Cold and Flu Season

Dear Parents and Friends of ISBerne,

The average child has six to 10 colds a year–and every parent knows how easily colds are passed to other family members once one child gets sick! Children’s immune systems are less mature than those of adults, so they’re more susceptible to germs.

At school, kids are in close contact with each other, and they tend to have ‘germy’ habits, such as sticking fingers and objects in their mouths–perfect behaviours for spreading colds.

What can a parent do? Stopping cold germs where they breed is your best defense. Following the simple measures below can go a long way in preventing most illness.

1. Know How and When to Wash Hands
Children usually don’t wash their hands often enough or well enough at school. In one study of middle and high school students, about half washed their hands after using the bathroom — and only 33% of the girls and 8% of the boys used soap. Colds germs are passed and acquired by touching our eyes, noses and mouths, so washing hands, often and well, is critical.

2. Don’t Share at School
Children should not be sharing food, drinks or lip balm. Items such as gym towels, sports uniforms, etc. should also never be shared. With younger children, it may be difficult to avoid sharing books and toys in the classroom. Therefore, best to remind younger children to wash their hands often and avoid touching their eyes, mouth, or nose until they do.

3. Keep Backpacks Clean
As any parent knows, school backpacks can get pretty grimy from long-forgotten lunches and all the other things children stuff into them. Have your child clean out his backpack every day. And while your child is cleaning out their backpack, remind them to bring dirty gym clothes home to wash.

4. Build Immunity
Help protect your child from inside! Make sure that he/she gets enough sleep and exercise, avoids stress, and eats a well-balanced diet. Students should be drinking water (not soft drinks or caffeinated drinks!) during the day to cleanse their immune systems.

Finally, if your child is unwell, we always encourage rest at home. Health and well-being should always take precedence over academics.

Kind regards


Thank you Canton of Berne

We are extremely grateful for the continued support offered to ISBerne by our Canton, demonstrated in such a concrete manner through the financial contribution to our much-needed relocation project. A special thanks to a great many people who, in varying capacities, were instrumental in assisting us over the past several years as we worked towards creating a viable new campus project.

From its very inception as a school in 1961, ISBerne has provided quality education to expatriate families living and working in Switzerland’s capital city. Recognising the importance of providing education to these families, ISBerne has been an integral part of the community of Muri-Guemligen, as well as the canton of Berne, and we are proud of the strong cultural, charitable, sporting, and academic links we have with our hosts.

ISBerne is in a unique position to support the continued success of the region by providing a quality education to the children of 29 embassies and 49 foreign companies. Students of over 50 nationalities currently study at the school, and ISBerne is one of only 240 schools worldwide that offer all three International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes. With this cantonal support, ISBerne will now be in a position to continue this service and advance it to the next modern level for future generations.

Richard Swart
Director, ISBerne

Stranger Danger – a misnomer?

Recently, there have been some unfortunate situations in Switzerland where children have been approached by strangers. It raises the question of how to approach conversations with children on this topic.

More often than not, our kids are at greater risk from people we know and trust. Yes, it’s true that some strangers are dangerous. But our kids have to interact with strangers all the time – be it a bus driver, shop assistant or someone friendly looking to chat. It is unrealistic to villainise all strangers. To teach our children to beware of all strangers may not only frighten them, but may go against them at a time when they might otherwise need that stranger’s help. Black and white rules about stranger danger can be confusing.

Here are five things to teach your children about strangers that we reinforce at school:

  1. Most strangers are good people, but that doesn’t mean we should be too trusting.
  2. If you are ever approached by a stranger, always check with your parents before doing anything with that stranger.
  3. If you are going somewhere with a stranger (for some unanticipated reason), always stay in public.
  4. There may be some instances, perhaps if you got lost or needed help, where you need to go to a stranger. If you do need to talk to a stranger, it’s always best to look for a mum with children and ask her for help.
  5. If you ever feel unsafe, like a stranger is following you, find another adult and explain what you are scared of. Because most strangers are safe, if you ask for help you’re very likely to get it. But if you are invited into someone’s house, always say no and just stay on the doorstep.

When conversations with students arise on this issue, we try to teach a few commonsense rules about strangers:

  • If you feel unsafe, move away from strangers.
  • If a stranger promises you something cool, like lollies, games, or butterflies, lizards, snakes, or whatever, say no and move away.
  • If a stranger (or any adult) ever grabs you or touches you in a way that makes you scared, scream the following words: “Stop it! Help! Don’t touch me!” And scream them LOUD!

But what about people we know?
Based on the statistics, the tricky teaching needs to be around keeping our kids safe from people we know and trust. The wisest approach to this is to tell children:

  • My body is mine.
  • No one should ever, ever touch the private parts of my body.
  • If anyone tries to touch me, I should loudly say “Stop it! Help! Don’t touch me!”.
  • If a person tells me to keep a secret that relates to private parts of my body, I should remember that they’re wrong. I should tell my mum or dad immediately.
  • If a person says anything to me or does anything to me (or my body) that leaves me feeling bad, yucky, or guilty, I should tell my parents – even if I’m scared about it.

Children need our protection, and we need to work together to ensure their safety. One of the best ways to protect our children is to educate them. However, we must remember that these lessons are not taught in a single conversation ….they must be reinforced, on-going and relevant.

Scott Jackson
ISBerne Principal

Freedom from Chemical Dependency

Next week a prevention specialist from the US based ‘Freedom from Chemical Dependency’ (FCD) Educational Services will, once again, be visiting our school. We are very pleased to offer this opportunity to students and families as part of our health education programme. In addition to meeting with students and faculty, we have arranged a session for parents of students in Grades 6-12. Discussions held in this session will explain the development factors of addiction and address parental involvement and influence in the prevention of substance abuse.

FCD Prevention Specialists are highly trained professionals who have achieved long-term recovery from alcohol or other drug addictions. This unique perspective enhances the credibility of their message and provides students with role models for happy, healthy, drug-free living.

The dilemma that faces parents and teachers today is how to educate children about substance addiction in a world where popular culture has desensitized the younger generation to the impact of drugs, chemical addiction and dependency. There is no set formula for having conversations around drug and alcohol dependency; you might want to consider the following.

1- Get the facts
There are a lot of myths about alcohol and other drugs. Use evidence-based sources to give your child the most accurate information.

2- Be clear in your beliefs
Based on the evidence, clarify your view of alcohol and other drugs. For example, it’s up to you whether your child drinks or not, but evidence indicates that parental monitoring and family rules about alcohol do reduce the likelihood of young people drinking.

3- Look for opportunities to start the conversation
Keep the conversation relaxed. Use relevant topics on the TV or radio and events as an opportunity to talk about alcohol and other drugs. It’s best to start talking about these issues early. It’s never too early, and there is no limit to the number of conversations you can have.

4- Ask questions
Find out your child’s views about alcohol and other drugs. Talk about what they would do in different situations.

5- Make sure they understand the harms
Make sure your child has the right information about alcohol and other drugs and correct any myths. Talk about the benefits as well as the harms of different drugs and why someone might use them. Don’t exaggerate the harms as it will make you sound less credible.

6- Set rules and consequences
Explain your views on alcohol and other drugs and use the facts to back them up. Let your child know your rules and the consequences for breaking them.

Some of the topics addressed in the parent session will include an elaboration upon the ideas raised above.

As an ISBerne Parent, If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at school.

Kind regards
Scott Jackson

Parent Teacher Conferences

Today parents have been moving across our school campus to engage with teachers in our first Conference of the year. These Conferences offer the opportunity to reflect on student progress through these first months, and, for many of our students, to reflect on the significant changes they have experienced. These may include moving into new programmes, such as the Diploma or Grade 6, or moving schools for the first time, or …

However, the greatest value of these Conferences is the way in which they may be used to support future success. We should reflect on conversations that indicate what has worked well for our children, and how to leverage this into other areas. These successes may arise from building positive social relationships, or engaging in a particular academic area of interest, or having the opportunity to participate in team sports. Whatever the driver may be, using this information in a proactive manner to support further success is the key to actively engaged students. We understand that reports indicate relative successes, and recognize that we all have strengths that are greater in some areas than others. What can we do, as a learning community, to use this information to ensure future growth?

One possible option is to define what future ‘stretch’ goals might be. The idea of a stretch goal is to encourage us to take measured risks in moving us out of our comfort zones. An analogy might well be how I see the upcoming ski season. What would I like to accomplish by the end of the season? Is this a reasonable goal? What steps do I need in place to facilitate success? If I break the timeframe into manageable chunks, what are the sub-set of goals that scaffold my success? Who do I need to call on for help?

I trust you have enjoyed the day, that we have shared insights on your children, our students, and that conversations begun today will continue, positively, through the course of the year.

Richard Swart


Mathematics in an IB School

Mathematics at ISBerne

There may be no subject in a school curriculum that generates as much debate as mathematics. And this is proving to be true at ISBerne.

The International Baccalaureate requires all students to take mathematics, offering the subject at Higher, Standard, and Studies levels in the Diploma (grades 11 and 12). Unlike the national systems many of us experienced, where we could drop mathematics after a certain grade, this is not an option for our students. In addition, ISBerne, with students from over 50 nationalities, is in the position of addressing a significant spread of curriculum requirements, skills, attitudes, applications and more, as a consequence of our students’ previous experiences. To show how significant this can be, please have a look at the spread of scores as shown by the PISA results, found at: (zoom in for a longer list of countries).

The spread of results indicates more than a three-year gap between the highest and lowest performing countries in mathematics. A student achieving outstanding grades in a national system at the bottom of the list might well be out of their depth when transferring to the IB. This would certainly be a result of the gaps in knowledge, rather than the consequence of work ethic or aptitude. The reverse is equally true of students from the top-performing systems, who may well find they have studied work that is now being ‘re-taught’ to them.

Clearly, addressing these issues (and those in Reading, Writing, and Science) present international schools with interesting challenges in discerning where strengths and needs lie for individual students. Parents have an important voice in this conversation, and I would encourage ongoing engagement with teachers, as well as the Programme Coordinators, in this regard.

Happy Expats?

A recent survey carried out by HSBC on expats around the world investigated, amongst other things, quality of life, raising a family, and cost of living. Switzerland ranked first amongst expats when these measures were combined. The survey can be found here:

I, for one, am happy to be here. At the same time, I acknowledge some of the expat benefits apparent in other regions of the world. My last position was in China, where teacher salaries are amongst the highest in the profession – high enough to cancel out the pollution levels, for a period of time in any case. Previously we lived in the Philippines, a nation that has been ranked as amongst the happiest in the world. And we left behind New Zealand, ranked by HSBC as the best place to raise families.

Consequently, like you, I can reflect back on previous experiences and relate them to our day-to-day lives in Switzerland. In a conversation with a colleague, a few things became apparent. Foremost was the relationship we have with landscapes: Here’s mine…


It seems as though we relate to the landscape of our youth, and this becomes the yardstick against which we measure everything else, for better or for worse. Don’t get me wrong – Switzerland is stunningly beautiful (I love mountains, and living with a view of the Alps is certainly ‘uplifting’) – it just doesn’t have that smell of the Atlantic, the sea breeze, the crisp sand. And perhaps this is the nub of the question: Can ‘different’ be as good?

I also wonder how much our reflections bring to bear when we compare all those things we leave behind. We bring with us a range of memories apart from ‘landscapes’ – essentially, landscapes of the mind – memories of previous schools for example. In doing so, we always compare that which is new (ISBerne) to those schools of our past.

I’m not sure of how to end a reflection such as this. Perhaps a reiteration of the fact that we are happy in Switzerland, but cognizant of what we leave behind. A topic for a future Pechakucha?


Richard Swart

Director ISBerne


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