Over the weekend of March 3-5th, Senior Associate Gez Hayden joined 153 leaders from Africa international schools at the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) Leadership Conference, held at the Indaba Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa. This very comprehensive conference offered Innovative Practices workshops on Leadership Frameworks, Good Governance, Countering the Toxic Childhood, Service Learning, and Leading Child Protection beyond Accreditation. Also available were Deep Dive extended sessions programs on Leadership Coaching, Meeting Learners’ Needs, Data-Driven Decision Making, along with Learning Partner sessions on assessing reading skills, emerging risks in international education, and technology in the classroom.
Gez followed both the governance and child protection strands. For the former, he and his group looked at the case study of the challenges faced by the American International School of Johannesburg (AISJ) over the six years of development since Dr. Andy Page-Smith has led the school. They learned that for a school board to offer leadership effectively it must be able to work closely and openly with the head of school and with the school community--especially in a period of major development and change, like that one AISJ has undergone. The board needs to be ready to reconfigure and regroup according to the changing needs of the students in the school. The session was presented by Dr. Page-Smith and Board Chair Pamela Gutmann.
Child protection is rightfully an issue of utmost importance, which has risen to particular prominence in recent years as we international educators became aware that our sector was less effective in screening teachers working with our students than has been the case for most first world countries. International schools were perceived as something of a soft option for people who may have found it difficult to obtain work with children domestically. As a result, international schools have been working hard to improve screening standards, as have recruitment consultancies. As Council of International Schools CEO Jane Larson, who led the session, pointed out, there are now higher expectations in place across the board, regarding teachers wishing to teach internationally providing comprehensive background checks. We know this new reality--much greater rigor in verifying teachers’ backgrounds to ensure our students are safe--to have taken many international teacher candidates by surprise. However, our conclusion was that this thoroughness is a good thing, now a benchmark expectation by schools, already part of accreditation standards for international schools, and it will continue to feature very prominently in hiring processes worldwide.
As always at a conference, there was ample opportunity for networking with delegates. Gez was able to wish a happy transition to several heads of school soon leaving Africa for new positions elsewhere. It was also possible for Gez to arrange visits to Westwood School, Gaborone, Botswana; the American International School of Cape Town, South Africa; and Windhoek International School, Namibia. These are all scheduled to take place over the next few months--more to come on those visits when they take place.