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ISA cultivates leaders, the makers of change

In March, schools were given two days to prepare for a lockdown in response to a virus of which – six weeks earlier – nobody had heard of.

The subsequent three months saw learning move from the classroom to the living room. Change did not end there, however, and at the end of lockdown in August, students went back to school buildings but with entirely different routines, interaction, resources, and movement.

Who knows when we will return to ‘normal’? What we can be sure of, however, is the speed and complexity of the world’s evolvement. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected and accept that we can in no way predict what the future holds.

At ISA, we pride our self on preparing students for this rapidly evolving, globalised world and this year has certainly tested our ability to thrive in such an unpredictable environment.

And we have excelled. This was evident in our September inspection from two international agencies – the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Middle States Association (MSA), based in Europe and North America, respectively. Among many accolades, ISA was praised for its “high standard of online teaching during lockdown” and commended for its “academic rigour ... evident in lesson visits, despite the challenges currently posed by the coronavirus pandemic.”

All change, even that which improves a situation, can be challenging. Throughout the day we manage a complex series of actions by routinising them. Change requires an increased usage of our conscious mind and thoughts, which can be psychologically tiring. Not to mention running the risk of failure, which is emotionally taxing. But ISA believes encountering new things is worth the effort and the risk.

One parent described us as: “A community filled with kindness and respect.”

A sentiment echoed in the bureaucratic language of inspectors, who wrote: “Well-being is particularly noteworthy: the school really does fulfil its vision of providing ‘exceptional care for every child’”.

Our four Information Technology staff have been crucial this year in establishing our one-to-one Chromebook programme and online communication platform for remote classes.

Even more fundamental to the school’s resilience and ability not only to face change, but to thrive in the midst of uncertainty, however, has been our two full time counsellors, four learning support teachers, school nurse and health and safety officer. All of these staff work arduously for our school of 500 students, ensuring each child has the help and support they need.

This summer, ISA continued its 100% pass rate in the prestigious International Baccalaureate Diploma - a pre-university qualification highly regarded by universities in the UK and around the world. Yet again its students scored 10% above world averages in an already elite qualification.

As well as gaining triumphant results, however, our students learn that while success may be the end-product, trying - and sometimes failing - is a natural part of the process of learning, and gives us the resilience to adapt to new circumstances.

ISA students are willing to step up, and exercise “leadership and voice” through student councils, the Honour Society, service projects, the Ambassadors Programme and the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, as well as in their own interactions with teachers and peers in the classroom.

A sense of agency is vital in responding to uncertain times; some may be born with this attribute, but all can develop it. The recent inspectors discussed the sense of ownership that ISA students have over their learning. They also noted how the curriculum offers challenge and allows for personalisation, choice, and agency in an environment where students can communicate with staff when they feel their work is too difficult or too easy.

Obedient students wait for orders; ISA cultivates leaders, the makers of change.

In the last eight months, we have gone from learning online to learning in bubbles; we introduced a one-to-one Chromebook programme and expanded our digital resources; we have adapted teaching methods to meet with new demands and also changed how after school activities are offered while moving community events online.

And, through it all, we have maintained a vibrant international identity of expats and locals within a “palpable sense of belonging and community”.

We are ready – now more than ever – to face the challenges of an uncertain world in 2021.

ISA will always end with excellence, because it begins with care.

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Accredited by

International Baccalaureate Council of International Schools Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Cambridge International Examinations CNED