What was the Challenge?
The school, which aims to teach the British curriculum to British standards, employs a large body of staff from various countries around the world. With pressure to deliver a high-quality education in a highly competitive international school market, the school set out to improve teaching standards across the staff body.
Prior to joining BlueSky Education, the school had been using a paper-based system to manage appraisal and professional learning. This created a heavy burden of admin tasks to collate data and identify training needs.
Sónia Santos, Year 6 Team Leader and Appraisal Coordinator explains: “Unless you took the time to look at the paperwork in detail, it was difficult to get a clear picture of where staff needed to improve their knowledge or develop teaching skills. With over 125 staff, many of whom only stay for a couple of years, it was very hard to keep track of progress against the standards we expected ”.
School leaders wanted to introduce a mentoring approach to appraisal and professional learning that would support staff in developing their skills. They realised that they would need a tool that supported ongoing dialogue, while also linking progress with quality assurance processes, so that individuals and managers could track progress towards professional objectives.
“Previously appraisal was happening, and reviews and observations were recorded, but then we moved on to the next thing without a clear learning objective. It was really important for us to bring in a clear process that would help us track development over time,” says Sónia. “When we heard about BlueSky we realised it could be the solution. It has already had a significant impact on teacher development and we are really happy with the results.”
How is BlueSky Supporting the school?
In addition to using BlueSky Education to manage appraisal processes such as objective setting, performance reviews and quality assurance, Newton International School has subscribed to BlueSky Learning, BlueSky’s flexible online continued professional development library.
“We ran a survey of staff in February which uncovered how staff felt about our previous CPD provision; although the CPD provided was relevant to staff, they felt that they should be allowed to procure other CPD that was more relevant to their training needs and to achieving their objectives.” Sónia says. “This led to us subscribing to BlueSky Learning, as this allows staff to select the learning content they feel will support their personal development.”
Like many international schools, recruiting and retaining high quality staff is a top priority for Newton International School. Sónia believes by allowing staff to take greater ownership of their learning pathways, BlueSky Learning has already changed the school’s approach to training: “Instead of having a one-size-fits-all approach to CPD, staff can choose their own development path to improve skills in particular areas that they need. Staff are now actively engaged with their own performance appraisal and professional development on an ongoing basis, which previously only concerned the senior leadership team.”
Staff use the CPD module in BlueSky Education to keep a record of all CPD activities that they undertake, and these can be linked to appraisal objectives, as well as contributing to the school’s strategic improvement plan. The school leadership team can track progress and evaluate the impact on teaching quality across all staff.
BlueSky’s Customer Success team helped to set up the school’s appraisal and quality assurance processes with bespoke forms for lesson observations, learning walks and book scrutiny. Sónia was impressed with BlueSky’s expertise in education standards, as it was essential to ensure that Newton’s process was aligned with current best practice in the UK: “The support to ensure this was correctly set up was excellent. This has already helped us to prepare reports for school inspectors that demonstrated how the school is meeting British standards of education and training for staff.”