Redefining Who We are as a School
I’ve been CEO at the British School in the Netherlands (BSN) for a year and a half now. When I joined in September 2020, my number one priority was to ‘define who we are as an organisation’. I felt that it was important for us to reaffirm our core values and what drives us as an international school – particularly when so much had changed due to the global pandemic.
I pledged to consult our community on this process, and I am delighted to now be able to share the new BSN Mission statement, which marks its culmination. Parents, students, staff, and Governors have all been part of this conversation, and I would like to thank all of those who have taken the time to share their views.
Unveiling Our New School Mission Statement
The BSN’s 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.
We do this in three ways:
We meet each student’s individual needs and maximise their love of learning, progress and achievement across a range of subjects.
Breadth of Experience
We provide every student with opportunities to participate in activities and experiences, both within and outside the classroom, so that they can discover and develop their unique talents, creativity and interests.
Character and Community
We celebrate our diverse international community, helping students to develop a sense of pride, confidence and compassion, and encouraging them to challenge themselves, build their resilience and play their part in improving society.
Below, I set out what our new school mission means to me and how it relates to all of our students and their families.
The BSN: One School – the Consultation Process
I’d like to share how we’ve got to this point. The first version of the mission statement was the result of an away day with the Board of Management. That version was then road-tested with Junior and Senior focus groups of parents and staff. It was edited along the way (often receiving quite robust feedback – but as I always say, feedback is a gift!) and re-tested after each iteration. It was put to staff on each campus, who provided us with incredibly helpful insight on what this mission meant to them (that’s where the ‘love of learning’ was added, for instance.) Student leaders also took the time to feed in their comments. It then went out to all BSN parents, who responded with additional feedback and suggestions.
I want to thank all of those who have taken the time to be involved in this process. It may have seemed a long journey at times, but I felt it was essential to consult with the BSN community at every step of the way. After all, it can only be a whole school mission statement if it resonates with the school organisation that it represents.
Putting Children back at the Heart of Our School Mission
My overarching aim for the mission statement was to bring it back to focusing on the child. This may sound obvious, but I felt that we have focused too much on ‘selling ourselves’ as an organisation rather than celebrating our core business – educating the children in our care. Saying we are the biggest international school in Europe may sound impressive, it means very little to students and families.
I want to bring it back to the reason we are all here – your children. Our mission should answer the question, ‘what will your child experience through their education at the BSN?’ Your feedback indicated that you also believed that this was key.
We’ve shaped the mission around a simple ‘ABC’ formula, so that it is easy to remember and because for us, these three concepts best encapsulate what we are aiming to provide for your child.
A is for Academic Excellence
This is about much more than just results. Of course, results are extremely important as they open the doors for further and higher education and high-quality employment opportunities. Still, we believe that even more important for children is the lifelong love of learning that education can provide. Without the latter, the former means very little.
B is for Breadth of Experience
The past two years have made it more difficult to offer the many opportunities outside the classroom that should be part and parcel of a school like the BSN. We hope that the next few months will allow us to return to our busy and thriving school life with the exciting clubs, sports, visits, and leadership opportunities that set the BSN apart. But this is an area where we need to push further to ensure that we offer a broad and inspiring experience beyond the classroom to every child at the BSN.
C is for Character and Community
The BSN should exist in partnership with our local community. We want our students to contribute to the society we live in and make an impact. We’re very proud that we are a diverse community of nearly 90 nationalities. We want to celebrate this and give our students a sense of pride in that community. Our students should embody the eight characteristics of our Character Profile in their daily lives. Compassion, including to others in the community, is an essential part of that.
Next Steps – Putting Our School Mission into Practice
Our older students, starting with our Sixth Form leaders, will now meet to look at how this mission should be reflected in their day-to-day experience at school. We will ask them to develop a series of objectives for what success would look like from our students’ point of view. I will report back on this later in the year.
Working in Partnership with Our Community
Of course, a mission is always aspirational by nature. I recognise that we’re not fully there yet on some of the areas above, but this is where we want to be. I believe it is where we can be over the next few years. We can only do this if we work together – continuing to consult our student, parent and staff body to assess where we are in the achievement of this mission, and what more we need to do. Our BSN community will remain our key partners in that – letting us know when we are on track, or if anything needs to change.
As we celebrate our 90th year anniversary, our new mission sets out our direction of travel for the future. As we start to look towards our 100th year, I look forward to taking this forward with all of you.
Heath joined the BSN in September 2020 as CEO. He has spent his entire career in education, initially teaching English as a Foreign Language and later English and Drama in both state and independent schools.
Heath left the classroom to become a civil servant. He helped negotiate and implement the National Workforce Agreement, led a Bill through Parliament and became the first Deputy Schools Commissioner for England. Following that, he spent eight years as the CEO of The Future Leaders Trust, training aspirant Heads and, in the final years, executive leaders of Academy Trusts. For the four years before joining the BSN, Heath ran the King Edward VI Foundation in Birmingham, overseeing 11 secondary schools in the city.
Heath is passionate about the profound impact that education can have on young people’s lives and believes that education is about far more than the formal curriculum.