Two weeks ago, BSN CEO Heath Monk announced a Junior School amalgamation (moving from three Junior School campuses into two in September 2022). The first thing that Heath wanted to do following the announcement was to meet our parents and staff himself (or virtually, of course – the next best thing), to hear their feedback and questions on the process.
For those who missed the town hall meetings, here Heath gives us his readout of the three sessions for parents. What were the common messages, takeaways and some of our parents’ ideas for the future?
Heath Monk – Putting families at the Heart of our Junior School vision
Moving our Junior Schools from three to two may seem like a big change to many of our families – especially those at Junior School Diamanthorst (JSD) which will close its doors next summer. Yet it is also a time of opportunity and excitement – the chance for our families, staff and community to be part of creating a new BSN Junior School vision which is fit for the future.
Any large-scale change that we undertake at the BSN needs to have our stakeholders right at the centre and involved throughout the process. That’s why I arranged six town halls over the past few weeks – three with staff and three with our parents on each campus. I wanted to understand from our community how they felt about the change, what their concerns were (and how we could address them), and to hear what they would like to see in the future.
Although questions on the three campuses had a different emphasis, there were several key themes which came out in all three:
Culture is something we create together
Parents on all three campuses felt strongly that there were elements of their campus’ special ethos (that ‘feeling’ that you get when you walk through the doors) that they would want to keep during the amalgamation. I totally agree. Each of our junior campuses has its own unique identity, whilst being part of a wider organisation. Our job is to identify the best features of those individual campuses and to weave them into a single, overarching culture. Parents should feel confident that, no matter which campus they attend, they will get the best education for the child.
This question came up frequently at Junior School Diamanthorst (JSD), with many parents asking how the special JSD culture and atmosphere would be preserved during the move to Junior School Vlaskamp (JSV). Headteacher Chris Wathern summed it up very well: ‘Culture doesn’t happen by chance but by design. We are wholly committed to ensuring that we get the best of all Junior School campuses when they all come together. We will preserve what is special and amplify what we can do more of.’’
”Culture doesn’t happen by chance but by design.Chris Wathern
As you will be aware, we have just launched a parent survey, so we want to hear from our parents on what they think makes the school special – and what they would like to change.
Geography shouldn’t get in the way
One message which came out loud and clear in all of our town hall events was the importance of ‘One School’. All three Headteachers agreed it is crucial that we work together as a single BSN community during this process. We will organise a series of joint parental events between the campuses (regulations permitting, of course). There will also be shared trips, performing arts, sporting events – we will need to work more closely together than ever before.
”Geography shouldn’t get in the way. We are purposefully designing one BSN.Chris Wathern
What you would like to see (and what you are not so keen on)
Children get one opportunity at school. We have to make sure that their experience is the very best it can be. But what does this look like for our parents: in our curriculum, in our pedagogy, and in the opportunities and facilities that we make available to the young people we serve? The town halls were an opportunity to start this dialogue with parents – and I was very pleased with the first suggestions I heard: more spacious and accessible library facilities, languages for the younger age groups, and hot, healthy meals available on site, to name but a few.
Please keep the ideas coming in! As Sue Aspinall, Headteacher of JSV, pointed out ‘There are many opportunities within this change.’ I am very keen to hear from as many people as possible as to what the future BSN would look like for them. All feedback is welcome.
”There are many opportunities within this changeSue Aspinall
The next steps will be for us to analyse the results of the parent survey, in April. We will particularly consider what aspects of the BSN parents currently value, and what they would like us to add to our offer. We will then run a wider consultation on our BSN junior vision, which we would like as many of our parents as possible to take part in. Student voice will also be a key part of the process. As Karren van Zoest, JSL Headteacher put it: ‘We can’t do this without our students’.
This is something we will create together. We want the future amalgamation to feel like a new start for everyone.
”We can’t do this without our studentsKarren van Zoest