- international schools
The Future of education in a post-COVID landscape webinar answered some of the 1,000+ questions received by the expert panel. Listen to the webinar recording here which was hosted by Education Perfect and ISC Research and addressed the most common questions.
Part 1 of this blog responded to five additional questions. In this Part 2 blog, the panel has responded to five more:
Question: How do we make transitions smooth for our teachers; stressed teachers equal stressed kids?
Tim Vaughan, CRO at Education Perfect answers: I love this question as I think every school needs to be asking it!
Culture is such a critical element to change management. Core to a good culture is building trust. So, at a baseline, we have to be looking for ways to build trust with teachers through regular engagement. Resist the temptation to have all of the answers and, instead, invite contribution. There are such a variety of perspectives you can learn from. Many staff will not feel comfortable with the new challenges, others will find the transition easy. Look for ways to bridge the gap. Potentially pair up teachers based on digital literacy. Even better, ensure these pairings are from different departments? There are lots of options here.
The enormity of the challenge and the speed at which COVID has impacted many schools has required a swift response. Now there’s a baseline in place, it’s time to start thinking about what we aspire blended learning to look like. Build a vision for the future, then define stepping stones and celebrate milestones on the journey. All of your staff successfully completed a task? Celebrate this. Students ran an online assessment without issues? Great opportunity to recognise the teachers who invigilated the test.
One positive outcome from the COVID crisis has been the growing awareness of the importance of mindfulness and wellbeing. There are plenty of quality resources available and it’s so important that we’re supporting both staff and students through this period. We all have different motivations, perspectives and anxieties. Reinforcing our support and trust of our teams through this period, and using external resources is going to help a lot here.
The final perspective I have here is on the importance of good leadership. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the importance of a CEO’s role in making employees feel safe. When people don’t feel safe they operate in fear. When people feel safe they focus on execution, they’re their best version of themselves, and they lose the performance paranoia. We’re navigating uncertain times and we should be focused on working together to get through, not operating in fear and avoiding mistakes.
Question: What will the turnover of teachers and job prospects look like over the next few years?
Diane Glass, Commercial Director at ISC Research answers: There is likely to be a higher repatriation of international teachers this year than in normal years because of the impact that the very severe travel restrictions will have had on some people. Some teachers and leaders are talking about taking a gap year to return home to see family and recharge, comfortable in the knowledge that the demand for experienced international teachers will mean job opportunities will exist when they return.
However, many international school teachers say they feel they have been well supported by their school during the pandemic; ISC Research is currently conducting research into the wellbeing of teachers and leaders and the interim results suggest there is a high level of acknowledgement by teachers and leaders that they feel satisfied their school did as much as possible to support them. Schools that gave sufficient focus to wellbeing of staff throughout COVID-19 will likely see more stability of staff than those schools where wellbeing support was inadequate.
ISC Research works closely with many international school recruiters and according to them, the interest in international teaching appears not to be waning because of COVID-19. The international schools market in general received significant recognition during campus closures and this appears to be appealing to some candidates. Also, several countries have shown themselves to manage the pandemic particularly well which is making them more appealing to some people.
Even before the pandemic, staffing at international schools was a point of discussion. The skills, experience and nationalities of teachers employed by international schools are vital to maintain educational standards, and an important selling point for potential admissions. Parents sending their child to an international school want to see many expatriate teachers in the schools from countries that have a high reputation for education, and with the skills and experience to deliver the curriculum and learning approach being offered by the school. However, skilled and experienced expatriate teachers from some countries (particularly the UK and US) are costly and - because of the increased number of international schools and growing competition between the schools - can be challenging to recruit. As a result, many international schools are employing a mix of expatriate teachers from a variety of nationalities, plus local teachers.
There is also a growing recognition amongst more international schools of the importance of a blend of expatriate and local teachers within their staff. Local teachers bring a knowledge and understanding of the local culture and how that influences local children and parents and their approach to learning, as well as crucial language and host country context.
Approaches that enable all teachers to work together and learn from each other, including collaborative teaching, are proving to be increasingly valuable for students as well as teachers. This also helps to address the recruitment challenge.
In addition, some new initiatives are now emerging to develop a wider pool of skilled and qualified teachers for international schools. For example, some British international schools are supporting teaching assistants on site to becoming fully qualified teachers through the UK Government’s Straight to Teaching route, and other international schools are supporting their locally hired teachers through a teacher training or conversion qualification. More universities are finally waking up to the teacher training needs of the international schools market.
Question: As a middle school educator, how can I contribute significantly to students' learning and wellbeing?
Simon Mann, Consultant at Mann Education Consultancy answers: The simple answer is building growth relationships; showing students you care about them and their learning. Creating a positive class climate by developing relationships within the classroom, this can be achieved by carefully designed group work and carefully selected groups, will support a climate that is both developing wellbeing and enhancing learning. There are many ways you can support these areas however, this is where I would start.
Question: What learnings from online education do we see becoming a permanent part of schooling in the future?
Alex Burke, CEO at Education Perfect answers: Firstly, we need to focus on creating the right foundation for teachers and the school community. We need to lift the digital literacy of ALL teachers. For many, the concept of a video tool was foreign. We need to train up our teacher network to lift their competency.
We need to give teachers the time to work out how best to use technology: Where it can save time through automation, where data insights can drive differentiation and engagement, etc. Identify the pain points and look at ways where tech can solve them.
Question: With such rapid change facing schools around the world, how do we support our staff to stay focused, feel supported and maintain a sustainable work-life balance?
Sam Fraser, Head of Field Research at ISC Research answers: This is a big question that will no doubt, be researched more prominently post COVID-19. Firstly, for those of us who still find ourselves working from home, clear rules and guidelines around work versus home life need to be conveyed. There can often be blurred lines when you are sitting in your kitchen, teaching. It is better to communicate some boundaries. Emails late at night and at the weekends can usually wait! Of course, this is not always possible though, especially given the current circumstances.
Many schools I have been speaking with are implementing a focused approach to wellbeing. Whether that be one day a month, a week every semester, or in-built periods within the week. International schools have on the whole, been quick to make sure there is a focus on student and now, teacher morale and general happiness. We see a growing number of measures out there to gauge and assess teacher wellbeing. One thing some schools have been focusing on is wellbeing amongst their senior management teams too, which is worth mentioning. Often, senior staff are overlooked here unfortunately.
Some of the schools that ISC Research has been speaking with have mentioned it is important to understand why staff may feel anxious, less focused and demotivated right now. The pandemic will naturally be drawing staff outside of their comfort zone when teaching etc, travel restrictions limit opportunities to see loved ones, there are uncertainties around exam results and how this will impact the school and the individual teacher, and some may fear losing their jobs. These are just a few of the anxieties out there amongst faculties.
Schools have suggested a few ways in which they have tried to support and sustain teacher focus, wellbeing and a healthy work-life balance. Firstly, making sure staff are well remunerated and are offered good prospects for development in the first instance, regardless of COVID-19. This perhaps, is a little off-piste when considering the question though! Schools suggested developing a clear strategy to communicate frequently with their faculty, specifically in order to share strategies, including the methods drawn up to deal with all eventualities i.e. what is the plan if we go back into another lockdown. This should create confidence.
It seems simple, but helping teachers with time management can also help. Schools have suggested scaling back the number of internal meetings where they are not completely necessary. Also, the general organisational skills of teachers have been suffering according to some heads, helping teachers here could be a huge benefit where resources allow. Adequate training will be a big help for teachers who may well be struggling to step into an ultra-tech heavy environment where paper and pen were the order of the day only 6-8 months ago. I think we could all do with extra training anyway!
It has been mentioned, the wellbeing of teachers suffers when there is a lack of autonomy and room for creativity in their work. Offering an approachable hierarchical structure whereby, teachers feel they can be heard and they have exposure to some decision making can create buy-in. It might extend retention percentages too! Schools have also discussed the benefits seen where there are opportunities to collaborate, perhaps across campuses where in a group, or through associations/accreditation bodies. Creating a community and the idea you are not going through this alone, is a comforting feeling.
Finally, it should be recognised that international schools are largely doing a great job given this unprecedented period. In some circumstances, children are shifting over to the sector from national curriculum schools as international campuses are now, more than ever, considered to offer better quality. The pandemic has given a greater exposure to our sector which would be worth sharing with staff.