View from here - We'll ignore you until Ofsted time

3rd July 2009 at 01:00
As a headteacher in Borneo, Martin Spicer is concerned about the treatment of British international schools

The London Government has always had a straightforward relationship with British international schools overseas. It has totally ignored them. Despite the fact that these schools - and there are hundreds, if not thousands - employ British teachers, buy British resources, teach the national curriculum of England and Wales, pay large sums of money to British examination syndicates and supply endless undergraduates, who are fleeced under the guise of overseas fees by British universities, the Whitehall response has been a cold shoulder.

Actually, it has been worse than that. Not content with simply not supporting these schools in any way whatsoever, the Government has actually opted to punish teachers who work in them by limiting the years of their UK pensions contributions and making their children ineligible for home status when they apply to UK universities. Until recently, it was also a truism that if you spent more than two years overseas you would find it difficult to get a job in England.

But now, wondrously, the UK Government has decided to do something about these British curriculum schools scattered across the globe. Guess what? Inspect them!

"Overseas schools describing themselves as 'British' are not currently subject to any system of inspection recognised by the British Government," reads the finger-wagging opening line of Appendix 2 of the relevant document. Tut, tut.

The reality is different. Many reputable overseas "British" schools belong to regional professional organisations. The federation our school has belonged to for many years in south and east Asia requires a formal and quite exhaustive written submission, an inspection visit from two of the federation's existing heads and a personal presentation by the applying school's head and owner to a full meeting of federation heads before membership is granted.

Go to the website of most British international schools and you will find that membership of our federation, or a similar organisation, is but one of its credentials. Other accreditation agencies such as the Council of International Schools and World Education Services will be listed as well. Some of these bodies use Ofsted inspectors. Almost all are examination centres, which means they require approval by the examining bodies.

But let us suppose for a moment that, in addition to that accreditation, we were tempted to add the British Government's stamp of approval.

This would mean paying the air fares of the inspection team, putting them up in hotels, meeting their expenses and, presumably, a hefty fee.

And when we have paid it, what prize awaits us? Wait for it... inclusion on a British Council list providing "information about schools providing a British education in a specific locality".

Presumably, whoever dreamt up this nonsense had not only never heard of the various accreditation bodies, but had never heard of Google either.

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