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22 Apr 2016

Friday, 22 April 2016

david-whalley-blogDear Colleagues

This is the first blog of the final term and already the Easter break and the Hong Kong Sevens seem far behind us. I must admit to being mightily impressed by the atmosphere, quality of rugby and organisation of the Sevens and it was good to see so many colleagues and young people from ESF taking part in the event. I will admit that the 7am starts to the junior rugby proved to be a challenge I didn’t overcome but it was fantastic to see the thousands of children taking part in the procession.

I have been considering the theme of ESF as an authentic participant in the learning community that is Hong Kong and the role ESF has to play as part of this community. I am aware that ESF have many interactions with local schools and I believe this to be important work. This week I visited two local schools and observed the teaching of Chinese in these schools. The real benefit of these visits was to have a discussion with teachers, senior leaders and principals around teaching styles and approaches to student learning. All the staff I met with were very keen to have this dialogue and also to visit ESF schools to learn more. I am sure colleagues in ESF schools would benefit from the discussions and questions raised and I will look to promote this over the coming term.

I was approached by the SCMP this week and invited to comment around the importance of student wellbeing within ESF. I commented that our schools placed high priority around the wellbeing of all students and had for a number of years implemented a range of strategies to both gather data and develop practices aimed at ensuring students feel safe, happy and secure. It was interesting that much of the focus was around homework and the amount of homework that should be set. I reiterated the ESF view that there is a place for homework but that it should be purposeful, relevant to the individual needs of the learner, it should be manageable and closely monitored. You won’t be surprised to learn I was repeatedly pressed on ‘how many hours for each child?’, I managed to avoid a number which didn’t go down well! I am having ongoing conversations with colleagues in schools around a foundation wide wellbeing student survey and shall provide updates as this work develops.

I would like to acknowledge the project Catherine Jeffes has been promoting to support ISF schools in Cambodia. Picture Books for Cambodia asks adults to read a picture book to a child, to film this interaction and then download the recording as well as donating the book. This creates an online audio book library for the Cambodian schools to use along with an actual copy of the book. It is a really worthwhile cause and I both thank and congratulate Catherine for her efforts.

Finally, many colleagues will have been saddened this week following the news that Reine Barletta passed away following a brave battle with cancer. Reine had been a teacher at Kennedy School for 22 years and was greatly loved by the many thousands of students and staff who knew her. I know that many colleagues have passed on their thoughts and respects to Reine’s family and that the staff at Kennedy School will miss her very much. Like everyone else, my thoughts and prayers are with her family at this difficult time.

David Whalley