A recent visit to the Netherlands was a really uplifting experience. I attended a symposium held at the ECIS (Educational Collaborative for International Schools) headquarters in Leiden. What a great country! Judging a nation on its approach to public transport, I came away most impressed: the trains ran to time, there were helpful information desks at each station, super-clean concourses and a respect for surroundings. Everything appeared super-efficient and this continued outside the station with the extensive bicycle-park, cycle lanes and cyclists of all ages everywhere! The rest of the world could certainly learn a good amount from the Dutch way to travel. The symposium itself was also really positive, focusing on inter-cultural learning, international mindedness and global citizenship. Educators had come in from all corners of the world – it was great to connect with them and discuss such crucial topics, made even more pertinent with the backdrop of the Coronavirus outbreak that was spreading rapidly throughout China and beginning to jump continents.

Today in school has also been really uplifting.

To set the scene, we have to wind back twelve months. Last year, we gained accreditation as an MYP (IB Middle Years Programme) school following months of plotting, preparation and planning. The MYP is the middle piece in the PYP (primary years) to Diploma Programme continuum. This year, we are rolling out and embedding the MYP programme.

A key feature of the IB at all levels from the PYP through the MYP to the Diploma Programme is the element of inquiry, encompassing research, deep thinking, self-management, communication and social skills. Today we saw the MYP iteration of these key skills at the MYP Personal Project Exhibition. Each of our Grade 10 students had chosen a topic that was of personal interest to them at the start of the academic year. Since then, they have developed their ideas, researched the project and, in many cases, created a product which they showcased today. In addition, they have all produced a three and a half thousand word report reflecting on their process and outcomes. Throughout the morning, Grade 10 showcased their projects to visiting parents, to their teachers and to other students from the school. It was fabulous to see the Grade 10‘s talking with such interest, knowledge and understanding about their projects. The range of topics was phenomenal – eco-friendly clothing, the Sino-Japanese War, possible uses of architectural technology, racism in football, gene therapy, real estate development and how roles of women in medicine have changed, to name just a few.

Our Grade 10 students have gained so much from the process, not least in terms of producing a great project and communicating that to the school community. They have also learned some really important lessons about how they work best, how to manage their time effectively and how to dive deeply into a subject. And whilst at times it has been doubly tough for them as the first year at St John‘s to undertake the MYP Personal Projects, they have also been the pioneers, forging the way for the classes that follow them – and indeed, both individually and collectively, setting the bar high. In a world which is full of unknowns, they have already proven that they have the courage and the tenacity to lead the way.

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