Securing global accreditation from the Council of International Schools [CIS] and Western Association Schools and Colleges [WASC] is no mean feat.A visit from the CIS is a very different experience from inspections like Ofsted. First off don’t utter the word ‘inspection’ – it’s a ‘review’ or an ‘evaluation’ and an opportunity to show our strengths and admit our areas to improve on. If your school is about to embark on a similar journey read on and learn about each stage of the preparation, planning and delivery.
Deputy Head of Tenby International Primary Louise Shepherd has spent the last two years overseeing the review, and in her words here’s how the programme went:
CIS – The Tenby Way…
We have recently had our joint Council of International Schools (CIS) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation visit and I can finally say phew! we got there! Tenby Schools Setia Eco Park awaits the final confirmation of the result and recommendation but there are successes we can celebrate now and developments we can work on.
Our journey started two years ago…
The school leadership selected two Senior Leadership teacher to lead this accreditation and they created the Steering Committee from volunteer teachers from different sections of the school; Tenby International School Secondary, Tenby International School Primary and Sekolah Sri Tenby Private National School. We all came together excited to be part of something that will move us as a school and as individuals forward.
Stage 1: the school profile
This was the easy part, we compiled information about the school, teachers and extra-curricular activities. This was in preparation for our preliminary visit to give the visitors an initial idea of what Tenby SEP is like and how we view ourselves.
Stage 2: the preliminary visit
We welcomed two visitors from CIS to assess whether we are ready to undergo the accreditation process, with baited breath. To kick start the week they conducted a whole school training day about CIS, the ethos behind it and the journey we were to embark on. They spent a week observing our school; lessons, break times, meetings and much more and they left us with a report identifying immediate changes that needed to be made before we could proceed. Following the changes we submitted a special report and were promptly granted permission to continue on our CIS accreditation journey.
Stage 3: the Endicott Survey
The survey was sent out to all parents, school community, pupils, staff (academic and administration) and governors. Sadly, response was poor from most areas (including teachers which prompted the steering committee to revise and review how the teaching staff were viewing this process.
- We needed more ‘buy in’ from them.
Stage 4: Self-Review Study
The biggest task was upon us. The self-review is a whole school review of all areas; Schools Guiding Statements, Curriculum, Governance and Leadership, Faculty and Support, Access to Teaching and Learning, School Culture and Partnerships for Learning and Operating Systems.
The Steering Committee braced itself for the onslaught of work. The Chairs for each curriculum area were selected and the Co-Chairs of the Steering Committee conducted a training session.
- My advice here is … it is important to give lots of information and coaching on how to conduct the self-study or it is interpreted in many different ways and as a large school this is exactly what we got!
We ploughed on and formed Self-Study groups who reviewed the different sections of the school and gathered evidence. The staff started to lose enthusiasm for the process… the Steering Committee was gathering enthusiasm as we learnt about all the different areas of the school and were able to improve our own sections.
- At this point I would recommend anyone going through this process to do more staff training sessions on it so the staff are more united and involved… and fingers crossed that will have a positive impact on the progress the school will make.
We began to fall behind schedule and some late evenings were required to pull everything together. Our Steering Committee started to dwindle and the CIS process started to be lack lustre… we needed something to inspire our team. The final bombshell was Co-Chairs were leaving… so I was drafted in to take over the process and pull it all together.
Stage 5: preparing for the visit
We decided to delay the visit to ensure our staff, and school, were ready for this accreditation. Secondly the Self-Review reports all needed to be reviewed, updated and action plans formed.
- I decided to take the bull by the horns and devise a template for the action plan, hoping to give more support and structure to staff and fingers crossed more consistency.
Staff could see the finishing line. With the great support of the staff and SLT the reports and the action plans were coming together and everyone starting to see this process as a positive way to improve our school and develop with a true international ethos and mind.
Everyone was working flat out to make the reports and lessons more consistent and our process and procedures tighter
- Staff were ready for the visit and finally seeing it as an accreditation from their peers rather than an inspection from an organisation.
My biggest challenge- organising 12 CIS visitors; meetings, timetables just the logistics of flying them into and out of KL was not a small task!
Then comes WASC… leadership suggest a combined accreditation visit with WASC. Of course we welcomed this with open arms… thankfully the process and visits are very similar and have the same aims and objectives. In true Tenby form we embrace this and continue to prepare.
So Visiting teams are confirmed, timetables set, visiting arrangements agreed, evidence for each standard collected in paper and electronically.
The steering committee are flat out with organising, checking, liaising with staff, supporting and guiding; they are ready for the visit.
The visit is upon us. Saturday we welcomed all 14 visitors from all over the world. The week went by in a bit of blur with meetings with all sections of the school from finance to the nurses and cleaners. No stone was left unturned! The week culminated in a feedback session where our major strengths and their key findings were shared.
Now the visit is complete and the school moving forwards with the recommendations we have been left (although informally until the report comes
- I can with say, now with sanity this has been a hugely beneficial for me as a Senior Leader I have learnt so much more about how a school works and the impact of everyone’s section of the school. I feel very fortunate to have been asked to lead this accreditation for the school and to have your school and work praised by 14 fellow teachers and leaders of education is inspiring and motivating to ensure the children are the focus of all we do at Tenby.
As a school community we are now very clear about our successes, the future direction and needs to keep getting better all the time.
Getting better all the time…
Deputy Head of Primary Tenby International School, Setia Eco park