COBIS - Accrediting International Schools Through the Pandemic

There has recently been a significant amount of evolution in the education community, be it shifting from classrooms to at-home learning, recruiting staff virtually, changing exam assessments to Teacher Assessed Grades, and more. Schools have had to adjust rapidly. 

This is something that COBIS understands intrinsically. COBIS (Council of British International Schools) is a leading membership body, representing over 250 British International Schools around the world. COBIS is keenly aware of the challenges its members are facing due to the ongoing pandemic, and the commitment of all members to maintain high standards for pupils.

How COBIS has adapted in the pandemic:

COBIS Member schools go through a rigorous quality assurance process in order to gain COBIS Member status. Patron’s Accreditation and Compliance is the primary route to COBIS membership, and is an internationally recognised mark of quality. The external validation process is not an inspection for schools, or a one-off snapshot, but rather a partnership with COBIS that is rooted in long-term school improvement. Lead Improvement Partners (LIPs) work with the school to support them in the process, and evaluate the school against the scheme’s Standards. Over 150 schools around the world have successfully completed or registered for the Patron’s Accreditation and Compliance scheme. And a vital part of this process is the school visit.

The pandemic, school closures and travel restrictions have made face to face visits impossible. Prior to March of 2020, a school going through the scheme could expect a visit from their LIPs and Peer Accreditors, so they could see the school in action, meet staff and students, review policy documents and give initial feedback. COBIS had to quickly adapt to this new reality and ensure that schools with visits scheduled for 2020 were not at a disadvantage. The COBIS accreditation team worked with LIPs and schools to develop and pilot virtual Compliance and Accreditation visits.

These virtual visits are hosted over a series of days, using video meetings and live video feeds. Video meetings are held during the week of the virtual visit with various members of the school community, including students and parents.

Since the launch of the pilot in November of 2020, COBIS has carried out several virtual visits, one of which was with OSME speaker and Head of Brighton College Dubai, Simon Crane. We spoke to him about Brighton College’s experience of achieving COBIS membership and the Compliance quality assurance process.

How did you find the process?

I think the process was user-friendly. The online platform is intuitive. The whole process for us I felt was flexible and we could work with COBIS at every level. From the logistical side of the visit, through to the meetings, even down to the detail and the questions. And that was evidenced quite clearly in the feedback session where the LIP could talk very articulately about the school – it sounded like Brighton Dubai, our school.

COBIS pivoted to virtual visits relatively quickly, and it was learning process for us too. In terms of your experience of the virtual visit, as a pilot, what were your impressions of the process?

It really helped for me to speak to another professional who had gone through it before. I really appreciated that connection (and opportunity) to brainstorm the realities of the process. So what helped us is that we did a test run with our LIPs, and that was critical – it enabled us to feedback into the process, and what it also enabled us to do was to do a dry run where we recorded it and watched it on the screen as a team and were able to talk about it as though we were the reviewers coming in, so it made it even more reflective that we had perhaps anticipated.

Moving on to impact, what impact has the scheme had on the college? In which areas have you seen specific impact?

If I was going to sum it up in one word, the impact of the scheme – it would be ‘sharpness’. Sharpness of practice. I have used it strategically to develop areas that I knew were not good enough. So it was useful as a CPD exercise to see where we could make improvements to balance and checks. But what it also did was validate for my senior leadership team, the good practice that they were offering. That was really powerful.

What would you say is your biggest takeaway from the process?

I think what has improved enormously is the self-confidence of the leadership team and the fact that we can timestamp our journey and have clearly mapped our next steps.

COBIS CEO Colin Bell will be speaking at the Teacher Retention and Professional Development Conference on the 9th June. Book your ticket now to hear from Colin on this.

To find out more about how your school could benefit from COBIS membership, contact our Accreditation team by emailing accreditation@cobis.org.uk, or visit our website.

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