Open letter to Year 13 A level students

This is not a letter that I was planning to write. I don’t know you and you don’t know me.

But I couldn’t let you disappear without saying something about the last few months and their impact on your year group.

It’s not fair.

It’s not fair that you didn’t get to experience the rite of passage of sitting your final school exams, of leaving parties and packed awards evenings and non-socially-distanced farewells to your friends.

But you knew that already.

The reason I am writing is that to add insult to injury, some of you have received results that may not be a fair reflection of your ability, as assessed by your teachers. Instead, those results have been calculated on the basis of an algorithm which has replicated the pattern of results for previous years at school and at the national level.

In many ways, this is a very fair process. It is designed to ensure that an A* at A-level in 2020 means broadly the same as an A* in 2019 or 2021. But its impact on individual young people can be iniquitous, as you may have seen from the many heartrending stories in the media over the past 24 hours.

We do not yet know the full details of the appeals process that will be available. But I do know that the staff at SSV have been working extremely hard to ensure that any detriment that you experienced does not impact on your choice of destination.

That is, after all, the role of A-levels. They open the door to the next stage of your educational career, but they do not define you. The real value and purpose of education lie not in the certificates that you collect, but in the values, skills, knowledge, and relationships that you have developed. And, in that respect, what now seems unfair may turn out to be a precious opportunity.

[A-levels] open the door to the next stage of your educational career, but they do not define you. The real value and purpose of education lie not in the certificates that you collect, but in the values, skills, knowledge, and relationships that you have developed. And, in that respect, what now seems unfair may turn out to be a precious opportunity.

Your year group has had a unique set of experiences. You will cherish things that older generations have taken for granted. And you will, I have no doubt, be better equipped to deal with the real and varied challenges that we face because of the perspective that the last few months have given you.

So good luck and congratulations! I hope that many of you will come back to BSN in the future to talk about your accomplishments and to recount your memories of your time here, including these final few difficult months.  And that, when you do, I finally get to meet you!

Sincerely,

Heath Monk

 

Heath Monk, CEO, The British School in The Netherlands


A warm welcome

Family Wellbeing & Mental Health

Mr. Heath Monk, in his own words, shortly before coming to The Netherlands in June:

I am currently the CEO of the Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham, UK, a group of 11 secondary schools that includes independent, grammar and comprehensive schools and serves over 10,000 children.

I have always worked in education: as a teacher, as a senior civil servant in the Department for Education in the UK government and, before my current role, as the CEO of a national leadership charity. However, it’s certainly not “in my blood” — my parents were publicans and I was the first member of my family to go on to higher education.

I am married (to Lucy, who is/was also a headteacher) and I have three children: Pip (who has just finished reading History at Oxford University) and Alex and Joel (twins), who will be starting Year 10 in September at SSV.

What are you looking forward to in your new role at the BSN?

I’m really looking forward to working in an international environment with students (and staff) from such a wide range of backgrounds. That, in itself, brings huge opportunities for learning, especially when coupled with the core BSN values of head, hand and heart. There are so many global challenges that will need to be solved by the next generation — and so it’s a privilege to help those inspiring young people on their way.

What about life in The Netherlands?

I grew up in Hastings and, after four years in the very middle of the country, I am incredibly excited to be back by the sea. Scheveningen feels like coming home, but with far more sand and a much longer pier! I am also excited about getting to know Dutch culture: I love the sense of community that seems so pervasive in The Netherlands. My Dutch language learning has been confined to Duolingo so far — every time I have tried to speak Dutch in a shop or restaurant, I have been immediately answered in perfect English.

What has been your impression of the BSN so far?

My first impressions have been very positive. Everyone that I have met has been warmly welcoming and has spoken very highly of the school. Clearly, the last few months have been testing and the future is far more uncertain than it seemed at the start of the year, but staff have continued to do whatever they can to ensure continuity of education and care. That spirit will serve us well as we enter the next phase of the pandemic.

What are your interests outside of work?

I enjoy watching and playing sport. I’m a passable golfer (10 handicap) and also play cricket, tennis and football (if/when my knees allow). I suspect cycling will become a much greater part of my life away from Birmingham’s hills and terrifying dual carriageways. I like to cook: the lockdown has finally allowed me to hone my bread-making skills and I will be bringing a well-established sourdough starter across the channel. I also enjoy music, theatre and cinema.

Tell us something about yourself that we may not already know.

I was in a student band at university. I am 99 percent certain that Thom Yorke came to see us play, but I have never yet returned the favour and seen Radiohead live.