Continuing the BSB Adventure
An interview with Dan Batson, Deputy Head of Primary School
Dan Batson is Deputy Head of Primary School at the British School of Bucharest, having joined in 2014. He oversees all curriculum and assessment matters within Primary and has led many whole-school projects, seeking out opportunities to incorporate technology effectively within the classroom. Dan graduated from Wolverhampton University and started his teaching career in the Birmingham area in 1998, working mainly in Key Stage 2 within the British Curriculum. In 2005, he joined a highly respected international British school in Abu Dhabi where he worked as Assistant Headteacher. He is also the Designated Safeguarding Lead.
Why did you go into teaching?
I fought it for quite a while, but after a summer in America, working at a camp for underprivileged city kids, there was only one career for me.
What made you want to join BSB?
It was and still is an exciting and adventurous school, where new ideas are supported and people - students and children - are invested in.
What could you tell us about the use of current technology in the teaching process?
Current technology gives us quicker and easier access to resources and information, it helps exemplify challenging concepts and gives us instant feedback when practising skills. More recently, it has helped us problem solve whilst we have been forced to remain at home, allowing us to see and hear each other with a click of a mouse. However, the process of learning has not changed, although what is deemed important to learn may have.
Why did you choose to oversee Primary School?
Both my parents were secondary teachers, but I have always worked with this age of children. I guess I found my niche. Maybe it is partly due to the fact I enjoy teaching a range of subjects.
What are some of the new threats and challenges regarding online bullying brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and the ‘new normal’?
Cyber-bullying is a serious problem, with or without COVID-19. Perhaps the threat is greater as there is a likelihood of increased screen time. The real threat, though, is how vulnerable so many young people feel these days, as their mental health has taken a few blows. This is why it is so important we do everything we can to keep the School open. We are social beings and we give each other strength by being together.
Does the educational technology used at BSB protect the child, prioritise privacy, and safely store the child’s data?
Privacy and personal data are taken very seriously at BSB. We have an excellent IT Team and a very knowledgeable Data Protection Officer who ensure our systems are secure and well managed. Also, all staff have GDPR training annually during the summer INSET.
How is remote learning working at BSB?
All in all, we have been very successful with our remote learning programme. It was a steep learning curve, but with regular training and support, as well as parental feedback, we found a system which worked.
How does remote learning work for different ages?
There are very different approaches to remote learning, depending upon what year group you teach. Clearly, the older the children are the more independent they are, and technology is less of a barrier. They are able to work for sustained periods on the same task, with teachers occasionally ‘dropping in’ to ask and answer questions, as well as give feedback. However, my wife (Miss Jenna), who is a Nursery teacher, has to put on a children’s TV-style show every time she starts the video lesson. It’s usually very loud, very messy and involves an awful lot of laughter – and that is just the parents!
With all the social distancing measures BSB has implemented, how has the School ensured that children and teachers feel connected?
I do not think the School has had to do anything in particular here. We are connected. We are BSB.
How do you cultivate positive relationships with your students and create a sense of community during these unprecedented times?
It is true we can’t have the same whole-school or community events as we did before. However, we still have assemblies (via Google Meet) and we grab every available opportunity to celebrate our children.
How did you help children readjust to school life in this ’new normal’?
We talk about it – a lot. Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education is a priority at BSB. If our mental wellbeing is suffering, so will everything else, including academic learning.
What are the greatest challenges that teachers face today?
Pacing ourselves. We knew what percentage of power we could run at before, which was usually just enough to get us to the next holiday. The reopening of School has been exciting but has taken a lot of work and energy to prepare and adjust to. Our staff need to look after each other and look after themselves – physically, mentally and emotionally.
What do you find the most rewarding when working with young children?
The relationships you build and the buzz you get when a child gets a ‘light-bulb’ moment.
If you weren’t a full-time teacher, what would your dream job be?
The guy who delivers the mail by sea plane to all those little islands around Micronesia.
And finally: tell us something unexpected about yourself.
I once stage-dived at a rock concert.