Looking towards the future at Bonn International School

Philip Wharton

Philip Wharton has been Headteacher of the Independent Bonn International School since 2017. This is his first headship and previously he held management positions at another international school in Germany, where he also worked as a language and class teacher. Philip made the move to the EU in the 2005 after studying French and then gaining his PGCE in Nottingham in the UK.

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Website: www.ibis-school.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

It goes without saying that this year has brought about an unprecedented set of challenges for us all. We are at the end of the first month of our second school closure within a year, with all pupils engaged in distance-learning and up to 20% of our pupils attending emergency supervision.

The stresses caused by the global pandemic can easily lead to schools pulling down the storm shutters and becoming completely focussed on operational survival. If we can´t know when all this will end, many will question school leaders who focus on what´s next rather than purely on what´s now. This is, I would argue, our key role in this moment as school leaders: we must remember our commitment to sustained progress over time for our children and young people in our schools.  

Naturally there is an urgency to ensure that the current status quo of teaching online plays out in a way that maintains learning for pupils and causes the minimum possible stress for both staff and parents.  

Here at the Independent Bonn International School, however, we are staying true to our school values when we´re planning, especially the values of honesty and transparency, to keep our identified focus of developing our pupils´ skills in writing at the forefront of our minds.  

As Covey said, “we are beginning with the end in mind“ and thinking about where our students are, where we want them to be and how to get there. Looking at our data over the past months, we have seen (perhaps understandably given what 2020 brought us) a slight dip in the percentage of our pupils who are working at or above expected age-level in writing.  

To address this, we need to use another of our school values and be courageous in taking the challenge by the horns and meeting to discuss our action now and not in a month- we are grateful for our access to the internet and this means we can still sit around a virtual table and plan.  

Our Curriculum management team are meeting online to plan our strategy and we will start by agreeing to share our goals to make the improvement happen, even at this time of remote learning. We´ll use data already collected and that gleaned from mid-year school reports as our baseline and plan with a robust timeline of checkpoints so as to demonstrate our interventions are working. The proof will be in the pudding when our accreditation partners, COBIS, visit us (virtually) in May 2021, in the next round of school reports in the summer, assessment results and evidence from our analyses of pupils´ written work in the coming months. 

We will continue to show trust in our staff by following our communications plan: the curriculum coordinators' feedback and forward information flowing from those teaching to senior management of the school. In this way, I as Head can meet with the curriculum coordinators to fine tune our planning and strategy which can then be passed to small groups of teachers and assistants for timely interaction with learners. What works or doesn't work can then be discussed at the next meetings at all levels. With this safe structure in mind, we can leave our perfectionism at the door and carry on working hard to improve outcomes for our children, no matter if we are learning at home or at school. 

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