You may have noticed that occasionally we lose staff from a department for a couple of days and while we like to think of our staff as extraordinary, sometimes, being merely human, the absence may be because of the odd illness. In reality our staff absenteeism rate is excellent considering the international environment and the fact that research shows working in a school is the place where there is the largest collection of germs.
However, I wanted to lift the lid a little on the process that sometimes causes misunderstanding with parents and students: the training and continuous professional development of staff. It is important that our staff stay educationally aware of the latest trends in teaching and the staff themselves have input on areas they would like to develop in.
Our staff help motivate and train each other in what we call learning communities and triads (groups of three teachers) working on a specified goal to research, plan, implement and evaluate their teaching skills. To minimise the need to be away from school last year we had world class in service training days (INSETS) devoted to Assessment for Learning, and Coaching and Development. Here we brought the best trainers to us. This year we have already organised training in bullying prevention as well as counselling and awareness training and we are further committed to training on technology in the classroom. Some of this will happen after school and on designated INSETS that you see on your calendar where pupils have the time off school but staff are on site receiving the training. Nord Anglia Education also has an excellent online learning platform dedicated to all its staff around the world that offers professional updates and online courses. Nord Anglia Education is leading the field in providing online support and development opportunities for its teachers.
There is clear research that shows that teachers working together and sharing knowledge and self-development is far more valuable for developing effective teachers than sending them away on specialist courses. To us here in China, this normally involves long and arduous journeys anywhere across Asia and takes staff away from classrooms. Unfortunately there is some professional development that cannot be done on site. The IB Diploma and IGCSEs are generally seen as the gold standard of pre-university curriculums and exams and to be an IB school there are a number of standards that you have to reach including having all your staff go through IB certification.
It is absolutely necessary to send all new staff to the training courses, many of which take place over weekends to minimise teaching disruption. Occasionally the courses are in Shanghai but often they are elsewhere and this takes the staff out of the classroom. The IB and main IGCSE exam board which is Cambridge International Exams (CIE) also sometimes change the style and content of their exams and therefore it is critical that our teachers attend training courses provided by these institutions to stay up to date with the expectations and tips for success. These courses tend to be in one place with multiple different faculties being offered training on the same day. This leads to multiple teachers being absent at the same time.
We do not rest on our laurels and because we are constantly striving to improve our already excellent exam results it is unfortunate to occasionally lose chunks of teachers for a couple of days in the short term but in the long term it is of benefit to all.
- Chris Share, Head of Secondary