The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Colin McNaughton

CPD around the world: schools working together internationally

From London to Bangkok: a gathering of school leaders was the perfect opportunity to share CPD tips from around the world. 

View over Bangkok

On the evening of Wednesday the 5th of November, I jetted off to Bangkok for a few days to fulfil a dream of mine: visiting South East Asia.

I was there to attend the FOBISIA Conference taking place in the Patana School, Bangkok – quite the culture shock, considering the furthest I had travelled in my time at Optimus Education was a one night stay in a rainy Manchester!

Having arrived on Thursday evening, I woke the next day, battled through jet lag and managed to make it to the Patana School to set up and have a chat to a few of my fellow exhibitors. For many of the schools attending the FOBISIA conference, the ambition (apart from meeting lovely exhibitors such as myself) is to improve their staff’s professional development and to pass down the information they gained on the day to their middle leaders and classroom staff.

This is imperative seeing as these schools tend to follow the British curriculum, which over the past 12 months has heavily promoted whole school involvement in issues such as safeguarding, SEND and differentiation to name just a few.

A different context

When I mentioned the rigours of Ofsted and the changing UK curriculum, it brought out smiles and laughter amongst many of the headteachers. Some of the international teachers have definitely found it a relief from the stress of their lives in the UK. One delegate told me that he and his wife were both headteachers in small primary schools in the North of England and would generally spend a single hour with each other in the evening because their workloads and stress levels were so through the roof!

Staff turnover was a problem that reared its head on a regular basis during my conversations. Many schools are hiring teachers that were NQTs within the last 2 or 3 years and this causes problems as they are often young and find it hard to adjust to their new settings.

Schools like the International School of Brunei tend to hire more experienced teachers with young families as they stay for longer periods of time, but this can also present difficulties as the kids need to settle in too. This has implications for staff professional development as the level of training each member of staff has received depends so much on their experience before coming to the school.

Teaching quality has been deemed inconsistent in several inspection reports from the IB across some of the schools, causing stress for the upper management! The cultural issues that these teachers deal with are also something quite out of the ordinary for someone used to dealing with UK schools.

The introduction of Sharia law in certain countries brought about some upheaval within schools and creates issues around child and staff safety. The emergence of yet another coup in Thailand was another issue. The absence of a male, indigenous member of staff on the SLT of another school nearly caused several parents to withdraw their children.

These cultural and political issues, which might be at the back of a British headteacher’s mind, are very much a top priority for these members of staff.

Learning from each other

Peer observation was a topic that many of the headteachers and CPD coordinators spoke about quite openly. The need for members of staff to evaluate others and in turn evaluate what they bring to every lesson was something that many schools were trying to implement across the board.

Training and CPD took centre stage though. From the atmosphere during the day and in the social events at night it was clear how much teachers appreciated events like these. It gives them the opportunity to chat with their peers. Teachers can become isolated during term time and this gave them the opportunity to reflect on the best practice in their schools.

The sessions themselves were full to the brim and groups of headteachers ran from session to session in a frantic fashion. At the end of play on Sunday, everyone seemed thoroughly exhausted, but were extremely positive in regards to what they had witnessed and taken part in across the 2 days. However it was obvious that many wanted more and that while the information they received was fantastic, it was not yet time to think how to disseminate the information to the rest of the staff in their school.

Now the REAL work starts... 


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