The Council of International Schools’ (CIS) global team remains committed to helping schools ensure the continuity of education during Covid-19 and the coming year. Since Verita was granted CIS membership in February the council has collaborated virtually to discuss topics of importance, relevant to our current circumstances and as we collectively envision our future at Verita International School.

CIS has helped us stay informed using their planning tool that has shown us real-time data and changing trends in learning across the world during this period. We have also had access to their library of webinars, and coronavirus resources. Our CIS membership has been fruitful at this time as we have had access to resources. Connections with members and have been able to share knowledge.

Leo Thompson, our CIS evaluator, together with the team at CIS, were able to visit virtually, to support us with information and feedback as our plans continued to develop to support our community virtually on our school improvement journey.

Here is what they had to say about our Home and Digital Learning:

As an education consultant, working with the not for profit Council of International Schools (CIS) accreditation and educational services organisation, I have been invited to make a virtual visit and provide independent, professional feedback on Verita’s distance learning programme (DLP) This builds upon my recent visit to the school in February.

My feedback is based on reading a large amount of materials and information shared with me by the school in the form of student, parent and teacher survey responses, video recordings and reflection, access to online learning platforms and expectations.

Leo Thompson, CIS Evaluator

My approach is to reference trusted research in this area and apply our CIS standards.

  • Firstly I must say that there is no exact, repeatable formula for establishing a DLP and each school has to adjust its approach to the context of its curriculum, student access to technology, the various family situations, and the various cultures it serves – and not forgetting its unique all important mission! Therefore the approaches taken by schools to distance learning differ significantly, and should differ.
  • At the Council of International School, we feel that listening to voice of the community is incredibly important. The best measurement of how a school, such as Verita, has managed the pandemic relates to how well it has listened to what the students, their families and staff say, rather than just observing the systems and processes themselves – though these are also important to review. Nearly every school has been facing the challenge of answering the question: how do we keeping learning moving forward remotely, whilst ensuring that the community stays connected, safe and well? There is now strong research suggesting that too much screen time can be mentally damaging and even cause depression, and that schools must find a way to make learning practical and flexible enough for students and their families, as well as enable teachers to cope.
  • Well-being has become of equal importance to learning at this time, and it is clear that many students are missing their friends and teachers, and the school as it is their ‘community hub’. The wonderful “hug the school art work” project is evidence of this, but so are the uplifting student videos shared on FB and Instagram. Verita has so many wonderful children, who are so mature for their age.
  • The school has evidently worked hard to establish the right mixture of clear communications and expectations, live teaching, asynchronous (available any time) resources/class materials, project-based work, screen time and flexibility, structure and routine, individual support, and community connectedness. Some of the student feedback includes comments like the teachers are: “keeping us motivated”, “doing their best”, “always here for us”, “still teaching us well despite the technical difficulties”, “the teachers have been really helpful”, “ we manage to learn almost the same as we normally do.”
  • Though it is not possible to meet everyone’s needs and individual situation, the school has surveyed students and parents and obtained feedback that has helped it improve and evolve its DLP. Parent responses ranged from just enough work (the significant majority), to too little work (a minority), to too much work (a minority).
  • Some parents commented that they would like more live teaching, some less!
  • Overall, the pattern of responses suggest that the school is currently meeting the learning and well-being needs for the majority of its community. It has notably responded to feedback and made some changes and improvements. Teachers are working very hard and it was uplifting for one student to ”wish them a holiday!” This is not surprising because a cornerstone at Verita is ‘kindness’ and this is a consistent theme in the school’s approach to its DLP.

Neither teaching or learning from home is an ideal situation and student, parent and teacher feedback is very important here. Decreased regular exercise and movement, threats to parental jobs and income, a lack of normal social connection, and a lack of space and unsuitable home learning and working environments preventing people performing at their best, are proven causes of social, emotional, and mental health issues. Yet in this pandemic everyone is somehow expected to perform and get through it. Because of this listening to everyone and supporting students, families and staff is very important. Because of these stressful and traumatic factors, a caring approach is absolutely what’s needed right now, and it’s clear from the evidence shared that the school has largely achieved this.

A leading expert on crisis management, Dr Douglas Walker, focuses on 5 essential areas:

  1. Connectedness – is the school providing on-going opportunities for virtual connection and peer support?
  2. Hope – is the school helping its students, faculty and parents to be positive/hopeful about the future?
  3. Safety – is the school increasing its community’s sense of safety by, for example, providing clear, regular and accurate communication about prevention and response measures?
  4. Self and Community efficacy – does the school draw upon the core values and stories of resilience to convey to its community what it has achieved that it will get through this together?
  5. Calming – does the school model good practice through calm and thoughtful leadership and communication, and do you empower your community to regulate and manage their emotions so that they can keep calm?

My conclusion, based on a breadth of evidence, is that Verita International School has proven that it has the capacity to provide high-quality distance learning and support for students and their families. It is clear that well-being has been given equal consideration to learning and that educators have lived up to the mission’s promise by being incredibly innovative, dedicated, flexible and supportive, despite their personal challenges. This is to their tremendous credit. In turn, it is clear that students and parents have been very adaptable and supportive during an amazingly challenging time. This is to their tremendous credit.

The community must celebrate its monumental success at a time when the world is challenged to prove its resilience. Your educational partners at the Council of International School wish the entire Verita International School community its best wishes in overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic as an even stronger, more connected community.

Leo Thompson, CIS Evaluator