Bio: Kat Howard is Head of Professional Learning for a large Multi-Academy Trust Teaching School Hub. Previously working as a Senior Leader and Middle Leader in schools, prior to her career in education, Kat gained extensive experience in the financial sector, overseeing recruitment, training and operations for a leading high street bank. In addition to her in-school role, Kat is an in-house Expert Adviser for the Teacher Development Trust, writing curriculum content for the Reformed NPQ suite of qualifications. Kat is the author of the bestseller Stop Talking About Wellbeing: a Pragmatic Approach to Teacher Workload and co-author of bestseller Symbiosis: the Curriculum and the Classroom.
As part of our ongoing Fireside Chat series we shine a light on the fantastic work happening in Education and who better to lead the way than our innovative curriculum partner, Developing Experts.
It was a pleasure to catch up with Developing Experts founder, Sarah Mintey, to hear how Developing Experts are breaking new ground in revolutionising the link between curriculum and industry pipelines.
Sarah explains her drive to make real the abstract skills taught in science classrooms in an age appropriate way and in the process present options for future education choices within the wider world of industry. The focus on engaging all stakeholders in students’ education mirrors our own approach to teacher, parent and student involvement in learning.
And we’re extremely proud to have links to all of Developing Experts lesson plans and resources in our Curriculum Lab. Schools can finally achieve impactful curriculum design with our flexible design tools coupled with engaging, real-world resources to bring the curriculum to life.
If you missed the live webinar, catch up with the recording to find out how this partnership is unfolding:
For more information about Developing Experts, visit their website. Developing Experts Fireside Chat Webinar Transcript
This is a computed-generated transcription of the webinar is below, for those who may find this useful. Please note these are automated and not checked, so we take no responsibility of errors, inaccuracies or oddities!
Matt (Learning Ladders): Welcome to this webinar from Learning Ladders and Developing Experts. I’m really excited that we’ve got Sarah from developing expertise here. Sarah and I have known each other for several years and I’ve always been super impressed by the work that they’re doing, and it goes from strength to strength, so it’ll be fantastic to hear all the latest from her and everything that they’ve been doing, so she’s coming up in a second.
For those of you who are not familiar with Learning Ladders, Learning Ladders is a system that I set up on the former teacher myself here in the UK, and it was a system that we built to try and help schools improve their tracking their data, but also their parental communication and their curriculum design. And that’s the link with Sarah and developing experts. So within the Learning Ladders platform, we’re super proud to have links to all of the Developing Experts resources so you can create your curriculum within Learning Ladders for every single subject and within your science subjects or indeed any other subjects. If you want to signpost your teaching staff to some fantastic resources which really, genuinely will help upskill both expert and non-expert science teachers, then you can embed the developing expertise resources into the Learning Ladders system into your own curriculum sequence. However, you choose to set up your curriculum across the whole primary, and you’ll be able to view those within the system and then track children’s progress in the normal way within Learning Ladders. So that’s that’s the connection between the two systems.
If you’re interested in understanding a little bit more about how that works, if you’re an existing customer and you want to switch on that feature, it’s called the Curriculum Lab within Learning Ladders. If you’re a customer already and you want to switch that on, just drop us a note email@example.com And obviously, if you’re not an existing customer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get you set up very quickly as well. So that’s that’s the connection between the two systems.
This webinar and this sort of fireside chat is also part of an ongoing series that we’re really proud to do. So we’re passionate educators at Learning Ladders, like I said, former teacher here myself. So we’re really privileged that we connect with lots of amazing people across a huge spectrum, both in the UK and globally. And we really like to shine a light on some of the fantastic work that we think people are doing. So over the last few months, we’ve had fantastic sessions from a number of people covering everything from teaching, e-mail and linguistic diversity wellbeing in international schools, looking at data in a slightly different way in terms of thinking about children’s wellbeing as well. We’ve even covered classroom design and set up with Professor Stephen Heppell, as well other partners like High-Performance Learning. We’ve had Professor Deborah come on as well. So the recordings of all of those sessions are on on the Learning Ladders website, which is Learningladders.info/news.
But today, like I said, we’ve got Sarah to MBE no less. So congratulations on that as well who’s joining us and she’s going to give us a bit of a a tour through developing experts and a bit of a sort of introduction to to their journey and stuff. So without further ado, Sarah, hopefully you’re you’re online and I can get you to reveal yourself in a big reveal. Thank you for joining us. I don’t think I’ve actually congratulated you on your MBE as well. It’s nice to have somebody, (I don’t want to be too political), but it’s nice to have somebody get a get an award like that in education for something that’s deserved rather than some of the recent controversy. And I won’t drag you into that one, but congratulations for everything that you do and have done in education so overdue.
Maybe the first question is maybe just tell us a little bit about your your journey in education and how you arrived at founding and setting up developing experts.
Sarah (Developing Experts): Thanks, Matt, and thanks for having me on today. Really excited to be here and delighted to see how the partnership is unfolding as well with Learning Ladders. Yeah, I was a former head teacher when I decided I wanted to set this company up and I was researching as one of my jobs and the need for setting up a free school in Great Yarmouth. And when I was researching it, this is back. In 2015, I discovered that every hairdressing vacancy that existed, there were 10 kids qualified. And yet for every level two engineering posts, there wasn’t a single young person in the town that have the qualifications they needed to access this opportunity, and it made me realise that there was a real disconnect between what we are teaching, what I was teaching in the classroom and what my colleagues were teaching in the classroom and what the needs were of a local economy. And so I wanted to do is actually create a solution that joined together the silos that exist in society. And when I say silos, I mean pupils, students, parents, trying pathway providers, employers and governments in order to enable them to talk to each other in order to make the whole system join up. And I thought if I was designing a solution that really met the needs of everyone in society, what would that solution look like? And I came up with a science curriculum for children ages four to 16 years and a careers platform for the whole family.
And just to illustrate it and put an industry slant on it. There are currently seven nuclear power stations in the UK. six of which are open and operational, and one of those is currently under construction. And Hinkley Point C is the largest construction site in Europe, has over 25000 employees on that site presently. And if you look at the average age of the station managers for those plants that are open operational, we know that the next station manager is currently age seven and they’re in year four at school. So what we do is product place, the industry of nuclear or whatever the industry is in order to enable career choice to no longer be left to chance for young people and their families to make informed choices about their futures. Now we’re working with an assortment of different sector bodies now, so we’re working with nuclear, we’re working with rail, we’re working with offshore wind, we’re working with horticulture in order to actually just showcase those industries. And if we take rail, for instance, I didn’t know much about this before I started the business, but there are 15000 different job disciplines in the rail industry alone. The average worker currently is 54 years old, and so that means that around nine years time, because they’re having to maintain a digital system, analogue system, the infrastructure in the UK alone, there is going to be a real need to recruit staff, and they actually don’t know where they will get that future workforce from. Covid has put a spanner in the works because it’s actually changed what the workforce needs are in the immediate future. But in nine years time, that problem does not change. And so, you know, when they were 15000 different jobs in the rail industry alone, how could anyone outside of rail sell rail to a young person to an adult, so they are making a choice about that industry?
And you know, I speak to some teachers and they’re trained as maths teachers or trained geographers, whatever that discipline is. And all of a sudden at key stage three, they’re having to be judged on how good they are teaching careers and to sell any sector that is a huge burden on the teacher on top of the day job. And so what I wanted to do is just enable teachers not only to teach the subject with confidence and ease, but do it in a way that enabled them just to deliver careers in a way that is super engaging.
So if I just share my screen with you. So here this is just our home page. So if we go in now, Covid sort of held up some of the plans that we had for the site because we’ve struggled to access the workplaces. So, over the next month alone, we’ve got 12 filming days with industry partners, and those partners include brands like Rolls-Royce, Network Rail, Sellafield. There’s some big brands in there. We’re filming down the Jurrasic coast as well. It’s a really exciting road trip month, to be honest with you. But when we design a unit, what we’ll do is actually make it really clear how the unit complements the Gatsby benchmarks and how the teacher can deliver those gaps with confidence and ease. And what we’ll do is actually feature the actual experts that appear in the lesson or unit of lessons. So we do it in a way that shows intent and in a way that builds the lesson, so it’s sequenced and then you’ll see that we’ve got a series of questions that we build on that we revisit in a way that just makes it super clear, but it’s like going to one of the lessons that comes with everything.
If I go into one of the units and just scroll down a little bit, you’ve got talking heads embedded in the 360 and what these talking heads do is just answer six questions and they unpack what a typical day looks like in industry. And then the experts, what they’ll do in another following slide, they will talk about the applications of the concepts being taught in that lesson in the world of work. So if a child finds the topic of magnetism fascinating immediately, they can say what how it relates to the world of work. And if I come out of there, the bottom of each lesson what we’ve been done to make it really clear, we then actually signpost into our careers library. So we’ve got over a thousand different job career profiles featured in the careers library. And that’s what we do is basically enable a young person in a specific postcode to see what training pathway they need to take and what courses that are that are relevant to them in that area. What small/medium enterprises in the area have jobs that relate to that particular expert that features within that lesson. Now there is tons of stuff within the platform, and possibly I can look at that in other areas, but I hope that answers your question.
Matt: Thank you for that. I was reading this thing, I remember seeing early early doors when you launch and stuff and just falling in love with the name of Discovering Experts, I think it captures kind of a lot of a lot of what you guys do. I love the idea of being able to find an expert who can just really make real those somewhat slightly abstract skills.
How do you go about finding experts for such a broad curriculum?
Sarah: We we do it in two ways now. And so we were actually commissioned by the rail board, for example, and they’ve got around 20 table companies that work with them. And as part of the contract with that sector body, we are asked to showcase. So when we take on a new filming partner, what we do is we’re in the process of overhauling everything again. So we really want to keep content fresh to renew it frequently. And we write a series, our unit of lessons. We then script everything and say, we’re looking at how we can revisit the keywords, the specialist language through that, you know, and interweave it through that series of lessons within a writing with scripts to make sure it complements and uses that key language. And we’re making sure that the language used in the scripts for the lessons is age appropriate. So to actually prepare for a day of filming is is quite a big task for us because we actually do so much planning now to make sure everything is interwoven in a way to make sure that teachers, parents and pupils are learning alongside each other.
We have heads now come back to us and say it feels more like a CPD material because it’s upskilling teachers knowledge as much as pupils and parents knowledge. And and that’s what I want to do from the outset. I mean, when you look at some of the data, 25 percent of kids are actually making choices based on what the parents are advising them to do. So if a parent is a doctor, what are they going to do? They’re going to push what they’re familiar with. And it’s a bit like me as a former teacher, and I’m sure you are the same. I’m a graduate. I’m familiar with that whole graduate training pathway. And yet there are amazing apprenticeship pathways that I know nothing or knew nothing about before I started this industry in rail or any of these sectors that I’m working with there. You have an amazing process of training where you actually do a rotation around several industry partners somewhere abroad, somewhere in the UK. Had I seen what that training experience looked like, have I been able to listen to some of the experts? We’ve not got the privilege of of filming before I chose to be a teacher, even though I loved teaching. I probably would not be a teacher know because it was never explained to me what that pathway looked like. So we spend a lot of time now working out how to tell the story. And so and it’s all down to the planning to make sure that we make that system and make those links for the viewers.
We’ve also got a tagging system as well. So for any content that we’re producing on the platform, what we’re doing is tagging career profiles and then links to other 360s. And we’ve got a huge upgrade that we’re launching this summer. And as part of that, what teachers will be able to do is actually create their own content on the platform. But then tag it or we tag it (the system does it automatically for you), and it automates that Gatsby benchmark delivery. So it’s actually really focussing on how to make those connections with employees, how to link with the curriculum, how to showcase those training pathways. The system does it for the teacher, but does it with bells and whistles in a way that I could never have done as a teacher. Because when we when we speak to industry partners, we’re saying, right, we want you to give us, give us employees that are really good storytellers that know the industry insiders. But then we were also wanting that message of diversity to celebrate the breadth and depth and aspiration of the industry as well so that young people have the role models. They need to think, Oh, I can do this, you know, and some of the work we’re doing now, which has been contracted by Bose to deliver a piece of work that looks a hand to support adults and parents to transfer from one sector to another sector. So if their career starts his or career changes, there’s a whole range of things you know that we’re doing and upgrading this summer that will really make this a very powerful tool, not just the teacher, but also for a parent and and young person,
Matt: Me as the son of a university lecturer who went into education, I think if you do a teacher type survey, I’m sure they’ve done it before actually, how many serving teachers have at least one parent who is a serving teacher? The numbers are very, very high.
I can see some people starting to get involved in the chat. If you have a question for Sarah, then put it into the Q&A and I’ll cover those off live and weave them into the chat. One of the other things I wanted I noticed I can just see from recognising some of the names we’ve got people from from around the world so do add in the conversation because I know the materials are relevant.
The other thing, I suppose from my point of view and I just wanted to touch on is a lot of the schools that we were the Learning Ladders, as well as being in the sort of state sector in the maintained sector in both both sectors now have different challenges. One of the things I suppose touching on, possibly just after Women’s Day as well, which is always a good one in terms of showcasing diversity to different types of children within the schools. And I know that’s something that you’ve looked at before, just looking at some of these things and without sounding overly patronising, probably as a as a well known female founder, is that something that you guys try and weave in there as well? Because there’s always a constant sort of general simplistic conversation, not enough girls in stem type stuff, you know, is this going to help schools address that as well?
Sarah: It’s actually one of our limits. And so the offshore wind sector deal, they’ve actually got a target of creating two hundred seventy six thousand jobs by 2030 and 40 percent of those employees, the jobs they’re having to create need to be BAME female. And so what we do as part of our unit and showcase for that industry and what we do is make sure that it’s aligned to the aspirations of the industry and the targets. So there are six industry experts positioned in the unit. What we’ll do is make sure at least two of the six are BAME female to make sure that the role model is there and if we can push them. So it’s even higher than that because you need to compensate to get to that target and we will do so. That is something that we always ask our partners because we’re very mindful that we need to just encourage school girls to show them what is possible and show them that this is the norm and this is OK for them. And so, yeah, it’s definitely one of my priorities.
Matt: That I know will be super important to our members as well, because whenever we do a webinar to do with the diversity or multi-lingual cultures, it’s always incredibly well attended. And another friend of ours, you may know Dr Ger Graus from KidZania, really interesting company of sort of activity centres in shopping malls, but they have an education department, which is what he runs, and he always says that they have flight simulators and all the boys always turn left to the cockpit, and all the girls always turn right to the to the body of the plane, if you like. And I think they have a phrase that children can’t aspire to be something unless they know it exists. So this kind of work, I think, is fantastic.
Sarah: One of the things that we’re doing because we’re using a product overseas now, we’ve got transcripts that we’re overlaying on all the films. And although the functions not there by April, it will be it’s going live shortly. You can actually just select the language that you want the transcript to appear in and then it will just, yeah, translate and convert. It’s the language of choice.
Matt: That’s fantastic. We have the same in Learning Ladders, but I it’s one of the most popular features, particularly for remote learning with parents. So if you know, if they’re accessing something like this in English is not their first language. They might have great conversational English, but the terminology may be quite specific and first time they’ve encountered in this stuff. So that’s fantastic.
Another thing I wanted to ask. I remember again being really impressed right in the early days is the very, very high production values. I remember your early promotional videos looked very much like a BBC sort of nature documentary, and you had your fantastic scientist guy at some of the exhibitions and stuff. Are you still managing to keep those values as high now? You’re growing, and there’s so many things going on?
Sarah: Our brand name really embodies the aspiration of the company as well developing experts and to develop those experts for the future you need to showcase the experts in the present. And so, Mike Lindley, you’re referring to? Yeah, he was one of the first scientific advisers, totally inspirational guy. And we still work with him. And he’s just a great storyteller because he used to work for the BBC and with the Muppets and all sorts. So this portfolio is amazing. But what we’re doing now is really, Professor Launa Dawson is one of the experts that appears in Soil Scientist in year 6, she is a forensic soil scientist for the Scottish Government. When you listen to her tell her story about how she became what she became you want to become a soil scientist. So we are very much about that because what we’re trying to do is just get some great sales people on the platform who are real experts in their industry that can sell the industry in a way that brings it to life.
Because parents will sell teachers, they will sell what they’re familiar with. And so what we’ve got to do is infiltrate that circle of influence in a way that enables parents and teachers and young people to see what’s possible beyond what they see around them and say for us, we’ve got to really make the facts that tell that story in a way that’s totally inspiring and engaging. And I know some of the people that we’re filming with this month, I’m looking forward to visiting the lessons
Matt: I think it’s so critical as well. You know, when you’re inspiring the next generation, you’ve got to you’ve got to showcase the best of the best. So that’s that’s always been an amazing thing. Probably what would be useful, I think maybe for the people on the on the session as well as let me just go back to being a classroom teacher and put my hat on here. I may feel slightly confident teaching certain elements of the curriculum, but if I’m what would be my journey if I’m if I’m looking at a curriculum topic, then I’m not quite so familiar with and I’m not quite so confident, sort of almost from from start to finish with the support of the developing expertise resources.
Sarah: I’ll log in and just show you how easy it is to set up a course because it’s it’s very simple as a teacher just to and the site’s intuitive as well. So what we’re looking to do is just make the whole look in and setup process super easy that we partner with Wand in order to enable schools to integrate their their data with the click of a button. So if you are using one, does the school already. You can simply click that button immediately. Your pupil info, teacher info and class info just imports a click of a button.
If you go into the units and you’ve then got all the groups there for science, so it’s really easy. And if you’re wanting a particular unit or group, you literally just press and it’s all sequence, all aligned to the national curriculum. And that will then basically bring up your class so you can actually select the class that you want to assign that course to and then it’s hooked into the class. Now, if I go into a class, here’s what I compared earlier. What you can then do is once you’ve set it up, you can actually change the dates. So if you don’t want if you want the pupils to access before or after, depending on whether you want to flip them or not, you can do. So it’s really easy to make sure you control when the content is released.
If you want to share via Google Classroom, you can do it just by clicking the button. But once you’ve taught the lesson, it’s then assigned into the pupil zone. And so it’s just all there and all of the previous lessons that have been assigned to the pupil. Immediately, they can see all the historical lessons and, you know, we’re just looking at how we can just gamify this more and more. So we’ve got a whole range of features going like this summer. But you know, why don’t you go into an area, then this is what the kids can access from home. So it’s reallythe same, you know what you see in the classrooms, the teacher, it just makes it super easy if they want to go to the lesson plans that parents can see what’s been taught, how it’s been taught, it’s there. If they, you know, use the dog ate my homework, their excuse can’t be used because they can click the button and then download the feature. But then they can actually do the interactive quizzes. And the great thing about the quizzes is it immediately feeds into the teacher dashboard so you can see whether and who in the class is actually completed, the task and how they’ve done immediately.
Because we place a focus on literacy and one of the things that we do as part of science. If the question is answered incorrectly, it will take people back to the point in the story terms. Is it the answer in context? So you immediately have an idea of what their grasp is, how to spell the words. We’ve got games, we’re adding to that this summer, but you can actually take part in competitions across a whole class, across your school, across your country in order to gamified that whole experience. And from the area, they can go into the crazy science. Now we’re delighted to have formed a partnership with Microsoft Learning, who have given us access to our 11000 assets that are free via our platform that not we paid for and that linked in resources. So it’s just a great way to give your pupils access to a huge range of world leaders through that link. But then we’ve got the rail links as well showcased as well as the the grey zone. If I go into the grey zone from from this area again, they can dig and look at the database so they can actually see the files and different profiles that we’ve got and within. That’s what it will do is provide and showcase complementary careers as they’re scrolling through job vacancies, events they can attend. So there’s a whole range of ways that we just make it easy for the teacher. Once you’ve actually signed and hooked up that course, you’re good to go. It’s that’s easy and we actually have a man chat as well. So if you need support to talk through, if you’ve got questions, you’re not sure how to quite set. You just pop your question in the chats and someone’s there to answer.
Matt: For schools who are using that, who are looking at it within the Learning Ladders platform, that’s what you will get directed to. So you will put through the Curriculum Lab. You will be able to see all of the Developing Expert resources, which will be filtered by the various topics and various year groups. You can link them into your curriculum over your existing curriculum or a different sequence if you’re looking at it, and then it will pass you over to Developing Experts and you can do all this great stuff within developing experts. Still within whatever sequence, whatever curriculum and obviously all the resources are benchmarks against various different curricula.
Same as in Learning Ladders. If you’re a British curriculum, that’s fine. If your American curriculum, Indian curriculum, that’s that’s all fine. So we get asked quite often when we when we talk about the fact that you can do this with with developing experts. From our perspective, most of our schools want to create a curriculum framework, so they’re really interested in the science as an example. You know what? What’s the sequence of learning around the broad topics and the objectives that they have within the Learning Ladders system will be summary objectives around relatively be top line objectives that I know this particular thing or I can do this particular skill. But then in terms of actually bringing that to life, this is this is our sort of recommendation to really do have a look at the developing experts resources rather than ferreting around the internet, trying to reinvent the wheel or find something because all the work has been done for you to a very, very high quality and you can then link them back through. So that’s kind of how it works between the two platforms. That’s why we invited Sarah, and I think it’s really good for people to actually see because sometimes when we talk about it, I think people think the resources might be, on the on website or the odd quiz or something like that. I think it’s really good to show you quite the depth and breadth of and quality of stuff that’s available there.
Sarah: So I think it’s worth mentioning maths as well. But schools can actually subscribe annually to the service for £100. That’s the flat rate. And so what we’re trying to do is build the best curriculum product at the cheapest price in order just to support schools. So you can set up as many teacher accounts, parent accounts, pupil accounts as you want for out. So it’s yeah, it’s all about just making a commitment to using the resources rather than selling resources.
Matt: It’s a no brainer. As a former teacher who struggled with the odd science lesson here and there, it’s a no brainer. And it’d be really nice as well to to see different things in different ways of teaching different things. As I suspect as primary teachers, we tend to default to the same ways of teaching certain topics and stuff time and time again. I’m going to give everybody a last chance to ask any questions. I know sometimes people are shy on asking questions, and once the first one comes in, then there will be inundated. So we’re going to probably close this off in a couple of minutes if nobody has any questions. How can people get hold of developing experts or yourself afterwards if they want to follow this up?
Sarah: I’ll put the web site address in the chat.
Matt: We’ll send it around. So afterwards, everybody who’s been on the webinar we’ll send it around as well. So if you’re watching a recording of this, if you scroll down to the bottom will put a link on there as well so you can get through to those people and teachers.
Sarah: Schools can set up free accounts, try before they buy. We want to make sure there’s a good fit for the school, so there is no hard sell at all. This is about making sure that this is a product of teachers who feel confident using.
Matt: I think I’ve done more of a hard sell than you ever do, so hopefully they will get some people over to you. And that was that’s that’s really useful. I’m going to draw that to a place that was really useful, and I can’t believe that there are fourteen thousand nine hundred ninety nine jobs, I should have trained as a driver in the rail industry. Really, really interesting to chat. As always, thank you so much for giving up your time.
If you want to activate the Curriculum Lab or be shown how that Curriculum Lab works, which has resources from developing experts, also from BBC Bite-Size, from Oak National Academy in there as well.
Every teacher has experienced the stress and time pressures of research and preparation for lessons in a subject that isn’t their specialist subject.
Join Learning Ladders CEO Matt Koster-Marcon and Developing Experts CEO Sarah Mintey to discover how Learning Ladders surfaces curriculum design materials from Developing Experts that enable all teachers to teach like an expert.
Find out how to design lessons that ‘wow’ by drawing on:
The expertise of global experts of industry and university
Guided and targeted feedback for students
Engagement boosting opportunities for discussion
Captivating imagery, video and fun science experiments
A huge thank you to Eowyn Crisfield for joining me for today’s ‘fireside chat’, all about improving the learning experiences of bilingual and multilingual learners.
We invited Eowyn to join us as a number of schools have recently approached us, drawn by Learning Ladders software enabling schools to very easily create their own bespoke curriculum for teaching any language, in any language to native and non-native speakers. And because our remote learning platform – Ladders at Home – has a unique ‘Translation‘ function which means all home learning, be that tasks or tutorials, can be accessed by learners (and their parents) in any one of 100+ languages at the touch of a button.
If you are a school who has bilingual or multilingual learners, or needs to teach languages in multiple languages, then do reach out to arrange a free short demo of how the software works, and how we can help you.
Anyway, back to the chat with Eowyn Crisfield!
The recording of the session is below, and we’ll be adding to this blog post over the next few days with more information and resources as mentioned in the session, so do check back.
In the meantime do enjoy, and share with colleagues!
This is a computed-generated transcription of the webinar is below, for those who may find this useful. Please note these are automated and not checked, so we take no responsibility of errors, inaccuracies or oddities!
Matt (Learning Ladders) Hello, everybody, and welcome to our webinar / fireside chat. This is very much an interactive session, so if you have any questions or comments, do type them into the Q&A section of Zoom. And if you want to introduce yourself in the chat, do that. It’s always nice to know where people are from, so just say hello in the chat and we can sort of share where everybody is from.
So in terms of the session for today, obviously we’re talking about bilingual and multilingual learners and how we can improve their learning in schools. I’m Matt Koster-Marcon, I’m a former teacher and the founder of Learning Ladders Education. We also have Eowyn Crisfield, who’s a senior lecturer, Oxford Brookes University and author of Linguistic and Cultural Innovation in Schools.
For those of you who are not familiar with Learning Ladders we have functionality within the system that enables any teacher, any school, to design, implement, track, record and share any curriculum for any language, in any language. So this issue can be planned for, managed and reported alongside every other subject, all in on system, giving a complete picture of every learner. Multicultural schools, multilingual learners is very much part of what we do here. Hence, this webinar.
If you go to our website, which is Learning Ladders.Info and you go to the news section, you’ll find all the blogs and all the information that we’re talking about today on here. We’ve done a whole range of these in the past, so hopefully they’re interesting and we’re going to focus on some particular things today.
I’m just going to give you a quick tour of Learning Ladders. For those of you who are not familiar with the Learning Ladders software so that you know exactly what we’re talking about, otherwise you might be in the dark. Learning Ladders is a software system that is used by lots of international schools around the world, and it’s used for curriculum design. It’s used for tracking, for parental engagement, for reporting, for data analytics and a whole load of things.
But one of the things that you can do very easily within the platform is create your own curriculum, and that’s particularly relevant for a lot of our schools because they will do that in any language. So, for example, we have content within here. This particular example is in in Arabic for a lot of our schools in the Middle East who need to teach Arabic as part of their teaching programme parts of their curriculum, either for native or non-native speakers. We have schools in China who will use this for Mandarin schools all around the world, as well as obviously European languages.
So when we’re talking later on about implementing language curricula within the system, we’re talking about this particular functionality within Learning Ladders, which enables you to set up and implement your curriculum for any language, in any language within the system.
We’ll probably also touch about how that looks for remote learning, how that looks for upskilling parents. And when we’re talking about that, what we’re talking about is the remote learning platform of Learning Ladders. So again, for those of you not familiar with that, what this looks like is me logging in here into the remote learning platform. This is the child that I’m looking at. These are all the goals that this child is currently working on based on every individual child’s individual objectives in the school’s curriculum. But. Each one of these then links to supporting tutorials and resources written by our team here. And each of those up skills, parents and the children about exactly what this particular learning objective is than the bit that’s relevant for today is all of these are available in over 100 languages at the click of a button.
So you literally go through the system, change the language to whatever you want, and it will make all of this accessible in any language for you. Now, that’s obviously extremely useful because as a school, what that means is you can create your curriculum in your home language. For most of our schools, that’s English. Publish it to parents, but then they can consume it in whatever language they want. So that’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about making stuff accessible later on, designing the curriculum, sharing it with children and sharing it with parents in this way.
So that’s my that’s my little bringing everybody up to speed in terms of the system and how that works and what we’re talking about here. Let’s get back to the main event of today, and I wonder if I can get you two to join us and say a quick hello, maybe do a quick introduction and then we’ll crack through with with some of the questions that we pre-prepared. And like I said, do. For those of you on the session, do adding questions into the into the Q&A as we go and we’ll cover those and pick them up.
Eowyn Crisfield Thanks very much. Thank you for having me today. I don’t have a fire beside me, so we’ll just have to be imagining the fire. So my name is Eowyn Critchfield. I’m a Canadian raised and educated language specialist mentioned on a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes. That is true, but I also spend the majority of my time working in and with international schools around the world on their languages provisions, whether that’s Yale, the host country, language, home languages or world languages.
Matt (Learning Ladders) All right. So you’re very much the expert in the room, and I’m going to try and get you to do as much talking to me and do a little more talking as possible. We have an incredibly diverse audience. I’m just looking at where everybody is coming from here. So thank you for letting us know we’ve got the Netherlands, Kenya, Rwanda, Sweden, Qatar, Casablanca, Amsterdam, Korea, all sorts of places. So we have a truly international audience, which is fantastic. Let’s start with some of the questions that we talked about before. A couple of the things that we identified to start with were around, I guess, just understanding where you’re at from a school’s perspective and an initial audience. Maybe if you’d like to put some flesh on the bones for that one.
Eowyn Crisfield So schools can’t really dig into developing curriculum and pedagogy until they know who their students are on what they need. And and there’s there’s no kind of clear premade tool to do this, but it’s really important to have a clear understanding of your students language profiles because one language always influences another. And so we see an international education, a lot of highly mobile families and highly mobile children. And when they come in, we we often ask questions like Where is your, where’s the mother from? Where’s the father from? And we use those passports as kind of a proxy for the languages the children might speak, and it may be completely inaccurate representation. And so the three things that it’s really important to know about your students is what is the language that they are strongest in? What other languages are a part of their linguistic profile? And what is their level in the school language? And so when we look at provisioning for our multilingual learners, all of those different areas of language will interact with each other. And if we only know a part of the picture, we only know part of the learner. And so in particular, things like knowing how a child’s development is in their strongest language will give us information about how much support they may need in learning English. If their own language development is really strong, then probably their English development will happen more quickly and more easily. If they come from a complex language background, they don’t have an easily identifiable, dominant language or whatever we identify as the dominant language isn’t really where it needs to be. Then that’s a child who’s who’s who’s very likely to need additional support to learning English. And so without all those pieces of the puzzle, we often find these things out down the road. Three months and six months in. This child is struggling. They’re not doing what we think they should be doing, and then we have to go back and try and figure it out. So we do need to have a really robust process for finding out accurate language information, but also finding out what that means in terms of development. And so there’s, you know, there’s not an easy, easy suite of language assessments we can use. So we need to develop our own because how we would develop, how we would, how we would assess the Dutch of a child who’s never lived in the Netherlands but has a Dutch father is very different than how we assess the Dutch as a Dutch child living in the Netherlands, being educated in Dutch. So the kind of the tools we have that come from kind of a national base are not going to be adequate or appropriate in in assessing international children. So we need to really think carefully about what do we need to know and how do we need to find it out?
Matt (Learning Ladders) I think personally, that’s I mean, I can add any questions. People in the United States in those three things, just those simple three things that question there about what level is the child proficient at in the schools language, I think is going to open up so much conversation because you’re right. I mean, as a company that specialises in data that is possibly not always asked. I guess the obvious question then is, you know, I’m putting myself in the position. You know, I’m back in the classroom and I have as you to use your example. I have a Dutch speaker who’s got a Dutch father but never been to the Netherlands. But I don’t speak any Dutch. Nobody in the school does. How do I go about assessing their proficiency in the various different languages in real terms? How would I do that?
Eowyn Crisfield So there are different ways you can do it the most straightforward way. Well, the first thing you need to know is you need to know the language resources of your entire school. So when we talk about knowing the students profiles, we also need to know our staff profiles because there may be somebody on staff who actually also has a Dutch father or mother and can speak Dutch. And you just don’t know it because they, you know, it doesn’t. It’s an obvious part of their profile for lack of anybody in the school who speaks that child’s language. You work with the parents and you know, you work with the parents in a collaborative way. We do this a lot for SDM assessments as well because the testing and assessment in a language the child doesn’t know is not going to be effective. So you may have the child and the parents sit in the room and say, Can you ask your child to write a paragraph about what they did on the weekend in Dutch? And then you watch and you watch the process and you can tell if a child is writing fluently. If a child is writing with complexity by the length of their sentences and how they use grammar. So you can, you know, an experienced teacher can tell by the product if the language shows an alphabet. If not, then you need to look at how how do we have additional language resources, you know, for school based in China? And we need to have assessments of the children’s Chinese that we need to train a Chinese teacher to do those assessments for us. So sometimes you can do it internally, sometimes collaboratively with parents. And sometimes you do need to build a relationship with an outside expert.
Matt (Learning Ladders) That’s not going to make sense to us, so then we then we’re moving on to the next thing, so we’ve done our audit. We know that we have this incredibly diverse class in front of us, which is probably the situation faced by most people here. We’ve we’ve done as much information, as much digging as we can. We’ve done all that kind of work. What what then comes next?
Eowyn Crisfield I guess so that depends on your school. Ideally, what comes next is a language pathways document that will take the child from entry in your school until whatever the end of your school will be. They may not stay with you that long, but we have to think about the pathway all the way through. What languages do we offer? How do we offer them? What will be the best fit for this child given their profile? And if this isn’t working out, where will we sidestep? Where will we reassess and sidestep? And so, you know, if you have children coming in at age four, the language pathway will take you through early years junior school and secondary school all the way out to whatever they’re doing to begin with different pathways for different profiles of children. And then in an ideal world, the school would have a plan for how they’re supporting the home language development of all of their students and host country language development for all of their students. And that, again, it needs to be bespoke. You have children coming in who are internationally mobile children, but who speak French at home. You can’t just take resources from France and tests from France and use those with those children. So what happens most commonly? But that’s going to show them to be wanting or lacking in French because they don’t have the same experience. And so you absolutely need to step by step, build your own curriculum for each language that you teach. And you can have a framework so that if your school is dedicated or committed to teaching home languages, you shouldn’t have all the different teachers doing whatever they want, because then you get the Italians making pizza and the French doing dictation and and nobody’s happy. But you should have a framework that says, you know, in year one home language classes, these are the themes that we do. This is what we’re working on developing. And then that happens in different languages. And you’ll obviously have to have different levels because you may have children coming in with French declared as a home language who are very, very strong and French and others who have not so much. And so you, you need that differentiation. And then you do the same for host country language teaching and again, depending on your situation teaching of. For example, Arabic in the Middle East as a host country language, you’ll have to have different groupings either. Children who are transient globally mobile only going to be there for two or three years. What’s your framework for teaching Arabic that will be meaningful and useful to them at children from Arabic speaking backgrounds and children who are fluent in Arabic? And so you really need to think about the trajectory for those different groups and build the curriculum that fits your student population and your school.
Matt (Learning Ladders) We’re talking about a lot of customisation, this is not an off the shelf solution. I can go to a particular website and download Dutch or Arabic or something and put it on my school is really, I guess, the message from that.
Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely. And I think, you know, one of the things that we know from second language acquisition research is that all of our research up to date has been about measuring the bilingual against how a monolingual uses that language. And actually, that’s a false measure. So I speak English and French, and my Dutch is reasonably good. When I’m speaking English, all of those languages are in there. So I sometimes say things in English that. Only English monolingual English people wouldn’t say it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means it’s different. But when our measure is a particular variety of English and how a particular speaker uses it, our bilingual children are constantly found to be laughing. They’re not as good in English, they’re not as good in their home language. They’re not as good on the host country language. And that’s actually a deficit mentality. We should be looking at how we measure each child. Against what exposure they’ve had, what opportunities they’ve had and what other languages they speak, and so what we need is a picture this child speaks five languages. Here’s where they are in each of those languages. And as long as one of them is age appropriate, that child is OK. If you have a child who speaks five languages and none of them are at the right level, that’s a child who needs interventions. But we really need to step away from thinking that the monolingual native speaker is some kind of ideal because that sets our children up for failure. Because when you take that French curriculum from France for seven year old children and use it with seven year old French children living in Thailand, they will not do well. And it’s not because they’re not linguistically gifted, it’s because they are a kind of bedrock, a comprehensive of all of the things they know about language and all the languages they have, rather than being only one narrow thing.
Matt (Learning Ladders) The presumably then the taking, the extrapolating that further than this, this must have an implication for your whole curriculum design, not just your sort of languages and stuff, you know, in terms of cultural references and appropriateness and accessibility to everybody this this then permeates through everything you’re doing if you know you’ve got this kind of multicultural community of children.
Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely, and I’ve been saying for years and years that international education needs to recognise that languages are our centre, languages are at the heart of everything we do, whether it’s children learning English as the school, as the language of instruction, whether it’s supporting home language, as host country languages, world language, you see how many languages are involved in international schools and at so many different levels. Every language teacher has kids coming in every year new to the language, and they’ve got to readjust and start again because they’re in year four French and they’ve got somebody brand new to your four never had French before. And so instead of thinking about language as something on the periphery which we often do, we need to think about languages in the centre and how do we connect across the rest of our curriculum to make sure that we’re supporting our students linguistic development in the round, rather than in these little boxes that end up on report cards?
Matt (Learning Ladders) Really good advice there. I’m going to move on to the next bit in terms of advice for building this programme and how we might do that, but just again, a prompt if people want to add in questions and then just type them into the Q&A and we’ll pick those up as we go along. So the next steps in them that we were going to talk about is I’m an international student. You know, a lot of our customers, a huge international schools, 100 plus languages across the schools. So anyone, Cox can have easily 20 30 languages in it, even teaching in London. When I was teaching in London, my class, you know, you could easily have 10 languages. How do you go about building an in-house programme for this?
Eowyn Crisfield That depends on how dedicated you are there. You know, there there. So quite a few years ago, I wrote a framework of home language teaching in international schools and what I do, what I did was kind of classify different approaches. There’s the no approach approach, which is we don’t do anything for home languages. There’s the extracurricular approach, which is we’re going to give you a room. And you can find a Danish teacher and have your kids learn Danish, and that’s fine. The next is the parallel approach, which is we’re going to give you time in the school day, so everybody does their home language Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10 to 11. But somebody else has to find the teachers and figure out what they’re teaching. So it’s parallel minutes in the school day, but much. And then the final one is integrated. And that’s where the school takes full responsibility and says we have a home language block where all students are studying their home languages. We provide the teachers or the teaching staff. We provide the curriculum framework and it’s reported on report cards. So that’s obviously the nirvana, and not very many schools get there because it’s really hard. But there are lots of ways we can move within those frameworks to do a better job than we’re currently doing. So, for example, the International School of The Hague has a really innovative model where they have they use their their cars, which is like community service from the upper secondary school. Those kids get some tutor or some training, and they come down into the primary school several times a week or once or twice a week to spend time in a language group with children who speak their language working on something to do with the curriculum. So no cost organisationally needs needs attention. But every child to the best of their ability gets some opportunity to use their own language at school for learning. So that’s kind of a structural model. But there’s also a lot that we can do in classrooms when we know the profiles of our students. We can integrate multilingualism right into our classroom. A lot of times called trans language, but it’s about looking at meaningful ways to draw on children’s linguistic resources to enhance the learning of the whole class. So there’s everything from kind of a huge macro structure to just mini bits in classrooms that can happen where there, where the infrastructure isn’t there. There can still be good practise.
Matt (Learning Ladders) You’ve touched on one of the first questions that we’ve got him, which is what is your opinion of using trans language and approach in a diverse classroom of land?
Eowyn Crisfield So my opinion is that trans language and can be really effective for different reasons. It can be useful for scaffolding content for learners who can’t access it to the school language. It can be useful for scaffolding language development. We know that one language can help build another, and it can be really useful for enriching the learning experiences of all children. Imagine if you have students who are all you can do on ecosystems and everybody goes away and research an ecosystem in one of their countries of origin and they come together and share. We want to get a lot of different kinds of ecosystems then, which is the content. That said, I think that we need to be measured and and careful about how we use other languages in the classroom that you can’t just say everybody, do whatever they want because we also need to make sure that the students are developing the matricula language. And so it takes quite a lot of professional development for teachers to really grasp. How do I use it in ways that are effective and meaningful and in ways that the teacher still has a grasp on the the outcomes of that learning. But but when it’s done well, I think it’s amazing.
Matt (Learning Ladders) Clearly, I should have had to step in before that question, which is just to explain for those people not familiar, like myself, Trina’s languaging approach, what is the trans languages approach?
Eowyn Crisfield So trans language and approach it, I mean, it’s many, many things to many people. But the iteration I use comes from research in Wales on bilingual programmes where you alternate and vary the language of input and output in the learning cycle. So in its early iterations, for example, the kids in a history class were reading English history textbook and then talking about it in Welsh and writing about it in Welsh. So it’s that moving across languages for particular practical purposes or ideological purposes. And so the way that I structure it in schools, as you think about input processing and output, what parts, what we do in English and what parts will students have the support to do in their other languages, either against a curriculum, access language, learning support or just for curriculum enrichment? And you know, one of the greatest uses of trans language is to diversify your curriculum. It’s an automatic tool to diversification of resources, perspectives, ways of thinking and ways of doing. But it’s not something that you can walk into a classroom and do the day you hear a day after you hear about it.
Matt (Learning Ladders) Or you can try to get slightly less field, but I suppose from a perspective, would you advocate interest? I mean, we work with lots of senior leadership teams on in schools and stuff, and it would probably be fair to say it would be unusual to have the language specialist on the senior leadership team. Is that something you think should be more generally thought about by school management teams to get that more from Thompson?
Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely. And I think when I work with schools, I always give them kind of a report of my findings and on every single one, it will say you need to have a head of languages and the head of languages needs to have oversight of e-mail and home languages of host country languages in world languages because they are all interconnected. If you’ve got those teams working off in boxes, if your e-mail teacher has a student who’s struggling, they need to know who the home country language person is that they can go to to put together the pieces of the puzzle. And so just because of how much place language is taken, international schools in particular, there should be a head of languages. They should be on the SLT. And you’re right, they rarely are. And they’re also rarely leadership. So I have met in all my years of doing this. It’s been a long time two heads of school who came from all languages. Background.
Matt (Learning Ladders) OK, so for all of you who were on the call, who are ahead of languages and looking to get into senior leadership positions, will will clip that bit into a GIF that you can sort of you can play at your next senior leadership meeting. All right, fantastic. Another question that’s come in. In what ways, if any, students challenges connected to the program’s leadership and communication structure in international schools?
Eowyn Crisfield Can you run that one by me one more time?
Matt (Learning Ladders) What ways archaeal students challenges connected to the program’s leadership and communications stock sessions? Because I’m not sure I fully understand my question, but I wanted to follow up on that question and we’ll maybe colour it later. I’m not sure I quite get what you’re looking at now. I’m guessing this is to do with
Eowyn Crisfield so I get I mean, if I’ve interpreted the question properly, I would say that. If leadership doesn’t have a clear understanding about the challenges that learners with Val have an approach and some kind of process and framework in place for classroom teachers to know how to support them and understand them and how to provision for them effectively, then there would be a direct connexion between the leadership knowledge in approaches and how well students with IAO do. And again, Yale is often boxed off. You know, here’s a little room go do your thing without really understanding good practise. And without that, understanding good practise students with the eye won’t do as well.
Matt (Learning Ladders) And do you think sometimes that it’s as he said, it’s a lot of the schools operate in very high pressure inspection driven sort of regulatory frameworks, fee paying parents who demand certain sort of outcomes and stuff like that. So there’s a huge amount of pressure on leadership teams in schools. So obviously, if you ask people in a conference that they’ll clearly say they want to do what’s right for the children, and yes, they completely buy into this. But playing devil’s advocate then in terms of the end, if anyone was to push back and say, I completely agree with the theory, but the reality is I’ve got to get these kids through the regulatory framework and inspections, I’m guessing the question is more, is there research and evidence to suggest that actually, if you do take a step back and do this in the long run, it sounds like it should have a much greater beneficial effect on all of that learning.
Eowyn Crisfield Well, so you know, the research shows quite clearly that the stronger a student’s home language, the better they’ll learn English, the more easily they’ll learn English. And that literacy in the home languages in the home language is linked to stronger literacy in English as well. And so there’s absolutely and that’s not only from English, that’s Turkish speaking news in the Netherlands. That’s for Spanish speaking youth. In the United States, there’s a very clear cognitive relationship between development in a child’s first or home language and development of the new language at school. And so there’s absolutely an evidence base to say this is the right thing to do. And schools do need to do teacher education. One of the things I hear quite a lot is well, but if we do that, the parents won’t like it and they’ll push back. But what do you let the parents determine your curriculum? No, you say this is the curriculum we offer because this is the school we are. And if you want an IB curriculum, you go to another school or if you want an SLT Curriculum Lab, go to another school. Parents choose the curriculum and then the school is liberated to deliver it. But yet we allow parents to have a lot of influence sometimes over our language provisions. And and there’s no more reason to think that parents understand language education any better than they understand regular education. So sometimes we need to kind of take a kind of a firm stance that this is what the evidence base shows. This is how we do this for the best of your children and then take a step back and let the parents live with that. But you do need clear documentation for parents. You do need clear strategies in place. You do need their documentation for new staff and you can do it. And I know that there’s actually there’s a head teacher on here that I worked with for many years. I won’t name her in case it embarrasses her, but she’s from the British School of Amsterdam and with their school. One of the things they did early on was to start explaining to parents, We’re going to put your children with other children who speak their language because that’s what’s right and good for them. You know, they’re they’re young, they don’t understand. They need to be able to talk to somebody and play with somebody who understands them. And you know, there’s definitely parent pushback because we don’t pay for an international private British school for our children to continue learning Japanese now. But taking the principled approach they just start about having that is part of the process. This is what we do because it’s right and now they don’t get parent pushback anymore. And so you can take a principled stance and say this is what’s right and good and parents will. If you’re, you know, firm in your own convictions, buy into that.
Matt (Learning Ladders) With younger learners, for example, would you suggest that schools think about advising parents to read to, you know, I’m thinking primary and early is read to children in their home language rather than in English, particularly if they’re more fluent in their home language?
Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely. So the parent’s job is the development of the home language, the school job, the school’s job is the development of school language. And if everybody does their job right, there’s better outcomes for the children than if people are trying to do each other’s job or school. There’s any work in the home language development because the state has issues that come in when children are educated, another language will often mean they don’t value their own language, so the school valuing their own language is important. But the at home the parents should be doing homework in their language, reading in their language, playing games in their language.
Matt (Learning Ladders) Again, I mean, that touches on the Learning Ladders plug, I suppose, is the reason why we have that functionality that schools can create content, create remote learning, create homework, create remote learning tasks in English, but then it can be consumed by the children and the parents in their home languages. Precisely, I suppose, for that reason, so that it’s a lot more accessible so they can do that automatically. And you don’t have to be able to speak those hundred languages. You can, you know, do set your set your tasks and stuff, and it will do that for you. So so would then. I mean, as as the as the father of two very young children and I have an Italian wife, so we’re sort of in this zone as well, purely out of personal interest, then would they be with the advice to be possibly doing more of the kind of guided reading and word wall type tasks in Italian for us as well? That’s our home language.
Eowyn Crisfield Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t say you need to set up a word wall in your home. It’s a bit hard core. Your children are going to feel like they’re at school all the time, but absolutely drawing on what they’re doing in school and talking about it in Italian and, you know, reading about it in Italian. So you’re supporting the content and supporting language acquisition in Italian based on what they’re learning at school. I don’t know how your Italian is, but I
Matt (Learning Ladders) mean, they’re so unnaturally bad at me, which is
Eowyn Crisfield one of the one of the best things you can do is to start interacting with your kids in Italian, even if it’s just on a, you know, can you can you help daddy learn how to say that in Italian? Because in a in a such a predominantly English environment, the message that they’re getting is actually English is all we need. Only mum does Italian. So your support, even if it’s not going to help them develop their Italian explicitly, will support their continued valuing of Italian as a language. Because you value it even though you live here and are, as you said, not very good at languages,
Matt (Learning Ladders) it is an English thing, you know, we have to be like that. I mean, taking side note social event, but I mean, it’s interesting, though, in that whole area that there’s a lot of there’s been a lot of talk recently here in England about the power of adding subtitles to TV for kids when they’re doing that. So a lot of the time, I’m sure, in home in multicultural settings, they’re going to be watching TV in different languages nowadays on Netflix and Prime and Disney and all that stuff. It’s perfectly possible we do it. So those subtitles in Italian, in Dutch, in whatever it else, presumably a just as valid and valuable as doing it in any other language.
Eowyn Crisfield Absolutely. Yeah. And it depends on what the kids are paying attention to. If they understand the English, they’re probably not going to be reading Italian subtitles. But it can work as a scaffold towards the other language if they’re listening to the Italian and the Italian is as strong, the subtitles in English can help them.
Matt (Learning Ladders) And we got a couple more questions come in say, sorry, I’m going to stop dominating is my own personal personal consultation here. So just an observation, I think from Tarik, which is thank you. Many world languages are far more aurally dominant than written or read Arabic as a suggestion as maybe one of those. Another question here What recommendations can you get the native Arabic teachers who are required to teach in English to a large number of students whose mother language is Arabic? It’s an interesting one. So the challenge, the challenge of being an Arabic native speaker, speaking to other Arabic native speakers, but having to teach English so.
Eowyn Crisfield So this is this is a situation in which trans language can be immensely beneficial, but also quite difficult to sell and to manage. So it’s it’s both sides, the pool. I mean, when you’re working with Arabic speaking children. With the goal of them learning English, there is always a tendency for them to speak Arabic together and to want to speak Arabic to the teacher. We all do that. I mean, know if you go to the Costa del Sol in Spain, it’s all English people speaking Spanish together. If you go to South Florida, it’s all English people speaking English together and Spanish speaking areas. We tend to. And naturally, you normally want to use our own language with people who share a dominant language with. And so it’s how you create space and opportunities for kids to use it effectively for learning rather than for it to overcome the English. So, for example, you may have them read a poem in Arabic. Or write a poem in Arabic and then work together in groups to translate that poem into English. And while they’re talking about the translation, it’s OK for them to speak in Arabic because they’re going to have really good discussions about. You think that’s the right word? I don’t think that’s the right word. I think we need to use a different verb tense. So they’re refining their understanding of how the transfer from Arabic to English happens. And then you have them share their English poems together and publish them. And so the output is English poem. But the process you use to get there means that they’re English. Poems are probably going to be a lot better than if you just have a whole class and say, write a poem in English and all, and you’ll get really basic, uninteresting poems. So it’s understanding the technique behind how do we move from prior knowledge to new and English? How do we move from known language to new language in English with a really keen eye on teacher task design to make sure that what we’re paying attention to is the development of English at the end of the day?
Matt (Learning Ladders) That’s pretty good advice. I hope that’s really useful for a lot of questions come in. Do you think collaboration is the key to support multilingual learners? What strategies do you use to share with schools? That’s a contemporary question. It’s quite a big, big area. I’m guessing there’s lots of different collaboration between lots of people.
Eowyn Crisfield So, I mean, yes, absolutely. Collaboration is important because what one teacher knows, so what the Yale teacher knows about a child is needs to be put together with what the parents know about the child’s development in their own language and how they’re doing their maths class and how they’re doing in their host country language. Plus, all those pieces of the puzzle come together to give you a clear picture of how child is doing. That said, collaboration is that, you know, the most difficult thing to manage effectively in schools because time is always an issue. And so online collaboration where you have kind of folders of the child’s progress and development and you know what they’re working on a different language is really the best way for. So if I as a teacher, I’m concerned about a child, I can go in and say, How are they doing? So say that Arabic is their home language. Wow. Excuse me. How are they doing in their Abbott class? I’m just going to see, Oh, they’re getting A’s in Arabic. So obviously this is just an English language development process they’re still going through, or actually they’re really struggling in their Arabic literacy, too. So maybe we need to red flag. This is we need to do some investigation. And so there needs to be some kind of transparent system where everybody knows where to find the information about what they’re doing and how they’re doing across the different languages.
Matt (Learning Ladders) And that makes sense. I mean, again, I guess that’s the plug for the way that we try to do everything in one system so you can see everything very, very easily. All question from Jackie and I. This is for me. And with Learning Ladders Termly student work in their own language, the teachers can read the homework in the school’s language of instruction. Yeah, absolutely. A teacher can set the homework in the school’s language and then they teach the student can, can consume it, can reply, can do everything in whatever language they like. So it’s it works. It works in any combination, in any way. And Jackie, if you want a demo, we can arrange that afterwards. It’s not themselves. But is there another question come in? How can we support children of linguistic minorities, feel pride in their home languages in a predominantly anglophile or monolingual school environment? We have children who will deny being bilingual because of their peers. Wow. OK, that’s from Emily.
Eowyn Crisfield We experienced this when we moved from the Netherlands, from a European school. It was super diverse to the UK, to the kids what state schools and my older daughter came home after about a month and said, These people are relentlessly monolingual. OK, so picturesque. But actually, as she got to know her peers better, she came home one day. He’s got someone, so speaks French. She’s got a French father, or so-and-so actually has two Polish speaking parents, and she’s fluent in Polish. But all of this is kind of hidden because it isn’t celebrated by the school. Our kids can consider it to be anything good. And so it’s about making other languages visible in the social and physical environment of the school by making sure that you have displays in other languages by making sure you have in your assemblies. We’re going to focus in this month’s assembly on Urdu, and we’ve got seventy three Urdu speakers and they’re going to do a poem. You know, you’ve got to live with the languages of your students for them to feel like they have value. And so there are lots of great activities online that you can find, but it’s really about thinking about those two aspects of the physical environment and the social environment. How do we make language is something that is something interesting, something that kids have curiosity about. You know, one of the perpetual problems I find here is that all the little kids are trying to learn French. The vast majority of them have never been to France. They probably a lot of them never want to go to France because it’s the land of stinky cheese or snails or whatever. So why not teach them the language as their peers? If you, you know, if your schools in an area with a really large Polish population, why not be teaching the kids polish so that they can play football and Polish and Polish games and take the language needs to be used for communication? And if children don’t see how it’s going to fulfil a communicative need, then they are not motivated or interested and curious. And so it’s about digging down and showing that schools value what they have already, rather than some external idea of what language has value.
Matt (Learning Ladders) Yeah, I mean, I’m guessing I’m not sure aware where where he’s from. I mean, obviously we have a particular challenge here, I suppose in the UK at the moment with the political situation of what’s going on at the moment. So I imagine that’s kind of, yeah, that’s tough. So it’s got to come from the school culture. I guess it’s got to come from some
Eowyn Crisfield of
Matt (Learning Ladders) the schools that we worked with for what it’s worth to do that really well. Yeah, it’s a celebration of that diversity and stuff. It’s it’s an opportunity to simple things. You know, parents coming in are getting younger children and parents coming in and showing things from their culture and stuff, sporting events, you know, opportunities to do that.
Eowyn Crisfield I believe stories, story, reading, stories. Yeah. Other times story time organised for a festival in the Netherlands and multilingual reading of Of a very hungry caterpillar. And we would have readers come in and do it in 11, 12, 13 languages and the best one I ever saw. The kids were enraptured was a South African author who read it in his invented language. Right? So obviously it was an invented language nobody had ever been exposed to hip to it. But he was such a good reader that the kids were completely following along and they were learning words in his invented language. And so, you know, it doesn’t take much to create an environment where language has become something interesting rather than something that is detrimental to a child.
Matt (Learning Ladders) Let’s carry on into the other question. Thank you. For letting the questions in, by the way, I’m just going to rattle through these because they’re really interesting. So another question come in, how effective do you believe reading and simultaneously listening? The use of audio books with text is for developing English skills, for example, phonics, spelling and grammar.
Eowyn Crisfield Question from short answer For those I don’t know, I’m not actually literacy specialist. I know for some children who struggle with reading what audiobooks can be access into the world of stories, that’s really, really useful. But I don’t know of any particular research about phonics, spelling and grammar and audiobooks.
Matt (Learning Ladders) Yeah, I don’t actually, I’m afraid so. I’m sorry, and we can’t give you a specific answer on that one. I will see if anybody in the office does anything about that afterwards, and we’ll put it on the blog. All right, another question coming in here. This is the issue, and I always love questions about librarians and libraries. Had librarians and libraries contribute to the learning process of bilingual and multilingual learners?
Eowyn Crisfield Librarians can have such a huge impact on how kids feel about languages, how they feel about their own languages, how they feel about languages in general. And there’s kind of there’s the educational side and more the, you know, the kind of reading for pleasure side. But having books available in many different languages and not not making students make certain language choices. When my kids were at a European school library was hugely monolingual or hugely multilingual, and one day my son brought home a book in Finnish, he was seven. So from this book of Finnish and so we waited our way through when we looked up Finnish online, where’s it from and what made it sound like? And obviously, I’m sure I absolutely butchered it. But it didn’t Matt (Learning Ladders)er because he became quite interested in Finnish because they use dots and things. That was interesting. And so just forget that kind of sensitisation to multilingualism. But again, in parallel, if the librarian goes to find out what key texts are being used in different classes and sources, those in other languages in, say, secondary school, everybody’s doing Jekyll and Hyde, and you’ve got a student who’s new to English. They’re not going to read Jekyll and Hyde in English, but if you source it for them in Lithuanian, they can follow along with the story and then follow along with the discussion. So just having those mirroring key texts in other languages really is really useful for new new arrivals or students who are still in the the earlier phases of the English acquisition.
Matt (Learning Ladders) Point probably circles around with what you were talking about before that you need the language specialist on the SLT leadership team, you need that communication, that visibility, the Curriculum Lab bespoke, so that everybody knows this is what’s going on in our sort of community. It’s no good for the poor librarian to suddenly just have a child walk up one day and and ask for a particular textbook. I don’t know. Absolutely. So, OK, that makes sense. That poses the question. And we’ve got probably about 10 minutes left, so chance to answer a few more questions. We’ve been firing questions at you for a long time. You must be getting exhausted. Is there any other points coming out of things? I mean, if, if, if you had to give delegates on the call and stuff who were clearly from a whole range of different schools? Any sort of headline advice that they could go and action over the next few weeks? Is there anything that would sort of spring to mind? What would you ask? People suggest people focus on. Well, that’s a really difficult question, isn’t it?
Eowyn Crisfield Would I guess it really depends on where their school is on their journey. So some schools already have quite good processes in place for doing student language profiling when they arrive and for knowing the linguistic profiles of their students. So if that’s where that school is already, it’s about pushing forward to thinking about what is our responsibility to our students home language just to make sure that they’re not losing their own language in the quest of English. What are we doing currently to support home language development? And if we are not doing anything or we’re not doing enough, how do we shift that? And so just to start those conversations to learn a little bit about it, I mean, it’s going in with some research knowledge is really helpful. When I work with parents, I always tell parents, you have to understand the research around raising bilingual children because along the way, somebody is going to give you bad advice and you need to be able to say, actually, research shows that you can put anything. You want that to that and it shuts people up. But for teachers, it’s the same. If you yourself are passionate about children’s languages, do some learning so that you can go to your SLT and say, Did you know that the stronger a child’s home language development, the more easily they learn English? Oh, you did. Well, here are some things that we could do as a school to start promoting this. And so maybe starting small. You may already have started small and we want to level it up and say, how can we develop a curriculum framework for the 17 languages spoken by our students? How can we develop a framework that will allow kids to work in their own languages across the curriculum? How will we communicate with parents? Know we’re doing this unit to go back to ecosystems that talk about ecosystems all the time? I don’t know what a lot of science is, but we’re going to be doing a unit on ecosystems. Here are some key vocabulary your children need to know. Can you help them research an ecosystem in your country of origin and pay attention to what this vocabulary connects to and have them complete this drawing so that your scaffolding, the children’s content learning you’re helping develop their own language because we don’t talk about ecosystems sitting around the dinner table with our children. And so if somebody doesn’t help the parents dig into some higher level content, children’s home languages will stagnate as the school language continues to grow. And then we end up with children who don’t want to use our language anymore because they can’t use it for anything particularly meaningful. And so really, where you go next depends on where you are now.
Matt (Learning Ladders) We can probably help there. How about this as we take this as an action, by way, I mean, sort of Learning Ladders team and I’ll do this. I think we’ve we’ve covered some really good specific advice. So maybe, maybe this is something we can do that’s quite useful for people who who are on the call is we’ve you’ve already mentioned some specific examples will transcribe those and get those written off. You’ve mentioned that the research shows maybe let’s we’ll give some links to the research that we’re talking about that people can put in front of that. There are SLT and stuff as an action. And you’ve obviously got a couple of books. I’ll give a quick plug to those. But I mean, today they cover this sort of stuff. I’m presuming it’s a
Eowyn Crisfield linguistic and cultural innovation in schools is much more about the school context, and it’s actually case studies of lots of different schools in terms of how they’ve gone about shifting their practise. So it’s more for schools. The other one is for parents, but it’s also got a lot of the kind of foundational understandings around bilingualism. So it depends on if you want to commit to reading research or just commit to reading something that’s written in a much more accessible way.
Matt (Learning Ladders) But we’ll put them both on there. So we have we have a blog from you on our website already. We can do the recording of this. We’ll do some top tips. We’ll we’ll link to some of the research, we’ll link to the books and stuff that people can do as well. If you are a I know a lot of people on the call will be will be our customers will be Learning Ladders schools who subscribe. We can we have a chat room for various different things on our on our platform as well as maybe we can do things like that. If people have particular questions and want to amplify questions or ask for help for social media and stuff, then just tweet us and then I guess, add us in at Learning Ladders five is our hashtag Barzagli and we can maybe amplify those. Those are quite useful. Final, final point. I guess for me, I’ll just have a quick look. See if there’s any more questions that have come in. A couple of comments. So what would the steps be to developing a building, a home language programme for parents to support their children at home?
Eowyn Crisfield So it’s about making Connexions to your curriculum. So I mean, that kind of the easiest strategy would be for every unit of learning. You would touch a home learning strand. That you ask parents to do in their own languages, that’s complimentary, that’s not necessarily repeating, we don’t want to kill kids with homework, but they you just connect to and say as a part of the home learning. Instead of reading this book to your child in English, we’re going to ask you to find something to read to your child about chickens in your own language or whatever it is. And so just like thinking of it as a strand that goes home and then comes back. So everybody read about a book about chickens with your parents. What kinds of things did you learn about chickens from those books so that you’re making sure that you’re bringing it back in a meaningful ways that you’re not just saying, go do this at home, because then it doesn’t happen or it doesn’t happen in ways that are meaningful.
Matt (Learning Ladders) Yeah, I think that’s a fantastic idea. Final question. And then we’ll probably need to wrap up. This is close to my heart, obviously. So from Linda, Linda Joviality, I hope I’m pronouncing that right because my daughter’s school, Giovanna, so I teach Italian and I’m trying to use and find language strategies in my class grade nine multilingual, advanced Italian, I found out that they prefer to use English rather than their home language. And I think this is a shame. Do you have any experience in mother tongue programme in international schools?
Eowyn Crisfield So I don’t want to say as a hard line, year nine is too late. But what happens in international schools is if children have been educated into a system where their own languages aren’t used are particularly valued for that long. And then in year nine, their teacher says, Now I want to use these Italian, they kind of look around and think, Is this a trap? Is she trying to trick us? Or actually at that point, their English is more developed than their Italian, so to do it in Italian is more difficult or feels like twice the work. And so it’s not to say that you can’t start that late, but you need to start with the the agreement in discussion with your students about why you’re doing it. And let’s give it a try. So you need to have those conversations. I think it’s really a shame that you’re Italian. Your English is so great now, but you’re not so comfortable in Italian. Let’s try this thing together and then reflect on what it felt like and how we can integrate it as a part of a practise. And so it is hard for children to overcome what we call the monolingual habits that environment where everybody is multilingual but are all pretending that we only speak English and it feels like that’s the right way to continue. So it actually can feel quite countercultural to them. I’ve had that experience with the school I worked with in Kenya, where we’re trying to build trans language in Kiswahili and English across it and English international curriculum. They’re all like, why? Why do you want us to do that? And so they’re kind of there’s inbuilt ideas about the value of certain languages in education that we need to overcome. And so it’s not a shortcut.
Matt (Learning Ladders) I’m just going to share this screen here for those of you, because I’m getting a few questions come in. So these are our contact details. Questions have come in. Will the recording be shared yet? Absolutely. And we’ll share those things. It will probably take us a day or two to just put it up on the website. So bear with us and you’ll get an email saying that it’s live on the website or you can go to the blog. A couple of people have asked about demos, which is lovely. Obviously, we’d be delighted to do that if you contact Stellar and so we can sort those out as well. And we have one final question which is sneak down. I promise this will be the final one. And then we probably had better wrap up because we said about an hour and we’re getting there now. A question from CAT4 How can the home language be strong when it’s only spoken and read and not written, especially for young children exposed to another language at a very young age in a local school, not an international school?
Eowyn Crisfield And it is difficult because we know that contrary to popular belief, young children learn new languages very slowly and lose languages quite quickly. And so the language attrition that happens when children are put into a new language at school can be quite alarming. And so it’s really about the messaging to parents early on and consistently. Please keep using your language with your children. Please keep reading in your language, having it in the classroom, having it present to try and make sure that children stay in tune with that language until such time as they’re able to to learn to read in it. And once reading is solid, then it’s a language that they can continue to take with them. But we do see absolutely higher levels of attrition, of the whole language in children who start in international education at very young ages, and that’s something that we need to do a better job of it. And a lot of times if the school has an homogenous population, so if it’s all, I don’t know if it’s all Chinese speaking children in an English speaking school in China, the obvious solution is a bilingual programme instead of an English only, which will give you a better academic results and better results across those languages.
Matt (Learning Ladders) Fantastic. I think that’s been really, really useful. And thank you so much for that imparting so much, so much knowledge and wisdom in such a short space of time. I hope that’s been useful to everybody. Thank you, everybody as well for participating these fireside chats. Always fascinating and obviously only really work if everybody participates and throws in questions. So I hope we’ve been able to get to everybody’s question and answer everybody’s question. What we’ll do is, like I said, we’ll put it up on the website. The website will have the recording, but we also do have an auto transcribe, so you’ll get the full text. That’s that’s a computerised thing, I’m afraid. So apologies in advance for any typos on that. It’s an automated thing. But yeah, just wanted to wrap up and thank everybody for coming and participating. I hope that was useful. Good luck. Good luck having those meetings with the SLT trying to make this much more sort of front and centre. And yeah, maybe we should do a follow up in a few months time or something and get into it in a bit more detail. That’s it from us. I think I’m going to bid farewell and thank you again for that fantastic session. And everybody, thanks for having me. Have a wonderful rest of the day.
Eowyn Crisfield, specialist in languages across the curriculum, including EAL, home languages, bilingual and immersion education, takes a look at how school leaders can address the linguistic diversity in their school.
One of the most challenging areas in international education is languages. While we can find and use curricula for any other area of learning from national and international options, the unique situation of languages and language learners in international schools means there are no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and therefore no ‘one size fits all’ curriculum. The three language areas that are affected are English as an Additional Language (EAL), home languages, and host country languages. For all of these language areas, understanding student development and developing responsive programmes requires understanding how languages interact and influence each other, and having accurate data about language development across a student’s language profile.
English as Additional Language as a category and programme is not unique to international schools, but the development, implementation, and tracking of an EAL programme needs to be created based on the school profile (curriculum, students, language profiles). There is a draw towards using English Language Teaching (ELT/EFL) materials and assessment, but these are not a good fit for students learning through English, and will not provide the type of language development they need, or any reasonable data on how their level of English corresponds with access to the curriculum. There are fit for purpose tracking systems (Bell Assessment Framework and WIDA, for example) but these do not have accompanying curricula and materials, as they need to be aligned with the school curriculum and not stand-alone.
The profile of home languages is increasing in international schools, in part based on better understanding of the nature of bi/multilingual development, and also, one would hope, as a key area of development for diversity, equity, and inclusion approaches. There is a unique link between the development of a child’s home language and their progress in the development of English through school, which has been attested through decades of research in different contexts. Given this, it is always in the best interests of the child (and school) to promote continued development of both language and literacy in the home language/s. This strong link also means that when we are concerned about school language development, understanding development in the home/dominant language is key to differentiating between a potential language delay/SEN or just the effect of language acquisition.
For schools with a linguistically homogenous population, the benefits of promoting equal development in the home and school language can be addressed by moving from an English-only model to a bilingual model. For schools with a linguistically diverse population, a creative approach to supporting home languages is needed, whether that be through a combination of extra-curricular and in-school offerings, or through the development of multilingual approaches in the classroom (translanguaging). In either case, each school will need to develop a bespoke model, curriculum, and tracking system to best support and understand student development in the home language/s.
The final area of language teaching and learning that needs attention is the host country language. Many schools are obliged to teach the host country language, and most would do so by choice anyway. In some cases there is a curriculum available that fits the school’s needs, but in most cases development will again need to be in-house. The three areas that make host country language curriculum development challenging are: varying proficiency levels; incoming students at different times in the year/cycle; varying parental aspirations for the host country language. It is entirely normal for a school to need to provide tuition for the host country language for every level from beginner to fluent, for students arriving in Year 1 and in Year 7, and for students who are on a short stay (2-3 years) and students whose families have recently settled in the country permanently. With all this variation in proficiency and perspectives on learning the language, there is again no ready-made curriculum that will serve the needs of this wide variety of students and families.
It becomes clear, therefore, that languages is an area where schools will need to invest time and effort, first carrying out a clear audit of the school population in terms of languages, and then to carry out a subsequent audit of provisions. The gaps between the need and current provision will give the school a road map to follow, as they turn to the task of building an in-house programme for EAL, home languages, and host country language that will be the ‘best fit’ for their students and families. It’s no small task, but if we recognise that languages and language development are central to the social, cultural, linguistic, and academic development of our students, then surely we have no other choice!
Join the upcoming webinar with Eowyn and Learning Ladders CEO, Matt here
Eowyn Crisfield is a Canadian-educated specialist in languages across the curriculum, including EAL, home languages, bilingual and immersion education, super-diverse schools and translanguaging. Her focus is on equal access to learning and language development for all students and on enhancing approaches to linguistic diversity in schools. She is author of the recent book ‘Bilingual Families: A practical language planning guide (2021) and co-author of “Linguistic and Cultural Innovation in Schools: The Languages Challenge” (2018 with Jane Spiro). She is also a Senior Lecturer in English Language and TESOL at Oxford Brookes University.
Dr Sadie Hollins, Editor of the new Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine takes a look at how schools can enhance wellbeing in schools.
Wellbeing is undoubtedly more important than it has ever been.
During the ongoing pandemic, schools have had to resort to creative ways to ensure that the education of students can continue. Masks have been worn, screens have gone up, testing has ensued, teachers have been rapidly upskilled – these are just a few of the responses that have enabled schools to carry on!
Wellbeing in schools is a web of intertwining factors, and the wellbeing of leaders, staff and students are all inextricably linked. Safe and supported students, need safe and supported teachers, who need safe and supported leaders, who need safe and supported schools!
We know that the wellbeing of staff doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of a school, after all life contains many different facets that contribute to our sense of wellbeing (work, family, friends, hobbies/passions, health, etc). However, when we spend as many hours as we do in our place of work, our working environments can have a significant impact on how we feel about ourselves.
If we simplify wellbeing to the idea of both being and doing well, this blog hopes to provide some suggestions for how school leaders and governors can promote and enhance wellbeing in their schools.
1. Are wellbeing efforts for show or for real?
We can all sense when something feels genuine, or when it might be for show. There can be a tendency (amidst a growing pressure) to make sure we are paying attention to wellbeing in the workplace, but does it feel authentic?
A shout-out board is a nice idea to boost morale, but what about the people that have been left out? What if their hard work is less visible? What if there are staff members that are struggling so much to simply get through the day-to-day, that they may not be able to physically go ‘above and beyond’?
This isn’t to say that shout out boards can’t be a very good tool to help reward and praise staff, but the trick is to stay curious. Who is noticed? Who isn’t? What impact could this have?
A genuine thank you or an individualised note of appreciation goes a long way. Sometimes in our rush to implement new ideas or approaches we can forget to do the little things. Be mindful not to inadvertently replace the more meaningful interactions that actually mattered the most.
2. Subtract don’t add
If wellbeing feels like a chore, it won’t do anyone’s wellbeing any good. Rather than making all wellbeing-related events mandatory, provide choice and flexibility. With COVID raging on, there are often a million and one things going on in the background. With this in mind, consider if events such as staff socials, that put pressure on staff to find childcare, or give up time with family and partners, actually have the opposite impact to what is intended?
Consider offering a range of options – be it a chance to workout or play sport together, or maybe an opportunity to learn something new together. If wellbeing events are always on a Friday, does that prevent some people from being able to come? Being mindful of the timing of an event, and offering different options where possible, signals that everyone is important, and that you understand that staff have different time commitments outside of work.
Instead of adding events (and pressure) to staff, consider what you could take away from their busy work schedules that might have a greater impact on their wellbeing. Recognise when meetings could be emails, or when work days could be more flexible. Offering flexibility and giving teachers that little bit of time back for themselves to spend on what they wish demonstrates both your trust in them, and appreciation for them. As education in the age of COVID has proven, teachers can do their work from anywhere! Could that parent meeting be done online? Can your weekly briefing sometimes be put into an email if there isn’t too much to cover? Valuing your teachers’ time shows that you care, and ultimately gives them the chance to do the million and one other things that they have on their plate!
3. Normalise good boundaries
There is no point in saying that you care about staff wellbeing when you are sending emails at 8pm at night, or on a weekend. It is highly unlikely that your school will fall apart if something isn’t attended to right away. Ensure that unless it’s a real emergency, communications wait until work hours and leaders (just like teachers in the classroom) normalise these boundaries in the examples that they set. In some cases, the pandemic has also blurred lines of communication between students, parents and staff. There is no reason why you cannot also reset these boundaries. Manage the expectations around online availability and email response time, and support staff in adhering to these. They are not ‘on call’ and should not be expected to respond to every single message, email or communication instantly.
Blurring the boundary between work and home has already become increasingly problematic because of COVID, so it is time to re-establish norms that signal that life beyond work has the utmost value.
4. PD and mentoring
Work can serve as an important part of how we see ourselves. Do we believe ourselves to be competent in our role? If not, how can we increase our competence (and confidence) in our work? When schools invest in PD for teachers, they are also investing in them as people. Teachers after all are in the business of learning, and are highly-likely keen lifelong learners themselves! Schools that allow greater access to PD show teachers they care. Especially if the teacher can choose the PD that is right for themselves – ultimately we know what we need better than anyone else does!
Signposting mentoring programmes or even running them in-house is also an invaluable way to develop knowledge, skills and confidence amongst staff – people often learn best from other people!
5. Teacher voice
When tensions run high, we never present our best selves, nor do we get the best out of each other. Reflect on your school. If teachers raise concerns about their wellbeing or working conditions, is that seen as a nuisance? Something to explain away? Or, are they listened to and supported? I would encourage leaders and governors dealing with concerns to take a pause, withhold any impulsive reactions, and be curious as to why the concerns may have been raised. Consider also if there are any patterns of concerns being raised. Sometimes when we’re in the middle of things (and in the middle of running a busy school), it’s not always easy to see the wood through the trees. It is essential for schools to create cultures where teachers can raise concerns, and that when they do, the response is to meet them with a desire to better understand. What makes them feel this way? How long have they been concerned about it? What do they think might help alleviate that concern?
Schools are (always) busy, (sometimes) chaotic environments – particularly right now. They are also full of unique, complex, and hard-working people. Giving choice and voice, honouring time, and cultivating environments that listen are key when it comes to improving the wellbeing of teachers.
You don’t have to put on a big show. Just do the small things, and do them often.
If you missed the recent Fireside chat between Learning Ladders CEO Matt and Dr Sadie Hollins, watch the recording here.
You can contact Dr Sadie Hollins via her website here and she’s also on Twitter here.
To see how you can incorporate student wellbeing data into your practice using PASS diagnostic assessments on the Data Dashboard, set up a call with Stella here.
In this Fireside chat, Matt Koster-Marcon, CEO of Learning Ladders, talks languages with Eowyn Crisfield, Author, consultant, and Senior Lecturer in TESOL at Oxford Brookes University.
Eowyn’s unique approach to working with leadership, staff and parents to build strong and successful partnerships to improve the learning and experiences of bi/multilingual learners echo Learning Ladders’ vision to engage all stakeholders in conversations about learning.
Join the webinar for:
Tips for developing a clear languages audit of a school’s population
Information about carrying out subsequent audits of provision
How to identify gaps between the need and current provision to create a school road map
Advice for building an in-house programme for EAL, home languages, and host country language
If you didn’t get a chance to watch the webinar live then watch the recording below:
Eowyn Crisfield is a Canadian-educated specialist in languages across the curriculum, including EAL, home languages, bilingual and immersion education, super-diverse schools and translanguaging. Her focus is on equal access to learning and language development for all students and on enhancing approaches to linguistic diversity in schools. She is author of the recent book ‘Bilingual Families: A practical language planning guide (2021) and co-author of “Linguistic and Cultural Innovation in Schools: The Languages Challenge” (2018 with Jane Spiro). She is also a Senior Lecturer in English Language and TESOL at Oxford Brookes University.
We were delighted to host Dr Sadie Hollins, co-founder of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine, for our latest ‘fireside chat’ webinar.
Wellbeing is something we’re aiming to make part of every school’s thinking by including PASS Diagnostic Assessment data within our Data Dashboard to give a whole picture of the child (for more on using data for wellbeing watch our webinar with Matthew Savage here).
For this session we explored why Sadie set up the magazine, her hopes for the future, and explored some of the challenges associated with improving wellbeing in international schools, indeed in any school.
I’m delighted to say it was such a successful session that Sadie is going to write a blog for us, AND we’ll be doing a follow-up chat shortly. Please add your email in the screen below and we’ll keep you posted on both of these.
I hope you enjoy the session and find it informative. It’s about an hour long, so grab a drink and pair of headphones and dive in!
Further information and references:
You can contact Dr Sadie Hollins via her website here and she’s also on Twitter here.
To see how you can incorporate student wellbeing data into your practice using PASS diagnostic assessments on the Data Dashboard, set up a call with Stella here.
The latest edition of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine is online here.
A computed-generated transcription of the webinar is below, for those who may find this useful. Please note these are automated and not checked, so we take no responsibility of errors, inaccuracies or oddities!
Wellbeing in International Schools, with Dr Sadie Hollins and Matthew Koster-Marcon
Speaker 2 (Matt): Fantastic, so obvious, obvious first question, then is why set up a wellbeing in international schools magazine in the first place?
Speaker 1 (Sadie) : It is a good question, and it originally started as it’s a bit of a pandemic, baby. To be honest, how it originally started as a newsletter that I set up at my school, which was a wellbeing newsletter when we first went online and at the time, I kind of wanted to find a way to provide support to students and parents in a really accessible way that would allow them to engage in their own terms. So I thought news that it would be cool. We could have articles from students, from teachers. And then we also had, like all people present, offered some advice. School counsellors. And it felt at the time something that people did engage with. They did find helpful. It was really nice to get students that wanted to share the sorts of things that they were doing to help manage that transition to being online and kind of been isolated really from their friends and being at home while they were learning. So that kind of started it. I just really, really enjoyed doing it. And then I guess the other piece is I kind of worked in a support role, an international school, and I found like, like interesting how complex it is to provide support in some way. Like, I felt like international school was a kind of their own island. So sometimes there isn’t loads of external services and sometimes there is no counselling, referral system or whatever it is. And I felt like quite alone in the kind of support that I was trying to give students. And also, I was just trying to understand, you know, the well-being within the context of the different students and nationalities, the cultures, the families that we had, our particular school. And I always found the counselling meetings that we had here in Chiang Mai, where I was learning from other counsellors really, really helpful. And I guess I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to kind of bring that together and to have people share things that they found useful in their settings so people didn’t feel so isolated and alone when your staff, particularly in these support roles? So that’s kind of how it started. I just kind of had a curiosity to learn really and then to bring things together from different perspectives. So that’s kind of how it kicked off.
Speaker 2: And then in terms of putting together the Wellbeing in International Schools magazine, obviously, and will we’ll add a link to the magazine at the end of the session, so everybody who’s on the webinar now will send you a link to the magazine and we’ll send you the recording of this afterwards. And I should say, by the way, if you have questions, do tie them in the Q&A and we’ll cover those as well. But presumably is setting up a new magazine is exciting. It’s daunting. How on earth do you decide what goes in your first issue?
Speaker 1: So if I went back to the first one, it’s thought the reason is why is education in it? And I thought it made sense. It was a good name at the time. I thought it had a role personally on a dog walk that stood for like well-being and international school education. So it initially started as that. And I guess when it came to the first issue, I just begged my friends to write for me. So I had friends that were teachers in different settings and counsellors in different settings that I asked them really to write about things that they were interested in and they thought that they could offer. So I dragged and my wife dragged in by my boss and then other friends, and we’ve been really fortunate as the magazine has gone on. So that had four issues, as well as education, which is available the School Management Plus website with the the new Wellbeing and International School magazine. And then I guess I really tried to hit social media hard and share in lots of different places and actually reach out to a lot of people that I’d seen on Twitter or linked in that I thought were doing some interesting work. Initially, I was asking a lot of people, Will you write to me? Will you write for me some success? No, no, not hundred percent success. And yes, people were really generous and did offer up their time to write, and that was really, really cool. And then I guess as things about I’ve grown a bit more, we’ve been getting more submissions, which is fantastic. It’s a really, really great submissions and I feel fortunate that it kind of it. It naturally comes together. So like lots of people offered lots of different perspectives. We try and put cool articles out in lots of different places. So whether it’s internet history, school educator groups, whether we’re talking it in peer groups, whether it’s council groups to make sure that we’re getting lots of different perspectives. So I guess we’re kind of seeing what comes in to make sure that appeals to a wide range of people in a wide range of roles. I always really thought, I guess, the the complexity of the issue sometimes of wellbeing, as people might assume, it’s one particular thing like, you know, it’s mindfulness or it’s at the other, and it just engages other people that are not into that. And I felt like if you get lots of different angles, there should be something for everyone. And, you know, maybe you’ve gone and you’ve got particular interest in mindfulness, but then you come out and actually outdoor play is something that you haven’t thought about before, but you maybe this is an not that you become interested in. So I guess we try and have no particular themes for that reason to make sure that there is something for everyone in each.
Speaker 2: This is going to try a bit of an experiment, we’ve never done this before, so it may fall flat on its face, but you mentioned about getting the message out there through social media and stuff, and I’m wondering for the people on the on the webinar stuff, if you have any really good social media handles or hashtags or groups that you want to share and and give some visibility to to people on the call and put them in the in the chat will collate them afterwards and share them as part of the sharing. Because sometimes I think that’s also half the battle it’s finding everybody else is kind of interesting. One of the things I wanted to pick up on from your intro was this sense of being alone in an international school and not maybe having the support network, possibly where you’ve trained in the stuff. How how do you how do you see the magazine helping get over that? And how did you want this to go beyond the magazine? Is this sort of, you know, a more collegiate approach, sort of, you know, a community of building up in this kind of area because that, to me, sounds like something that we hear reflected a lot. It’s quite difficult when you’re in international school sometimes to do these kind of things in isolation.
Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely. I think I guess my grand vision is to create a community of some sense. I think what I would love is people to read the magazine and maybe become interested in someone else’s work. Follow them on their social media handles, which are which are in the magazine. And I guess from there, like what’s been really nice to see is I see something posted on own from a country to that we’ve had, and then I see contributors from other issues that commented and because they’ve kind of seen each other’s work through the magazine. And then it starts to be like a really nice support system that goes on organically outside of the magazine. So that I think that is kind of what I’ve really, really appreciated seeing. I just feel like the magazine to me. I’m not a wellbeing expert. I partly selfishly use it to really learn and write. And I think what’s really interesting and I hope it does, is allow people to kind of champion each other’s work and engage in each other’s work. And you know, I’ve I’ve had articles where I’ve gone in and talked about it with my colleagues, and that’s the sort of thing where I think, Yeah, I’m taking someone’s stuff and really passing that on because I think that’s that’s really good. And that’s that’s what I hope the magazine will be and what it will do. And and by actually doing that and and sharing people’s work that it will build a sense of kind of community, I guess.
Speaker 2: And that makes sense. All right, well, again, like I said, if you if anybody was to share anything and put it in the chat world will amplify that and share our stories and we’re starting to get some questions come in around Wellbeing in International Schools. So let me let me sort of address them as they come in because I suspect once we get going, the questions will fly. So one from Debbie does. One is how do you feel about strategy for well-being? Did you sense at some point one was needed?
Speaker 1: Oh, good question, Debbie. I I guess my personal perspective is I don’t know if this reflects my personality a little bit like it. I have lots of different diverse range of interests, so I guess I maybe don’t feel like there is a particular programme or strategy for me that might solve the issue or the problem or not, even the problem that the subject of well-being. But I think it’s there lots of lots of little things that make a difference, right? And I think it’s great when schools have a comprehensive and consistent programme. But I think there’s often lots of different elements that make a difference. So you could have a great school programme. But really, it’s your student teacher relationships that are particularly memorable. Or that might be the things that help the school work really resonate with students. Or perhaps the fun runs that you do every year and the kind of community events that you have building up to that are what helps create an environment where people feel a part of the school, which also impacts on the well-being, or whether it’s the sports programmes for the students that really love that sort of thing where they get a real sense of not achievement, but then where they really grow their confidence and make friends and stuff like that. So I think there’s so many different layers and elements to it. I don’t think, is it necessary for me strategy, but I think it can be part of a bigger picture for sure and add a lot of value.
Speaker 2: It’s something probably in the Wellbeing in International Schools magazine, maybe somewhere else that the recommendation is that a school should have a counsellor or an expert for every 250 students. Is that something that you see starting to happen or are we a long way away from that?
Speaker 1: Yeah, great question. I think it’s starting to happen in the international schools, I think people were really seeing the the need for it. I guess partly the pressure will come from accrediting agencies and really pushing that requirement about stronger support provision within schools and that including school counsellors. I’m seeing a lot of wellbeing or mental health and wellbeing leads in schools. I know that’s kind of I think that’s picking up in the UK, but I’m also seeing it in schools within Asia. So I definitely think that schools are recognising that that that that provision needs to to be in place more more now than ever, I think, because of the pandemic. I think there might be schools that were doing it well before that are doing really well now and the schools that didn’t have it before. I think now more than ever that as we real need for it.
Speaker 2: I mean, I think that it’s interesting, it’s it’s very similar observation to a previous speaker we’ve had on who he talked about very much the schools that had this kind of ethos embedded in the way that they run as a school were able to adapt to the challenge of pandemic much, much better. So other schools are sort of playing catch up, but it’s never too late. So what’s what’s the what’s the the quote? The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today or something. So it’s probably there. I’m OK. That’s good. Thank you. There’s another question that’s coming in. How do you encode? This is really interesting because this this touches on what Matthew says in his article as well about well-being. He’s sort of arguing needs to be, rather than an intervention, woven woven into everything in the fabric of it. So the question coming in, I don’t have a name of right. How do you incorporate wellbeing within the curriculum for international schools?
Speaker 1: Oh, it’s such a good question, I guess I don’t know the answer. If I if I’m honest, I think there are curriculums are already out there. I know Oxford University Press already got a wellbeing curriculum and Adrian Pune’s is is a big part of that work and he does a lot great work within the area of wellbeing and it was actually a discussion I was having with someone the other day about how do you make it not like, I guess, what you can feel like. It sometimes doesn’t add on less than like, how do we begin to, you know, curriculum lessons? How do you wade into how your physics teacher and your touched on something that might be related to wellbeing? And I guess I’m I’m not sure of the answer, exactly. I think it’s worth looking at the different curriculums out there. But I guess even within that, it’s thinking, would that work for the context? I mean, you know, you can have the best programme in the world, the best resources in the world. But if it doesn’t gel and you don’t get buy in, it’s kind of like it’s a non-starter. And I think maybe it’s to see actually where where are your issues like what are the things that are impacting on wellbeing to start with? And what does a school culture feel like? What are the social norms that are at the school? How does that impact on how students feel staff? So that’s kind of important. First, to get that right and then to also look at how wellbeing as a curriculum, because I think within that there’s there’s a bus to be had about wellbeing being skills, because when that happens, sometimes you’re putting the emphasis on that’s something that the individual has to develop. When is it about a social system and an environment? And I think it has to be both right. So that’s a really poor answer. But I think you have to look at the other things that are in place first. But I would definitely look at some of the questions that are already out there.
Speaker 2: So in terms of then embedding it in a school would would you if you’re sort of, you know, if you’re offering someone some advice about trying to embed it in a school and where they would start, would you be starting to think about the curriculum? Would you be thinking about the ethos of the school? Where would you suggest people direct their efforts, I guess, to start with?
Speaker 1: I think for me, it would be. The ethos of the school, I think that has to be the starting place, and we’re really lucky Sean may write a really good article and the last issue of the Wellbeing in International Schools magazine, which which talks about this, as she was saying, you can have the best programme in the world, but if you’re not getting by in and if if the mission and vision and the understanding what well-being is and what you’re trying to improve or what you’re trying to create or what you’re trying to offer isn’t agreed upon by all stakeholders, then it’s really hard to get any further. So it’s great having, you know, resources lesson information, better information perhaps isn’t compounded by what’s going on at home. Or if you’re not sharing with that with families and parents, then it can only go so far. So I think for me, it would definitely be the ethos within the school first.
Speaker 2: And I’m again, for what it’s worth, the schools that we work with, I think that’s echoed in some of the stuff that we see. The thing that you touched on there is interesting. I want to explore that as well. How important is it that this this this effort that you put around well-being doesn’t finish at the school gates, that that involves the whole community at home, the families, you know, the wider community. How how do you sort of address and look at that as well?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I mean, it’s so, so important. I think I think also, I guess taking another slightly different look at it is also looking at the challenges that the parents and families are facing. It is hard for them to be supportive. You know, if they they will visit their families, but you know, if they’ve got their own stuff going on and then understanding, you know, if they’ve got the support systems in place or whatever it is, if they don’t have that, it’s very hard for them to then help the students. I think that’s the same staff wellbeing. If they don’t feel CAT4, they don’t feel they have that support in place. It’s really hard for that to to model and to provide that support to others without burning out. So I know a lot of counsellors offer some great kind of sessions to two families. And I guess it’s it’s just finding a way to get parents to come in and start discussing some of these issues and finding that hook. So whatever it is, it’s going on. That time might be particularly topical for that sort of school community, and I’m taking it from there and exploring other things that might also be helpful. So I think, yeah, for sure. Finding ways to get common ground, find a way to understand parents. And I guess not assuming that we think. I don’t I think it’s very easy to to make assumptions about what’s going on with parents, particularly in international schools, where there is a lot of money, people can be quite well off. I think the shame, you know, they’ve got everything, can we make all these assumptions? I don’t think they’re necessarily true. So I think it’s really building that understanding first and doing that by finding ways to bring them into school, to have those discussions, to actually to build the trust between the schools and families because it’s quite vulnerable to also kind of share that you’re struggling or even wanting to have a topic to discuss, you kind of implying that you might be struggling with it. So I think it’s really important to build that trust as well.
Speaker 2: I mean, that’s that makes complete sense. That’s exactly the reason why I set up Learning Ladders in the first place, it was not an international context. It was in Camden, which is slightly less glamorous than where most of the people on this call are. But it was the whole point of setting it out. Was that home school collaboration this idea that, you know, we’re in it together, and if we can understand each other a bit better and collaborate, and if parents can understand what, as the teacher, I’m trying to achieve from a teaching and learning perspective. But if I can support you at home from a teaching learning perspective and understand some of your challenges in doing that, then we have a stronger bond and then we can tackle the wider issues. And then interestingly, all schools, because we spend so much time doing this homeschool interaction, the thing that crops up time and time again, the thing they love about that system is it then frees up the parents evenings to be the higher value conversation about well-being. It’s kind of gone full circle. It’s interesting because all the academic stuff is done through art through a platform. It’s digitised, it’s ongoing. It’s there. When you have that big parent meeting the opportunity there, you’re not wasting it by saying, Oh, I’ve noticed that they don’t understand this particular part of the curriculum or they’re behind here or they’re behind that because you’ve done that already. That can be done already. You’re actually having the much higher value. Let’s understand the personalities involved, the context, what’s going on with you. So 100 percent agreement with that sort of things and it fits with what we’ve experienced. Collaborating as a community, as I’ve said, is I’m very glad that you said that that would have been awkward otherwise. All right. Another question has come in. So let’s let’s go to that one. I keep on with the questions. I don’t have a name for this one either, I’m afraid. What methods would you suggest to monitor wellbeing across the school? Please give suggestions for staff and students, and this probably touches on what you were talking about before. As soon as you add it into a curriculum or add it into anything formal, then there comes the the sometimes the the slight danger of of monitoring, measuring, reporting. How would you handle that?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think it is a really good question. I I guess the first discussion needs to be like, what? What is your initially? What is your definition of wellbeing? What are you trying to say because there’s so many interpretations or understandings? So really nailing down what that is first. I think there are lots of different GL assessment. Do a great tool to help monitor and track wellbeing. There are lots and lots of different tools that help you do that. Matthew Savage that you mentioned earlier, he’s done. I mean, just fantastic work, but he’s done a really great article in the last issue of the magazine where he breaks down, I think maybe five or six different types of data and how they help you gain a real insight into tracking and monitoring that well-being. So like observational data check and data stored data and counselling data, so many different data points that help you gain that bigger picture. And I guess it’s also like, what are you? What are you trying to assess, right? Is it a particular programme that you’re assessing or is it just generally where students are at? I think GL assessment is a great tool because it helps you kind of maybe identify some issues. Generally, it’s not specific to a particular programme. And so I think that that’s I think Matthew Savage to me is the absolute person to go to. He really does some great, great work on that. I guess for me, I’m not very good with numbers and I understand the the need in schools to make sure what you’re investing is is worthwhile. So I understand that and particularly when you have to make decisions across school. And I think the challenge sometimes if you’ve got programmes, is when you get a lot of the programmes that have been created and some are fantastic, but they kind of have principals behind them that maybe went to work initially on an individual basis. So Helen Street talks about wellbeing programmes being the principles underpinning it, being borrowed from clinical settings. And they were really good when you work one one, but they don’t necessarily translate to a school environment. So there might be lots of different information, but it’s maybe hard to get the impact across when you’re translating one from an individual setting to a group setting. I’m like a just a really big fan of just having conversations with students, having focus groups of students, really trying to understand what’s going on, and I understand that that’s how to make strategic decisions on. But I think it really does give you an insight into what’s going on. And before that, this webinar today, I was like, OK, OK, what’s my definition of wellbeing, and Wellbeing in International Schools? So I never really have one. It depends what day you ask me, and I was asking a couple of students, like, what is it? What does it mean? I’m trying to do some research, and they were just like, Oh, it just means like for me that I’m not stressed. And so I thought, Oh, that’s interesting. If we’re measuring it, are we measuring it based on what they think we’re looking for when it comes to wellbeing? And so I was trying to dig a bit more and and they’re like, yep, it’s not stress and it’s not worrying about the future. So well-being that MIS thinking about something that it’s not, it’s not a negative rather than what we’re looking for in well-being maybe is like we’re looking for these like positive things with positive emotions, this whatever it is. So I guess this, there’s multiple pieces to it, and I think there is an absolute value in in both in doing it on a regular basis because I think wellbeing cohorts change year on year. You can’t have something when you say the same, you really kind of have to adapt even within that. So we need to make sure that it’s also collated on a regular basis.
Speaker 2: That I’m going to be and we’ve mentioned him a couple of times, feels like it’s a plug for Matthew. So Matthew Savage, we’d mentioned a couple of times, we’ve done a webinar with him very, very recently. The dashboards, the GL dashboard that you mentioned GL assessments, Matthew uses primarily GL assessments and stuff, and that’s why we’ve built the dashboards that you have in Learning Ladders to actually visualise that data. So again, if you’re not a data expert and you want to easily get the insights from those diagnostic tests and assessments, then you can do that very easily. So we’ll share the links for those as well. We have a big webinar. Matthew and I spend an hour with them, with Jenny from the British school mascot talking about data and wellbeing and stuff, so we’ll share that link. And we have another follow up with Matthew in four or six weeks. So there’s there’s plenty there. I think again, I would Covid for my experience, Echo is useful. Just remember more general point of view, but some observations that I’ve seen simple things like some schools I’ve noticed now, I’ve started having almost within the Reception area, just the simple sort of electronic stand with buttons. How are you feeling today, you know, rag rated or something just to get a very simple overall perception? And I know there are surveys and stuff and there are sort of apps and stuff that you can get which seek to provide insights in this area. So I’ll I’ll give it a desk research and back into the into the blurb that we’ll send out to everybody later. And it’s not an endorsement because I haven’t used it or checked it, but I’ve come across it. I’ve seen it all, and I’ll let you know if that’s that’s interesting or another questions come in. How can I improve students and teachers wellbeing from a governor’s point of view? This is a really interesting one. Somebody who’s recently been appointed as a governor, I can tell you a little bit about this, actually, Busani, because I am a governor, myself and I am in charge of wellbeing in the school at which I governor for. And it’s a relatively new post. It’s a primary school in England, so a very different context. But the thinking behind it was precisely initially to focus on staff wellbeing. And it’s the way we’ve done it that seems to work quite well is super simple. It’s a check in with staff. It’s making sure they know that someone’s available who isn’t a line manager, who doesn’t sit in the staff room, who isn’t physically in the school every once in a while, but has an understanding of the school. So you’re hopefully a good balance of knowing what they’re talking about, but completely removed so you’re not going to bump into this person the next day. And then from a from a child point of view, we’re looking at a lot of this kind of stuff as well. Interestingly enough, in terms of how we can try and see beneath the mask, if you like of children and understand what’s going on with them. So interesting variants of the question I did from that one, I promised CPD, but very fascinated to know what your answer to that one is.
Speaker 1: I guess I feel like I always get really terrible answers. I think it just like it’s like that classic like it depends, right? I think it depends. What are the issues that affect the wellbeing of staff in your schools? You know, we’ve all got individual stuff going on, but I really think it’s it’s showing a genuine willing on behalf of the school to to show that this is a real commitment for us. It’s, you know, I think people say all the time, you know, it’s not a tick box, but when people really feel like you’re really committed to their well-being, I think that’s the first step really, really kind of sharing that across. And I think it’s an opening to the forums in whichever way might be manageable. You know, I understand if you get all teachers in the room and things are tense, that might not be the best way to get the responses to start with, you know, because it kind of, you know, if things are challenging and people kind of jump on each other and maybe not really get into what the problems are, but I think just offering platforms to share that what some of the stresses so having you know, is it as simple as reducing the number of meetings? Is it about actually investing in opportunities for the PD? If that’s something where people feel that they’re growing in a position to bring a sense of competency, that all these sorts of things are going to impact on their wellbeing? So sometimes I think it’s a I commend the book, but it’s like this idea of subtracts. I think sometimes you think wellbeing is adding stuff like, we’re offering what we’re offering more and sometimes actually wellbeing is taken a step back and taking things away. Like what things don’t need to be done. You know, whether it’s a report finding ways that making sure that they feel purposeful so teachers, not just going for the grind of it? You know, I think there’s all these sorts of things just just listening to what staff find stressful. Maybe it’s like everything is crammed into one part of the year. And actually, if we thought was that back with teachers, a little bit better, if you could spread things out a bit more. So sometimes I uh, yeah, I just think it’s just kind of listening to those things. And the more that you listen and show that you’re listening, the more people are going to trust and. So you like that just creates a really positive environment around, so yeah, I guess that would be the main thing for me is to really show that you’re willing to listen and make changes where you can.
Speaker 2: I guess from a governor’s point of view, it demonstrated that specifically and again, just from from my own personal, it’s been something that we did as a as a governing board was say thank you to staff specifically for specific things they’ve done. So they knew that we would thought about it. We looked at it couldn’t be a literal thank you email a handshake when you bump into them. I think we sent out some, you know, chocolates or biscuits or something very, very small, very easy, very low cost. But it had to amend the world because then they know that, you know, people are actually grateful for what they do and recognise it. And it is done so simple things like that and to be complicated again. And from your experience in schools we worked with around the world, the culture from the top right, from the very from the leadership team at the school. A culture of listening and being approachable is super important. So anything the governors can do to make the school leadership team feel like they can be that personality because sometimes the pressure from governors can be overwhelming and that gets passed down, I guess. So those kind of things would be mine. Okay, we got a few questions. So forgive me sort of looking about one of the press range got a question when talking about staff wellbeing. What areas would you suggest we focus on to see a significant impact on her aims, a school counsellor herself or?
Speaker 1: That’s a great question. I think it’s the stuff that we’ve we’ve talked about is one part and something. What we had in the last magazine, which I thought was really interesting, was this idea of like reflective supervision of staff. So I guess staff that are in casseroles that are hearing some heavy stuff like sometimes I feel like they are like, I guess the part, the reason why the magazines they they all run supported and they don’t have a chance to process some of the stuff that’s going on. So I guess that would be one part. I think again, I think it’s that systemic thing, right? Like what is what is what is really going on in the school because I think teachers are not in teaching for the money. They they they’re for the right reasons. They want to be there. And they’re also the type of people that I think are very prone to burnout because they want to take the best job they can. They want to really go above and beyond to help students. So they’ve got all the perfect ingredients to do great work. But they also have the ingredients for burnout, right? Like when is enough enough? And are you in a culture that kind of celebrates you just taking on too much? You know, even even that is that conversation that we have to have like, you know, is great. Your coach went to the school community, but actually, we want you to be OK longer term, right? So we want to make sure that you’re you’re managing that. And so again, I think it’s it’s really assessing what’s going on in the school, what some of the concerns are and working with them. And because I guess, counselling. I know there’s discussion about whether schools should offer counselling to teachers, and I understand that. But I also some counselling isn’t for everyone. Everyone wants to discuss their problems. So does that help some teachers and other teachers feel that they have been left out and it becomes very, very complicated. So I think almost the simpler, the better, I think. And for me, I know that there are sort of discussions that I find out who is like, how can I make it like, but I want to come to work every day? Right. And and I think that feeds off and helps everything else.
Speaker 2: Have you seen success with schemes like mentoring for staff and that sort of stuff? Is that?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think, yeah, absolutely. I think having mentoring is important. And I think having the time as well, I think having the time that is useful. But yeah, absolutely. I think having those lines of support even within the school, outside of school, I know. I mean, for me, I’ve been involved a little bit in women it and I found actually that as a community outside of school was super, super helpful because sometimes you know, everyone’s tired of what stress you kind of in an echo chamber. But when you go outside, you even reflect actually that things aren’t that bad. And also, you, you kind of get a chance to kind of get things off your chest, Q&A things like some of schools and have that kind of way to let off steam. So I know women, I do a lot of great mentoring work. So those kind of programmes, I think, are really good.
Speaker 2: Okay. But again, if anyone was to share any of those or will collate those and share them with afterwards. It’s interesting what I was going to pick up on something. Forgive my ignorance here. So as a school, as a school counsellor in this area? Do you get provided with sort of peer reviews or reflection opportunity? So I ask this purely because my wife’s a campus therapists and part of what they have to do because of the burden of what they take on is obviously how peer supervision and the chance to talk about their cases and a chance to offload the stress of the job itself, if you like. Does that does that exist in the structure of schools?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think I think it to. I think depending on the staffing of the school, you know, sometimes you are the only counsellor in the school, but there is the International School Counsellor Association and they offer kind of these kind of groups that you can kind of be involved in and receive that supervision. So that, I mean, you have to seek that out that isn’t always there within the school environment just because there is staffing available. But there are organisations that offer it. And I know and a lot of places, there are groups that our school counsellor groups. So we have a Chiang Mai school counsellor group and there’s a tight International Council group. So even with that in that you can kind of formulate and have these meet people that would allow you to kind of go through that process as well.
Speaker 2: But a big scene from this seems to be reach out, everyone’s in the same boat, doesn’t it? That’s kind of where it started from. OK, another another question is coming in. This is a good one. I think a struggle for me is between. This is for the question of a struggle, for the question is between well-being and what’s needed to be done as part of the job. How do you make sure the collective understanding is not to blur the boundaries and people to be professional?
Speaker 1: Oh, it’s a good question, I guess I’m kind of thinking in different ways. I can tell you I’m I don’t know if I’m misinterpreting that particular question, but I can see when sometimes it may feel like well being can be used as a kind of excuse. Sounds hard, but when people are like, No, I need to discuss my well-being and I think sometimes people like, but we still have stuff to be done that just needs to be in place in this. That the other it’s it’s tough, I think know teachers going to school do know kind of what to expect of what they have to do. I guess it’s the it’s whether there’s additional things on top of that that are causing particular stress at that time. Could they be spread out? So I think sometimes it’s when it all comes together, not all too much. And I guess also it’s. When there’s changes in the school environment as well, right? So I guess when there’s you going from one expectation and things have grown and grown and grown and then it feels like I actually like, I kind of haven’t been able to build up to that or that that doesn’t quite suit me. I’m not sure what the right answer is without that knowing that particular context. And I think it’s sometimes just being honest about, like, yes, I do appreciate that this is a lot at the minute. And even just offering that, like just saying that, I think sometimes is enough. And I guess there can be this thing where I would feel a bit embarrassed to acknowledge, you know what? I am asking you a lot of the minute because it’s like, you know, we need to get stuff done. But even just acknowledging that sometimes just takes the sting out of some that some of the things that you have to do.
Speaker 2: Yeah, I mean, again, from a maybe from a slightly more commercial perspective, I mean, I completely agree with you about teachers being prone to burnout. That’s sad. A kind of an unfortunate reality, isn’t it? I mean, from a commercial point of view, I guess implicit in a question like that of this, this conflict between well-being and getting the job done or results is a is a perception that the two are conflicting somehow and that you you use if you sacrifice performance for well-being. And actually, there’s a ton of evidence out there, which is completely the opposite. You know, people like Google switching to four and a half day weeks or whatever and seeing rises in productivity and stuff like that. So I guess maybe if part of the pressure of not focussing on well-being is a perception that it will impact performance and that you just need to get your head down and get on with it because performance is the most the biggest priority. There’s actually quite a lot of evidence that suggests that that’s not actually the case, that actually people will perform better when their well-being is higher. So that would be the first thing. And I suppose just from a purely practical thing, something that we’ve always found really useful is we talk a lot about internally here at Learning Ladders in a managing down is super easy. Anyone can manage down. Managing up is hard. That’s what’s really tough and a really simple technique that we try and do here is if you’re feeling under stress and people are asking you to do more and more, simply reply and say, Yeah, absolutely, what do you want me to not do in order to make time for this? So push it back to whoever’s giving you. That is a really simple conversation. It’s perfectly professional, perfectly respectful, but I’m working at full capacity plus at the moment and you’re asking me to do something else. I totally get it. I buy into it. I want to support you. What do you want me to drop in order to do this new thing that you’ve asked me to do, whether that’s always possible in your environment or not. But I mean, it may be worth maybe worth a try.
Speaker 1: Yeah. So I just maybe think, you know, I feel like we’re students. So if we look at the students saying when they’re struggling or not engaging in work or not keeping up. You know, sometimes the idea of like behaviour is communication. And sometimes I feel like even that happens as an adult, right? And if if if staff are struggling things, it’s just kind of getting curious and understanding, why is there a lot of invisible labour that they’re doing that we’re not quite knowing about, which is maybe taking up a lot of the time, you know, helping students pastorally. That takes up a huge amount of time and you don’t necessarily see it. So understanding what they’re doing, what’s taking up a lot of time being curious about why they’re struggling or if it’s a particular task that they’re putting off and putting on the students? Why is that? Well, maybe they’re just misunderstanding or need a bit more support or are unsure under confident. I think sometimes just getting curious as well about why there are struggles and also help a lot.
Speaker 2: Yeah, I’m again, a really good point. And exactly, funnily enough, I think one of my colleagues is on the call, so we’ll be giggling at that because we had exactly that conversation a couple of days ago. Colin, feeling overwhelmed, got a lot on at the moment and going through, Well, what are you actually working on at the moment? OK, this is probably actually not a priority anymore, but you know, my bad, I haven’t communicated that properly or whatever. So a simple conversation being open and you know, you can resolve that problem. So yeah, I think conversations are all. Another question coming in. We’ve noticed that, folks, we’ve got about sort of ten minutes left. If anybody has any other questions, then do lots of really positive feedback in the chat as well. So thank you for that. Mainly for U.S. senator. Why? I’m saying thank you, but I’ll pass that on. So another question coming in, we’ve noticed is that focussing on well-being, especially for staff, became more about having a positive attitude no matter what, no matter what, which actually negatively impacted on the well-being of staff. How do we stop this from happening in a school?
Speaker 1: It is so, such a good question, because the I don’t mean to keep saying this and I plug in the magazine, it’s just makes me think of some stuff that we’ve had in the magazine that kind of reflects some of these points. And just in the last issue. She did a school spotlight on college, and she was saying actually that they’re not allowed to use the B-word and at school, like because that evokes like bad feelings, right? So they’ve had to find a way to. It’s still the same thing. It’s just called something else because in that particular by it’s come to have even negative connotations are not not useful connotations. And I completely understand it because it’s the same. You know, I’ve experienced the same thing. Like, some people are like, Yes, well, being great and other people like, can you stop talking? So I think, you know, it’s understanding or having discussions about what it is absolutely like. You know, being positive all the time is isn’t helpful whatsoever, and it’s not what it is. And it’s just kind of maybe having a chance to redefine that or to think about what would be a useful phrase to encapsulate or word to encapsulate what you’re trying to do, right? So it doesn’t have to be wellbeing, it could be something else. And I think it’s just making sure you’re finding ways to have a discussion that it’s not synonymous with being positive. It’s absolutely not. It’s about I think it’s it’s also about being able to get through the hard times, right? It’s being bounced back from from those kind of experiences. And I think it is just some. I think at the moment it is an overload of discussions around real big and I think it’s super, super important. But at the same time, that’s always going to have the benefit of turning people off as well, which is really hard to overcome. So I guess I’d think about whether there is a different word. If it’s really, really not working in your environment, that would encapsulate the same sort of things that you’re trying to do or just make it less obvious, and they’re much more subtle in kind of some things that you’re trying to do.
Speaker 2: And I mean, it has to be authentic as well, doesn’t it? I mean, if if the interpretation of well-being is thou shalt be positive all the time, then that’s fundamentally misunderstanding what you’re trying to achieve, I guess, isn’t it? So if you’re going around the school putting posters of keep calm and carry on and have a smile and all this kind of stuff, that’s something you’ve cracked well-being. And then possibly, you know, you need a he’s got a course or read a magazine. So yeah, I guess that’s a challenge. All right. Time for a couple more. Another question is, come in Matt’s comment about managing up. What would you suggest to promote staff wellbeing if it’s not a priority for management? I mean, I suppose from my perspective, as somebody who runs a company, I guess again, there’s an assumption that management’s priorities are not aligned. So trying to have an understanding of what you perceive management’s priorities to be would be a starting point and then attack that. So if you take the example from before the management’s priorities are, you know, independent international independent schools is a tough, tough market at the moment. There’s a lot of competition. Parents have choice and they’ll they’ll move. So senior leaders are under a lot of pressure to demonstrate that schools perform and a lot of the time that performance is viewed as academic attainment results, entry into better schools, universities and that kind of stuff. So the whole attainment paces is an important one, and performance is an important one. Like I said, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that both staff and children who have a greater sense of well-being or higher well-being, or however you want to define it, perform better. And again, I’ll send some links to the stuff that we do. So that would be the first thing. Have a conversation with them on their terms. This is not something that you want to do that’s going to have a distraction from the core purpose of the school, if you like, this is actually going to enhance it, as I suspect most of us on the call would probably argue that what’s the point of being in education if you’re not looking after the well-being of the children and the teachers, you have a duty of care to your community. But if you’ve got a really hard nosed CEO or principal who’s under a lot of pressure and feels like they really just have to see some results and this isn’t a priority, personally, that would be my suggestion. Stay down and if you’ve got better ideas or other ideas.
Speaker 1: It’s a tough one, because I think sometimes, you know, in an ideal world, maybe that’s not the right environment. Would you look to move somewhere else and that just sometimes isn’t always feasible. And also, you know, to some people, if they are hard on that not being a priority, that it’s very difficult to change, right? So I guess it’s that question of is that the right school for you? Is there a possibility to change? And if there is not, then I think it’s about you. It’s I guess it’s finding your ways to manage that. So I think that’s where colleagues support is so important. I think that’s where it’s really important to have boundaries around work to have stuff outside. If if it’s a hard environment and that work bleeds into your home life, that that’s like doubly bad, right? So I think it’s trying to find outlets when you can’t change that one, you can’t change the system. It’s finding your own safe spaces in your own spaces for support to help you deal with that. Not that you shouldn’t have to, but I understand like and in some environments is super challenging as well.
Speaker 2: Right answers. I’m going to take one more that’s already in the chat if anybody wants to pay any more for, we’ve got time for one more after that. This next one is is a great question. I think next MIS how do we improve the well-being of special needs children who we’re not able to cater for during the blended learning or remote learning and shift from face to face and hybrid mode of learning during the pandemic? That is one for you.
Speaker 1: I mean, that is a that’s a really great discussion, and if I’m honest, I don’t think I feel qualified to answer that. But I do feel that that is that’s actually something that’s played on my mind quite a bit and something that I really would like to include in the magazine because I think that’s often missed out of discussions with students who have special educational needs, like talking about well-being and support for those students with those additional needs. So I think I guess it’s hard because you can’t do everything right. You are restricted. We’re in a restricted time. You can only do what you can. And I guess the most the time where you have most impact is when you are able to be in person. So I think is there is consistency and whatever support systems, whatever things you do when you’re in school, is what matters. And I think that hasn’t changed from before. But I guess you have to focus on what you can do and not look, it’s just an imperfect world at the moment, but I think there’s a lot of learning to be had because this is even what’s been going on for a couple of years. We’re refining a ways of teaching, reframing how we deliver online education. So I think my feeling would be again to is to reach out to other staff that are also in that position that are to find out what, what kind of strategies they put in place, particularly in that blended learning environment and to see those sorts of things work for you, but also to focus on what you can do and focus on what you already have, particularly when you are able to be in-person.
Speaker 2: It’s right there that was very strange, we all seem to get kicked out, then at the same time, I’m not sure what happened. I Zoom seem to have a bit of a female mouse. Come on to rescue us. What happened to them? We all got kicked out of the webinar, but anyway, thanks rescued it now. So well, sorry about that bizarre and the on the website, I think we probably covered most of the questions. Let me just check if there was a last one coming in on the queue. No, I think we’ve answered all of those ones, but we’re going through here. Just check it was about the special needs children and how we do that, as well as one comment I was going to make as we Learning Ladders is is a mainstream product. It’s used by Pass scores for that. But we do actually have a lot of special schools, specialist special schools, special needs schools who use it because it’s very flexible and stuff. So I will reach out to a couple of them and maybe see they might like to write an article for the magazine or give them some insights into how they’ve managed this. This challenge in the pandemic. So there may be a maybe an opportunity there for us to help. So if the person who asked that question is still on the line and hasn’t been cut off, we’ll we’ll we’ll try and come full circle and get that in a future magazine edition for you from from one of the Learning Ladders members who might be able to answer that one. All right. And we are coming to the end of the session. So I just wanted to say a massive thank you. I think the volume of questions and the interaction is a sign that this is a hugely important area. So we should every success for the magazine, you’ll have to come back and we can have a follow up at some stage. Thank you to everybody who’s on the call. We will circulate the recording. We’ve promised a few links that will collate and stuff like that, so we will do all of that as well. Like I said, if you’re interested in having a look at more of these kind of areas, let me just Q&A this again for you. Then you can find all of the blogs and all of the ones that we’ve done in this series on the Learning Ladders sites, particularly Matthew Savage. We’ve we’ve mentioned a couple of times. If you are looking at visualising and using your data around wellbeing, particularly the GL Pass data, and you want some help with that. We have a dashboard which you can use and access to just get in touch and we can help you with that. But with three minutes to go before our allotted hour, I’m going to draw that one to a close side once again. Thank you so much for that. Everybody else. Thank you so much for joining us on this Wellbeing in International Schools webinar and hope to see you on a future one. Thank you, everybody.
In this webinar, Matt Koster-Marcon, CEO of Learning Ladders, chats with Dr Sadie Hollins, Head of Sixth Form at a British International School in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Editor of the newly launched Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine.
In this webinar Dr Sadie Hollins discusses topical issues and challenges that affect the wellbeing of international school communities and new ways of thinking about and examining our approach to wellbeing in education.
If you missed the live webinar then grab a cuppa (wellbeing starts with you!) and watch the recording:
Dr Sadie Hollins is Head of Sixth Form based at a British Curriculum International School in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and prior to this she worked as a Higher Education Lecturer in the UK in Sport Studies. She is Editor of the Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine which brings together articles from school leaders, teachers, counsellors, and students, on a range of different topics related to wellbeing. She is host of the WISEducation podcast which to date has explored a range of issues in international education including anti-racism work in international schools, identity-centered learning, the gendering of careers counselling, and LGBTQ+ inclusion. She is also co-host of the PhysEquity podcast with her wife Laura. Sadie is passionate about exploring the intersecting nature of identity and belonging when it comes to discussions on wellbeing.