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Powering pro-learning at British School in the Netherlands

Liz Free, Director of International Leadership Academy at The British School, explains how BlueSky supports staff

Posted by Rianna Newman | June 28, 2017 | Health & wellbeing

Based in The Hague, The British School in the Netherlands (BSN) is one of the largest and most successful international schools in Europe. It has 2,300 pupils, boys and girls aged between three and 18, and over 400 staff, all based throughout four campuses. Serving an international, professional group of parents, many of whom work for multinational companies, the school has to cope with a lot of pupil movements and many pupils quickly learn English as their second language. 

What was the challenge? 

We know that the quality of a school cannot exceed the quality of its staff and that each and every member of staff is vital in their contribution to the school’s continued and future success. So our challenge was to improve our process and develop a strong culture of continuing professional learning (CPL) at our school. The aim was to make it more high-profile and to provide us with a whole-school overview of CPL for all staff – from teachers, to bursars, to caretakers. We wanted to have a centralised, live repository for professional learning across the school, replacing our previous campus-based, paper system, and to have everything underpinned by a robust record-keeping element.

Other factors to consider, and which make CPL management a big job here, include the large percentage of part-time staff – the Netherlands has the highest proportion of part-time workers in the world – and our four-campus set up, which makes our model similar to that of a multi academy trust in the UK. It was also imperative that we had a system which could work for all staff – 35% of our team are in non-teaching and learning roles.

Liz Free

How is BlueSky helping?

We use BlueSky as our core learning and development tool and it is really good.  We just use the CPL system – as an active professional learning facilitator and record.  But it is much more than a repository. It provides us with a whole-school view of our learning and development needs, which I can feedback and act upon. 

What’s the impact?

Overall, staff must be supported in their roles and BlueSky does just that. The main impact has been that for the first time we have a global view across the school. The BlueSky system has improved visibility because all staff engage at the same points during the year. It has allowed us to embed professional expectations for everyone. All staff feel – and are – equally valued. This chimes well with our position that we are ‘one school’ and our mission and vision is not exclusive to teachers, but involves everyone.

Developing a professional and learning community requires the type of journal-keeping, including personal reflections and notes, which BlueSky facilitates. By building a portfolio which allows them to record and reflect on their own professional development, our entire team will enhance their practice.

Although cost saving wasn’t a major driver of this work, we are, of course, highly accountable and expect to see how our investment in CPL impacts on the core functions of the school. BlueSky will provide the evidence from which we will draw that information.

In itself, it is definitely improving time management. All applications and authorisations for CPL programmes go through BlueSky, which allows senior leaders to see what is happening and resource appropriately. Once staff have completed the programme, they are recording the outcomes. This allows us to view the impact globally and eventually we will start to see the return on investment.

Our reporting will become more and more robust as we pick up on all the participants’ objectives and outcomes. Without BlueSky, we could never have achieved that on the scale we need.

Ultimately our vision is that BlueSky will enable us to allocate our investment and funding for increasing impact. The big thing for us is that BlueSky is enabling us to support our staff and allocate resources accordingly.

What’s next?

The aim is to develop the ILA to become a world-renowned, dynamic and innovative centre for everyone. In looking inwards and looking outwards, we can work together to develop a world-class education and bright future. 

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