Survey shows international schools’ “resilience and creativity”

The survey of 92 COBIS schools showed members prioritised high-quality teaching and learning, and pastoral care for their communities during a “challenging period”.

Some 90% of its international schools have offered families the opportunity to pay in instalments, while over half of respondents (58%) have frozen fees at 2019/20 levels in response to the pandemic.

“School leaders and their teams are to be commended and recognised”

Almost half have increased needs-based financial support and bursaries, while around 17% have reduced fees for the 2020/21 academic year from 2019/20 levels.

COBIS CEO Colin Bell highlighted that, while in 2019 79% of responding schools reported an increase in pupil numbers, fewer had indicated the same in 2020.

“In 2020, 46% of schools reported a decrease in pupil numbers,” he explained, compared with 32% suggesting pupil numbers had increased and 22% saying they had remained at the same level.

“66% of schools attribute the change in pupil numbers wholly or partly to Covid-19,” he said.

The changes to the way that fees are collected – such as in instalments – “reflects the financial challenges that many parents are facing in relation to the payment of school fees”, Bell noted.

Around 65% have reduced spend on other budget areas such as school trips and events.

“There is no surprise in the way that educators and support staff in COBIS schools have responded to the associated challenges of the pandemic,” Bell added.

“At every step, school leaders and their teams are to be commended and recognised for their unfaltering commitment to helping students thrive in this period of significant global challenge.”

Member schools have strengthened and adapted policies as part of their pandemic response measures, he continued.

“With the introduction of home learning via virtual tuition, polices connected to child protection and safeguarding have had to be re-evaluated and made fit for purpose.

“Safeguarding the health, safety and mental wellbeing of students and staff has also been a key focus, when considering adaptations to policies and procedures.”

School have succeeded in their focus on mental health, anxiety stress, PPE, social distancing, results of testing and tracing, and the response to regional and national government directives and restrictions, he suggested.

The survey also revealed slight changes in university destinations for 2020.

Of the total 2,243 leavers across all responding schools, 88.5% went on to higher education, with 50.2% opting to proceed to UK institutions, down slightly from 53% in 2019.

While 28% of schools suggested that Covid-19 had had an impact on leavers’ decisions regarding university destinations, 30% said the same for Brexit.

Slightly more that one in five (23%) responses found that schools had reduced staffing levels, while around 21% said staffing levels had been frozen.

It is “still too early to tell how Covid-19 will really impact teacher recruitment and retention”, Bell explained, but added that the organisation is planning further research on the topic.

“In some cases, schools may find that some international teachers are choosing to return ‘home’ earlier than planned to be closer to family, but there are also schools reporting a lower number of teachers leaving or moving on, preferring stability during this period of turnover,” he said.

COBIS represents around 250 British international schools in more than 75 countries worldwide, which together teach more than 160,000 pupils and employ more than 25,000 teachers and support staff. 

Some 39% of members are in Europe, followed by 23% in Africa, 20% in the Middle East, 16% in Asia and 3% in the Americas.

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