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Professor Ian Robertson addresses the delegates

COBIS 2017: transformative thinking

Hundreds of delegates from international British schools overseas explore 'transformations' at InterContinental London

Posted by Alice Savage | May 24, 2017 | Events

Thirty years ago there were less than 1,000 international schools, but today tells a different story. International schools are rapidly growing across the globe and countries like China, India, Russia and the UAE are keen to meet the demand. This growth was evident at the COBIS Annual Conference 2017 as they welcomed over 700 delegates from more than 70 countries worldwide. 

However, the growth of international British schools overseas was not the main topic of this event, instead, COBIS posed the theme of ‘transformations’. This prompted the speakers and delegates to discuss how international schools could continue to be successful in an ever-changing global world. 

Speaking after the event, Colin Bell, COBIS CEO, said: “It was superb to witness positive contributions from senior leaders, heads, governors and proprietors on our theme of ‘transformations’, which we felt was a timely topic as the international schools’ sector evolves.” 

The subject of transformations was discussed at length during the entire conference and the speakers were fantastic at fuelling debate with their thought-provoking presentations. Here are four highlights from these presentations, which will encourage new ideas to be brought back to the classroom: 

1. Hope and belief in education 

Robert Senior, CEO at Saatchi & Saatchi, was the first speaker at the event and he set the scene with his thoughts on ‘Transforming Education’. With what could be the best quote from the conference, he addressed the audience by saying: “Transformation is fuelled by hope and belief. Martin Luther King did not say, ‘I have a business plan.’” 

2. Technology is the future of schooling 

A lively discussion occurred during Mark Steed’s session on ‘The Future of Schooling’. The Director of JESS, Dubai, revealed that the future could include robots, VR and superstar teachers. 

3. It is more retention than recruitment 

One of the key topics during the conference was recruiting teachers in international British schools overseas. A panel of speakers, including Dame Alison Peacock, addressed this issue and questioned whether it was more about retention than recruitment, as 25% of teachers leave the profession after three years. 

4. And breathe 

On the second day of the conference, the delegates were treated to a talk by Professor Ian Robertson on ‘Transforming Wellbeing’. This was a timely and important subject, and the delegates were visibly more relaxed after this talk as they were reminded of the importance of taking a deep breath. 

Plus, COBIS launched their new accreditation scheme at the conference. The Patron’s Accreditation and Compliance has been established to aid school improvement and development for the best British international schools worldwide. Four schools have already received the accreditation and many members at the conference were keen to find out more. Due to the feedback and interest at the conference, this is now a major strategic focus for COBIS. 

With another successful conference over, COBIS is already planning its 37th annual conference which will take place on 12–14 May 2018. But what will the next year bring for international British schools overseas? COBIS will certainly be the first to tell us. 

For more information about the accreditation, visit: or email


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