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Q+A: The British School in Tokyo

Q+A: The British School in Tokyo

The British School in Tokyo (BST), an international co-educational school for pupils aged 3 to 18, answers our questions and takes us on a virtual tour...

What happens when parents visit the school?

Led by the school’s senior educational leaders, the tours are extremely informative, as you will go into classrooms and see the curriculum in action. You will see school books and class projects, examples of writing and maths work through the year groups in the Primary School, as well as all the facilities on each school site. Parents are encouraged to bring children along as well.

The tours take place every week during term time, and bookings in advance are required as places are limited due to the scope of the tour. Tours take approximately one hour with an opportunity to ask questions during and at the end of the tour. (Please see the link above for the school's contact details.)

What do you do to help children settle in?

We provide orientation days for students and their parents before the start of term.

How old is the school?

The school was opened in Sept 1989 by Margaret Thatcher and we have just celebrated our 27th anniversary.

How many students do you have?

BST is a truly international co-educational school with over 1000 students aged between 3 and 18. We currently have students from over 60 nationalities, and over a third of our students are neither British nor Japanese.

What assessments are required to enrol?

All subjects are taught in English, therefore English language proficiency is an entry requirement for our school. Where English is not the first language of the applicant, the school will make an assessment of spoken and written English skills.

What facilities do you offer? E.g. sports, music, arts.

Our facilities include an athletics ground, gym, concert hall, swimming pool, art lab, library, science and computer labs and playgrounds.

What accreditations do you have?

  • Council of British International Schools (COBIS) — accredited member.
  • Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) — accredited primary school.
  • Cambridge International Examinations.
  • Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) — EXCELLENT rating.

Why should I send my child to your school?

'The BST Difference':

1. Outstanding teaching and academic standards

We are passionate about excellent teaching in every classroom. We recruit teachers only after watching them teach in their existing schools all over the world. Our teachers are innovative professionals at the cutting edge of best educational practice, who provide a stimulating environment in the classroom that actively engages students, and makes learning enjoyable and memorable.

2. Professional monitoring and tracking of every student

Our student tracking system ensures that from the ages of 3 to 18, the progress of every child is constantly monitored. We use sophisticated database tracking to identify each student’s current level of skills, knowledge and understanding in every main subject area. Progress is tracked by the use of clear, independent criteria, including explanations of what students need to do to achieve the next level. Parents and students are able to ask how and where improvement needs to be made and our teachers can tell them in detail by providing specific examples of work in class.

3. A vibrant international experience

We welcome students of all nationalities and academic abilities, and provide a mutually supportive and tolerant community in which individuals are respected for who they are. 

What curriculum do you follow?

We follow the English National Curriculum, modified extensively for our international setting.

How have you adapted the curriculum to suit your location/country?

Our children from Nursery upwards study the Japanese language. We maximise children’s real use of the language within the local community, taking advantage of speaking and listening opportunities right on our doorstep.

We celebrate and participate in Japanese traditions, both by learning the language, and by exploring the local and national cultural traditions.

Our skill-based curriculum enables us to incorporate learning of skills relevant to our local context. Our history curriculum lends itself well to this.

Our BST Outdoor Programme enables us to explore and appreciate the natural aspects of living in Japan. Children have opportunities to hike and learn about indigenous plants and natural vegetation, whilst also appreciating geographical features, utilising both science and geography skills.

In addition, we have strong links with our Japanese partner schools, SKG and SWU, as well as other Japanese schools in and around Tokyo, with whom we share regular exchange days to enhance language and social opportunities.

What is your teaching philosophy?

  • Purpose: to provide an outstanding British education in English to the international community of Tokyo.
  • Mission: to care for our students, and to educate them in accordance with clearly stated values; to bring out the best in every one of them, and to help them to take the next step in their lives with confidence, conviction and consideration for others.
  • Vision: The British School in Tokyo will be a leader in the provision of a first-class, values-driven international education, based on the best of the English National Curriculum. We will have a reputation for excellence, with an emphasis on outstanding teaching, academic achievement, service to others, teamwork and leadership.

How have your pupils performed in examinations in recent years?

In 2016 our Year 13 students celebrated some impressive, hard-earned A Level grades, enabling the majority to take up places at the universities of their choice. They have every right to feel proud of their achievements: 42% of all entries were awarded A*/A grades and more than two-thirds achieved grade B or better. These results are well above the UK national average (where just 26% of entries were awarded the top two grades), and compare favourably with our own three-year average scores.

Year 11 GCSE and IGCSE results were every bit as praiseworthy as those of their seniors. A*/A grades accounted for 61% of all entries (up from 57% last year), and there were some real pockets of excellence. For example, out of a total of 18 candidates sitting French and Spanish, 15 students were awarded the top two grades, while no fewer than 22 A* results were shared between Biology, Chemistry and Physics. It was especially pleasing to see the enthusiasm of those studying more practical subjects - Art, Drama, Music, PE and Photography - being rewarded with an A*/A pass rate of no less than 80%.

How large are the classes in your school?

The normal number of students per class in Nursery and Reception is 15-20, and for all other years the normal class size is 22. In the Sixth Form some classes can be very small, depending on the number of students selecting particular subject options.

What is the teaching programme in your Sixth Form?

The Sixth Form at BST provides an environment where students receive direction, whilst being given opportunities for independent learning through their studies. 

We follow the UK A Level system and have a broad range of subjects which can be studied including: Art and Design, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Drama and Theatre Studies, English Literature, French, Further Mathematics, Geography, History, Japanese, Mathematics, Music, Physical Education, Physics, Psychology and Spanish.

What links do you have with other schools?

Since we are a COBIS school, we have links via the COBIS network. We also engage in exchanges with local Japanese schools and international schools, for example, the French Lycée (international school).

What is the background of your teaching staff?

Most teachers are from the UK. However, we do recruit teachers from other countries, but only after watching them teach in their existing schools.

Do you offer a wide range of field trips?

We have many different field day trips over the year for both Primary and Secondary students. Some are in an urban setting (Year 5 trip to Odaiba to study urban development), and some are in a country setting (Year 8 rice-planting).

Are there any residential trips throughout the year?

All students from Year 1 to Year 13 take part in the BST Outdoors Residential Programme.

The entire Secondary School moves out of Tokyo for up to a week of adventurous activity, twice a year, led by Mr Mark Grimshaw, our BST Outdoors Co-ordinator. The summer trip in the alpine resort of Hakuba offers climbing, kayaking and mountain-biking, and the winter trip in the same region sees most of the school on the ski slopes. There is also a trip to Miyazaki for a Japanese Homestay.

In the Primary School our residential trips are organised by year group:

  • Years 5 and 6 spend three nights away from home in Ashigara, Kanagawa in March.
  • Year 5 go to Norikura, Nagano in January where they complete a Design Technology challenge, write winter-inspired poetry and take part in ski or snowboard lessons.
  • Year 4 spend two nights in Yamanakako, Yamanashi in April. They hike in, and learn about, the natural environment and vegetation in Japan.
  • Year 3 children travel to Norikura, Nagano in May and June to experience orienteering, abseiling and indoor climbing, as well as other outdoor pursuits.
  • Year 1 and 2 children spend one night in Hachioji, on the outskirts of Tokyo in May and June, where science, art and PE programmes are taken outside.

Do you have a rewards system to encourage good work?

In Secondary, we award house points. In Primary, students work towards an in-house Junior Awards System.

How can you ensure continuity if my child moves between countries?

We have numerous children come from a different curriculum and then depart for another curriculum. We offer transfer training for students who are moving on.

How do you support pupils who are struggling, and how do you challenge the more able?

All children have their own Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and we have a SEN Coordinator to provide support to those students who need it. For the more able we differentiate within the curriculum.

How do you support children who find Maths difficult?

We have Maths booster groups, which hold sessions in the mornings before lessons begin.

What languages do you offer?

Japanese is taught from Nursery with a Kokugo Program and there is a JFL Program before school for Year 1 pupils.

French is taught from Year 3, and in the Secondary School, French, Japanese and Spanish are offered up to GCSE level and Chinese is offered as an extra-curricular option.

How can parents get involved?

We actively encourage parents to help with a variety of activities. These may include helping with creative and technology sessions, supervising groups of children on trips, or being a member of our volunteer reader programme.

Every class also has one or two class parents, who help find volunteers for the trips, arrange shared lunch events and organise class or year group social and coffee events.

Do you offer parent workshops relating to what the children are doing? (such as EAL, Grade 5 exhibition)

We offer formal workshops to explain various aspects of the curriculum. We run as many workshops as are needed to meet parents’ demands. We also offer slightly more informal coffee mornings with leadership staff and specific staff members, so parents can ask questions relevant to specific people at BST.

What opportunities exist for parents to speak to their child's teachers should they have any worries or concerns?

If parents have any questions, they can contact the relevant member of staff. Teachers are available before and after school for brief discussions. It is also possible to make appointments by email.

What extra-curricular activities do you offer in the Senior school?  

At BST, students will have the opportunity to participate in a range of sports and activities, both before and after school. Pupils can attend as many sports clubs as they wish, giving them the opportunity to develop and improve in a range of sporting activities.

Throughout Secondary years, BST takes part in a number of competitive leagues and competitions across a range of sports, giving students the opportunity to represent the school and develop their skills.

There is also an extensive clubs programme to choose from, and all students are encouraged to participate in at least one ECA a week. Please go to this link for more details.

Senior students are also offered the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and can participate in the Model United Nations.

What extracurricular activities do you offer in the Primary School?

Activities offered include sports, music, languages and externally run clubs, which include International Dance Academy, Aikido, Taiko, I-Can Gymnastics, Beavers and Cubs, Rainbows and Brownies and Drama. You can see a full list of activities here.

What performing arts opportunities do students have?

Drama is a unique, thriving and popular subject at the British School in Tokyo, both as an academic option and as an extracurricular activity. Engagement in drama is essential as part of an arts-rich curriculum that every pupil has a right to experience. Drama is a unique subject area that is delivered once a week to all Key Stage 3 classes. At Key Stage 4, students can opt for the popular GCSE Drama course.

How important is music and the arts in your school?

In the Primary School, all children from Nursery to Year 6 are taught music by specialist teachers in our dedicated music rooms, where singing, theory, composition and listening are essential ingredients. The children also have the opportunity to participate in music clubs before, during and after the school day, including choirs, orchestras, small ensembles and bands.

In the Secondary School, we offer an extensive instrumental programme, with professional instrumental tutors who visit daily, and a wide variety of extracurricular music activities for students of all ages.

In Years 10 and 11, Music has become increasingly popular over the past three years as a GSCE subject. We follow the AQA syllabus, which allows students to explore extended composition, solo and ensemble performances and detailed listening and appraising components. In Years 12 and 13, we offer A Level Music, preparing our students for entrance into the best universities and Music conservatoires in the world. 

What musical instruments can children learn at your school?

Students can learn a full range of musical instruments, including guitar, drums, percussion, trumpet, trombone, French horn, saxophone, violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet and piano. The school offers pupils the opportunity to take Royal School of Music exams.

All images: The British School in Tokyo

You can view the Winter's profile for The British School in Tokyo by going to this link.

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