Photo: Tanglin Trust School, Singapore
There were a wide range of initiatives submitted for the Strategic Leadership category of this year’s International School Awards. They ranged from implementing a culture of care, creating a sensory space, and developing a bullying-free school, to embedding a house system, improving governance, and building middle management capacity within a school.
Several submissions highlighted initiatives with great potential but lacked the implementation history and detail necessary to be shortlisted. The judging panel urged schools to gather rigorous evidence before submitting an application. Some other applications failed to address criteria or they provided responses with insufficient detail.
The initiatives shortlisted for the award category, which this year has been sponsored by Cognia, are from Newton College in Spain, Tanglin Trust School in Singapore, and Western Academy Beijing in China.
A strategy that puts the focus on learning
Newton College, Spain focused on the notion of ‘struggling’ as a strategic initiative for the school. The initiative began by researching how and what students define as struggle. Evidence from the research informed change towards becoming a more learning-focused school community.
Teacher observations have, as a result, been replaced by learning-focused classroom visits. A language of learning has been introduced across the school, and staff training had been adapted to centre on learning rather than teaching. Student tutorials and assemblies, and parent events and communication, explore struggle as a positive attribute of learning to help shift mindsets and move the whole school community to one that collectively embraces the learning journey. The school improvement plan now focuses on learning improvement priorities.
Photo: Newton College, Spain
Unifying the school community through a school-wide house system
Tanglin Trust in Singapore has been shortlisted for their initiative to incorporate an extended house system into the school as a way to build a greater sense of community. Student voice has informed the change which moves away from a segmented house system for each age phase, to a new system that unifies students from the youngest nursery-age students to the oldest senior students. Students now join a house when they join the school and remain in that team throughout their Tanglin years.
The initiative is strengthening community spirit for all students with engagement and collaboration across ages and phases as well as increased participation in co-curricular activities as a result of inter-house events. For staff members, the initiative is offering new leadership development opportunities.
Student agency informs a future of learning strategy
Also shortlisted is Western Academy Beijing for a strategic initiative that focuses on student agency. Strategy 2022+ has been developed in collaboration with students at every stage of the initiative to lead a process to design, what students and alumni consider to be, the future of learning at the school.
The initiative has involved the students planning and running workshops and surveying alumni to inform the improvement of student learning to respond to the needs of a changing and unpredictable world. This has resulted in a new emphasis on learning innovation and wellbeing, and the introduction of two new areas of community focus for the school addressing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and sustainable and ethical approaches to living and learning.
The initiative means that alumni are now positive change agents for the future of learning with the strategy now aligned with the school’s accreditation processes. Details of the initiative and its implementation have been shared with other schools at conferences and via the school website.
Photo: Western Academy Beijing, China
Congratulations to all three schools for implementing inspiring strategic leadership initiatives. More details of each of these initiatives are now accessible on the International School Awards platform. It’s free to register and everyone is invited to participate and learn.