I decided to write to you on my 10th anniversary of being here, I began my work as Principal at BSA, only 10 weeks ago today, and wanted to share with you all, some thoughts about the future.
But firstly I wanted to say, every organisation becomes stronger from its experiences – and usually the passing through of turbulent times heralds a calm, period of consolidation and a sustained moving forwards with increased vigour and fortitude. BSA is, I believe, focused fully on the mission to serve the Alexandrian Community, and Egypt more widely.
I would like to thank some key parents who have spent time acting as constructive friends of the school, and wise counsellors of the ‘new Principal’ prompting me to construct this end of term news brief.
The school is a British School. I think this needs some definition; we follow entirely the English National Curriculum (exactly the same as that followed by Students aged 2-19 in England), this means that students can freely transfer between schools that offer this curriculum. Each British school offers the same curriculum, unlike many other systems. Where British schools differ, is that no two schools are the same. All British schools deliver the same content, but their pedagogies (teaching methods) are developed by teachers. The teachers are professional educators who adapt, differentiate, stimulate, encourage, and plan a wonderful learning experience, based on the needs, levels and aspirations of the students in their care. Our teachers are ‘not technicians’ – we do not follow a set ‘way of teaching’, we do not view the students as receptacles to be filled, we encourage our students to grow – we nurture their learning. Teachers develop creativity, critical thinking, conceptual development, skills competencies, collaborative and enquiry based learning, as well as encouraging the characterful development of all our young people. The British system encourages us to use pedagogies from other systems (US, Egyptian, French, German, Montessori etc) and blend them with our own, but focused always on the outcome of ensuring that the Graduates of BSA receive excellent Gold standard British certified qualifications and skills that enable them to critically analyse the world and situations, but most importantly building within them a sense of self-belief and confidence. This is what makes BSA a very special British School in which your child is nurtured to be the very best.
I have shared many thoughts with you both formally and anecdotally. I want to clarify further the evolving vision;
We want to nurture young people to be great citizens of Egypt and the world. To appreciate the rich History, Language, Culture and Geography of the Arab Republic of Egypt, while embracing a whole world view through a global perspective based upon diversity and equality.
Admission to the school will be based on a willingness to become part of a great family, where eternal friendships between children and families are developed though association with BSA. Admission will depend on ‘fit’ – this means that the selection process for a child to enter will be based on academic abilities, and whether the school can meet the child’s needs. Importantly Admission will also depend on the attitudes of the family applying, in-particularly towards a liberal, holistic and highly challenging education, based unashamedly on British Values while respecting and celebrating the values of Egypt. We are a British Curriculum School, on Egyptian soil, serving the needs of the Egyptian and expatriate communities of Alexandria.
We will develop as a two form entry school, serving the needs of an elite sector of the Alexandrian community in a prestigious building or set of buildings in Kafr Abdu. I will reveal more about locations as the academic year develops – it has some commercial sensitivity at the moment and I cannot discuss this further currently.
We want to nurture the leaders of tomorrow, and we will equip all young people with a set of qualifications and diplomas that have ‘world currency’, which will ensure our graduates can enter any University in Egypt as well as having access to all universities internationally. We recognize some difficulties of the past pre 2018 and we are working hard to mitigate against these, more news to follow.
Teaching Standards: We aim to fulfill our mission statement, where only first class teaching and learning will be accepted as the norm at BSA. This will be continuously appraised and interventions launched where necessary. Parents will be informed/reported to at least every six weeks with meaningful feedback about the progress their child is making in school. Parents and students will know what progress through the curriculum/syllabus is being made in real time. I have appointed Mrs Jackson, to a position where she will have a very focussed role on challenging teachers to become even better practitioners, offering teachers guidance, support and accolade.
COVID Recovery & Differentiation: We have a plan to audit each child in September 2021, and ensure that fully differentiated programmes of study are in place for each child/group to measure any gaps. These will be addressed as part of our COVID response. However it is our very firm intention that the school will be open 5 days a week (subject to Presidential edict) for in-class learning with appropriate ‘smaller’ bubbles. We have contingency planning for online learning, but it is the SMT’s firm intention to REMAIN OPEN for Education as in ‘normal’ times.
September 2021 Risk Planning: The world is a strange place at the moment, but I want you to know that the SMT and I have worked very hard to risk assess the potential problems that might be faced in September especially with ex-pat teachers. We have many contingencies in place, and the management can guarantee that fully qualified experienced and capable British staff will be available in each class from September. We have risk assessed the potential of each class teacher and made sure that school has in place robust systems to cope with any problems. We have planned all eventualities and know that September will be a brilliant start, with brilliant teachers teaching brilliant children from brilliant families. I believe that we are one of the very few schools to have taken these steps of risk management – partly catalysed by parents bringing their concerns directly to me.
Budget: We have a balanced budget projection for 2021-22, we have based our projections on approximately 450 children in school, and with the fee income, we can maintain and even enhance some of our provision.
It is commercially sensitive to reveal the micro-budget, however it is transparent and I will share this with the Parents Council in a private meeting in September. The cost allocation of the total income for 2021-22 is as follows.
Diplomatic Connections: We are working to rebuild and reinvent relationships, with the British Council,
Embassy, MoE and the FCO, as well as beginning to explore relationships with other diplomatic missions in Northern Egypt. We are foremost a British school, and we will never lose sight of that, but we also have significant contingents of expatriates that don’t find, finding a good education locally easy. I intend to supplement our British Curriculum with some bespoke lessons specifically serving the needs of currently disenfranchised families in Alexandria. Again I emphasise our mission is the Alexandrian Egyptian community, and our British Expatriates, but if we can reach out and touch the lives of other young people who would benefit from a place at BSA we will do so!
Staffing: I mentioned in one of my earlier newsletters how fortunate we have been to recruit some really high calibre staff for September, I know your children will benefit enormously from their educational impact on them. You also know that Mrs Jackson was promoted on merit to our Vice-Principal position and we have managed to secure Mr Steven Brooks as our new Head of Seniors, he comes from the UK as a very experienced leader in Seniors and as a fully qualified Business Studies teacher. The interviewing panel which included a parent and a student unanimously agreed that he will be great for co-creating the vision for the next three years as Seniors moves into the next phase of its journey.
Our Legalisation Strategy
a) Legalisation of the school: As you are aware the BSA operated ‘under the radar’ for 35 years, and last
November the MOE in the face of uncertainty put into place a legalised foundation for the school, in the
form of Mrs. Qorani to be the Financial and Administrative Supervisor (FAS) of the school. This in effect
started a long and formal process of legalisation.
b) The next step is to establish a set of Trustees (Four people from the Community representing different perspectives, one of which must be a British passport holder) – The legal title of the school will then transfer from the Financial and Administrative Supervisor to the Trustees, who will then appoint a Governing body.
c) The third step will be to establish a Governing body, this will consist of a minimum of
a. six parents (These will be elected from the Parent Council (See note below)
b. a teacher (Elected from and by all British passport holding teachers in the school)
c. an administrator, teacher or support staff (elected from and by all Egyptian passport holding
employees in the school)
d. a representative of the Alexandrian Community of Business and/or Industry (Appointed and
approached initially by the Principal/FAS and subsequently selected by the Trustees)
e. Two appointees by the British Council and the British Embassy
d) Once step (c) is attained, legalisation as an independent entity will be complete.
Hence rest assured that all formalities are completed, the school is recognised by the Ministry of Education as ‘existing’ and ‘Legal’, and the process to establish an independent Governorate of the school and Trust is a ‘work in progress’, I anticipate completing the Governance step by the latest December 2021.
The Parent Council
This will be an important part of the governance and accountability of the school to the main stakeholders, you the parents.
The parents are in the main incredibly supportive and deserve a very strong and ‘heard’ voice in the school. Hence we intend to establish a Parent Council, which will be responsible for filling the SIX parent governor’s Positions.
The rationale behind this is that the governors need to be representative not of factions, or self-interest groups, or with their own personal agendas, but must truly support the school moving into its next phase
- Each class (e.g. 3B,3W, and 3R) will elect by secret ballot (supervised by the Clerk of the Governing Body) a representative – Called for example “3B Parent Representative”.
- The total number of classes in the school in the academic year will determine the number of Parent Representatives, in 2021-22 this will be (Prep(10), Pre-Prep (6), Seniors (9) and FS(3) Totaling 28 Parents.
- This Parent Council will meet monthly after school, with the SMT and raise any issues. The SMT will respond to concerns and also give news and important feedback. Minutes will be taken by the Clerk to the governors and answers to questions recorded with dates for action. These minutes will be distributed to ALL parents. Parents will not be referred to by name in the minutes, simply by their representative designation e.g. 7B.
- SMT will be accountable to the Parent Council because the first agenda item at every meeting, (after the first) will be ‘matters arising from the last meeting’ – The SMT will be more accountable to the Parents Council.
- Another function of the Parent Council will be to elect from its 28 members, SIX members to be on the Governing body – the six Parent Governors. This election will occur each year (But the governing body reserve the right to alter this period for the sake of stable governance with the approval of the trustees) with interim elections held if Parents leave the school.
- The parent governor election will be conducted at the first Parent Council meeting in September of each year, by secret ballot organised by the Principal with the Clerk as the returning officer.
- This is a new and evolving process and the Parent Council will set out very clearly its remit and rules, terms of reference (including removal/replacement of parent representatives, conditions etc). This will be communicated once the systems are more evolved early in the new academic year.
I want to thank you from my heart, for the trust you have shown me and confidence you have placed in the school. I will ensure that your children get the very best education, in Alexandria ….and ultimately in the whole of Egypt. My focus from September will be to ensure that this really does happen, now that I am satisfied that the management and leadership of the school are now fit for purpose and in place.
I wish you all a joyous, relaxed, and family centred summer break.
I look forward to welcoming you back in September, and hope to meet many more of you in the coming year.
Finally thank you for being the people you are, trusting, visionary and great investors in the future of your children, and the British School in Alexandria.