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Our School Story:
The British School in Tokyo

The British School in Tokyo (BST) adopts a certain way of doing things called the BST Way. This is more than just the motto behind it; be courageous, show respect and take responsibility, it is part of the school’s culture and its code of conduct is built upon it. The school have taken a beautifully unique approach to relational practice.


Prior to embracing relational practice parents felt that children were not recognised enough. There were also concerns raised by staff about a lack of consistency and no visible behaviour policy. Things needed to change. The When The Adults Change team have greatly been involved in the process and has been hugely impressed with the work done by the school.


Increasing recognition has been key. BST’s recognition system starts with a class agreement connected to The BST Way. To ensure consistency across the school, all classes write a short, positive, class agreement together in the first week of the school year. The agreement is reflective of the children in each class and the classroom environment they wish to create. Another task at the beginning of each year is to create a personalised recognition board for each class. Giving students ownership and autonomy over these has supported the school in building a positive classroom culture and a sense of ‘teamship’.


BST has a bronze, silver and gold recognition system that recognises learning behaviours and the process rather than the product. For example, instead of focusing on an excellent finished piece of work, the school’s ambition is to connect the recognition to the effort that went into creating it. One way in which this is done is through ‘Ask me why…’ stickers which promote those ‘why’ discussions at school and at home and create a positive dialogue between the two. With positively recognising students, great value is placed on the importance of making connections to the ‘why’ with The BST Way and the school’s learner profile. This helps students to build their intrinsic motivation and to value why they are receiving recognition.


Positive noticing has been further developed more recently to allow for peer-to-peer praise and acknowledgement and this has been well received amongst the children. Lots of teachers now have their own peer nomination jars to promote this in their classrooms.


Following work with When The Adults Change, the school created their own bespoke reflection tool called ‘Think Sakura’ for its staff. ‘Sakura’ stands for:

  • Self-regulate and make sure you are ready

  • Action – e.g. go on a cool-out walk to de-escalate when needed

  • Key Focus - make it about the learning (focus conversations about what can be learned from this and how we can make choices to ensure the student's learning is not interrupted in the future)

  • Under 2 minutes - prepare what you are going to say (keep the conversation short and think about what you are going to say before you begin- this could be using the restorative questions on your lanyards)

  • Resolution - discuss next steps

  • Assume positive intent - don’t force an apology 


‘Think Sakura’ is aimed at staff to support them in de-escalating low-level behavioural issues that arise in daily school life and to encourage a consistent approach when managing situations when they occur.

‘Stop and Think cards’ are used with students, which, when issued, signal the need for them to have some time out for a moment of self-reflection. This is then followed up with a reflective conversation which will happen at a suitable time to avoid disruption to learning. These are not used prescriptively but if staff have needed to use the Stop and Think card, they have a little space to ‘Think Sakura’ and then have a restorative conversation that will coach the student in reflecting on their behaviour and their awareness of the high expectations at BST. Reflective conversation lanyards have also been created and distributed amongst staff which offer them a visual prompt and reminder of how to respond in certain circumstances in a consistent way.


The culture at BST is one of a real community, with all stakeholders involved and bought into the process. Things haven’t happened overnight, in fact, one of the real successes with the BST approach was trialling initiatives one class or one-year group at a time and seeking feedback. The school has come on a real journey, and the positive and consistent approach taken means that students are able to live through the school’s strong values. What an amazing achievement!

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