Saturday, 12 January 2019

Some tips on how to get a job in a British School Overseas.

January is the time when teachers in International schools need to decide whether or not to extend their contracts and that’s the reason why this week’s Tes is flooded with advertisements for international school posts for a September start. Here's some insights into the questions that International schools will be asking themselves when shortlisting and interviewing.

  1. ‘Will this candidate cope with the demands of living and working abroad?’ There is little doubt that an overseas posting has additional challenges to working in, say, a different part of the UK. There are significant relocation costs for schools in recruiting a teacher from the UK, so schools will want to be confident that the candidate will complete the (typical) initial two-year contract and not leave the school in the lurch after the first month. Candidates need to show that they are able to cope with living at a significant distance from family and friends. Interviewers undoubtedly find it reassuring when candidates have lived or worked abroad, even if it is only for a few months on a gap year. It can also be helpful if the candidate has some sort of local support network in the form of friends or family working in the same city as the international school. 
  2. ‘Does the candidate know what the city/country is like?’ There is always an element of a leap of faith about moving abroad, but interviewers will want to be satisfied that candidates have done their homework and have some idea of the context to which they are applying. It is undoubtedly an advantage to have visited the city/country even on holiday. Indeed, anyone thinking of moving abroad might want to invest in their relocation project by planning holidays around visiting potential work locations. 
  3. ‘Is the candidate sensitive to cultural differences?’ Anyone living and working abroad needs to be comfortable with having respect for local customs and traditions. This is particularly important in parts of the Middle East where, for example, local attitudes to dress code and to alcohol can be very different to those in the UK. Furthermore, most international schools have culturally diverse student population and teachers need to be able to sensitive to this in the classroom.
  4. ‘Does the candidate have experience of teaching students for whom English is not a first language?’ Whilst teaching in English is the norm in International schools it is very common for a majority of students to be working in a second language. This brings additional challenges for teachers and, whilst schools are not looking for every teacher to be TESOL trained, schools are attracted to teachers who have experience of working with EAL students.
  5. ‘How much relevant experience does the candidate have?’ There are mechanisms for supporting and ratifying Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) in British schools overseas, however most international schools prefer to appoint teachers with at least 2- or 3-years relevant experience. Any NQTs applying should abroad check the level of support that their chosen international school can provide before accepting the post.
A version of this article was published by Tes on 08/01/2019 Teaching abroad: five questions you need to consider 

Thursday, 29 November 2018

How to build a #FutureSchool: The key to Digital Transformation in Schools

This presentation outlines why schools should undertake digital transformation and how to do it, The presentation was given at the ISC Digital Strategy Conference at Radley College Oxon UK on Thursday 29th November.


Thursday, 15 November 2018

UK Education PLC simply cannot complete in a Global Marketplace.

Teacher recruitment is top of the agenda for the senior leadership teams in most schools in the UK, but what hasn't been recognised in the debates in the UK media is that Britain is not alone in struggling to find suitably qualified school leaders and teachers to stand in front of classes. There is a worldwide teacher recruitment crisis at every level from classroom teachers through to school Principals: middle and senior leaders are in short supply, and specialist teachers in STEM subjects are at a premium.
Despite all the chest-beating depression about the state of UK education at home, the British education system is held in the highest esteem around the world. UK education is one of the great British exports with the number of English medium K12 International schools growing from 2,584 schools in 2000, to 9,626 in 2018 (up 372% – source ISC Research, May 2018).
UK trained teachers are increasingly in demand and short supply around the world. 
The UK Government seems slow on the uptake that the teacher recruitment crisis is a global rather than a local challenge and are yet to recognise that it is not well placed to complete with the packages on offer around the world. Britain immigration policies make it difficult for talented teachers around the world to move to the UK; and the levels of taxation and the cost of living mean that teachers’ salaries in the UK mean that it is too expensive. There simply are better options out there. Let me illustrate: A UK teacher on U3 earns £40,570 in England and Wales (£48,244 in Inner London); even on U3 with a maximum TLR1 (£13,288) a teacher earns £53,858 (£61,532 in Inner London). After tax, this means that in Inner London a U3 teacher is taking home £35,997.40 per annum and a colleague on U3 + TLR1 is earning £43,704.44 p.a. In contrast, equivalent classroom teachers in Dubai can be on a package of over AED 400,000 p.a., which is over £80,000 p.a. tax free. The living costs in Dubai are comparable to that of living in London, and the lifestyle is, arguably, significantly better. The contrast is even greater in senior leadership roles. Turning further East, salaries are even better with schools in Hong Kong and mainland China are offering even better annual packages.

Teaching abroad has become much more normal as commercial school chains (such as Nord Anglia and GEMS) have spread their reach, and as UK Independent Schools have established franchise schools around the world (e.g. Dulwich International, Harrow International). Today, working overseas, far from being seen as a hardship posting, increasingly is considered a desirable career move. These factors have meant that working abroad has never been a more attractive career step for teachers. Some estimates but a figure of 15,000 on the number of teachers leaving each year to teach outside the UK. As yet, not much has been done to persuade teachers to stay. And the problem is only going to get worse. 

The rapid expansion of UK curriculum schools around the world is set to continue and this means that British curriculum international schools will be looking to recruit an estimated 180,974 more staff within the next 5 years and 428,963 staff within the next ten [ISC Research Data – May 2018]. This expansion will create even more opportunities for British teachers abroad . . . and place an even greater strain on teacher recruitment and retention in the UK.

A version of this article appeared in the Tes 13/11/2018 Double your money abroad: why the recruitment crisis is a global issue.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

What is Digital Governance and why do I need it?

A presentation on Digital Governance given at the JESS Digital Summit on Sunday 4th November 2018 with my good friend Jim Stearns from VISS.


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Some thoughts on how to implement an effective school digital strategy - CenturyTech Video

A training video made by CenturyTech for their teacher and school leader CPD site in which I talk about how to Implement an effective school digital strategy.


Thanks to CenturyTech for making this video.
You can join the CenturyTech CPD Hub here:

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

#FutureSchool - How AI, VR and Robots are transforming how children learn

Presentation given at the Middle East Schools Leadership Conference on Wednesday 10th October 2018


Saturday, 4 August 2018

The Fourth Education Revolution – Anthony Seldon – Book Summary - Part One

The Fourth Education Revolution is about likely impact of Artificial Intelligence on society. Sir Anthony Seldon, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and previously Headteacher of two top HMC boarding schools, Brighton and Wellington Colleges, not only discusses the (AI) on education, but, perhaps more importantly, explores the philosophical and moral debates about the place of AI in society. Thus, this is an important book not just for those of us in education, but also beyond the profession. We could not be in better hands.
The book forms a logical structure argument for change. The first six chapters set the context for the debate by:
  1. reviewing the first three educational revolutions; 
  2. discussing what it means to be an educated person; 
  3. discussing Five Intractable Problems with Conventional Education: 
  4. discussing What is Intelligence? 
  5. discussing What is Artificial Intelligence? 
  6. reviewing the state of AI in the USA and the UK 
(Each of these chapters is worthy of consideration and is an interesting introduction and summary of these important areas)

The key chapter for secondary school educationists is his discussion of ‘The future of AI in Schools’ (Chapter 7). Here Seldon’s methodology (after Suskind and Suskind) is to establish a ten-part model for education by aggregating the tasks of the teacher and the student:
Five Traditional Tasks in Teaching: 
    1. Preparation of material; 
    2. Organisation of the classroom/ learning space; 
    3. Ensuring that all students are engaged in learning; 
    4. Setting and marking assignments; 
    5. Preparation for terminal examinations and writing summative reports. 
Five Traditional Activities in Learning: 
    1. Memorising knowledge; 
    2. Applying the knowledge; 
    3. Turning knowledge into understanding; 
    4. Self-assessment and diagnosis; 
    5. Reflection and the development of autonomous learning.
He then argues how each of five traditional factors in teaching will be transformed by AI over the coming decades: 
  1. Preparation of material will be done by ‘Curation specialists . . whose job it is to work with AI machines to author and identify the most appropriate material for particular student profiles.’ p.189 
  2. Organisation of the learning space: ‘Separate classrooms will disappear in time and replaced by pods and wide open, flexible spaces which can be configured for individual and flexible collective learning. Sensors will monitor individual students, measuring their physiological and psychological state, picking up on changes faster and more accurately than any teacher could.’ p.191 
  3. Presentation of material to optimise learning/deeper understanding: ‘The flexibility of visual representation with AI allows material to be presented to students which renders much teacher exposition redundant.’ p.192 
  4. Setting assignments and assessing/self-assessing progress: ‘Advances in real-time assessment enabled by AI will virtually eliminate this waiting period [the time lag between students being assessed and them receiving feedback on their performance} and ensure feedback comes when most useful for learning.’ pp.194-5. 
  5. Preparation for terminal examinations and writing summative reports: ‘All this will be swept away by AI. . . . In its place will be attention to continuous data reporting, and real time feedback that will help students discover how to learn autonomously and how to address any deficiencies on their own.’ p.196 
And so to the $100.000.000 question: Will we need teachers in the future? Seldon is clear ‘We do not believe that it is either possible or desirable for AI to eliminate teachers from education’ but he goes on to point out that ‘the application of AI places more responsibility for learning in the hands of the student, for how their time is spent and on what, even from a young age.’ p.205. ‘AI will change however the job of the teacher forever. By supporting teaching in all their five traditional tasks, AI will usher in the biggest change the profession has ever seen.’ p.206. Interestingly Seldon recognises that remote teaching is a distinct possibility: ‘Imminent advances in virtual technologies will mean too that teachers no longer have to be physically present to offer their services.’ p.206

This is well drafted and highly informed argument. It was a joy to read. The only surprise and disappointment for me was that he did not address the 'Elephant-in-the-room' questions of how the traditional examination structures (especially GCSE and A-level in the UK) will be dismembered and on what time-scale. We can all see that the direction of travel is that GCSE and A-level will probably 'will be swept away by AI ' in twenty years' time, but how we get there and what the drivers will be is one of the greatest questions facing UK education over the coming years. These are essentially political questions and ones on which he, given his intimate knowledge of UK politics, Sir Anthony is uniquely qualified to comment - let's hope he does in due course.

Part Two to follow

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

International Baccalaureate, grade Inflation and the Importance of Educators setting policy for schools

Today sees thousands of students in the UAE who study on the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) receiving their examination results. The IBDP is undoubtedly one of the most demanding sixth form programmes in the world that extends well beyond the academic. The International Baccalaureate is not so much an examination system as an education philosophy enshrined in a curriculum. Students are required to study six subjects (including English, mathematics, a science, a language and a humanity), learn critically to evaluate knowledge in the mandated Theory of Knowledge course, research a 4000-word extended essay in an area of interest and engage in a series of self-directed supra-curricular experiences under the umbrella of the ‘Creativity, Activity and Service’ component of the programme. 
The International Baccalaureate is unique amongst the fifteen curricula in the UAE, because it, alone, is not a national curriculum. Rather, the IB system was created by and is governed by educators. It is fully independent of any political control and influence and is not crippled by the burdens of league tables and political agendas changing over time or the vested interests of corporate conglomerates. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), which celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, was founded in Geneva as a not-for-profit organisation by a group of educationalists with a mission ‘to create a better world through education’. The IB Diploma was devised “to provide an internationally acceptable university admissions qualification suitable for the growing mobile population of young people whose parents were part of the world of diplomacy, international and multi-national organizations" (IBO Website) by offering standardized courses and assessments for students aged 16 to 19. 
It has been a feature of Governments around the world over the last century that they wish to use education as a vehicle for driving social and economic agendas. The very existence of the IB programme opens up the debate about whether or not this is best for pupils educationally. The difference between a system run by educators and a system run by a government can be illustrated by comparing levels of grade inflation at IBDP and A-level over the past 40 years. 
Research by the University of Buckingham Centre for Education and Employment Research (CEER) analysing A-level grade inflation found that the percentage of A grades rose steadily from 9% in 1984 to 27% in 2010. Indeed, 8.3% of students achieved an A* at A-level which is approximately the same percentage that achieve an A grade in the years 1964 to 1984. There is little doubt that the politicisation of education in the UK from the late 1980s was a significant factor in this. 
Smithers A-levels 1951-2014 CEER 2014, p.2
The same cannot be said for the International Baccalaureate. The IB Diploma has not suffered from the excesses of grade inflation that characterise A-level. The IB Diploma grade average has remained at 30 points ± 0.3 for the past forty years. IB Diploma results are effectively a zero-sum game: for a school to do better than previously, other schools will have to do worse. It is understandable that this would not be popular with governments or schools. 
Indeed, grade inflation is almost inevitable in educational systems which are run by governments, especially where the examination boards are commercial entities. Any attempt to maintain standards is faced with an alliance of government, schools, Exam Boards, parents and pupils all of whom want higher grades. Governments and schools want improved results to prove that they are doing a good job; profit-making examination boards want to attract more customers; and parents and children want to do well to gain access to good universities and jobs. 
The IB Diploma students who receive their grades today will be able to compare their scores on a level with their parents (and, potentially, even their grandparents!). 30 points today is exactly the same as 30 points 40 years ago. 
The comparison in grade inflation between A-level in the UK and the International Baccalaureate Diploma reminds us that there is much to be gained from educational policy being set by educationalists rather than politicians. While we celebrate the success of those who got their results today get their results this week, let us also congratulate the International Baccalaureate Organisation on celebrating fifty years of taking the lead globally in educational integrity.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

How Virtual Reality is transforming how children learn.

A presentation given at the COBIS annual conference on Sunday 13th May 2018 in London. The presentation tracks the journey of JESS Dubai through the four stages: Learning, Enhancing, Innovating and Disrupting.


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

How will AI transform the classroom of the future?

A presentation given that the Dubai Future Technology Week in Dubai on 2nd May 2018