How do schools prepare children to succeed and thrive in an unknown world that can only be imagined? What tools and characteristics should children be equipped with and taught to ensure they are ready for whatever challenges and opportunities lie ahead?
At The British School in The Netherlands (BSN) – an international school of over 2.100 students from nearly 90 different nationalities, spread over Junior and Senior campuses in 2022 – these are not hypothetical questions. As a school organisation, and a community, we are always looking to improve the offer for our students and prepare them with the knowledge, skills and characteristics they need to become successful global citizens who can make an impact and help build a better world.
Celebrating the past
It’s often said that to know where you are going, you must first understand where you have come from. In 2021, the BSN marked its 90th anniversary. Like all big birthdays, the significant milestone has provided the opportunity to reflect on the BSN of today, recognise the achievements of the school and all of those who have got us here, and recommit to our future goals and plans.
At a time of uncertainty and challenge for many in the international community, it has been inspiring to look back at the resilience of the BSN as it faced adversity in the past and continued to flourish. In the school’s long history, you find the foundation of many of the elements that set it apart today.
The British School: From tiny acorns, mighty oaks do grow
Much of the BSN of today is unrecognisable to the small school opened by Mrs Gwen Brunton-Jones (a New Zealander living in The Hague) in 1931. The small kindergarten and preparatory school began in a rented single room of a private house on van Diepenburchstraat. What it lacked in resources, it made up for in commitment to its students.
Though the school was forced to close during World War II, it reopened in 1948 through the sheer tenacity and determination of Mrs Nancy Macdona, one of the first teachers at the school. She believed that every single child is an individual with varying talents and abilities that must be discovered and fostered – a principle that remains at the heart of the BSN today.
The Benefits of The British School International Community
Mrs Macdona firmly believed that international understanding could only come about by educating the young in an environment that embraces different cultures, nationalities and beliefs, an environment where everyone feels at home. She often referred to the school as “my miniature United Nations.” The relationships and the supportive community continue to be a feature of the BSN today. Students, staff and parents, past and present, value the warm welcome and sense of belonging, which is even more important for students, families, and staff new to the Netherlands.
”I appreciate very much that the school puts a lot of emphasis on values and tolerance, cultural diversity, good manners. I think the school deals very well with integrating new children.BSN ParentBSN Parent Survey 2021
Creating the Future
Now, 90 years on, standing still is not an option for any forward-thinking organisation. On his arrival last year, incoming CEO Heath Monk made it a priority for the school to reconsider what makes it unique as an organisation. “We must be clear about what the BSN stands for and how that translates into the education, opportunities and support our young people will receive,” BSN CEO Heath Monk says. “Much of my work in this area has come from listening, and there has been a consistent effort to open communication channels with parents and staff.”
”Out of all the people I've met since my time at school, my closest friends are from the BSN…BSN Alumnus
I remember feeling very at home at the BSN.
With all of this in mind, 2022 will see the launch of the new BSN mission.
The New British School Mission
The starting point for developing the school’s new mission was a clear intention to involve the entire school community. The voice of the staff, students and parents needed to drive the change – after all, a school is nothing without the people. ”We feel very strongly that the new mission should be refocused on the student rather than the BSN as an organisation. Aiming to be the best school in Europe means very little to anyone in our community. What is most important is the experience that every child in our care will have during their time here – both inside and outside the classroom, and that needs to be at the heart of the BSN mission,” Mr Monk shared.
Equipped with the feedback from the parent and staff surveys during the 2020 – 2021 school year, the Board of Management drafted a new statement that would build on the strengths of the school’s current mission. Staff and parents were given an opportunity to contribute their feedback, and the mission will be published in early 2022.
The British School in The Netherlands: Preparing young people
The new BSN mission is to prepare young people with the knowledge, skills and characteristics that they need to become successful global citizens who can make an impact and help to build a better world.
The school does this in three ways:
The BSN has always been committed to excellent teaching and learning, and our results speak for themselves. However, the new mission clarifies the focus on the student’s individual needs. The goal is to maximise every student’s progress and achievement and foster a love of learning across a range of academic subjects.
Academic achievement tends to be more visible as students move through their education, but equally important is providing students and their families with regular feedback at every stage of a child’s education, from three years old through to 18.
Breadth of Experience
The BSN is committed to providing every student with opportunities to participate in activities and experiences so that they can discover and develop their unique talents, creativity and interests. The elements of school life, like events, special activities, sports matches and fixtures, performances, Model United Nations conferences and concerts, form the heartbeats of every successful school. These moments create lifelong memories and develop our students into well-rounded individuals.
”I wasn't the strongest academically or in sports, but I knew that I felt at home on stage; that was where my talents shone through. I'm very grateful to the BSN for giving me the opportunity to discover that.BSN Alumnus
Character and Community
The importance of the BSN community is a thread that runs through our 90-year history and remains just as present today. The BSN is committed to nurturing our diverse international community, giving students a sense of pride, confidence and compassion. Students are encouraged to challenge themselves, develop their resilience and learn to contribute to society.
As a school community, we look optimistically to the future. Indeed, improving, pioneering and adapting the education and experience we offer to best prepare students for the future is how we honour the vision and determination of the founders of our school.
The British School has changed considerably over its 90 years, but the core values and tenets that made the school so special are still firmly in place: A focus on excellent teaching and learning, our caring, resilient community, and supporting the development of well-rounded, confident, compassionate individuals.
Elizabeth de Libero
Elizabeth is the Digital Marketing Coordinator and Strategy Lead at The British School in The Netherlands. After living and working in the United States and Italy, she now calls The Hague home. She brings her experience in public relations and brand management to create multi-channel marketing strategies and compelling content. Elizabeth is an avid reader and loves travelling, skiing and spending time with her family and Cockapoo, Cash.