Expat Blogs | The Keys to a Good International School

In this expat blog, David Goodwin, Principal of Britannica International School in Shanghai discusses the keys to what makes a successful international school.

Britannica International School, Shanghai

Nearly all good schools identified in the UK Telegraph’s league table of the best 50 UK state maintained schools have one thing in common and which they share with the best independent and selective Grammar schools in the UK, and that is that they have a Sixth Form that is running an A-Level programme. So why should this make a difference?

Unlike schools operating a broad subject curriculum such as IBDP at 16+, the A-Level programme is dependent on having teachers with detailed subject knowledge and who are capable of mentoring and coaching students to the high level required for pupils to gain accreditation in the three of four A-Level subjects that they will study to secure university entrance. So, quite simply, schools that offer A-Levels attract good teachers.

In an environment such as China, which may not be every teacher’s natural choice of destination when competing with the golden sands of Thailand or the tax-free incentives of the Middle East, it is important that parents feel secure in knowing that not only is their school of choice the right one for them and their children, but also one that it is going to attract the right kind of teacher for their child. As professionals, teachers want the opportunity to stretch their abilities and use their knowledge. Most UK secondary teachers originally majored in a specialist subject at university before deciding to embark on a teaching career and become qualified. Therefore, they have a passion for their subject as well as for education and wish to combine the best of both of these in their profession.

Schools such as Britannica International School, Shanghai, which is one of only two in Shanghai which offer A-Level courses to pre-university students, are always going to be the natural choice for good subject specialists. Attracting well-qualified and knowledgeable teachers is the key to every school’s success. Having an A-Level programme and a curriculum that meets teacher’s professional needs is part of achieving that objective.

However, it is not just the A-Level students that benefit from such teachers. In a small school environment, such as that at Britannica, there aren’t sufficient lessons at A-Level to completely fill a subject specialist’s timetable, so these specialists teachers are used across the whole school. At Britannica, pupils as young as nine years old benefit from specialist teaching in Geography, History, Art, PE, French, Music, Drama, Mandarin and native languages, with some specialist teaching extending right down to three-year-olds.

It is no wonder that schools like Britannica exceed UK expectations for pupil progress across the broad range of subjects that are taught, and have very low staff turnover, a perennial problem in the international schools market. Attracting teachers that see the school as fulfilling their professional needs and supporting their career aspirations will always be a key contributor to school success. For happy, professionally fulfilled teachers that are competent and qualified educational practitioners, and who have a passion and a depth of knowledge of their subject, look no further than a school that is offering a UK A-Level programme.

Of course, it is these same subject specialists that take a lead in running activities, clubs and societies and, again, it is knowledgeable subject enthusiasts who make all the difference to a teacher’s ability to inspire young students outside the classroom, as well as inside. At Britannica, the After School Activity Programme runs to over one hundred activities each week, from which pupils as young as four years old can select. Inspiring teachers who have passion and expertise for their area of interest will quickly become the role models for participation, achievement and ambition among a school’s young learners. Britannica’s goal of creating ‘Learners of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow’ extends to leaders in subject expertise as well as leaders of people. Good education is about creating a passion to be and do one’s best in whatever field you choose to go into after leaving school. A school with teachers who will encourage and enable such growth in its students is at the core of what makes a top 50 school!

The success of many kindergartens, primary schools and 11-16 secondary schools, all of which serve their community admirably in their own right can’t be ignored, but neither can the overarching success of a 2-18 school that runs an A-Level programme and that, as a result, has an almost guaranteed quality set of teachers who will have a major impact across all of school life.

britannica-international-school-shanghai-principal-david-goodwinMr. David Goodwin, Principal of Britannica International School, Shanghai, has extensive experience working in educational management in senior and junior schools, both in the UK and internationally. He has worked for some of the UK’s top independent schools and has managed international schools worldwide. He is passionate about developing the global leaders of tomorrow from learners of today.


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