BSC Annual Newsletter – “A Year of Change and Transition in 2013-14”
This year swept in a largely new Management team at the British School in Cairo, with Ms Rachel Noeman as the new Headteacher, and Ms Inas Mahboub as the new Deputy Head and acting Head of Key Stage Three - both with decades of experience in international teaching, training, and management, and both set on achieving strong long-term and short-term improvements in key areas of the school.
Furthermore, the very sad bereavement of Mr Mohamed Emara in December meant Deputy Chairman Mr Tharwat Kamel Ghoneim, a former Maths teacher, became the new Chairman. Engineer Haythem Emara, son of the late Dr Hamdy Emara, became the new Deputy Chairman.
Continuity and stability was ensured by the ongoing and capable presence of Ms Mouchira Louis as Egyptian/ MoE Principal, Ms Amal A’mer as Principal of IGCSE, and the continued presence of long-serving and dedicated Key Stage Heads: Ms Vicky, in Key Stage Two, and Ms Kay, in the Early Years and Foundation Stage. Meanwhile, the Key Stage One team was left in the very safe hands of Ms Dawn, also a long-serving and hardworking BSC teacher and experienced manager.
The start of the year could hardly have taken place in more challenging circumstances –continued political upheavals over the summer, a curfew in force, embassy travel bans for Westerners urging against any visits to Egypt, all making recruitment of foreign teachers extremely difficult.
All international schools in Egypt have unfortunately faced constant staffing shortages as a result of recent unrest and travel warnings. Luckily, the fact that BSC has a high proportion of dual-nationality teachers has meant that, although not immune to the same difficulties, we did not suffer from too many vacancies and, where there were occasional gaps, competent supply teachers were able to guarantee satisfactory progress through the curriculum. In one year group – Year 6 -we had to manage with a couple of classes which were slightly larger than our past norm, but we compensated by adding an extra co-teacher per class, and using extended classrooms and some split sessions and to guarantee that children’s learning was not affected. Results from the latest SAT tests fresh from the UK in Year 6 show that the vast majority of pupils gained a target level 4, especially in Reading and Mathematics, and several gained an absolutely outstanding Level 5!
Writing remains a difficult discipline across the whole school for second-language learners, but levels should improve consistently from this year onwards, after the introduction of Big Talk and Big Writing sessions in Primary since last year was seen by teachers to increase levels of pupil engagement and progress in that vital but difficult skill. Remind your children to include plenty of “wow words” and “VCOP” (Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and varied Punctuation)!
A YEAR OF ACHIEVEMENTS Now we have come to the end of the year and, when reviewing the year as a whole, many astonishing achievements are evident. End-year assessments and reports show the vast majority of pupils have made good or even excellent progress in their learning, and standards of behaviour have remained generally very high.
In some classes, for instance, 100 percent of pupils have met or exceeded the target level for the year group, both this year and last year.
There are a number of pupils who, by the end of Year 3, have met the Year 6 target Level (4), a whole three years in advance! Many of our long-term BSC students have levels which show that they are at least two years’ ahead of their year group target, and hence qualify as “Gifted and Talented Learners”.
Moreover, with a good teacher-pupil ratio and dedicated teachers, co-teachers and supply/support teachers, the vast majority of pupils have made at least the expected amount of progress during the year, and some have made significantly more progress than expected. The progress of pupils, more than their actual levels, shows the “value added” in the time spent at school.
Progress is not just captured by statistics and grades alone – it is often visible and palpable, sometimes even breathtaking!
It is heartening, for example, to see a young child who was for the past two years too shy and withdrawn ever to speak in class now vivacious and acting on stage proudly in an end-of-year performance – one of many of our growing number of BSC success stories made possible by the compassionate, creative, fun and caring atmosphere fostered by their teachers, co-teachers and support assistants…!
Schooling is, of course, not all about academic test results. The British education system aims to work on the “whole child”, developing all-round abilities and competences, including self-confidence, initiative, creativity and team work.
In the Primary School and Key Stage Three, pupils have excelled in both their academic progress and their diverse talents and abilities, as seen in all the magnificent class assemblies, plays, concerts and performances throughout the year.
We have a growing number of Gifted and Talented learners who are well above of their age-related academic expectations and year group targets. Many of them are active and enthusiastic readers, and research shows that there is a very close link between reading habits and abilities and academic success.
Classroom learning at BSC has become more lively and interactive over the past two years by the introduction and widespread use of Interactive Whiteboards.
From the very youngest pupils in the Nursery and Pre-Nursery to the “Seniors” in Year 12, and throughout the year groups in the middle also, signs of our achievements abound and make us all very proud. Many Nursery children are able to chat extremely fluently and confidently in English already, and they are able to produce all the Jolly Phonics sounds and actions with energy and enthusiasm.
In IGCSE, we continue to act as an exam centre (although on a much smaller scale than in previous years) due to the high quality premises, facilities and environment, which have been strongly praised by British Council inspectors. Our IGCSE students have gained a Cambridge Achievement Awards for the highest scores in an external exam for the third time in a two-year period (most recently awarded to Mohamed Tarek, for his record score in his Business exam, after Diyar Madani and Sahar Diaa achieved national achievement awards in their exam subjects last year).
In the ninth and tenth years of BSC, we have had our first graduates from IGCSE, who were longterm BSC pupils, entering prestigious universities abroad. Selim Afia this year was accepted for Economics and International Law in Sweden, Maryham Farid Ghaly entered university last October in Canada, a year earlier than the usual entry age, while Rana Rifaia and Samira are currently studying at university in the UK and Arana is at university in North Africa. From this year’s graduates in Year 12, Mohamed Ayman is set to study at university in the United States, while Saif Radwan is about to enter university in Canada.
Three BSC graduates have earned a complete (100 percent) scholarship to the American University in Cairo (AUC) – Diyar Madani, Mohamed Khairy and Sahar Diaa – and Youssef Mohsen (with a perfect graduate score of 100 percent/ all A* grades) is hoping to enter Medicine or Dentistry at Cairo University this summer.
Other IGCSE students, including those who are still in Year 11, have already gained a string of perfect or near-perfect exam results, with many appearing very well set to enter top universities in Cairo. As a partner of the British University of Egypt, top IGCSE pupils each year qualify for a 100 percent scholarship at BUE, which is a splendid opportunity, and many others choose to go to AUC, GUC or good local universities.
IGCSE were rewarded for all their hard work with the first ever Graduation Party, held in the school grounds on a balmy October night, hosted by Ms A’mal, and hopefully there will be annual Graduation Events from now on to celebrate the amazing achievements of our IGCSE section.
Health and Safety has remained a key priority, and will continue to be at the heart of Management concerns. This year, walls were erected to isolate pupils more from the bus park in the morning and at the end of the day. A wall was built in the first floor of the Foundation Stage both to prevent children from climbing the railings and to weather-proof classrooms from excessive sun, wind or rain.
All managers helped to maintain and enforce break and corridor supervision and after-school gate supervision. Visitor badges were introduced at the entrance to school, and a new School Caretaker post created to bolster the safety and cleanliness of the buildings and school campus.
Curriculum developments continued apace, with the continued use of the “Big Talk” and “Big Writing” method introduced by Ros Wilson in Primary, a new, enhanced Maths scheme in Primary (Abacus Maths), which, according to Primary teachers, is more challenging than other schemes of work and, should therefore raise standards, and the implementation of the ‘Letters and Sounds’ UK government initiative for phonics-related games and increased phonological (sound) awareness in general in the Nursery and Pre-Nursery.
Staff implemented Assessment for Learning techniques covered in their CfBT training, including regular use of targets for improvement, and the PE department and pupils both enjoyed adding dance modules to the PE curriculum.
For the first time, Arabic Studies Teachers were closely involved in whole-school training and links were strengthened between their vital role in school and the role of foreign class teachers and subject teachers. Regular meetings were held between Arabic staff and management to identify possible improvements and opportunities to support pupils’ learning in their mother tongue (in most cases). Research by leading academic experts, such as Jim Cummins, shows that a strong foundation in students’ first language greatly enhances learning in second and subsequent languages, so the importance of strength in Arabic should not be neglected.
An extra staff member (French Co-Teacher) was added to help the KS2/3 French teacher with a heavy teaching load, further enhancing language learning at BSC.
A “class diary” sheet was introduced to monitor and reward the behaviour of each class throughout each day, as well as to note any specific information, such as students ill in the clinic, for the benefit of subject teachers. Pupils in winning classes enjoyed a variety of rewards every half term, including coming out of uniform, sharing a basket of fruit, or enjoying an ice-cream or a McDonald’s meal.
TRAINING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF STAFF
On top of annual training for all staff from a leading UK educational organisation, CfBT, many staff members have pursued additional qualifications and higher or postgraduate degrees in Education, including courses at the AUC or postgraduate certificates in education from UK universities.
About 30 staff members attended a day-long workshop on Jolly Phonics and all class teachers received workshops at the start of the year on use of Smart Boards, Reading Skills and Mathematical Development, provided by the Smart Company and the Learning Resource Centre. Training through Skype was provided on the new Primary Abacus Maths Scheme.
Ms Rachel has links with Sunderland University in the north of England as a postgraduate teacher trainer, or “In-Country Tutor” for Egypt, also visiting many other British and international schools in Cairo twice each year, which is a golden opportunity to keep up with key developments in UK education, to share “good practice”, and to have the great honour of visiting learners and teachers in a wide variety of different (and often inspiring) schools and contexts.
NEW ADMISSIONS PROCESS
Admissions procedures were tightened since last year, with the addition of a compulsory parent screening interview, thereby guaranteeing a high calibre of pupils. Despite turning many weak applicants away, new admissions reached record highs of nearly 200 both this year and last, based on the school’s growing reputation in the local community. Most applicants cited ‘word of mouth’ or ‘recommendations from existing BSC parents’ as the main reason for choosing our school.
ATTENDANCE IS A PRIORITY
New emphasis was placed this year by the new management on pupil attendance. A new registration system was introduced, with a wider variety of codes indicated the reasons for a pupil’s absence from school. A distinction was made between authorised and unauthorised absences and the data was logged in school records, including reports, and sometimes used as a factor to decide whether or not a pupil might be asked to forfeit his or her place in school.
Good attendance was also rewarded by ‘Full Attendance’ certificates (or letters in KS3) each term, and improving pupil attendance will remain a key strategic priority of the school in future years.
A Foundation Stage Cooking Club was run to raise proceeds for charity, as well as weekly class bake sales in the Foundation Stage. Orphans’ Day saw BSC school and volunteers host 250 orphans for a fun-packed day of rotating activities and games on the school campus. In the middle of the year, funds were raised for the Children’s Cancer Hospital, and a second collection took place in June for Ramadan food parcels for the most vulnerable members of the local community.
OPTIONAL EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
For parts of the year, children were able to join optional extra clubs, including Art Clubs, Piano Club and Roller-Skating, some held at lunch-times and others after school. The BSC Swimming Academy also continued to operate as an additional facility after 3pm on week days and at weekends, and was very popular.
SPOTLIGHT ON KEY STAGE THREE
The Year 7A class were invited to the AUC Al Mutannabi Exhibition, which fascinated them, due to their exemplary behaviour in previous years while visiting this exhibition. As a school, we were proud to have our students display excellent manners and conduct, and were excited to have the exhibition director specifically invite them back for a second visit. The students discussed what they saw once back at school, and eagerly compared notes and observations.
The KS3 students went on several trips this academic year, including Sitara's theatre production of Macbeth, which they studied throughout the year and presented as part of the end of year KS3 Drama Festival production, in two enthusiastic renditions by Years 8A and 8B.
A lively debate was held by Year 9A between boys and girls during the Drama Festival about school uniforms, the death penalty and homework, and whether or not to keep or ban them - both sides were quite convincing!
The students watched "The Hobbit" as part of a cinema trip, which they discussed and analysed at school as part of their English curriculum.
The entire KS3 student body took part in a rousing Christmas concert, which included poems, light-hearted jokes, and a group song performed by all 4 classes, led by the key stage Drama teacher.
The Year 9A boys (Baraa, Abubakr, Karim, and Ahmed), who play as a band, livened up the entire Christmas show with their music, and impressed both parents and school staff alike. Their performance was so uplifting that the school management arranged a performance for the rest of the school during a lunch break; students, staff, and management, all joined in the clapping and appreciation of the music on that day! The band was so impressive that they were asked to play at the end of year Drama Festival, and delighted the entire audience.
KS3 students learnt how pastries and bread were made at the Rich Bake factory, and all went home with delicious baked goodies from the factory as a parting gift.
An International Day assembly was conducted by the key stage Humanities teacher to highlight students' knowledge of different countries around the world and students prepared exciting posters about the countries they were allocated, and presented them to the audience. They then took part in the Humanities challenges, where each class winner was awarded a school prize of LE100 gift voucher from Virgin Megastores. The four winners were : 7A – Mustafa (7A), 8A - Ramez (8A), 8B – Mario (8B), Ahmed (9A)
Parents commented on the wonderful content and spirit shown by the KS3 students, and were pleased at the knowledge they had acquired. These winners took part in the Grand Finale Humanities Challenge, held during the Drama Festival at the end of the year, and competed for the grand prize of an LE250 gift voucher from Virgin Megastores, presented by the school. The winner of the Grand Finale was Mustafa from Year 7A.
Towards the end of the academic year, the students were taken bowling to lighten their spirits prior to end of year exams, which they thoroughly enjoyed.
At the end of the academic year, students went to Rehab to paintball, which they thoroughly enjoyed.
Throughout the academic year, KS3 classes were given the opportunity to win class rewards for excellent behaviour and attitude. This motivation was used two-fold - first, to encourage and reward positive behaviour, and second, to promote the concept of teamwork within class by using group rewards. It was encouraging to note that each of the 4 classes in KS3 won at least once, with Year 8A winning the overall class diary reward at the end of the year. Rewards varied from coming to school out of uniform, to fun meals being provided by the school. Runners up also received smaller prizes, such as ice-cream, and film watching. It was clear that students were excited at the prospect of winning rewards, and many did work diligently towards achieving them.
KS3 boys had their own football tournament, fun-filled sports day and action-packed Ain Sokhna trip, where a water park was a key highlight.
AN ACTION-PACKED YEAR IN THE PRIMARY SCHOOL
Key Stage One children enjoyed taking it in turns to present class assemblies with parents attending to see curriculum-related learning enacted on stage, and to enjoy pupils’ achievements being celebrated with awards and certificates.
A special Mexican theme day in Year Two linked to the Geography Topic on Mexico City and Tocuaro, “A Contrasting Locality Overseas”, and pupils enjoyed dressing up and eating delicious Mexican food on that occasion.
KS1 children went on trips and excursions to the a number of exciting locations, including the Pharaonic Village, the cinema, and "Nutty Scientist". .
New end-of-year assessments were introduced by the Team Leader and Academic Heads, including the new UK Year One Phonics Check and a story-reading test similar to that in the Year 2 SAT exam, with a running record to get a percentage score on accuracy.
KS2 held a huge variety of vastly entertaining class assemblies throughout term two and three, on curriculum-related themes as diverse as:
- Year 3 Olive – the Romans (History); Year 3 Carnation – Magnetism (Science);
- Year 3 Gardenia – Kung Fu punctuation and acting out a story with a moral (Literacy);
- Year 4 Tulip – food chains (Science); Year 4 Myrtle – poem and song for Mother’s Day (Literacy);
- Year 4 Camellia – Vikings’ rap (History) Indian dance and a sketch about “what to do during a power cut”;
- Year 5 Lavender – a play about animal welfare (Literacy), Year 5 Violet – the Victorians and Food Glorious Food! (History), Year 5 Sunflower – the water cycle (Science/Geography);
- Year 6 Poppy –Shakespeare (Literacy);
- Year 6 Daffodil – anti-bullying play and song (Citizenship/Literacy)
All of Primary and KS3 enjoyed trips to the diverse, hands-on learning environment, or “edutainment park” at Kidzania.
KS2 children also enjoyed excursions to a variety of other fun-packed and/or curriculum related venues, including:
* Nutty Scientist, the cinema, and Agawani farm (Year 3);
* Bowling, cinema, Plein Air and Billy Beez (Year 4)
* Kidzania, WissaWassef Arts Centre, AUC, Sitara theatre, and the cinema (Year 5)
* Rich Bake factory, the cinema, and Nutty Scientist (Year 6)
WHOLE SCHOOL EVENTS
Primary children all enjoyed a Fun/sports day, a Halloween day, where they dressed up and did Halloween craft/Design and Technology activities), Christmas /New Year holiday concert, Easter egg-decorating activities, and two school camps with scouting activities and a treasure hunt (which had to be repeated because of the great demand for more).
EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES IN SCHOOL
Primary children had extra-curricular activities on Thursday afternoons for most of the year, starting off with the old “Privilege Time” system, and evolving into “Golden Time” rotated activities for the second half of the year. Clubs included Arabic storytelling, cartoon drawing, maths games, board games, origami, yoga, chess, ICT, jewellery making, fashion, cursive handwriting, science, art and music.
A “FUN LEARNING”-FILLED YEAR IN THE FOUNDATION STAGE
Foundation stage children kicked off their year of special events and activity days by having a celebration party in the garden to celebrate Eid el Adha.
They then dressed up in scary costumes to spook us all on the Halloween activity day, while chalking skeleton drawings, decorating pumpkins and making ghost lollipops.
Pupils enjoyed a theatre trip to see “The Gruffalo” at Sitara towards the end of term, before participating in Christmas concerts featuring modern and traditional songs in festive costumes. A book fair was hosted in the school foyer to encourage all children to become active and lifelong readers – one of BSC’s key academic goals.
A spring Fun Day gave children the chance to explore a bouncy castle, trampoline, climbing wall and art activities. Children later went on excursion to Agawani Farm, where they learnt the valuable skills of how to treat and care for animals, as well as taking part in art activities and learning to bake bread.
All our BSC Foundation Stage mums were honoured and celebrated through a Mother’s Day Party, where mothers and their children participated together in art activities and making jewellery.
Children were delighted to have the opportunity in March to see a splendid performance of “Snow White” at the theatre in the Conference Centre in Nasr City.
Our youngest pupils enjoyed their very own fun sports day in the Foundation Garden and, in April, also participated in an Easter egg hunt, egg decoration and making Easter baskets, cards, bunny ears and chicken paintings.
During a Book Week in May, children brought in favourite stories from home, took part in a number of book-related activities, including acting out famous stories. Parents were invited to school to read a story to their child’s class. On the final day, children came to school dressed as their favourite book characters.
Towards the end of June, each class took part in a show or performance, either a concert or a performance based on fairy tales or nursery rhymes. Children then attended Sitara Theatre to watch “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. Finally, staff and children let off steam with a good splash (and plenty of arm bands) in the shallow end of the pool during an Aqua Sports Day, and staff and children dressed up in the most beautiful Pharaonic costumes and galabiyas, and prepared home-made Egyptian dishes, such as stuffed vine leaves, for the final dish party.
PLANS FOR THE COMING ACADEMIC YEAR
Next year, the British School in Cairo will have its first Inclusion Coordinator, or INCO, to ensure all the diverse ranges of abilities of students in school are catered for and followed regularly, including the Gifted and Talented students and those with learning difficulties of any kind (memory, concentration, hyperactivity, etc) who may need an Individualised Education Plan (IEP).
We will also add Drama as a special subject, taught by a professional actress, in Key Stage 2 and 3, and there is a new British Art and Humanities Teacher for Years 6-8. ICT will be taught both by class teachers and by specialists next year to foster closer cross-curricular links between classroom learning and computer applications of the knowledge and skills gained.
Year 6 will have subject teachers instead of class teachers and, given the cancellation of Year 9 from this year onwards, it will become part of Key Stage 3 for administrative and managerial reasons, under the leadership of a British teacher, who is due to arrive from the UK in August.
SUMMER DAYS AND A FEW FOND FAREWELLS
While wishing all of our pupils and parents a very happy and safe summer, and happy and blessed Ramadan, we would also like to urge you and your children to at least keep up with some English activities and especially reading over the long summer break, to avoid the inevitable “summer drop” and to keep our young minds fresh and alert… We would also like to wish the very best of luck to those pupils graduating this year, or otherwise moving on to new countries or locations. In addition, we must thank the few staff members who are moving to new countries or schools for their hard work and commitment, and wish them very good luck for the next stage in their careers.
We especially hope that all BSC graduates will keep in touch and let us know their universities, courses, degree results, and future careers, so that we can include their successes and achievements in our future newsletters (school email available on the website) and hopefully start a BSC Alumni Association.
Thank you for your kind cooperation and for contributing to our fabulous BSC Community this past year, Ms Rachel, Headteacher, and the BSC Management Team