How can international schools prepare for a crisis?

Mar 27, 2023

We recently hosted an online panel discussion addressing the challenge of crises management in international schools. Our panel of experts share advice on how to approach the stakeholder communication flow at a time of crisis, the importance of the whole school community’s wellbeing and much more.

How can international schools prepare for a crisis?

Mar 27, 2023 | Good practice, Heads Up

Nalini Cook, Head of Global Research at ISC Research, recently hosted a conversation to address the challenge of crises management in international schools. She spoke with Samantha Gayfer, South East Asia Consultant at The Jane Group, and Maya Nelson, Head of School at Jakarta Intercultural School in Indonesia. How can school leaders be agile with their crises management strategy? What practical solutions are there to help international schools prepare for a crisis? These questions and many more are discussed in our latest Heads Up episode.

Although crises management is unique to the context of each school, Samantha understands a crisis to be “anything that is going to disrupt, divert or derail your resources from being able to focus on delivering teaching and learning.”

The crisis communication flow

In the Heads Up episode, Samantha shares some advice for school leaders to deal with a crisis which may help the international school community. First of all, remember to breathe, she advises, because “if you are in a state of crisis, you can’t manage the crisis!” She urges the prioritisation of senior leadership wellbeing, sharing some resources to help. “Make sure that your team are mentally and physically able to be at their best self to contribute…Take care of your team first and foremost, so that you can lead through a crisis, because crises need leaders! Once you are sure that everybody is able to show up as their best self, then you manage that communication flow.”

“Draft up the initial holding statement as soon as you can, and keep people informed as much as possible”, she recommends. Samantha advocates the use of inside-out communication when dealing with a crisis. She advises that you should “speak first with your board and your core team, then go to your faculty and staff, then the students and parents. Only then should we be going out to the media… you don’t ever want your families to find out from the media what is happening – there are times when that’s simply unavoidable, but ideally this [communication] happens inside-out.”

The crisis of student wellbeing

As previously highlighted by Samantha, the wellbeing of the school community is crucial when it comes to effectively managing a crisis. However, the wellbeing of the school community is impacted by many factors in and outside of the school environment, and crises can often occur as a result. Maya talks about how Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) approach crises relating to wellbeing and shares some things she’s learnt from such experiences.

“It’s a collaborative effort to be able to support all the students,” she says. JIS has a group of professionals including counsellors and psychologists who can support all stakeholders. Maya strongly believes that it is important to remember to support teachers and parents, too, during a wellbeing crisis. “It has been very important to allow our teachers to be able to get the mental health support that they need, with no questions asked. Teachers can access counselling; we knew that this was an area of need … Parents want to help, but when it’s your child, it’s hard to understand what’s going on because it’s so close to your heart.”

For further insights and advice into how to effectively manage a crisis, including how the governing body can offer support and how to get started immediately, watch the full episode here or on most common applications.

Stay informed with regular insights about current trends and practice within the global international schools market by signing up to our Heads Up e-newsletter and following the Heads Up series via podcast.

Related content

Heads Up series

A series produced by ISC Research to keep you informed of international schools market developments, available as a newsletter or podcast.


Stay informed

Promoting awareness of human trafficking through primary and secondary connections
Promoting awareness of human trafficking through primary and secondary connections

Jannapha Hubeny and Kennon Coe, primary educators at Atlanta International School (AIS), are dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking both within their school community and on a global scale. They serve as key facilitators of the school's organisation, Atlanta International School Against Human Trafficking (AISAHT), working tirelessly to educate students and combat this critical issue. Read more

Transforming school communities with healthy food and farming
Transforming school communities with healthy food and farming

Award-winning Kopila Valley School serves 400 of the most vulnerable and at-risk children from the region each year using a holistic approach, with a major focus on experiential and place-based education. Sunita Bhandari and Rajen Karki discuss the school's healthy lunch program and agriculture initiatives. Read more

International mindedness at work 
International mindedness at work 

Lincoln Community School in Ghana won a 2024 International School Award for its hosting of the inaugural Model United Nations Conference. Johnny Schwerk, Counsellor at Lincoln Community School in Ghana, discusses the award-winning initiative. Read more


Let's discuss your needs

We are dedicated and committed to supporting the broader international schools community by providing data, trends and intelligence. Since 1994, we have guided schools with their growth plans, informed investors on new school development, helped universities to engage with international schools, and advised education suppliers that are supporting the market.