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International schools “a model” for students and staff wellbeing – ISC

Supportive relationships, strong leadership and clear communication were named as factors conducive to staff and students wellbeing in international schools, with teachers reporting high levels of job satisfaction that imply international schools could work as a model for other systems, a survey commissioned by ISC research explains.

The survey reported high levels of wellbeing for students and staff in int'l schools. Photo: metatdgt/Pexels

Teachers in particular reported high job satisfaction rates

But academic pressure and student mobility were singled out as negative influences by the respondents to the survey.

Conducted by Angie Wigford at International Educational Psychology Services  and Andrea Higgins at Cardiff University School of Psychology on behalf of ISC, the survey’s preliminary findings highlight a high level of wellbeing for staff and students in international schools.

Teachers in particular reported high job satisfaction rates and praised aspects of the work environment at international schools as particularly important for their wellbeing. The implication, the report explained, is that international schools can provide models of good practice for other systems to learn from.

“Academic expectations are a significant factor, but so too are the wellbeing of students and staff”

The growth of good practice in international schools is partly driven by the proactive support of some international schools’ associations, but also by increased competition between schools to attract the best teachers and leaders, Richard Gaskell, schools director at ISC Research told The PIE News.

 “The growing number, and therefore competitive nature, of international schools in many major cities today means that school leaders need to run international schools to the highest standards,” he said.

“Academic expectations are a significant factor, but so too are the wellbeing of students and staff. Getting these in the right balance is essential to a school’s success and the best international school leaders recognise this.”

90% of respondents in the survey found their job full of meaning and purpose most of the time, 90% said they were proud and 82% satisfied.

Satisfaction with the job, a sense of achievement, and also a strong belief in a particular curriculum were highlighted as factors supporting wellbeing at work.

One of the teachers said they liked the autonomy, resources, ambition, lack of political interference and the “broad moral purpose, rather than narrow utilitarian work-force-ready notion” that an international school offers.

Another admitted that teaching in an international school positively impacted their wellbeing compared to teaching in their home country.

Teachers also reported feeling a strong sense of belonging, with 79% of respondents saying they were proud to work in their school.

Unsurprisingly, relationships are key: with colleagues and parents, but especially with students –almost the majority of respondents said that students and teachers get on well with each other.

“Mobility issues, particularly school changes, appear to be under-recognised”

As for student wellbeing, staff reported that a caring, nurturing and exciting learning community are key aspects.

However, teachers reported feeling under a lot of pressure both emotionally and professionally. One teacher said: “The administration told us ‘well, we’re just a high calibre school, so you can’t be balanced’.”

The same type of pressure impacted on students, with 83% of respondents saying that exam pressure negatively affects student performance.

In addition, just below half of respondents said that school transition impacts negatively on student wellbeing, but only half felt that their school had an appropriate support system in place to support students.

“Mobility issues, particularly school changes, appear to be under-recognised. Understanding transition in terms of loss and grief can be helpful. Research in this area could go a long way to supporting students who move around, and their families,” the study explained.

Asked what the ideal support system would look like, IEPS’ lead educational psychologist Angie Wigford told The PIE that support needs to be tailored to the child’s age, developmental stage and needs, and ideally every child would have an individualised transition plan.

“Ideally any school transition should be supported before as well as after it occurs. Appropriate leaving and welcoming ceremonies can help. Contact with students who have left for a few months or at key times can be helpful,” she said.

This is the first of a series of biannual reports into wellbeing in international schools, data is still being analysed and further findings will be published here.

The respondents were 1,056 teachers from international schools all around the world who accessed the survey between January and March 2018. In addition, 18 staff members also completed a 30-minute open-ended interview.


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