purpose common room for our growing numbers of A-level students. We will be looking at a rolling program of upgrades throughout the school. 

We want to ensure we have a sustainable, staffable and suitable curriculum model…

So we will be adding Global Perspectives to our IGCSE program and Psychology to our A-Level program. These will replace computer science which is very difficult to staff with qualified and experienced teachers. It is not currently a sustainable offering. We are exploring the possibility of augmenting choices with some online options in the future, including computer science. 

We want to leverage being part of the Globeducate Group…

So we will be taking part in many more competitions and events with other schools. Including sports, arts, MUN, environmental programs and much more. 

We want to develop our offering to our youngest children…

So therefore we will be introducing the Launchpad (see podcast below) and extending the outside space for our 3, 4 and 5 year olds. 

We want to ensure our students are members of a community that supports diversity and promotes equality…

So we will be working with experts in this area from the NGO SheCan HeCan to augment our positive education program with genuine and meaningful exploration of these issues. 

We want to be, look and feel like a close community? 

So we will be selling our community wear and ensuring all students are dressed in Mougins “gear” for PE, trips and events. We will also be releasing the full years calendar of school and PTA events in August. 

…. I have a few more but it’s close to a dissertation already! I’ll leave it there. 

Have a lovely weekend everyone. 

James Wellings 
 

 

 

 

The Learning Curve
  • Thoughts from the Head
James Wellings

Welcome to the Learning Curve, 

Competition is the subject of my writing this week. This has been sparked by a number of things. Reports are out today and I hear students talking about what they will get compared to before and compared to others. Certificates and awards are being considered for the end of the year and I watched the lower primary sports day this week. 

It’s a more important word in education than we might imagine. 

There is a real history to this word and a surprising amount of controversy. The classic criticisms of millennials being entitled in the US and Western Europe can often be linked to the fact that competition was not “en vogue” in schools when they were growing up. You’ll have heard this before. Participation awards, everybody has to win something etc etc. I’m not saying I agree with this millennials but it’s a well trodden path in terms of the debate. 

Conversely there is the “old school” who use phrases such as “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and believe that school, work and general life is one big competition where there are winners and losers. Survival of the fittest! Last person standing. 

Where should we be on this spectrum in our school? Competition and competitiveness have real value and real threat. 

The value is that we know, for sure, that kids and adults like winning and doing well. This is as old as time. It is innate. So therefore there must be a place for it. If this is the case then we need to have opportunities for winning, and indeed not winning in school. These opportunities should be wide and varied and offer chances for as broad a range of kids as possible. When individuals or groups and teams win they should be celebrated. It likely took some work and effort to do so. 

But we cannot only celebrate the winners. Effort, progress, grit, perseverance, personal improvement must also be celebrated too. Disappointment should be tackled head on as an opportunity to learn. Winning and losing or failing “well” should be something to strive for. 

Sports, games, academic challenges are all rich and worthwhile competitive arenas. 

But let’s pause for an important second. As students get their reports today or as our older students receive exam grades in a few months time I would counsel caution. The competition here is different. There is far less value in comparing these grades or levels to those of others. Much better to compare to the self. How much progress has been made by an individual based on their own starting point. Personal progress rather than victory over the group is where the gold can be found in terms of academic development. 

There are systems in the world that post the class results publicly and in order of best to worst. There has been a wealth of research done on this in the US and UK (Dweck at Stanford most notably) that tells us what happens. 

  • Kids start to live in their place in the list. It becomes self fulfilling. 
  • The kids at the bottom usually lose motivation and are not able to “pull themselves up”
  • Kids get labelled, often unconsciously 
  • Those superstars at the top. They don’t necessarily have it great either. At some point in their lives they will hit failure, meet someone better, not be at the top of the list. If this has not happened to them before they don’t cope well. 

So as you go through the reports with your children I’d like the above to be considered. How have they done against themselves? What progress have they made? What can be celebrated? What actions might be needed? 

In this week's parent learning I am going to reshare an old talk that makes some lovely points on this. It’s old but gold. 

Have a lovely weekend everyone. 

James Wellings
 

 

 

The Learning Curve
  • Thoughts from the Head
James Wellings

Welcome to the Learning Curve, 

The end of the year is fast approaching. It is a busy time of events, celebrations, examinations and assessment. It is a time when we must look to the upcoming year whilst reflecting on what has passed. This is all being done at a pace. My reflections can come later but as I look forward to the next 5 weeks and beyond I am excited to celebrate music performances, graduation, attitude and performance with our students and our teachers. The post covid restrictions world allows us to see families and kids together for sports days, concerts and ceremonies and it’s wonderful to see so many people putting these events together. 

Primary sports day was a great event that brought us back to what things used to look like in days gone by. It’s the summer concert tonight which I am unfortunately missing but seeing rehearsals yesterday it is going to be something special. 

International day is approaching and I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the many parents who are helping with this. It is going to be fairly spectacular and a lovely way of investigating our community value further.

Next week I am going to be recording a podcast to update parents on what is planned for school in the coming year. This will range from curriculum development to classroom renovation and beyond. I’ve received feedback that parents would like to know more about what we are doing to upgrade and develop our school. This is fair feedback and I will be happy to share. There is a lot to talk about. 

At the risk of “going low” I’d like to just ask all members of our community to be respectful and thoughtful when parking. We have improved the morning situation massively in the last year but there are still too many moments when someone parks across two spaces or by the roundabout where it says no parking. I challenge this when I see it, I think I do so in a polite and respectful manner. Please can I ask for the same courtesy in return. We are doing this for a really good reason.

I’m aware that the end of the day is still difficult. We’ll look for more solutions but the problem is quite a lot more complex. 

So, with only four days of parking next week I hope that you all have a lovely break and I’ll see you back here on Tuesday for the final, wonderful and exciting few laps of the year. 


Have a lovely weekend everyone. 

James Wellings 
 

 

The Learning Curve
  • Thoughts from the Head
James Wellings

Welcome to the Learning Curve, 

During a recent interview with a potential teacher for our school I said to the candidate (as I almost always do) that they could only ask me two questions about Mougins School. They could be separate questions or the second could be a follow up to the first. The only rule is that there can only be two. 


I find it to be a very revealing process. I want to know what they prioritise, how long they think about it for, whether they are willing to challenge or seek further information. There is no correct question but the thought process in itself is great to watch and often useful in this context. 


The teacher in question thought for quite a long time. They then said something like the following: 


“I am interested that community is one of the values you proclaim to uphold. 

What does that look like in reality?”


I enjoyed this question. 


I enjoyed it because there was a challenge laid down in it. I enjoyed it because I suspect this person has seen how surface level claims can be. I enjoyed it because it made me think and even adjusted my points mid answer. 


I started talking about our events and celebrations. All the usual good stuff (and it is good stuff) but then pivoted. Our student and family events are amazing and it’s wonderful to see them back. However, I quickly found myself talking about the small, seemingly insignificant things we say and do every day that contribute to our sense of community and togetherness. 


Our respect value talks and courtesy and politeness. The more everyone does in the way of speaking kindly, holding doors or asking how people are the more the foundations of our community are strengthened by these daily micro behaviours. 


Our learning value challenges us to learn from and act upon mistakes. If we can do so with humility and honesty trust will grow and this is a keystone for a strong community. 


Our integrity value seeks fairness and transparency. This is another trust builder and conversely a trust destroyer! 


These mid-sentence reflections have really stuck with me. The big community things we do have to be underpinned by the small, daily and sometimes difficult things that we do. 


The PTA OGM took place onsite on Thursday. It was a well organised, structured and useful meeting but one that was not that well attended. I felt that was a bit of a shame. I have seen first hand all the good that volunteer parents bring to our school and the work and dedication they put in. It is impressive. Open air cinema night is a great example of that in action. 


I meet with the PTA fairly regularly and I also know first hand that they would love more volunteers, ideas and events for people to get involved with. I can’t wait to see the upcoming international day which I know many of you have volunteered for. 


In the interests of our integrity value I have seen a quiet but common theme over the last year which is criticism from some parents of our PTA. When constructive and well directed this is great. It helps things to improve. When unconstructive or misinformed it has the danger of being destructive. It is certainly not useful. 


I’d urge, ask, and even challenge those that have ideas of how things could and should be improved to get involved, ensure they have accurate information and help to strengthen this important part of our school. If there is something that is within our scope and power to make it better we should come together and try. 


For that is what good communities do. 


As a side bonus, it can also be part of my answer to the next candidate who asks. 


Have a lovely weekend everyone. 


James Wellings
Head of School