Podcast: Why maintaining international networks matters

Liz Free, director and CEO of International School Rheintal, talks about the challenge of keeping connected during Covid
24th November 2020, 2:39pm

Share

Podcast: Why maintaining international networks matters

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/podcast-why-maintaining-international-networks-matters
Why International School Networks Are Important In The Coronavirus Crisis

In the latest edition of the Tes International podcast we chat with Liz Free, the director and CEO of International School Rheintal in Switzerland.

She discusses the challenge that international schools have faced this year, given that their usual routes to connecting with peers have been removed because, unlike home nation schools, they may not have a nearby network of other teachers to talk to about challenges they are facing.

"In the international sector you may be the only international school within hundreds of miles - there isn't this natural network that you use as a sounding board that you have in a domestic system," she says.

Stronger together in the coronavirus pandemic

This has meant that in the past international schools have relied on networks and events to provide these connections.

"The international community does that through networks like COBIS, CIS, and we use our curriculum groups...but they have historically relied on face-to-face methods," Free says.

Now, though, schools are having to ensure that they engage remotely in online events, from networking with other leaders on a casual basis through to CPD.

And this second element has led to some tricky discussions on how staff attending online sessions from home should be managed. 

Free says that, in the end, the school reached the consensus that staff attending an event from home should be considered the same as if they were flying around the world - but it was not a quick decision to reach.

"It wasn't that we were all righteous about it, it really challenged our thinking," she says.

"I know professional learning for school improvement is the way we get to outstanding international schools but when faced with critical situations where all energies are focused on continuity of learning for students, then you start to let go of other things because you're in a critical situation.

"And that reveals your true beliefs because if you really believe professional learning is the route through, that has to remain core in your provisions and you have to prioritise it. Then you are saying it is of value."

Wide-ranging benefits

The outcome was that staff on such courses should be considered the same as if the were halfway around the world - with the added benefit of saving quite a bit of money, too.

"We would normally spend thousands of Swiss francs to send that member of staff somewhere else to spend two days on a workshop that includes flights either side," Free notes.

"Yet this person is asking for one day to do the same thing. We have saved loads of money and time, and we have reduced the impact of staff being out in terms of continuity of student learning, and staff have still got the opportunity to engage in that learning.

"So when I think about it logically [it all makes sense], but it did take a journey to get to that point where we had to move our own thinking about it."

Listen to the full interview below via the podcast player - or stream on Apple podcasts, Spotify or Amazon Music.

Watch the YouTube video of the interview below

Dan Worth is senior editor at Tes

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters