Monday, 6 November 2017

In Praise of the Gap Year

As a School Principal, I’m often asked what I think of a young person having a GAP year between school and university – well, the short answer is that I’m a great fan if they’re done right. Let me explain . . . .

GAP year – a gateway to Independence

A GAP year between school and university comes at a time of enormous freedom – school leaving examinations are in the past, and the three or four years of undergraduate study lie ahead. A GAP year is the first time in a young person’s adult life that he or she has undirected time, free from the pressures of education. Time is the most precious thing that we have and a GAP year is a real privilege and shouldn’t be wasted. GAP years give young people a real opportunity to spread their wings and develop independence in a way that is not possible whilst at home or university. They are about self-development and self-discovery. In many ways they are self-indulgent, but that does not mean to say that they need to be selfish. They have the potential to be a time of developing habits that will carry them through university and into life.

The five ingredients to a great GAP year: 

1. Learn something. 

A GAP year is a really good opportunity to learn something new – it doesn’t have to be academic study. Why not learn a language, to code, to ski, or to cook but take the time to master to something new that you can take with you into university and into later life

2. Work. 

Most young people do not have an idea of what the world of work holds for them. Taking a GAP year gives an important opportunity to have a taste of the world of work. It provides an opportunity to gain a degree of financial independence by making the connection between earning money and paying for the necessities and luxuries of life, such has food, accommodation, travel and entertainment (which hitherto most likely have been funded by the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’!)
Work in an office. The fact is that most graduates end up working in an office at least for part of their time at work. A GAP year gives an opportunity to gain an insight into that world and to experience the discipline of working regular hours and being accountable to a boss for one’s performance. This is fundamentally a different relationship that the young person will have had with their teachers at school: work places are fundamentally less supportive and are much more demanding. The skills and experience gained here will stand the person in good stead both in terms of developing good work habits for university, and in terms of helping make choices about the sort of career which he or she wants to pursue.
Do a manual job. It may seem odd to suggest that a Gapper should spend some time doing manual work, but a couple of months working in a restaurant or bar; or working in a factory is a great training ground in life. One of the greatest skills in life is being able to get on with people at every level of society. We may aspire that our children will end up being the successful businessmen or businesswomen eating in the restaurants, rather than being a worker serving at tables; but young people will grow into better managers and leaders if they have an appreciation of what it is like to work on one’s feet late into the night; or to do a night shift. Indeed, experiencing a period of time doing manual work can provide much-needed motivation to make the most of their time at university.

3. Read for fun. 

It is the nature of many courses at school and university that there is little time and energy left to read for fun. A GAP year provides an excellent opportunity to develop a love of reading and to grapple with some of the world’s great literature.

4. Travel. 

A GAP year is a great opportunity for a young person to see the world, not as a tourist, but by spending time living in another culture. There are very few other times in life that one can spend three months in one country and move on to the next. Living abroad at such a formative time of life can be life-changing. Meeting people who have different cultures and ideas challenges the norms with which we have been brought up. This is an important stage of growing up and coming to independence. We increasingly live and world in a global society (nowhere more than here in Dubai) and the young person who has travelled and can draw on experiences from around the world is more likely to be able to relate to a greater range of people at university and in life.

5. Volunteer. 

A GAP year is a great opportunity to ‘give back’ to society in some way by offering their time and energy as a volunteer. This might be working for a local charity, by giving up time to help in a school or soup kitchen, or by working in an orphanage in Katmandu.

It is the nature of ingredients that they are not consumed in isolation. The delight of the recipe is in mixing them up. Working, learning, reading and volunteering may all be combined with travelling.

Planning a GAP year 

GAP years need a lot of planning. The first thing to note about a GAP year is that it’s not a year, it’s 15 months, as young people typically end their exams in June and don’t start university until late September/ early October. The second thing to consider is that the exercise of planning the year is itself one of the most valuable learning opportunities of the whole GAP year experience. The gapper should be encouraged to book his/her own flights and accommodation and secure his/her work and voluntary placements.
Parents will undoubtedly want to be reassured that appropriate arrangements are in place and act as a critical friend, but need to be prepared to step back and allow the young person to lead the process. No GAP year is the same, much will depend on how and where the young person is going to spend the time (e.g. living at home, staying with relatives, back-backing, working abroad) and how the GAP year is funded. My advice to parents is not to totally fund the travel element of a GAP year. For example, parents might pay for a round-the-world air ticket and give a daily allowance (again, the level of this will vary depending where the young person is travelling (US$ 15 will fund a room and a feast in parts of Asia, but will barely buy a Coke in Scandinavia).

Caveat

GAP years between school and university are not right for everyone. There is a school of thought, to which I subscribe, that young people who are going to study Mathematics-related subjects should go straight up to university. The argument here is that the nature of Maths is such that 15 months away from study can be detrimental. Conversely, there are few arguments against a young person who is going up to read languages should not benefit from a GAP year living and working abroad practising the language in a practical setting.

Conclusion 

There is little to be gained from a gapper heading off on a 15-month jolly at the expense of the parents. The aim of a GAP year from the planning stage to its execution should be to foster the personal development and independence of a young person by giving a range of enriching experiences. The key to a good GAP year is that it is rigorous and challenging. Oh to be 18 again!

This article was published in the November edition of Education Journal Middle East pp.21-22.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

How top schools can help educate the 263m children in the world who are not in education.

Interview about how top schools can use new technologies, such as Virtual Reality teaching and Blended Learning, to educate some of the 263m children who are not in education.

 

Interview at the HMC Annual Conference in London, 04/10/2017

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

How Disruptive Innovation may change schools in the future: Lessons from Dubai

Presentation given at the HMC Conference in Belfast on Wednesday 4th October 2017.





Dubai The UAE has the fastest growing private schools’ sector in the world; and Dubai has more international schools than any other city. This rapid expansion has necessitated innovation and has led to the development of new models and structures for schooling. For these reasons, Dubai is a strong candidate to be the birthplace of a “disruptive innovation” that will transform secondary education around the globe. So what lessons can we learn from the private schools’ sector in Dubai? 

Four lessons from Dubai 


  1. The Not-for-Profit (NFP) Sector was not equipped to meet the rapid growth in demand for schooling. The earliest international schools in Dubai were established in the 1960s and 1970s with financial support from the Ruler, Sheikh Rashhid, and the Oil and Gas companies and supporting industries. They were established as Not-for-Profit entities. NFP organisations are by their very nature more conservative and were not equipped to expand and develop sufficiently quickly and so For-Profit companies have filled the space. The NFP schools remain the top schools in Dubai but today they represent only about 3% of the school places in Dubai. 
  2. The For-Profit groups offer education at different price points: The For-Profit sector in Dubai, unsurprisingly is driven by the economic drivers of ‘return-on-investment’, ‘economies of scale’, scalability, differentiated markets and keep costs down – especially of staffing. The For-Profit groups offer Premium, Mid-range and Budget in the same way that airlines offer First Class, Business and Economy seats on their planes. The differentiators between the price points are school and class size, the range of facilities available in the school, the qualifications of teachers, and the amount of teacher-pupil contact time in the week. 
  3. The For-Profit Groups invest in central I.T. systems: Large schools groups have levered technology to achieve economies of scale to achieve a measure of standardisation and to share best practice. For example, Nord Anglia and GEMS have both developed global CPD portals for teachers; and GEMS have developed a shared VLE for their schools. 
  4. Schools in Dubai embrace innovation GEMS Wellington Silicon Oasis is pioneering “Blended Learning” IB program, where students use a combination of online resources and video-conferencing. JESS currently has a group who are experimenting with Virtual Reality technology as a way of making JESS lessons available beyond the physical bounds of the school. 

Research into Alternative Models for Secondary Schooling – Replacing Teachers 

My research was for a Dissertation for MSc Executive Masters in Management with Ashridge-Hult Business School (May 2017). This (small sample) study investigated why alternative models for secondary schooling have not been adopted in the way that they are being adopted in tertiary education, by comparing the attitudes of School Principals (educationalists) to the attitudes of School Owners/CEOS (business people). The study broke down (‘decomposed’ – after Susskind 2015) into seven tasks which specialist teachers (e.g. a Physics teacher) do: 

  1. Lesson Planning 
  2. Teaching – to transmit/impart subject information 
  3. Teaching – to set tasks to groups of students 
  4. Classroom Management and Supervision 
  5. Working with Individual Students 
  6. Assessment, Grading and Monitoring 
  7. Parental Communication and Reporting 

The two study groups were asked if it would be acceptable to practice in their school for that task to be done by an alternative to a specialist teacher:

  1. A Non-Specialist - A qualified teacher who is not a qualified specialist in the relevant subject to be taught; 
  2. A Teaching Assistant who is not a qualified teacher; 
  3. A Specialist Teacher via Video-Conferencing - A qualified subject specialist teacher who is not physically present who contacts the students via video-conferencing. 
  4. An Online Learning Programme which students access via a computer in school. 

This study found that both School Owners/CEOs and School Leaders are resistant to replacing “specialist classroom teachers” with “qualified teachers who are not subject specialists” and with “teaching assistants”; but found an openness to replacing them with “specialists teaching via video-conferencing” or through students using “online learning platforms”. 
This study found that the potential “drivers” towards the adoption of these models are: 

  1. Improved Pedagogy 
  2. Reducing Costs 
  3. Addressing Teacher recruitment issues 

This study found that the potential “blockers” to the adoption of these models are:

  1. Concerns about the Quality of Student Learning; 
  2. Concerns about a Change in Ethos of the School; 
  3. Concerns about Parental Reaction. 

This study found that alternative models for secondary schooling have not been adopted because both the majority of School Owners/CEOs and School Leaders see no reason to change as the status quo still works. However, it is likely a potential shortage of specialist teachers will serve as the catalyst for the adoption of alternative models for schooling.  

Looking into the Crystal Ball – Five Prophecies for the Future of Schooling around the World 

So if we apply the principles of Dubai’s For-Profit sector to the global Learning-School problem, what solutions might we see?

  1. Education For-Profit will become the norm around the world.
    Not-for-Profit education is not equipped to meet the global demand for education, the inevitable consequence is that the For-Profit sector will fill the void. 
  2. Being taught by a specialist teacher in a classroom at Secondary level will be a luxury.
    Technology won’t replace teachers everywhere – but it will in many places. In the future, it will only be Premium Secondary Education that will be delivered by specialist teachers in classrooms drawing on a range of real and virtual resources. This will remain the norm in the UK Independent Sector and in top International Schools around the world. Budget Secondary Education will not have subject teachers, but will be delivered totally through online courses on learning platforms. However, for many young people around the world this will be better than the present situation of receiving no education at all. Mid-Range Secondary Education will be delivered by “super-teachers” via Virtual-Reality Conferencing. The For-Profit will invest in new technologies in order to maximise the impact of teachers and these will become much more common around the world, particular where Governments are funding schooling. For example, the US Public School system is in the vanguard of this (for an overview see Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning, 2015). To date there has been little appetite for adopting this model in the UK as was witnessed earlier this year when counsellors rejected the plans to use Blended Learning at the Ark Pioneer Academy in Barnet (see TES 30/01/2017). 
  3. Blended Learning and Virtual Reality Teaching will be the disruptors of Secondary education.
    Blended Learning has scope both to raise standards by personalising education and to reduce costs. As the platforms and content improve, we will see their wider adoption. We also already have ‘Virtual Teaching’ through video conferencing which enables pupils around the world to be taught live by a remote teacher. Furthermore, ‘Virtual Reality’ already enables pupils to travel through time and space – to experience the ancient Colosseum in Rome, life in the trenches or a World-War One dog-fight with the Red Baron. Once these two technologies are combined so that we have ‘Virtual Reality Teaching’, it will be possible for a pupil can put on a headset and ‘feel’ as if they are in a real classroom with a world-class teacher, or be taken on a virtual school visit to any place in time and space. 
  4. There will be ‘superstar teachers’ commanding very high salaries.
    One of the consequences of the rise of Virtual Reality Teaching is that there will be the rise of superstar teachers. The For-Profit sector has a proven record of investing in talent where it can made wider savings. It will inevitably pay to attract top talent, particularly in shortage subjects and their global educational networks will provide a platform which will enable great Virtual Reality teachers will be able to reach millions of students. These teachers will inevitably be very well paid and, given the nature of the C21, it is likely that they will be famous and become celebrities. 
  5. Primary Teachers will be assisted by Robots.
    Young children at a formative stage of development need human interaction to shape their learning, thus it is highly unlikely that it will ever be possible to replace teachers in primary schools with technological solutions. One consequence of the predictions for secondary education outlined above is that primary schooling will need to teach the skills to enable young people to access non-classroom based forms of education. It is quite possible that robots will replace Teaching Assistants, performing basic instructive tasks such as teaching basic mathematics and listening to children read. 

Final Thoughts on the Future of Schooling 

Prophecy is more about reading the signs of the time and working out a likely a future position from the current direction of travel, rather than predicting the future receiving some dislocated revelation from on high. Prophets are rarely popular because they are usually delivering a message that people don't want to hear. I believe that the signs for a possible future of schooling are there for all to see. In an ideal world every child in the world would receive the quality of education that is available at a HMC school but, for reasons of logistics alone, that isn’t going to happen. However, I do believe that technology has a very important part to play in giving every child the opportunity to have at least some form of basic education. Indeed, there is real scope here for Not-for-Profit schools to open their virtual doors and allow children around the world to experience the world-class teaching that takes place in our schools.  

Three Questions to consider 


  1. What will the future workplace look like?
  2. What will schools look like in the future? 
  3. What should we be teaching young people to prepare them for the future? 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

GCSE results: academic success cannot be measured by grades alone

Today sees thousands of students who study in UK curriculum schools in the UAE receiving their GCSE results. Like many others, this year I am an anxious parent, hoping that my sixteen year-old has got the best possible set exam results that will allow him to progress to the sixth form on a path that I hope will take him to university and, from there, on into successful and fulfilled employment. Amid the anxiety and relief, the questions nagging at the back of many parents’ minds on results’ day are ‘Did my child get the best possible grades that he could have?’ and, given the amount we invest in our children’s education in the UAE, ‘Has the school done a good job?”
As parents and teachers we know that not all children are the same. Some have a greater aptitude for academic studies than others; for some work comes easy - for others it is hard; some make a huge effort – others are lazy or disengaged. For this reason, academic success cannot simply be measured by the final grades: a gifted student who achieves 10 A grades may have under-performed, whereas a less gifted student may well have fulfilled her potential and achieved 5 Bs and 3Cs. The true measure of performance in any examination is not raw results, rather we should judge our children’s performance in relation to their ability. The question is how do we decide whether or not a student has fulfilled his or her potential?
One important way of evaluating this is by looking at a measure of “Value Added”. The Durham University Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) has been researching student performance for over thirty years. Over this time, millions of students have been tested at the start of their secondary schooling (aged 11) and their performances monitored at GCSE (aged 16). These data allow CEM to define with a high degree of accuracy what grade a student of a given baseline score is most likely to get in their GCSE in a given subject. This is not to say that all students of the same ability get the same results: the CEM data set is able to outline the percentage chance of a student of a given ability will achieve. For example, 2% of students with a given baseline score might have a got an ‘E’ in French GCSE, 8% got a ‘D’, 21% got a ‘C’, 29% got a ‘B’, 26% got an ‘A’, and 13% got an ‘A*’. In this case the ‘most likely grade’ is a ‘B’. Thus if a student of this ability gets an ‘A’ or an ‘A*’, it might be said that he or she has exceeded expectations; whereas if the student gets below a B grade, he or she has fallen short of expectations.
Value-added is also a useful measure of evaluating schools, departments and even teachers. A school, department or teacher who consistently has students who are exceeding expectations is adding value and is doing a great job; conversely a school, department or teacher whose students consistently fall short of expectations indicates the urgent need for improvement. Savvy parents looking for a secondary school, would be well advised to ask for the schools’ value added scores, rather than just their raw GCSE results – they can be far more telling.
At JESS, we use CEM baseline data to set aspirational targets for students (and staff). These targets are published to parents and we report on the student’s performance in a given subject against these targets.
Results days are always anxious times for all concerned. It usually is a time for celebration, as well as a time for relief. When your child brings you the result slip, don’t forget that their greatest achievement is sometimes the hard-fought ‘C’ grade in the subject that they find most difficult. Good luck!

A version of this article was published in online version of The National.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

How “Virtual Reality Teaching” could help educate the world.

The Challenge 

One of the greatest challenges for Education in the Twenty-first Century is that there is an ever-increasing divide between the demand for learning and the supply of schooling. This is seen most obviously in the global shortage of teachers, but it extends to the dearth of school leaders, and to the unavailability of schools themselves.
 According to UNESCO (Institute of Statistics, 2013), there are currently 263 million children not in education and the world will need 3.3 million more primary teachers and 5.1 million more lower Secondary teachers by 2030. These statistics demonstrate that we are failing millions of young people. Our current model of teaching with a specialist standing in front of a class of 20-30 pupils is inefficient and unsustainable. We need to find a way to bring education to all. There is no easy answer to this problem, but I believe that “Virtual Reality Teaching” will be part of the solution.

Virtual Reality in the Classroom 

Most are familiar with Virtual Reality (VR) – it is transforming the Gaming industry and it is now finding its way into classrooms around the world. The technology is simple: it works very much in the same way that enabled a previous generation of children to enjoy 3D images through a Viewmaster. The headset projects a slightly different image to each eye, which gives a 3D effect. As the viewer moves his head to the left and right, the image moves giving a strong feeling of being in situ. By turning around, the viewer can see what is behind him; by looking up he can see what’s above him-it’s ‘real’!

What makes Virtual Reality different? 

The greatest difference between VR and, say, watching a DVD is that VR is an active rather than a passive process. It feels like the real experience. Because the viewer is controlling where he looks and what he focuses on, this inevitably leads to greater engagement. Indeed, Virtual Reality allows the user to experience what is going on in a way that feels authentic.

Personalised Learning 

At JESS, Dubai, we use VR extensively in our Primary schools to take children on virtual school trips traveling around the world, back in time and even into space. In the past few weeks at Year 5 have met some ancient Egyptians, Year 4 have been to London, Foundation 2 travelled to Mars and Year 6 went to Ancient Greece. The children ‘felt’ what it was like to be there and the experience helped them to develop mature responses at a significantly deeper level than would ever be possible from watching a video. Possibly the greatest strength of VR is that the experience is personalised – the child is in control of the experience, he can go at his own pace, choosing to look at what he wants, taking time to look for detail, moving on only when ready.

From Virtual Reality to Virtual Reality Teaching 

I believe that Virtual Reality technology is more than just the latest in the long line of technologies which can be harnessed by teachers to help them make their classrooms come alive. It has the potential to be the “disruptor” of education providing access to some of the best teaching in the world to millions of children who are currently not in education.

Proof of Concept: “Virtual Reality Teaching” 

“Virtual Reality Teaching” (VRT) has the potential to allow children in Calcutta to feel as if they are in a classroom at JESS, Dubai. Earlier this year, Steve Bambury, the Director of Innovation and Digital Learning at JESS, conducted a “proof-of-concept” test of VRT. We aimed to give students an immersive experience of being in a classroom, rather than passively watching a Video Conferencing screen. This involved putting a 360-degree camera in the second row of a classroom and running a live stream to a classroom next door where a student wearing a VR headset “participated virtually” in the lesson. The experience of the remote student was not perfect, there was a time delay and some buffering, but he felt like he was in the classroom. This has the potential to be revolutionary. The technical processor speed and network bandwidth issues will be resolved sooner rather than later in accordance with the inexorable progress of Moore’s Law. We are confident that it is only a matter of time that students will be able to attend class at JESS remotely.

“Virtual Reality English Language Teaching” 

The English Language teaching sector is a significant part of the global education industry. According to the British Council figures there were 1.5bn people learning and speaking English in 2014 and it is estimated that this will increase to 2bn people (25% of the global population) by 2020. The Export revenue for the UK’s English Language Teaching (ELT) sector was estimated at £1.2 billion (US$1.74 billion) for 2014 (Source: ICEF Monitor, Feb 2016). The demand for English Language Teaching is only set to increase as English extends its influence as the lingua franca. Virtual Reality Teaching is likely to become an important way in which learners will be able to gain access to the best teachers and interact with native speakers. Potential investors would be well advised to target the Far East in the first instance as this region is quick to embrace new technologies and already is an established market for English Language teaching.

Making “Virtual Reality Teaching” a Reality

"Virtual Reality Teaching" has enormous potential, but it will take more than a couple forward-thinking professionals in the UAE to make it happen. Technological development will have to combine with a robust educational pedagogy. We have a long way to go. 
I suspect that the technological development will come from Oculus, the leading VR company owned by Facebook. Understandably, having recently become a father, Mark Zuckerberg is becoming interested in education and he has the resources to make this vision happen. It is perhaps fitting that he then has the last word: 
“After Games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, or consulting a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on your goggles at home.” 
This article was written for the English Language Gazette.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Mission, Strategy and Development Planning

One of the most important roles of any leadership team is to plan for the future and set a direction of travel for the organisation so that it can thrive and not just survive. Most School Leadership Teams and Governing Bodies have little problem generating a whole range of ideas about how they would like the school to develop in the future. However, in my experience there are three important factors which differentiate those schools who are successful at future planning from those who are disastrous:
  1. Successful schools know what they are about; 
  2. Successful schools plan for the future strategically; 
  3. Successful schools get the most out of the limited resources available. 
These three concepts are at the heart of future planning.

Mission – The Why?

Mission is really about explaining why the organisation exists (See Simon Sinek’s The Importance of Why). Often this is embedded deep in the past, in the very foundation of the organisation. For most independent schools this will be found in the ‘charitable object’. Mission Statements are perhaps less fashionable than they were a decade ago, but the starting point for all future planning has to be some sort of overarching aim or purpose which reflects the core values of the organisation. 
The key mission questions are: 
  • What are our core values? 
  • What do we stand for? 
  • What are we trying to achieve? 
JESS Dubai’s Mission Statement is founded on its core value of ‘making a difference’: 
JESS Dubai aims to be a school that has a global reputation for delivering an education that challenges young people to make a difference. 
Berkhamsted School developed its mission by having 10 aims (6 Educational Aims and 4 Operational Aims) and all future planning was expected to contribute to at least one of these aims. 

Strategic Planning – The How? 

Strategy is concerned with defining how the organisation fulfils its mission. It does this by deciding how the organisation fits into the wider marketplace and by determining its shape and extent. The most important strategic questions is: 

  • What is our market niche? 

The role of the strategist is to plot the course for the organisation within the terms of the its mission adapting to changing external conditions. Strategic plans should never be fixed – they are provisional. The strategist therefore needs high quality information to be able to analyse market changes. There are a whole number of tools to facilitate this: 

  • PESTEL Analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal) is a tool for determining external business environmental factors. 
  • SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a self-evaluative tool for determining the organisations priorities for development and investment. 
  • Porter’s Five Forces Model is a tool that sets out to identify the attractiveness of an industry in terms of five competitive forces: the threat of entry, the threat of substitutes, the power of buyers, the power of suppliers and the extent of the rivalry between the companies. 
  • Resourced Based Analysis is a tool that identifies those resources within an organisation which can bring it a sustained competitive advantage. Rare, Valuable, Inimitable and Organizational Process. 
  • Key Success Factor Competitor Analysis is a tool that examines four key areas (price, product quality, service and reassurance) which differentiate market leaders from their competitors. 

These and other similar tools enable School leaders to determine where the school sits in the marketplace and to answer the following fundamental strategic questions: 

  • What is the optimum size of the school? 
  • What is the optimum structure of the school? 
  • Co-ed v Single Sex? 
  • Curriculum type? 
  • Boarding v Day? 
  • What is the Pastoral Care Structure? 

These are questions of policy and should be determined by Governors.
The answers to these fundamental questions will change over time as the marketplace in which it is operating changes. The past twenty years has seen most independent schools in the UK shift on at least one of these fundamental strategic questions: boarding schools have taken day pupils, single sex schools have embraced coeducation, prep schools have opened pre-preps and nurseries; senior schools have opened tied junior schools; schools have merged and have grown size, schools now provide year-round wrap-around care for working parents. The Berkhamsted Schools Group today is a product of all of these changes – it is structurally a different school in nearly every respect to the school that it was in 1997. 

Development Planning – The What? 

Development Planning is concerned with what the organisation is going to do to enable it to adapt and improve – within the strategic parameters. Development planning plots how we are going to get from where we are (A) to where we want to be (B). Development Planning is really about the allocation of scarce resources: 

  • Time – in school terms this means the shape of the school day and the curriculum allocation; 
  • People – teaching and support staff; 
  • Space – classrooms and meeting rooms ; 
  • Skills – training, CPD and INSET days; 
  • Money – capital expenditure, fit-outs, staffing and other running costs. 

Planning is where vision meets reality. It is about how a school is going to spend time and money and how it is going to use its people, space and skills. These are questions of process and should be determined at an executive level within a budget determined by Governors.
Poor development planning happens when it is not tied to the school strategy and when schools mindless follow what other schools are doing on the principle of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. Too many schools invested in Interactive Whiteboards and iPads to impress prospective parents without having any training or idea of where they fitted into a teaching and learning pedagogy for the school. The result is a lost opportunity and a waste of money. 

Final Thoughts 

Future planning requires an enormous amount of work. It is not simply the generation of a list of ‘nice-to-have’ projects. It is about striking a balance between the internal (self-knowledge of what the school in essence is about and its priorities) and the external (understanding of the wider operational environment). Above all, it requires striking a balance between strong traditional core values and an open-mindedness as to how these can be applied for the benefit of the next generation of pupils.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Future of Schooling - Interview with Relocate Magazine

Interview with Relocate Magazine about the Future of Schooling, filmed at the COBIS Conference in Greenwich, London on 07/05/2017

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The COBIS Future of Schooling Debate

This presenatation was given the 36th Annual COBIS Conference in Greenwich on Sunday 7th May, 2017

The Future of Schooling - Lessons from Dubai

This presentation was given at the 36th Annual COBIS Conference in Greenwich, London, on Sunday 7th May, 2017.

 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Caveat Emptor - the perils ahead for those investing in Dubai's for-profit private schools

The National 23/04/2017
It has been a tough few days for the UAE schools' market. Last week GEMS announced that their flagship ultra-premium school, GEMS Nations Academy will be 'merging' with GEMS Dubai American Academy (Education Journal Middle East 13/04/2017) and today The National has run two stories indicating that parents are shopping around because the 'High Cost of Education is the biggest challenge faced by parents.'
These stories indicate that the oversupply of schools is having an impact at every level of the UAE private schools market.
The failure of GEMS Nations is indicative that there is not a market for an ultra-Premium school in Dubai.
The effective closure of GEMS Nations Academy after only one year indicates that there is not a market for an ultra-Premium school in what is an already competitive Premium marketplace. This flagship school boasted the best teaching, small class sizes and Rolls Royce school facilities - all at an eye-watering price point that was 30% higher than most of its competitors. GEMS is a big enough organisation to absorb this loss and its merger with DAA is a useful Plan B. Its failure must serve as a warning sign not only to North London Collegiate School, Dubai who are also pitching into the market in September 2017 with ultra-premium priced product, but also to Brighton and Dwight who are coming to Dubai in 2018, and to other UK schools thinking of establishing franchise schools in the UAE.
Market forces are driving a readjustment in Dubai's private schools' market.
The National story on parents shopping around and moving children between schools represents a readjustment in the wider private schools market. It was only in the academic year 2014-15 that the number of places exceeded the number of pupils. Any under-supplied market has the potential for rich pickings for investors, this is all the more so when it is an 'essential' product that is being sold - ex-pat parents are required by law to put their child into a private school. The consequence was that schools were able to open and thrive that do not represent good value to parents. 
A market-driven schools sector is generally a good thing. Now that there is over-supply we are seeing market forces at work: parents moving children between schools, greater competition is driving up school quality, and prices are falling. However, we can also expect more school closures as 'the dark hand of the market' culls those who don't make the mark.
The challenge for school owners, governors and school leaders is to raise standards without raising prices.
The challenge for school owners, governors and school leaders is to raise standards without raising prices. This will be particularly difficult in a context of a global shortage of teachers and of rising costs due to the introduction of VAT in January 2018, and the inevitable subsequent wage-price inflation that will follow. It is likely that schools will be forced to absorb costs in order to retain market share, with the obvious consequence that returns for shareholders will fall.
These are exciting but difficult times for the private school sector. The streets of Dubai are not paved with gold - let anyone thinking of investing in the private schools sector beware - Caveat Emptor.