International school improvement

Eileen Barnes-Vachell, lead adviser on school improvement at Gabbitas, discusses how a blended learning approach to teacher development can make all the difference

In today’s world, there is increased pressure for international schools to achieve standards and provision that are as good as the best performing schools globally so that students are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed for their adult life.

In the past, teachers delivered curriculum content and learning that would last for several years, today students can access much of this content online. The nature of the workplace and jobs is changing rapidly and students need to become lifelong learners and manage complex ways of thinking and applying their knowledge, skills and understanding.

As working adults, they will be required to constantly adapt, position and reposition themselves in a fast-changing world.

These changes have profound implications for the leadership of schools and for teachers and their delivery of teaching and learning. Research into effective schools and school systems show that 70% of what contributes to securing strong learning outcomes are the quality of teaching and leadership. School improvement work therefore requires a focus on supporting schools to deliver and sustain the highest quality teaching and leadership possible.

International schools have additional challenges to schools that sit within a national context:

They have diverse curricula offerings such as those from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. There is however some standardisation in International Baccalaureate schools for the children of national or multinational expatriates.

They have a range of governance structures and accountabilities. Some do not have governmental oversight whilst others, such as those in the UAE, are highly regulated.

The quality assurance and performance of international schools varies considerably.

Leaders and teachers in international schools come from diverse countries and school systems.

There can be high levels of mobility amongst staff and pupils as their personal circumstances change. Recruitment and retention can be problematic and are key to securing and sustaining high-quality provision.

Mobility in staffing and changes in leadership responsibilities result in inexperienced teachers becoming leaders at middle and senior levels.

Teaching today requires teachers to be committed to increasing their own professional knowledge using knowledge that has been gathered from their own experience, their peers and other professionals across the world

Teaching today requires teachers to be committed to increasing their own professional knowledge using knowledge that has been gathered from their own experience, their peers and other professionals across the world. Gabbitas uses a blended learning approach to teachers’ professional development which is based on current research into effective adult learning. There are three strands to this:

Face to face learning – approximately 10% of professional development (PD) time

Online learning – 20% of PD time

Workplace learning – 70% of PD time

Leadership of schools therefore requires high levels of commitment to and understanding of teachers’ professional development. Effective professional development must be delivered to teachers at all stages in their career and focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes. It must be underpinned by robust evidence and external expertise and challenge. Gabbitas provides a range of services to international schools supporting their endeavours to be in line with the best schools globally.

Our team of advisers have many years of national and international experience, and tailor support to schools whatever their starting points. Our two principal school improvement programmes ‘Getting to Good’ and ‘Good to Great’ supports schools to enable them to target their efforts on improving the quality of teaching and leadership so that they are able to secure a clear trajectory of improvement in their journey to become world class schools.

World class international schools are those that learn from the best and have a culture of continuous school improvement. At Gabbitas our team work across the world building capacity within schools and creating systems to secure sustainable long term improvements.

Eileen Barnes-Vachell