After visiting Hong Kong in December 2018 for the Learning & Teaching Expo, Liam Donnison discusses how to keep up with rapid growth in international schools.

It was great to be back in Hong Kong for the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference and Expo.

The trip was an opportunity to talk to international school leaders about the staffing challenges they currently face, and to showcase the UK-accredited qualifications we’re providing to teachers and leaders in 40 countries now. We have found over the past year that international schools are increasingly interested in UK government-accredited school leadership qualifications, often through distance learning and blended learning routes.

In fact, the number one request we get from international schools is for school leadership development, from departmental or year group leadership especially. Other common requests are training for local teaching staff, early years specialists and qualifications for SENCOs.

We all know there is rapid growth in the international school sector, and this has accelerated in recent years. The ISC’s predictions are for a doubling of provision between 2015 and 2025 from 7,500 to 15,000 schools. In fact, the reality is even faster and already in 2018, there are 10,000 international schools globally. Even in a mature international school market like Hong Kong, there are still new schools opening year by year.

This growth is a fantastic opportunity for those lucky enough to attend these schools, send their children to these schools and also for those working in these schools.

Of course, leading an international school brings all kinds of challenges: 7,000 new schools means 7,000 new principals – and up to 70,000 new middle and senior leaders. This is a huge new workforce to develop.

Surveys reveal that staffing is probably the most pressing issue facing these schools. This includes recruitment, retention, staff turnover, family support for expats and, importantly, mentoring support for school leaders themselves.

To deal with this challenge, the research report The Art of International School Headship (RSAcademics, August 2016) says that international schools will increasingly need to make enhanced CPD part of their remit and benefits packages as teachers come to realise their value as global commodities.”

That notion of teachers and leaders as a globally mobile workforce is driving take-up for our most popular qualifications, which are for middle and senior leaders. It’s the need to keep and develop great people and the fact that they have the opportunity to live and work anywhere.

According to Hay Group, the two main reasons for leaving a job are line management and the lack of opportunity to develop.

So our proposition is that high-quality leadership development at all levels helps international schools with:

  1. attracting and recruiting teaching staff
  2. retaining great teaching staff
  3. developing future leadership talent
  4. improving staff wellbeing 
  5. all of which helps us deliver for the pupils, parents, staff and school operators.

We know that effective teaching is the number one driver of effective learning, after prior learning, home and social factors are taken into account.

One piece of US research which tracked outcomes for over a million pupils found that students with a high performing teacher ended up 53 percentile points ahead of those with a low performing teacher after three years between the ages of 8 and 11.

So, obviously good teachers help good learning. And the role of great school leaders is to nurture and develop great teachers.

That’s why the UK has created a whole framework of qualifications which are, in our case, university accredited and available internationally, through us and other providers.

We’re helping develop school leaders across the world, tackle their number one staffing issues, and promoting the quality of UK education and professional development simultaneously.

Visit our international Schools NPQ programme page for more information