Award Season

International School Awards, 2019

Andy Homden previews the International School of the Year event being held in London in January.

 On January 21st, members for the international school community will be gathering at the Connaught Rooms in London’s Covent Garden for the 2019 International School of the Year Awards, sponsored by Pearson Education, and hosted by International School Leader Magazine with the support of ISC Research.

Wide field

Dulwich College Beijing – Community Initiative – Creativity in Learning

This year nominations were opened to all international schools, in an expanded format that has developed from the British International School of the Year award. The 200+ nominees have been shortlisted to 41 schools nominated in 11 categories. One of these schools will be named International School of the Year.

So why have an awards night for international education? Visiting schools in 2018, I have been struck by the continuing innovation shown in what must be one of the most dynamic educational sectors in the world. Not only is the number of international schools growing quickly – but the quality of what they offer, their innovative practice and sheer enthusiasm for teaching and learning never ceases to impress.

Recognising international excellence

I think there are three compelling reasons for recognising best practice in the international sector. Firstly because international schools are not followers in education any more (if they ever were) – they are leaders, responding imaginatively to a range of demands and solving often complex teaching and learning problems. These solutions deserve a wide audience: what has worked well in one situation could well work in another, and we can all learn as a result, whether we work in the international sector or not. An awards eveningis one way of raising the profile of the whole sector.

What is striking is how comparatively new schools such as Cranleigh School, Abu Dhabi, and Sunmarke School in Dubai are coming up with new ideas and effective answers, as this list of finalists shows. Thirdly, there can be no doubt that a nomination can have an affirming effect on a school community, just as it can on an individual. This in itself is energising and worth doing for its own sake: there’s nothing like a professional pat on the back.

Catching the eye

So what catches the eye in this year’s nominations? I would really like to know more about the Corona Secondary School in Nigeria and their student-led water borehole initiative, nominated for the Community Initiative section, while Dulwich College Beijing have made the final list in the same category for an artwork project in a children’s hospital based on research into the effect of aesthetics and health. Interesting – really interesting.

I love the idea for which Haileybury Astana in Kazakhstan have been nominated in an intriguing category recognising an initiative to support student pathways to university. Haileybury have taken a long term approach to this crucial and often neglected area of education by developing specific skills from an early age to aid higher education applications in a student’s later years.


Three schools have been nominated in the inclusion category: ISKL in Malaysia, Sunmarke in Dubai and St. Andrews in Bangkok. Solving the issues of making outstanding provision for children who require learning support has been a long-standing challenge for international schools, and what particularly interested me was St. Andrew’s nomination for an initiative to support well-being in a programme that allows children with more severe learning difficulties to develop within the mainstream environment. This will almost certainly be something we could all learn from.

International impact and strategic leadership awards

For all its undoubted benefits, implementing an IB programme can be a daunting prospect if staff are not familiar with the way things work. All power then to the experienced hands at Greenland International School, Egypt, nominated in the International Impact category for introducing the International Baccalaureate to their neighbours in a local government school.

Structuring the delivery of an effective teaching schedule to drive great learning in a sustainable manner is one of the greatest challenges facing school leaders in all types of international schools. Watch out then for the work at the British School of Muscat and Western Academy of Beijing, both nominated for the strategic leadership award. Finding out how BSM have been developing their Teacher and TA training for home country nationals and how Western Academy have been redefining their use of time, while developing “Day 9” online learning opportunities will certainly be very worthwhile.

Teaching initiative

This category is perhaps the Blue Ribbon award, and there are five very strong contenders, ranging from a new agribusiness programme developed at St. Paul’s Collegiate School in New Zealand to a summer reading programme introduced by Del Campo School in Honduras. As in all the categories, the judges are going to have a hard time picking a winner. I am fascinated, however, by the possibilities raised by Dulwich College, Seoul who have introduced a fluid grouping system for their Mathematics programme – I just want to know how it works!

Impressive bunch

Students at Del Campo School

These are just a small number of the nominations. It is clear that the finalists are all impressive and thoroughly deserve their recognition. One thing for sure – I do not envy the judges in making their final decisions!


Andy Homden’s experience in international education dates back to 1980 when he left the UK to teach in Hong Kong. He has served in some of the world’s leading international schools as both teacher and leader, before founding Consilium Education in 2014.


Feature Image: British School, Muscat – Nominated for the Strategic Leadership category: Teacher and TA Training initiative.

Please note:

The views expressed in this article are entirely personal and in no way representative of the organisers or judging panel.




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