The British School of Beijing, Shunyi (BSB): key questions answered

BSB answers questions about teaching, fees, air quality and more

Image: courtesy of British School of Beijing
As part of our feature International schools in Beijing: key questions answered, we put key questions from parents and students to The British School of Beijing, Shunyi (BSB). For other international schools, see list at the bottom of this feature.


Questions from parents


Teaching: What is the standout feature of your school’s teaching?

We deliver an ‘enhanced’ English National Curriculum, tailored for the international market, up to the age of 14. For older students, we offer International GCSE examinations, which are internationally recognised as a formal qualification at age 16 – this is a unique feature about our system. Students then take the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma from age 16. All these qualifications offer outstanding transition to other school systems when you leave Beijing. We also have a full German Primary School (Thuringa curriculum) for Klasse 1-4. Above all, our aim is to offer academic excellence while avoiding ‘exam factory’ hothousing. Our entire curriculum aims to develop students as confident, socially aware and respectful young people who are very happy in their learning.


Management: Who owns and manages the school, and who sets the budgets?

The school is owned by the Nord Anglia International Education family, which has 31 schools around the globe, offering unparalleled opportunity to link with 20,000 students worldwide and gain from this experience through our global activity. The school is managed by a Principal, supported by Heads of Primary and Secondary School in school, and by a strong China Regional Team based in Shanghai. The overall budget is set by our Head Office but managed by the Principal and in-school team.


Fees: What do the fees cover, and will there be additional fees later in the year?

As well as covering all tuition, including curriculum resources, books, our fees more unusually also cover trips which are directly related to the curriculum, including a week-long annual residential for all students aged 6 and up. We have a massive programme of extra-curricular activities at lunchtime and after school, which is free of charge. Transport for this is included in other fees. Lunch and bus fees are additional, as is the school uniform.


Nationalities: Do you have a policy on the mix of nationalities?

Yes, we believe that as an international school, it is crucially important to maintain a wide and balanced mix of nationalities and we are proud that our student numbers are well balanced from across the world. On occasion, this does mean that we have to operate waiting lists. We do however try to keep families together, so will always try to be flexible where siblings are concerned.


Teaching assistants: If you have teaching assistants in the classroom, what are their responsibilities?

Every class in the Primary School has a teaching assistant who will cover a range of activities to support the teacher and individual students. They’re fully involved in the planning of lessons and understand the lesson outcomes, so that they can genuinely be a second teacher in the room. They’re also invaluable assistants in activities – ranging from swimming to school trips – to ensure that children are safe and secure. We also use our teaching assistants as monitors on the ASA bus rides home for added security.


After-school activities: Are there fees for joining the ASA programme and who runs it?

All the ASAs offered by the school are free of charge. We do very occasionally work with outside providers to offer enhanced activities, but these generally take place outside the school’s ASA time. The ASAs are run by specialists from within the school and we seek external expertise if it’s not available internally.


Languages: What languages are compulsory to learn, and what are by choice?

The vast majority of children throughout the school learn Mandarin Chinese as we believe this is an important part of immersion in the culture of our host country. We also offer native language programmes as required by students and parents. These have recently included Dutch, Finnish, French, German and Swedish. In the secondary school, students have the opportunity to study French, German or Spanish, as we recognise the demands of returning to their home countries. Chinese, French, German and Spanish are all offered to IGCSE level, and these plus Korean are available in the IB Diploma.


Lunch: Is school lunch compulsory and how much does it cost? What is on the menu?

We see school lunch as an essential part of our school day as well as an important social activity, giving students a healthy and nutritious meal. Every day features a Western and an Asian option, as well as a special, a full salad bar and a sandwich bar. The menu is regularly reviewed by a Food Committee that includes students and parents who assist in the constant process of review and improvement. It costs 30RMB for the full menu.


Air Quality: What air quality controls do you have in place? What is your AQI cut-off for outdoor play?

We have a strong policy that allows outdoor play above AQI 200, except for our youngest children. We also monitor very closely the air within the building to ensure a healthy environment. We have constructed a fully pressurised Sports Dome and an advance integrated system of air purification throughout the building, using ceiling mounted purifiers, along with air curtains and large scale purifiers in public spaces. The whole system is regularly monitored by independent tests, which are undertaken on bad pollution days to ensure children remain safe and healthy.


Assessment: How often do parents receive reports or have parents’ evenings?

In the Secondary School there are two formal reports, two interim reports and two parents’ evenings per year, plus an open-door policy for parents to contact and meet with teaching staff whenever they wish. In the Primary School, we have three reports, one per term, alongside three sets of parents’ evenings to ensure communication is as full as possible. We also hold regular information sessions for parents, which include curriculum workshops, events with interpreters and informal ‘Cha and Chat’ events with members of the school’s Leadership Team.



Questions from students


Atmosphere: What’s the general atmosphere like at the school?

What matters at the school is the individual student. People often speak of the buzz at BSB, and the family atmosphere where we make the school fit the child and not the child fit the school. Although you’re expected to work very hard to achieve your goals, people also readily use words like ‘friendly’, ‘supportive’, ‘caring’. Our BSB values of politeness, respect, tolerance and care for others are all pervasive. Above all, your teachers will know you really well, and help you to grow as a confident and happy learner. Above all, I think BSB is a very happy place to be.


Communication: How open is the communication between the students and the administration?

Very open. As the School Principal, my own door and that of my senior colleagues are always open to students and I welcome their input and questions. We also have systems to support this – a well-structured School Council and a School Student Leadership Group which we call our Prefects. We also aim to involve students in as many management processes as possible, including our Food Committee, the review of our Rewards and Sanctions Policy, and our charity events. Our students engage in leadership activities wherever possible, culminating in their outstanding work on the IB CAS programme. We can’t honestly claim to be nurturing the leaders of tomorrow without giving them leadership opportunities today.


Initiatives: Can students suggest or launch new initatives such as extra-curricular clubs?

This is always welcome, with the obvious caution that we always have teachers working with them to ensure their safety. Recent initiatives have included changes in our sports provision, the imminent introduction of an ASA Gaming Club and the student Prom which is organised by students for students.


Uniform: Does the school require a uniform, and how strict is the dress code?

Yes, at BSB we believe that dressing smartly is important for a number of reasons. It helps a sense of identity and pride in your school, it makes you stand out from other schools, you don’t need to worry about the pressure and cost of conforming to fashion, and dressing smartly is an important part of the preparation for future leadership in the world of work.


New students: What initiatives are in place to help new students settle in?

Coming to a new school, especially in a new city, is tough. We try to get to know you as well as we can before you come, talking to your parents and your previous school about what type of student you are. When you join the school, you will have a form tutor who will be responsible for your social and pastoral welfare as well as your academic success. We will also get one of our current students to act as your ‘buddy’ and show you around until you make new friends. We have special meetings for all new parents in our parents’ coffee shop and we try to introduce parents to current parents, often of the same nationality, to help them get used to the area. Our friendly Admissions Team will help you with anything, from finding an ayi and getting your driving licence, to finding that special food that you really miss from home.


Traditions: What are some of the school’s unique or interesting traditions?

BSB is a fully international school, so although we have some British traditions, we also celebrate our many nationalities from across the globe. Chinese New Year is always very special, but so is our massive German Christmas Market and our European Day of Languages. A highlight of the year is always International Day, where we celebrate our global family and parents run stalls from their own countries. Musicals and concerts are a showcase of our students’ amazing talent, and we have well over half of our students participating in competitive sports teams. As a school with a uniform, non-uniform days are always really popular, and we use these to raise great sums of money for charity. We’re very lucky to be part of a big school network, so our students also get a chance to go to Tanzania to work with schools and orphanages there, and next year will see the launch of our Global Orchestra.


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