At the start of another exceptional school year, there is no doubt that the lessons learned over the past 12 months are now very much shaping what will soon become the future of our school. One of the most important lessons we have learned is that as a community, we are stronger when we stand together. Our strategic plan recognises the need for a common vision in everything that we do, particularly in the role we play in fulfilling our mission of inclusion, challenge and success for every single student at ISB.
Moving Forward with Covid-19
At the end of the 2020-21 school year, members of the ISB community - employees, parents, and students - responded to a survey containing two questions: What have you missed most about life and learning at ISB throughout the Covid-19 pandemic? What did we do differently, because of Covid-19, that you think we should continue to do even when the pandemic is behind us? In total, more than 1200 responses were collected. Below is a summary of what we learned. We are truly delighted that we have already been able to reinstate many of those aspects of campus life that we missed for so long, whilst carrying forward some of the good lessons that we learned along the way.
What did we miss?
Personal interaction between people
Access to the campus & facilities
Social, cultural, sporting, and other opportunities for collaboration.
What should we continue?
Learning conferences over Zoom
Online professional development and meetings over Zoom
Improved safety protocols
Opportunities for flexible working and learning.
"There has been no doubt that this period in the school’s history, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic last March, has been challenging… Our students and teachers have had to adapt to new learning environments. With the vaccine rollout now in full flow, we feel signs of hope everywhere and are already busy planning for a new school year which, even if not a complete return to “how things used to be”, is likely to be very different to what we have experienced over the last 16 months."
James MacDonald, Directors Letter, May 2021
Our Strategic Priorities
ISB is a dynamic and exciting place. We have a legacy of being thought leaders and taking bold steps to help shape the broader world of international education. This desire to continue to improve, combined with our internal capabilities and expertise in many areas, mean that we have many exciting possibilities in front of us as we look to the future. Taking time to plan for the future Last year we were, of course, faced with managing what was arguably the most disruptive event in the school’s seventy year history. That we were able to offer a relatively safe and normal on campus learning experience was a significant accomplishment. This became a highly visible focus for the school in 2020/21. But, behind the scenes, we were doing more than just successfully managing our way through a pandemic; we were having strategic conversations with different groups about the future of ISB. The reality of Covid-19 meant our capacity to take on new initiatives was very limited, but this also worked in our favour since it allowed us time to really think strategically about our future, synthesize priorities and craft some plans. Core and Explore To help shape our thinking and structure our dialogue, we adopted a conceptual framework that we called Core and Explore.
Core describes all the activities within the current running of the school. Activities like curriculum, teaching and learning, and budgets fall within this area. Our school accreditation process evaluates the Core elements, inasmuch as they are also common across all international schools. We generally know what excellence looks like in these areas and can identify specific areas in which we can improve.
Explore describes activities that are future focused, including trends relevant to student futures, new forms of learning, as well as changes in the world around us. Explore opens the door to discussing ways in which we can further build on our educational offerings, ensuring that we are not just replicating the systems of the past because these may not be suited to preparing students for their future.
Organizational theorists call this being an ambidextrous organization. We think this mindset and framework is a good fit for us now, because we recognize that we need to improve what is here already, while also actively creating our future. There is also a dynamic interplay between these two domains. Core priorities We know that if you have too many priorities you have none. So last year, to identify our focus for the Core, we collected all the sources of possible priorities (including 52 recommendations from our last accreditation report) and worked with the leadership, board, faculty and staff and some of our students, alumni and parent groups to help refine our thinking and priorities. In the end, we winnowed our priorities down to four main overarching areas of development:
One School A “Lower School” and “Upper School” approach, with enhanced student transitions between different sections of the school; Enhanced connections between key groups including leadership, counsellors, and curriculum planning; Roll-out of a common educational learning platform across the whole school; Publication of a regular School Update that brings together in one place, all relevant information for families.
Challenge Defining challenge for our ISB context; Continuing to develop and improve our student support services to meet the full range and diversity of learners; Expanding our educational data systems to improve student learning to help us know our students even better; Implementing structures to better ensure all students receive the appropriate level of challenge in their learning.
Wellbeing Launching a pilot programme for faculty and staff aimed at supporting individuals in developing their own well-being and resilience, and considering ways in which our systems and structures can support the wellbeing of all. Continued infrastructure investment to mitigate against the risk of Covid-19 infection.
International Citizenship Defining International Citizenship as a cornerstone of our mission. Professional development for staff building awareness around anti-racism and social justice issues.
We have committed to these four internal priorities for the next two school years. In the 2021/22 school year each of these priorities will have plans connected to their development. Where we are going in future is an on-going conversation. Adopting a framework like Core and Explore, while synthesizing many priorities into just four Core ones is really just a first step in a larger journey. We are confident before the next Annual Report many of you reading this report will hear of some of the other exciting strategic initiatives that we will be rolling out to help make our school, and our students’ learning, even better than it is today. There is an old saying that ‘the best way to predict the future is to make it’. This applies to us as a school as much as it does to each ISB student.