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Key Takeaways: ISC Research Edruptors@School Conference

By Nalini Cook
Key Takeaways: ISC Research Edruptors@School Conference

The Edruptor@School 2022 conference screenshots (Photo source: ISC Research)

Edruptors@School offers advice from SDG planning to leadership development

The ISC Research Edruptors@School conference, which took place in late June, explored the transformation of today’s international schools at all levels of leadership and through multiple lenses. A range of panels discussed mission-linked strategic planning, school improvement, and professional and community development.

Start small, start now to embrace SDGs

One of the panel discussions focused on the role of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within mid and long-term school planning. It addressed the vital place of SDGs as part of the school's vision, mission, identity and responsibility. Megan Brazil, Principal of United Nations International School (UNIS) Hanoi spoke about the need for every school to raise the level of consciousness about the SDGs, which are considered to address the most pressing global issues, across the entire school community. “Developing in them a passion for being changemakers and global goalkeepers is really easily done with the SDGs,” she said. She described how all 17 goals have been cross-mapped to every phase of the curriculum at UNIS Hanoi. She complimented the United Nations for the range and quality of resources available to schools and urged everyone to “start small, start now!”

In the same panel discussion, Laurence Myers, a teacher at the American School of Dubai shared practical initiatives that help to embed the SDGs within service learning. He highlighted the value of external partnerships and the benefits of grassroots impact. “Commit to something,” he encouraged delegates, highlighting various service-learning projects being implemented at the school including its hives for a million bees.

Andrew Watson, Director of The Jerusalem American School in Israel, who also participated in the panel, emphasised the need to work on a constant shifting of minds to a virtuous cycle of sustainable service thinking in the school. “It suddenly brings to life the potential of a better world for everybody, because everyone is positively affected by the experience,” he said.  Andrew suggested mobilising students to take action, raise consciousness and convince others. He also encouraged leaders to reach out for support and collaboration from others. “There are people around the world… with expertise and experience who want to help build networks and partnerships,” he said.  

How equipped are you to lead?

A separate panel evaluated the learning paths some leaders have taken to equip themselves for an international school leadership role. Lee Chalkly, Campus Principal at Tenby Schools Ipoh, who has led international schools in several countries, studied for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) as a younger school leader, which he said gave him the knowledge of budgeting, marketing, and admissions that he found essential for leadership. However, Lee emphasised that the MBA didn’t mean that he stopped his learning journey. “Leadership is not a set of skills that you pick up via one course; it’s a process of ongoing learning,” he said, also emphasising the need for self-awareness and an ability to collaborate. “If we’re going to lead others well, we have to understand the impact we have on others,” he said.

Lola Wright-Odusoga, an educational consultant and former founding Head of English Modern School Alwakra explained that the leadership challenges she faced led her to seek knowledge and skills to help her grow through a PhD. She said this gave her the skills to develop her leadership strategy and practice, “to respond to the ever-changing world of the international school”. She said learned to identify essential school needs, allocate human resources in line with the school mission and vision, and develop practical leadership needs such as budgeting competency. “There’s no one size fits all in school leadership,” she said, urging aspiring leaders to be innovative, learn from others, build values-based relationships, and prepare well. “Take one step at a time. Find bite-size opportunities to lead. Remember no one is perfect, and be aware of your leadership footprint even when you have left that environment,” she said.

Jo Evans, Deputy Head of Harrow School in Haikou took a different path again, studying for an NPQH. At the time, Jo said she felt the practical element of the course was not immediately apparent to her, but following bespoke leadership training and one-to-one coaching provided by her current school group, Jo said she’s now able to draw upon her learning from the NPQH. As a young leader, Jo said ready access to bite-size leadership development content, and the opportunity to request training resources that support specific needs, all of which have been offered to her by her school group, have been most beneficial to her.

Lee agreed with Jo about the benefits that school groups can offer to leaders. “School groups will support you in the development of the commercial aspects of the role, enabling leaders to focus more closely on the learners and the wider school community,” he said. This can attract some developing leaders to school groups but, according to ISC Research data, 62% of the entire international schools market remains as individually owned schools that are not part of a school group, and so aspiring leaders need to prepare themselves with the necessary skills to lead.

The Edruptors@School conference continued with an important conversation on embedding DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion and justice) as a continuum within all school life. It featured panelists Angeline Aow of CIS, Estelle Baroung Hughes of Africa Learning International and International School of Dakar, and Joel Llaban from International Schools Services. The panel discussed the need for all schools to interrogate inequity including facing the hard questions that come with that. The conversation also focused on what an authentic decolonising of the curriculum looks like. Some of the other conference conversations addressed innovative approaches to lifelong learning paths which featured panelists Conrad Hughes of Ecolint, Shabbi Luthra from Learning Analytics Collaborative, and Ed Fidoe of London Interdisciplinary School; the vital place of cybersecurity for all schools which involved a discussion with Bethan Eveleigh from Inspired Education and Matt Harris of, and the potential of immersive learning, featuring panelists Nathan O’Grady from King’s InterHigh, Jeremy Williams of Monax Labs, and Dwayne Matthews of Ontario Virtual School. More details about these and the other conference conversations can be found by following ISC Research.

Nalini Cook is the Head of Global Research at ISC Research

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