Future generations and female role models

Future generations and female role models.

Juliette van Eerdewijk, Primary Principal, International School of The Hague

Our young people who grow up to be the new leaders, the future workforce and parents of our world have a right to equal opportunities. It is also our human right to be treated equally no matter our differences. Yet, what we experience in 2020 is still not providing the world with a platform that allows for equal opportunities. One area, besides many others, that needs to be tackled is the global gender gap. In the World Economic Forum report of 2020, the following was stated.


Projecting current trends into the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 99.5 years, on average, across the 107 countries covered continuously since the first edition of the report. Lack of progress in closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap leads to an extension of the time it will be needed to close this gap. At the slow speed experienced over the period 2006–2020, it will take 257 years to close this gap.
– World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report 2020 – pg 6 # 7


Furthermore, the WEF report identifies the following:
By region, Western Europe has made the most progress on gender parity (at 76.7%), followed by North America (72.9%), Latin America and the Caribbean (72.2%), Eastern Europe and Central Asia (71.3%), Sub-Saharan Africa (68.2%), South Asia (66.1%) and the Middle East and North Africa (60.5%)


This translates into gender parity in years as:

· 54 yrs – Western Europe

· 59 yrs – Latin America and the Caribbean

· 71.5 yrs – South Asia

· 95 yrs – Sub-Saharan Africa

· 107 yrs – Eastern Europe and Central Asia

· 140 yrs – The Middle East and North Africa

· 151 yrs – North America

· 163 yrs – East Asia and the Pacific


The 99.5 years was already bad enough, but the slow speed experienced in the recent decade will delay this to 257 years. Surely as educators and leaders, we can’t allow this to happen to our great-great-grandchildren. This is not just a female issue, this is a world issue, this is something we all need to tackle. We need men to stand up and demand a change so that their great-granddaughters have a right to dream and follow a career they want, as doctors, engineers, in computing, politics, technical, you name it. Do men find it acceptable that this will happen to their own flesh and blood? Or are they just thinking of their own cosy position at the moment, without a care for the future?

We need to better equip our future generation to deal with the challenges that they will be facing and ensure that there are equal opportunities for women, to give them the skills to participate in the economy and the complete labour market, to give them a chance to open a bank account and control their own finances and obtaining credit, to be involved in politics. We need to provide them with the role models in our educational system, where we encourage young females to take the steps to choose subjects that will lead to a greater choice of opportunities in the labour market.

In international education, we pride ourselves in making our students independent, forward-thinking, life-long learners. We help them to get skills that create future leaders, future workers who can contribute to the economic stability of our country and world in general. This future is built on students’ historical experiences and we are currently their experience. So, what picture do we provide them with? What role models do we give to them that will allow them to be so forward-thinking or willing to accept diversity in the workplace, such as gender balance, racial equity and equal pay.

Whilst the world of education is currently still dominated by white males allowing this to continue is an offence, as we are robbing the next generation of a future where they would have equal rights, something we still do not have in 2020. We would ostracize them from many possibilities and lead them into stereotypical work, stereotypical behaviour and nothing will have changed from 2020. We would rob them of opportunities, of visions of equality and we would be the violator whilst they would be the victim. We make our children the victims of our choices.

The importance of having female leaders as role models is vital to both our males and females. Breaking the stereotypical image of a leader as a white male is needed for our future generation to connect with a world where they are supposed to be functioning to their fullest capacity, contributing to new innovations and keeping our world a healthy and safe place, and guiding others to make the right choices. Males need to be able to start seeing that women leaders are able to bring strength to companies, research has already shown that diversity in leadership brings different voices to the decision-making process which in return leads to better decisions. Young females need to see women in these roles so that they have a role model that they can learn from, and at the same time males can learn from female role models just as well. Young people need to see that these jobs can become a reality for anyone and are not just there for a few lucky ones. Our young people need to see that females can hold the top positions, have the ability, the skills and the drive to be capable of a job and therefore be equal to men.

The focus here may have been gender, but this applies to many more differences, that would provide us with even more depressing data, such as equality for people of colour, for those with disabilities to name but a few.

Breaking the stereotyping of jobs for females, jobs for people of colour, jobs for people with disabilities, jobs for anyone who is marginalised, has got to start with us, right now. Us means all of us. Not just women, not just people of colour, not just people with disabilities, we all need to make conscious decisions that things have got to change. We cannot allow the future generation to suffer, because we did not find it important enough to raise our voice and stand up for our and their rights.

It is time for all of us to take a stance, male leaders please join us in our efforts to raise this awareness. We, and the future generation, ask for equity and for the right to be treated equally, for the right to have opportunities to be recognized for the skills and value we will bring to society. Together we can make a difference, but we do need the help of our whole society. Stand with us, raise your voice for your daughters, your granddaughters and their loved ones. Everyone will be better off if we are all given an equal chance.


What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.





Juliette van Eerdewijk was born in the Netherlands and specialised in Kindergarten education and Primary education. She went abroad in 1988 and has held different leadership positions in 10 countries across Europe, South America, Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. She has developed and led a variety of curricula, e.g. IB, IPC, English curriculum and school-based inquiry curricula. She holds a Masters of Arts degree from the UK in Specific Learning Difficulties.

Juliette returned to the Netherlands in 2015 and is currently the Primary Principal at the International School of The Hague, which includes whole school responsibilities. She is involved in training senior leaders (iNPQSL) at the International Leadership Academy where they have given an international spin to this training. Juliette is also a country lead of #WomenEdNL. She is a keen life-long learner and her hobby is wildlife photography.

The Senior Leadership Team: Collaboration and Communication

Duncan Partridge
Leadership Coach & Mentor


“Generally, I think we’re quite good at communication in our school. Feedback suggests that our home and educator communities feel informed and are satisfied with the systems we have in place. However, I do have a concern about our Senior Leadership Team meetings. It’s hard to get everybody together as often as I’d like. And when we do, there’s always so much to go through. I don’t think any of us is very satisfied with our meetings. We’ve established some protocols in terms of agendas and minutes, as well as listening to each other and not interrupting. But I still don’t think we’ve got it right.”

Fatima, International School Headteacher


What’s going on here? Fatima has an experienced and talented team around her and everyone is committed to working together to move the school forward, yet still, she feels they are underperforming in meetings. A lack of time, as well as the general pressures of running a school are very likely to be significant contributory factors. But maybe there is an additional explanation for what is happening. A professional meeting is a complex sociological phenomenon where numerous influencing factors come into play. When we are aware of a particular dynamic or behaviour that is derailing a meeting, we can take measures to correct matters. However not all such factors are immediately apparent and often we struggle to identify what is going wrong.


Developing an awareness of our communication palate, the ‘voices’ we use when we are engaging with our colleagues is an important starting point for putting things right. We all have our own favoured talk styles, default approaches which we deploy in meetings and other interactions. Gaining insight into what these styles are and the extent to which we use them is the first step to being able to consciously manage their deployment. Self-awareness of our go-to communication styles can help us to tailor our approach, ensuring we are not using them inappropriately or excessively.


Similarly, by developing an understanding of where the ‘gaps’ are in our talk palate, we can work to bring greater variety and flexibility to our interactions.


One way of gaining such insight is through Voice-Print, a model which defines 9 ‘voices’, which everyone uses to greater or lesser extents in their professional interactions. Through the Voice-Print self-assessment, the characteristic but usually unconscious patterns in the use of these voices are surfaced. Armed with their Voice-Print profiles, school leadership teams can use a common language to monitor, analyse and modify the way they are communicating.

© Business Cognition Ltd, All Rights Reserved


Voice-Print can also help teams to identify each other’s ‘hot buttons’ when it comes to communication. Each of the nine voices has a ‘dark side’, an unhelpful counterpart which can be perceived by colleagues if a particular voice is being over or inappropriately used. So for example, someone who uses the ‘advocate’ voice a lot is in danger of being seen as preaching by some members of the team. Similarly, a person who has a tendency towards employing ‘probe’ is at risk of coming across as intruding. The secret to development here is not to stop using certain voices, simply to be aware of how often and when the voices are being used and crucially to be aware of the impact of one’s approach on others.


Communication and collaboration are at the heart of effective practice and leadership in international education; indeed one of the International Baccalaureate Standards for IB World Schools is: ‘The school promotes open communication based on understanding and respect’. This sort of high-quality communication is especially important at a senior level in international schools, in order to ensure leadership teams are truly harnessing their strengths for the purpose of improving student learning.


Fatima and her colleagues, as skilled and committed as they are, could well be underperforming as a team because of a lack of awareness of themselves and each other as communicators. A better understanding of how approach and expression impact conversations could enable them to improve their collaborative potential, to the benefit of everyone in the community.


Another international school head demonstrated this when he spoke about the impact a ‘voice aware’ approach had on his own team’s work:

“An organisation which seeks to teach effective communication skills to young people should be acutely aware of how well it communicates with itself. At Senior Management Team level we have already noticed a difference in terms of our awareness of each other’s profiles and how we move forward meetings that might otherwise have got ‘stuck’.”





Duncan Partridge is a leadership coach and mentor working with international schools. Duncan has held headship roles in three international schools and has also been Director of Education at two education third sector organisations.

Duncan is a qualified coach and Voice-Print practitioner

He can be contacted at: duncan.partridge@educemc.com

QA in times of crisis: a health checklist for school leadership

Maurice Dimmock, Chairman, ASIC Accreditation


QA in times of crisis: a health checklist for school leadership

Effective, internal quality assurance has never been more critical to the successful governance and running of a school. In a time of crisis, as normal daily challenges are compounded and new ones are seemingly never-ending, the foundations a school is built and run on are crucial in maintaining a strong sense of community and in achieving desired outcomes for pupils. From what I have witnessed in communicating with our schools, and in undertaking remote inspections throughout the pandemic, there are three key characteristics which signal a school is weathering the crisis better than others.

Adaptive. The schools who were already champions of innovation, and who actively nurture this attitude in their operations, have found the shift to online teaching and governance the easiest.

Collaborative. Those with established links and partnerships with other schools and sector networks (with whom to share best-practice) have found much-needed reassurance and support throughout the pandemic.

Robust and healthy leadership. Schools who have strong leadership and governance, with clarity of vision, ethos, and direction have been able to draw upon their defining characteristics and maintain both purpose and effective communication with pupils, parents, staff, and their local communities.

It is a difficult time, and with much being outside of a school leaderships control, it can be tempting to assert and direct to get things done. However, though it may seem easier to pull rank and dictate (often done with good intentions of improving accountability and streamlining processes) this method breeds dissatisfaction and eventual distrust in leadership. Over time this erodes the school’s sense of fellowship, harming pupils, staff, and outcomes. Instead, we find that schools who have continued to operate with the guiding principles of quality, equity, and collaboration have found it possible to continue to work efficiently in pursuit of their goals, whilst also strengthening their school’s community.

While it seems hard to take time amidst chaos to sit back and take stock, it is a far greater task to battle against the consequences of lost time and opportunity. The health of your school’s leadership and operation needs attention now. ASIC does not believe in busywork, and all the questions we ask below, if acted upon, have proven benefits for a school’s operation and reputation. The areas covered below are by no means exhaustive, nor will one school be facing identical challenges to another. My advice is to reflect on which areas may have been overlooked or need raising with the schools governing board.


School Leadership health check:

Governance and Management, Quality Assurance and Enhancement

  • Are you ultimately operating and making decisions in line with pupils’ best interests and outcomes?
  • Do you continue to govern inclusively, welcoming feedback and input from a diverse range of voices and experiences?
  • How is the leadership and governance of the school continuing to set and safeguard high standards and expectations?
  • In your response to the pandemic, is the school’s vision and mission reflected consistently in both its policies and practices? If not, why? What are you doing to address this?
  • Have you taken the time to review your risk assessment, learning from the current difficulties to ensure the school meets future challenges with knowledge and hindsight gained from this experience?
  • Do not neglect self-evaluation; the pandemic will have shed light on both areas of strength and areas in need of improvement. Are you continuing to evaluate the impact of decisions made? Is this being fed into the school’s self-improvement plan?
  • Parental engagement (in addition to representation on the governing board) can have a sizable positive impact on children’s learning. Is the school continuing to communicate and seek the views of parents and caregivers, including disadvantaged families, ex-pat families, and families where the school’s language of instruction is not the family’s first language? How are you demonstrating, and feeding back, that these views are acknowledged?

Student welfare, learning, teaching, and systems management

  • There are inherent challenges in remote learning, particularly for vulnerable, SEND, and disadvantaged children. Are these pupils and their caregivers being catered for (as best you can) in decisions made?
  • Have you re-assessed your safeguarding policies and arrangements?
  • With more learning being undertaken online, and often without supervision, how is the school ensuring that it keeps pupils safe from bullying, harassment, and online grooming? Is your school aware of the risks of extremism/radicalisation; how are you building awareness, and resilience, to this in your pupils?
  • Are global citizenship activities still taught alongside the curriculum?
  • How is a sense of community being fostered?
  • Are international students at risk of isolation; if so, how are you making sure that this is not the case?
  • How have you adapted your record-keeping of attendance, behaviour, and bullying? How are you monitoring behaviour, progress, and attainment of all pupils?
  • Which groups of pupils are the highest and lowest performing? Why is this? The achievement gap is growing for the most disadvantaged pupils, do you have credible plans for addressing this? How will you know if current approaches are working and how will the impact of decisions and interventions be monitored?
  • Is the school still encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle for its pupils and staff? There are many extra-curricular activities and sports which may not be practical to run at present, but can you share materials to encourage additional learning and engagement at home? Are you using your networks and partnerships with other schools and bodies to full advantage?

Staff welfare and resources

  • Whether you are still teaching remotely or are back in the classroom, you can use these experiences to assess how you holistically teach soft skills and digital skills alongside the curriculum. Do you have staff who have been previously reluctant to embrace technology? Encourage them to see that they are helping to teach and shape the attitudes of a generation who will need digital skills as standard in their futures. Can you provide more support and training?
  • Are you continuing to hold all staff, including leadership, accountable for their conduct and professionalism?
  • Are teachers and support staff being used as effectively and efficiently as possible and in line with best practice and guidance?
  • To what extent are staff reporting a positive culture? If they report dissatisfaction, are you taking steps to understand why this is so and change your approach if necessary?
  • Are you continuously seeking feedback about work/life balance and understanding that this can change for individuals over time?
  • Conversations with parents to alleviate concerns and to assess the impact on individual pupils are more important than ever. Do staff have time to do this?
  • How are you reviewing workloads and ensuring tasks are completed to a high standard, whilst streamlining and dropping unnecessary activities?


Strong leadership and governance set the expectations and standards of a school. Quality assurance involves the systematic review of all areas of educational provision to maintain and improve its quality, equity, and efficiency – this is more important than ever in times of crisis. Schools must also look past the current pandemic to the future. The skills and capabilities which their pupils need for fulfilment and development, for further study and employment, and for social inclusion and engaged citizenship, must not be compromised by the challenges of the present.

I urge school leaders to ultimately concentrate on what matters – making decisions regarding safeguarding and outcomes in the interests of your pupils and their futures. Communicate effectively with staff, parents and caregivers, and your pupils about how you will achieve this (alongside explaining the limitations that you face) and ask for their help in trying to address any problems you encounter. At ASIC, we work on the premise that quality assurance is about people and attitudes. If, in your leadership, you take people along with you, nurturing collective responsibility and accountability, your school and its pupils will make it through this period of uncertainly stronger, quicker to adapt, and more resilient. Traits the world needs from its citizens more than ever.


For more information about ASIC Accreditation for International Schools, and how our services can help you, please get in touch with us at info@asic.org.uk or call UK office-hours 09:00-17:00, Mon-Fri, on +44 (0)1740 617 920.




Maurice Dimmock is the Chairman of the Accreditation Service for International Schools, Colleges and Universities (ASIC) and the ASIC Group of Companies. He has 40+ years of experience of working in education, with this expertise grounded in working at all levels in the sector throughout his career. He has taught at schools, colleges, and universities as well as leading institutions as both Head of Sixth Form and College Principle, before becoming more involved in development and project management in his role as Director of International Development and as International Project Manager at universities in the UK and overseas. He has a diverse and comprehensive consultancy portfolio, having worked as a consultant for universities, governments, the World Bank, and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS World University Rankings.)

What is expected of a Board in today’s world?

Michael Thompson, Director/CEO of Hillel Academy, Kingston, Jamaica



What is expected of a Board in today’s world?

(This article first appeared in International School Leader Magazine, October 2020 issue.)

I was recruited for my present job in 2019 because of my experience and yet nothing that I had experienced in a long career in international school leadership had prepared me, or any Head, for the events that have rapidly evolved in 2020. The international school community has shown that it will emerge from this global pandemic in a new and potentially better position due mainly to the sharing and caring of the international school’s community and flexible, decisive board and school leadership.


In its simplest form, the main responsibility for the Board, pre-COVID-19 was policy and oversight of school finances. The rapidly changing situation caused by the global pandemic has required a different mindset where the board and school leadership had, by necessity, to respond effectively and quickly to the rapidly involving situation. I will give an example of one week in the life of our international school:

  • Monday, March 9th – The accreditation visitor informed me that much of our teaching was very old fashioned with minimal use of technology.
  • Wednesday, March 11th – In anticipation of a worsening coronavirus situation I wrote to parents and said from Friday 13th students should keep their books at home.
  • Thursday, March 14th – The first COVID-19 cases were reported in Jamaica and we announced school closure.
  • This was followed by a weekend of the most committed staff professional development on how to use technology as the medium of instruction.
  • Monday, March 16th – The campus was closed but school re-opened with online education. Many mistakes were made but we continued working and learning and by the end of the Easter break we had an online programme we were proud of and comparable with many in the international schools’ world.


However, we were faced with a crisis. The country’s economy is largely based on tourism and the island was in lockdown. Consequently, many parents had financial difficulties. We have a very attractive campus and strong co-curricular programme, both of which were not available due to campus closure. When this was added to the difficulties parents had in guiding their young children’s online education, there was a demand for a fees reduction.


Response from the Board

The Board reacted promptly. Senior leadership produced various cost-cutting scenarios and we were able to reduce the term three fees and maintain most of our student enrolment. We began the 2019/2020 academic year with 702 students. We had more student withdrawals than usual during the year, without enforcing the usual financial penalty for withdrawal which was unrealistic in these times. We commissioned a professional video showcasing our use of technology in education, and opened the new school year with 702 students, online, at last year’s fees level. This was only possible with the support of a flexible, responsive Board.


Preparation for a new and different year

As a leader who believes in empowering others, I set up a task force for planning the school’s re-opening in September 2020 and had expected to involve the full Board and parents as much as possible. According to reports on the weekly Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE) online conversations, many schools have succeeded with that model. But that was not how we developed, in reality.


Teachers, and parents, who were burnt out from the unusual four months of online education as well as all the other changes in their lives, needed a break. And so, we decided to keep the community informed with regular newsletters and to involve them by obtaining their opinions through parent and teacher surveys. The drive for preparing the school for the anticipated re-opening of campus, with student safety as the priority, was led by the Senior Management Team, Board Chairman and Finance Committee with regular updates and additional meetings for all other Board members.


A leadership model through crisis and change

In the crisis caused by the coronavirus, we discovered that our community expected and needed clear and decisive leadership. They wanted reassurance that the school was rapidly evolving to provide for the safe and appropriate education for their children.


The community wanted to be consulted but expected the board to show leadership. We found the ‘executive’ model, of a dynamic, hard-working School Management Team supported by a fully informed Board Chair, to be the most effective way of leading this school out of crisis mode. In my opinion this was only acceptable for a maximum of four weeks but moved us into planning for the future sustainability of the school.


I am a firm believer in open governance and community decision-making but, in these times, the more streamlined model was required in order to respond to the unique situation that we faced this year. Now, as we return to the new reality, the Board must be prepared to revert to its usual, more distant role of overseeing the direction of the school.


The global pandemic forced schools to totally re-think their purpose and delivery of international education. I firmly believe that we must take the positives from this time and move forward confidently. Past norms have been challenged and often found wanting. The international schools must continue with the best of its practices and incorporate the new achievements in order to develop and move forward.


Advice for Board and Leadership collaboration

  • The key school relationship is between the school Head and Board Chair; work on it.
  • AAIE is providing an outstanding source of ideas and support through its weekly online conversations.
  • Keep wellness and sustainability a priority. We are asking a huge amount of ourselves and our colleagues. If we are to lead them, we must look after their, and our own health.
  • It is essential that Board members understand their roles. An excellent, easy way to achieve this is by using the Educational Collaborative for International School’s (ECIS) Board Governance Training online platform.
  • The school community deserves to see clear, decisive governance and leadership.
  • Boards should mirror their community in terms of diversity.
  • Grow your own talent; perhaps schools should re-think their recruitment strategy as a core, professionally developed local teachers and administrators provide stability in uncertain times.
  • Always be moving forward. To remain in the same place does not work in international education.





Michael Thompson is Director and CEO of Hillel Academy in Kingston, the largest international school in Jamaica http://hillelacademyjm.com/

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn or Twitter @mickthompson49


School Governance in the Age of Covid-19: How Effective Boards Ensure School Survival and Continued Success

Ray Davis, Senior Consultant, The 5Rs Partnership


There has been much speculation about the longer-lasting outcomes of the remote learning challenges that schools across the globe have experienced as a result of Covid-19. The pandemic has brought unparalleled challenges but has also been a catalyst for some exciting thinking and invigorating ideas on the nature of the future of pedagogy and learning.  Educators, school leaders, and students have responded well and adapted very quickly to a new paradigm which has tested and challenged the traditional way of teaching and learning. Our education systems are not known for initiating rapid changes to the ways in which they operate, however, the experience of adapting teaching and learning in response to the current pandemic has demonstrated that effective change can take place more rapidly than previously thought.


As educators look toward implementing new ways of teaching and learning it is also a time when school Boards can begin to identify what they have learned about effective governance during the Covid-19 crisis. Forward-thinking Boards are now asking themselves how they might turn the crisis into future opportunities and how they might implement more effective ways of operating to ensure the continued sustainability and the promotion of continuous school improvement. School Boards have grappled with a wide range of challenges that have necessitated rapid decision making, often in realms that they previously had never considered. Good governance and strong leadership has always been the key to school success. For many schools during the present crisis good governance and s leadership is now a necessity for survival as well as success.


Sound Governance during Crisis Situations:


The schools that will emerge in good shape from the current world health crisis will have Boards that have implemented sound features of accomplished governance such as those below:

  • Having a positive mindset and taking the opportunity to be aspirational and ambitious. (Considering how the school may emerge from this challenge stronger, more engaged, and more capable than before);


  • Ensuring that there is a strong degree of trust in and amongst the Board and the school leadership and that the Head of School/Board partnership is functioning effectively;


  • Creating trust amongst all stakeholders through dialogue and actions and not just through public statements;


  • Reaffirming the Head of School as the leader of the school community and ensuring that the respective roles, responsibilities, and authority of leadership and governance are fully understood and acted upon;


  • Ensuring that all Board members are engaged in the decision making and not just the Board Chair and Head of School;


  • Ensuring that all decisions are well-aligned with the school’s guiding statements and protect the interest of students;


  • Creating the understanding that decisions taken during the crisis may affect the school well into the future;


  • Creating operational practices that allow for agility in decision making and strategic planning – (Many of the most successful organisations have moved to 90-day strategic planning and have reshaped Board committees and committee membership to bring in specific expertise to address particular challenges);


  • Insisting on confidentiality of Board discussions and decisions, and identifying who is responsible for communicating decisions to stakeholders– (usually the Head of School);


  • Keeping the school community connected and engaged by having a well-developed and comprehensive communication policy to keep all stakeholders, families, students, and staff, informed in a timely and considered manner;


  • Having established policy and practice in relation to privacy and the disclosure of information;


  • Ensuring that the Board understands the pressures that school leaders and staff have been under during the crisis and supporting them with their task as well as supporting their well-being.


  • Reviewing and adapting strategic initiatives and their timelines;


  • Having a predetermined proactive role with risk management and compliance requirements and making realistic assessments of potential outcomes;


  • Advocating for and facilitating staff training to manage risk;


  • Keeping the school community connected and engaged by having a well-developed and comprehensive communication policy to keep all stakeholders, families, students, and staff, informed in a timely and considered manner;


  • Having well established and effective links with external agencies – (health, law enforcement, local and national government agencies, social service agencies, specialised professionals and embassies);


  • Actively engaging in dialogue and sharing information with other schools and with educational associations;


  • Shifting development priorities where necessary to ensure that the school has the technological capacity to provide engaging distance and remote learning;


  • Ensuring financial stability by considering new models of financial planning and management;
  • Establishing an early commitment to the issue of refunds to parents in areas such as tuition fees, transportation, catering, Boarding, activities etc.;
  • Establishing future fee levels based on data as well as objective market evidence;
  • Identifying alternative forms of income;
  • Developing sound models to predict future enrolment;
  • Reviewing and revising future contingency commitments;


Establishing a compensation philosophy and reviewing school leader and staff salaries to ensure retention and recruitment of staff in uncertain times with the challenges of international travel, nationally imposed travel and quarantine restrictions, and uncertainty about future enrolment levels;


Establishing a plan to retain school leaders: Ensuring that the Head of School and senior leaders feel valued by the Board and developing a long term succession plan for school leadership;


Recognising that the pandemic has brought another  dimension to the management of well-being and ensuring that strategies are implemented to manage student and staff self-care, emotional well-being, and mental health;


Ensuring that appropriate protocols are in place to ensure the safeguarding of students engaged in remote learning;


Ensuring that appropriate support is provided for the individual needs of students.


Questions Boards should consider as schools begin to re-open to students:


As schools begin to reopen their doors to students it now makes sense for Boards to spend some time over the coming months reflecting upon what they have learned from the experiences of responding to the Covid-19 crisis. Some useful questions for Boards to reflect upon include:


  • How prepared were we to face the immense challenges of such a pandemic?


  • Did we have the organisational structure necessary to review the challenges faced and make appropriate decisions in a timely manner?


  • Did we have the necessary data that was required to inform our decision making?


  • Did we have a communication policy that satisfactorily kept stakeholders informed?


  • Did we have the necessary external links with experts and professional bodies to assist us in our decision making?


  • To what extend were our risk management protocols effective in dealing with the challenges faced?


  • Did we have a suitably nimble and agile approach to implementing our strategy?


  • To what extent are we now prepared to meet the challenges of a future crisis?


  • If we could go back in time, what would we have done differently?


Looking to the future, it will be necessary for Boards to consider these three questions:


  • Are we accurately able to gauge the effectiveness of the actions taken over the past months on the school’s reputation?


  • Do we have a suitably effective and renewed plan for a marketing plan to ensure the sustainability of enrolment?


  • Are we able to accurately assess the most appropriate level of tuition fees and ancillary fees for the coming and successive school years in order to ensure the financial stability of the school whilst maintaining its affordability for parents?


In conclusion, schools that emerge from the current health crisis in a strong position will do so because of sound governance and strong and informed leadership. The attributes necessary to govern well during the risks and uncertainties of a crisis have been outlined above. It is now time for Boards to take the opportunity to reflect upon their response to the crisis and to develop governance action plans that not only enable them to strengthen the effectiveness of their governance responsibilities but enable them to become more proactive in successfully meeting the unknown challenges that lay ahead.

Please contact Ray Davis at r.davis@5rspartnership.com. for further information on governance support.


Thoughts to share about this article? Let us know below.



Ray Davis is currently the Senior Consultant with The 5Rs Partnership (www.5RsPartnership.com)  and is based in Melbourne, Australia. He has been a Head of School in three international schools and a national school in the UK and is the former Director of School Evaluation with the Council of International Schools (CIS). The 5Rs Partnership is a global consultancy specifically for schools in strategy planning, marketing, and market research, reputation management, and governance, established in 2004.

Top Tips for Middle Leaders

Steve Garnett, Senior Education Consultant, Dragonfly Training.

As a newly appointed or existing middle leader starting this new academic year, there is no question you will be entering unchartered waters in terms of knowing what to expect as the world attempts to navigate its way through the Covid19 pandemic.


These ‘Top Five Tips’ for middle leaders are designed not just for this period but hopefully will serve you well at any time too.


Some of them may have a slightly irreverent feel to them (and intentionally so!) but nonetheless will still support you in being entirely effective in the role. So here they are:


1. Top Tip: Always ask the same question: ‘Will it make the bike go faster?’


This seems an odd question for middle leaders of course but it relates to the notion of marginal gains. Briefly, David Brailsford revolutionised the success of the British Cycling Team with an approach known as the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’.  Essentially improvements were driven by continually asking how any small adjustment or innovation made would ultimately result in faster cyclists. We can take this principle to middle leadership too. For every new initiative, process, resource, and strategy that is suggested or promoted, then the middle leader needs to know and also show how it will ultimately improve outcomes for pupils from where they currently are. Otherwise, why do it?


2. Top Tip: Remember the 3 Ps of: Personalities, Politics, and Performance


Try to always remember it is the last one you and your department are judged on and not the first two! What I try to promote is the idea is that way too much of your emotional energy and time can be taken up with dealing with the politics and personalities within your department. This can then lead to a reduction in energy and motivation on you to focus on things that are related to improving processes and outcomes. Keep asking yourself whether you are getting side-tracked by the first two Ps and not focussing enough on the last one! So remember the 3 Ps!


3. Top Tip: ‘Keep Sharpening the saw’


I’ve adapted this phrase a little from the best-selling book by Steven Covey ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ which has sold in excess of 25 million copies worldwide. His seven habits allude to behaviours very effective people adopt and many of them can be applied to middle leadership. The habit described as ‘sharpen the saw’ relates to a continuous search for new knowledge that will enrich, improve, and build on existing knowledge. The effective middle leader sees the importance of professional growth. This could be anything from keeping up to date with educational reading to seeking guidance from an ‘expert’ within a school in order to learn something new such as for example ‘timetabling’.


4, Top Tip: Model what you want


The effective middle leader realises that their team is always watching them! This means that they have to ‘walk the walk’ and ‘talk the talk’! Whether it’s meeting deadlines, approaches to teaching, and learning to the use of professional language with colleagues, you have to be the type of teacher you wish your team to be. We must of course recognise the differences we all have and indeed these should be celebrated. However, the effective middle leader recognises that for anything they expect from others they should be able to produce themselves. So always model what it is you want from others.


5. Top Tip: Smile for no good reason


This doesn’t mean appearing to have lost your marbles by having a continuous and unbroken smile on your face whatever the circumstances or situation! Instead, this tip alludes to the importance of managing your own emotional self. There are many psychological, physiological, and biological benefits to a smile! It’s a great stress buster for you but also potentially a great way to disarm a slightly stressed colleague or pupil! This tip really relates to the importance of you maintaining some kind of emotional sanity. Ask yourself: What strategies do you have for managing the emotional side of the role? Naturally, we would want those with zero negative health effects. So different people might draw on different approaches for example anything from mindfulness techniques to bouts of strenuous exercise or something in between. I would say however that the smile is one of the easiest ones and one that everyone can do!. So what technique do you have?



So, whilst this ‘Top Tips’ list may have a slightly irreverent feel, I do offer a more rigorous and detailed analysis of what is involved in becoming a highly effective middle leader when delivering my CPD courses.


I am delighted to be teaming up with ECIS to deliver the following 6 module course across this autumn term. It will lead to an accredited certificate in Middle Leadership called: ECIS/Dragonfly Middle Leader Award in Teacher Quality Improvement. Learn more and register here.


Module 1: The culture of leadership


Module 2: Designing learning


Module 3: Assessment and leadership


Module 4: Building and leading teams


Module 5: Developing your leadership style


Module 6: Leadership of learning


I will also be delivering a free webinar outlining what’s involved in being a highly effective middle leader and it will follow this 6 module outline. Joining details can be found here.



Steve Garnett is a Senior Educational Consultant at Dragonfly Training, an international speaker, and an award-nominated author and teacher. He has delivered INSET to over 8000 teachers in the last ten years across the British Isles as well as Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. His book ‘The Subject Leader’ was shortlisted for the prestigious Education Resources Award 2013 (Best Secondary Resource).


Sue Aspinall, Executive Leadership Team | Head of Junior School, The British School in The Netherlands

Leading organisational change from within 

Please first download this accompanying PDF

As a growing multi-campus international school, the British School in the Netherlands (BSN) prides itself on being a dynamic centre of excellence for both students and staff. In this article, I will be sharing the ways we are intentionally building alignment around our whole school improvement priorities across the five campuses whilst also enabling staff teams to follow their own lines of enquiries, so that new ideas for improving teaching practice emerge. I will be suggesting that the carefully balanced leadership of both of these intentional and emergent approaches is necessary to enable the BSN to sustain success over the long term. 

The intentionally constructed strategy  

It is important in any school to have clear priorities for improvement which are informed by a range of evidence, including students’ progress and attainment data. Across the three BSN Junior Schools, these priorities are agreed and clearly articulated annually along with the intended impact by the end of the academic year 

The intentionally constructed strategy for implementing the change to teaching practice is cyclical and ongoing. In each academic year there is a key priority eg.to raise student progress and attainment in logic and reasoning through a mastery approach to mathematical learning 


The key priority for improvement is the focus of the weekly one hour staff professional development sessions and all other on-campus professional learning opportunities. Hence time is spent intentionally, providing teaching staff with the pedagogical knowledge and teaching skills required to make the changes. These opportunities are mapped out across the academic year, which provides opportunities for teachers to trial and evaluate the impact of the changes they are making to their practice over time. Where necessary, lead teachers are available to plan, model and team teach in order to support the acquisition of new areas of learning. In this way, there is a collective endeavour to make a difference. Every staff member is involved in professional learning and the impact is evaluated on an ongoing basis. The foci is re-calibrated and the implementation strategy re-designed as progress is responded to throughout the year.  

We have found that this approach makes a significant impact to the quality of teaching practice, and ultimately, the equity in the quality of learning for all BSN Junior School students. There is clarity to everyone’s role and professional dialogue can be focussed around a common topic. With the three BSN Junior Schools working together for the same outcome, the opportunities for sharing learning and extending professional dialogues are tripled. 

Evidencing impact of teaching on student outcomes 

This academic year, the maths leads across the Junior Schools have been leading the strategy. The overall intended impact at the end of this academic year is to enable: 

All students to be able to explain their mathematical understanding using the correct consistent mathematical language in full sentences. 


Progress being made towards this is evaluated in many ways; such as through progress and attainment feedback sessions from year group leaders, book looks and student conferencing.  


Half termly evaluations of student progress data and teacher assessment indicate that most student are on track to meet their age related expectations. Importantly, there is consistent evidence that students are accessing manipulatives to explain their learning, demonstrating logical thinking and reasoning and building a fluency in their use of mathematical language. 


Emergence within the collaborative enquiry model 

The BSN values the importance of building professional collaboration and enabling teams to create their own improvement work within their specific field of expertise. A model that enables new avenues of professional enquiry to take place is being trialled at one of the Junior Schools by each year group team, each subject specific team and the inclusion teams. Based on examples cited by Weston, D and Clay, B. (2018), this model enables the teaching staff to identify a very specific question regarding their teaching practice and its impact on student outcomes. The staff agree upon the most useful evidence that will be collected and build a programme for this to be collated.  


The resulting collaborative discussion, built around the evidence collected, provides the opportunity to unpick very specific ‘tweaks’ that can be made to teaching practice and classroom management to make a difference to student outcomes. These ‘tweaks’ are built into the practice of teams incrementally throughout the year as the model is repeated. This cyclical process is slowly building team ownership and localised attention to school improvement. 

Evidencing impact of teaching on student outcomes 

During the collaborative discussion, emerging themes and questions are unpicked and future actions are agreed.  

Feedback from staff has been positive. They have welcomed the team ownership of the process, the range of evidence that is used to inform the collaborative discussion, and the immersive presence of the Senior Leader, who leads the enquiry alongside the year leader. 

“This approach is far better than a one-off lesson observation. Each class teacher in the year group is focussing on the same enquiry and we are continually talking about our findings. There is much more professional discussion with a purpose”  

“I like having Lucy and Miffy involved throughout the duration of the week rather than a one-off lesson observation. I think they get a better understanding of what learning is like for our students in the Year Group and their feedback is very objective and wide ranging.” 

Finding the balance and leading the process  

In the best cases, teams have been able to integrate the collaborative enquiry approach and the strategic improvement priority. The respective teams have then dived deeper into their understanding of the impact of their practice eg. the impact of the bar modelling strategy on Y5 students’ ability to explain their mathematical reasoning clearly. Equally, the emerging learning from the collaborative enquiry has often been able to inform the impact of the whole school improvement work, and where appropriate, has enabled these ideas to be adopted by different year groups.  

The success of all of this work is dependent on its leadership, staff engagement and commitment. Leadership of the school improvement approaches requires an understanding of their intentionality, so that collaborative enquiries stay within their parameters and inform the improvement priorities of the whole school. A shared accountability for outcomes and a sustained commitment to find a balance between the approaches is becoming established 

Team empowerment and leadership capacity building 

The BSN provides opportunities for team leaders to enhance their leadership skills, knowledge and attributes by enrolling on programmes such as the international Professional Qualifications in Middle Leadership (iNPQML) and international Professional Qualifications in Senior Leadership (iNPQSL) delivered through the BSN International Leadership Academy (ILA). These programmes enable team leaders to learn about research and theoretical models that inform their leadership in practice. They also learn practical techniques to help them facilitate team meetings, design collective enquiries, critical analyse evidence and hold honest conversations. Their roles as leaders of intentional strategy and/or collaborative enquiries are all supported by the requirement to embed their learning from the face-to-face modules into their leadership projects. By integrating their requirements for the iNPQ assessment with their contribution to the school improvement priorities, the BSN is building informed collective leadership capacity within the organisation, and more broadly, within the international education community 

Next steps for the BSN 

Creating this balanced approach requires class teachers to be continually observing the impact of their teaching on student learning. It is an incremental approach to school improvement that is responsive and adaptive; it requires flexibility, open-mindedness and a commitment to continuous learning and development. This is the ultimate challenge for us as school leaders: are we comfortable with leading this level of uncertainty within our school improvement work? Are we flexible and adaptable enough to intentionally construct a strategy and then to re-calibrate and re-design it, as new learning emerges from the collaborative enquiries?  

I believe we need to be if we are going to build leadership capacity across our international schools, and equip staff with the pedagogical knowledge and teaching skills to meet the needs of our students. We need to be comfortable with the uncertainty of what will emerge when teams are empowered to take their own lines of enquiries to improve their teaching practice. As Woods and Roberts (2018) summarise, “leading this way is not only challenging but also a creative, inspiring and feasible way of advancing learning in its best and fullest way”.  


Datnow, A., and Park, V. (2019) Professional Collaboration with Purpose. New York: Routledge 

Hargreaves, A., and O’Connor, M. (2018) Collaborative Professionalism. London: Sage  

Seel, R. (2006) Emergence in Organisations”, http://www.new-paradigm.co.uk/ 

Weston, D., and Clay, B. (2018) Unleashing Great Teaching. Oxon: Routledge 

Woods, P., and Roberts, A. (2018) Collaborative School Leadership. London: Sage  


Over the last twenty years, Sue Aspinall has been leading schools through significant change, intent on raising the quality of learning and teaching available to their students. Having been both a Head of an inner London state school and three British international schools based in different countries, Sue knows how it is to live a global life and transition between cultures and across countries. She has the ability to build diverse teams and motivate staff around
common goals. She empowers staff to lead from within and coaches them to reach their highest aspirations. An experienced facilitator, Sue provides an impactful learning experience for leaders who want to make a difference.

Intention to Impact Leadership

Kim Cullen, M.A., M.S., B.A. Upper School Director, The American School of Madrid.

A manifesto for new and aspiring leaders.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with the saying “Well done is better than well said”.  At the American School of Madrid, one of our school-wide goals this year has been to determine what concrete steps each of us can take to transform words into action.  There is a considerable difference between intention and impact. Most of the time, our intentions are honorable. We are a community of caring, generous people:  we mean well.  It takes more than meaning well, however, and we sometimes shield ourselves behind intention when things didn’t go completely as we had hoped. “I didn’t mean it that way” or “It was just a joke” is something I often hear students and teachers say. 


In leadership, we must recognize that intention is a powerful motivator, and we need to help our community members think more specifically about impact.  This means we need to walk the walk and talk the talk.  We must ask ourselves What is the impact my words will have?  What is the impact I want to have? Related to this are questions like  What do I want to be known for, remembered for? What legacy do I want to leave?   As a school administrator, my daily challenge is to move from the what to the how.   It is in the how that I will define the impact I have on others.  


As I reflect on the leadership lessons I have learned over my twenty-three years in education, below are some of my personal highlights – a manifesto, if you will, on how to transform my own best intentions to real impact.  For new and aspiring leaders, developing one’s own manifesto for intention to impact leadership can be a powerful way to define the role one wants to play in the lives and growth of the communities one serves.  

Be committed to growth. 

Every experience in life is an opportunity to learn and grow.  One actually CAN teach old dogs new tricks.  Just because someone might refuse to change doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t.  Commit to learning new things, seeking out new challenges, and helping others do the same.  Learn to learn. 

Fear is healthy.   

Fear means we care, we want to do well.  But we fear fear, and we stay in our comfort zones, thus limiting our opportunities for growth.  Rather than perceiving fear as a force of evil, learn to embrace fear as a driving force for doing your best.  Don’t be afraid to say yes.  

Be authentic.  And be vulnerable. 

There is no magic leadership formula – be true to yourself.  Identify your strengths and don’t be afraid to leverage them.  Also, be honest about your shortcomings and commit to working on them.  Knowing yourself and allowing for both authenticity and vulnerability are fundamental so successful leadership.   

Be compassionate.  

Everyone has a story – a lifetime of experiences, beliefs, and history that defines who they are.    Don’t be quick to draw conclusions about others, and remember that understanding people’s context is critical in building strong, trusting relationships.  It is important to note that compassion is different from empathy.  Empathy is the intellectual awareness and appreciation of someone’s circumstances.  Compassion takes it a step further and involves a desire to make a difference.  In short, compassion is caring. 

Everything is a gift, even if you worked hard for it.  

If your baseline is that everything in life is a gift, even if you worked hard for it, you will be less inclined to hold onto that sense of entitlement that sometimes creeps in despite our best intentions.  Gratitude means you will be less likely to get upset when things don’t go the way you planned or expected.  Gratitude gives you the ability to give situations only the attention they deserve.  It also gives you the ability to move on when it’s time.   

Balance your approach. 

Know the difference between reacting and responding and which one is most appropriate under what circumstances.  Reaction is quick, usually involves emotion, is often uninformed and sometimes misguided.  Response takes time and requires thoughtfulness, getting to the bottom of something, considering all the options and all sides.  Find your balance between instinct, insight, and improvisation. 

Act in accordance with YOU. 

Live into your values with confidence and integrity.  Identify your beliefs and wear them on your sleeve.  Don’t sacrifice your values.  Boundaries are important; learn how to set them.  Know when to say no.  Integrity leads to reliability and trust. 

Lean on others.   

No one succeeds alone, no one knows everything, no one can do everything. Lean on others.  Seek out allies.   Find a thought partner.  Listen more than you speak.  Offer help along the way.  Be someone’s mentor.    

Celebrate others. 

Recognize the contributions of others as much as you can.  Everyone needs and deserves validation.  No one can work at their best when they feel unsupported, underutilized, unappreciated or underpaid.  Celebration is fundamental to emotional and professional well-being and, ultimately, growth.  


Kim is a thoughtful and committed educator with twenty three years of experience in international education. As a American citizen born in Brazil and raised in Texas and Spain, Kim is an adult TCK (*third culture kid) who understands the unique benefits and opportunities that come from having cross-cultural experiences during the developmental years. Kim cares deeply about young people and how they learn and she has devoted her entire professional career to fostering supportive, impactful and relevant learning for both students and educators. Having served school communities in a variety of capacities, Kim’s professional profile is comprehensive with experiences in visioning, strategic planning, relationships, team-building and compassionate leadership.

Along her journey in education — from behind the scenes in fundraising and community relations, through teaching and counseling, and almost a decade in leadership laying the groundwork for systemic change – Kim has to come to firmly believe that if educators are thoughtful, open-minded and willing, they have the ability to create powerful educational experiences that will transform the future for our children, our society, and our planet. Kim is the founder of i2i Education Consulting, helping forward-thinking education leaders create meaningful learning for students (www.i2iedconsulting.com). She also publishes insights and learnings on life on her personal blog, ebb and flow, www.kmcullen.com.