My experience doing inset abroad
On a grey, wintery day, I was asked, “Would you be interested in some inset abroad in Doha?” I love to travel and see new places, but, having taught in international schools myself, I am also interested in working with the particular needs of these schools to develop learning based on the UK curriculum. I remember very well how easy it was to feel quite isolated and to be constantly be searching out changes and developments from the UK.
So, arrangements were made to deliver a day’s training for two schools and flights were booked. Initially, there was a great deal of email correspondence to understand each school’s starting point and what they had identified as the focus of the day. This was followed by several Skype conversations – what did we do before Skype? The needs of the two schools were different, so I developed two different INSET days bespoke to each school’s context.
On my way
On 13th May, I found myself at Heathrow airport ready to fly with a suitcase half-full of books thanks to Qatar Airways generous baggage allowance! First impressions of Doha were the heat and the wonderful customer service. A taxi ride to the hotel gave a glimpse of a distinctive skyline of modern high-rise buildings, wide roads, dry, dusty land and many building sites.
The daily routine is different: whilst break times here are disrupted by rain, in Doha it is the heat! School finishes early simply because it is too hot. The sun is intense and relentless and air-conditioning is an essential. The school hall was cool, bordering on cold and it was bizarre to see staff putting on jumpers and even wrapping themselves in blankets when the outside temperature was 45 degrees!
After a short lunch-break, (a wonderful feast of middle-eastern mezze) we continued looking at a sequence in practice and the thorny issue of assessment! Although there is still much to do to get assessment right in the UK, here we had an advantage. I was able to share the journey we have undertaken so far and the absolute necessity of basing planning for progress on formative assessment and how to secure and deepen learning.
I left everyone thinking about the texts that could be used and re-thinking writing.
The second school – Awfaz Global – was different again. The school is situated in another area of Doha in an enormous villa. Classrooms are not purpose-built, but have been adapted to make effective learning environments. The school has classes from Nursery to Year 9 and has many EAL learners. Another early start – 6.45 a.m. this time! The brief here was to introduce the 2014 curriculum. Again, such an advantage to be implementing this with the two years’ experience of the UK to draw on. We looked at the new year group expectations and examples of work in English and in maths. Many thanks to all the schools here which have allowed me to photograph work.
The difference in standards caused much discussion which led to ensuring understanding of the shift towards mastering and deepening learning and the role of formative assessment. Leaders were concerned about the tracking of progress, so possible systems and processes were shared and considered. All staff was anxious to approach the implementation with as much knowledge as possible.
A fascinating international school consultancy
All told, it was such a fascinating and exciting experience. I did also manage a boat trip in a dhow around the bay and evening visits to Souq Waqif – one of the original parts of the city – to have some delicious meals. A bit of the culture too! Schools are schools wherever you go and all face challenges of one kind or another. I feel privileged to have been invited to work with both schools that welcomed me so warmly and have broadened my knowledge too.
For more information on our international services, please click here. You can also find Rps on Twitter @FocusRos, or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818. If you are an international school and you would like a consultant to support you in your development of the English curriculum, please head to our International Consultancy page.
Ros has over 30 years’ experience working in teaching and leadership roles in schools, both nationally and internationally, as well as leadership roles within Local Authority advisory teams.
With extensive experience in all aspects of school improvement and contexts, as well as specialisms in English and EAL, Ros has developed inspirational, creative resources and training which puts English at the heart of the curriculum.