High standards for all

Developing best practice for inclusion in international schools

Colin Bell and Kamal Bodhanker, explain how nasen and COBIS have joined forces to raise the profile of Additional Educational Needs (AEN) in international schools.

Inclusion and international schools

In recent years, inclusion has been rising to the top of the international education agenda. The ISC Research paper, Inclusion in International Schools (2020) shows that an increasing number of schools identify themselves to be at the beginning of the journey towards greater inclusion, more schools recognise the wider social, emotional and mental health conditions of their pupils, while others are serving students who require a learning specialist in the mainstream classroom. Yet, concerningly, according to the study, only 28% of the international schools surveyed thought that ‘mainstream’ teachers felt responsible for the education of children with special educational needs (ISC, 2020).



COBIS and nasen – a new partnership

To support international schools as they develop their approach to inclusion, the UK’s National Association for Special Educational Needs (nasen) and COBIS have partnered to place inclusion at the heart of international school values, culture and practice, extending the scope of nasen’s mission as a not-for-profit organisation to support all education professionals in meeting the needs of all pupils including pupils with learning difficulties.

Inclusion and the revised COBIS accreditation

With over 1,500 International members, nasen has also been well-placed to assist COBIS in the revision of their Patron’s Accreditation and Compliance Standards during 2020. Focusing on the principles of equality, neurodiversity and the social model of inclusion, COBIS and nasen have jointly identified key areas relating to student welfare, facilities, school values, boarding, and learning in the new COBIS accreditation standards that will enable schools to demonstrate their inclusive best practice, while developing holistic support for Additional Educational Needs.

In redrafting the COBIS accreditation standards from an AEN perspective, both organisations are looking to drive high aspirations for all pupils.

nasen International

This work comes as a logical extension to the growing programme offered by nasen’s international team, supporting both leaders of Additional Educational Needs (AEN) in the long-term development of their provision and teachers with strategies to support high quality teaching in the classroom. Through bespoke continuous professional development and learning (CPDL), nasen is helping schools identify their priorities for inclusion in the context of their unique school community and the host country.

Meeting the needs of neurodiversity

Some schools are blazing the trail to provide for pupils with additional educational needs by celebrating neurodiversity and providing wide-reaching training for all school stakeholders as a result. The British School in the Netherlands (BSN) and its centre for professional learning, the International Leadership Academy (ILA) has, for example, carried out a large-scale audit of its provision for AEN professional development. By conducting a disabilities and literature review, the AEN CPDL leader, Stuart Whitfield, identified the need for sustained accredited programmes delivered throughout the academic year and multi-day programmes on the most commonly identified areas of need. The resulting CPDL programme specifically tailored to the school’s requirements featured a series of in-depth workshops, professionally accredited programmes and AEN twilight sessions.

Award winning provision

This year’s nasen International Provision of the Year Award was received by The British School, New Delhi for the work of their Learning Solutions Centres supporting mainstream pupils with a wide range of therapeutic services, assessments and training in order to provide a range of early intervention possibilities. In a regionally ground-breaking initiative, the offer of on-site occupational therapy, sensory integration, speech and language therapy and psychoeducational assessments centralised AEN services at the school to provide a multidisciplinary approach that enables effective collaboration between pupils, parents, teachers, specialists and school leaders.

New online training for international schools: January and February 2021

In our view, this initiative is all the more important at a time when those who are already the most vulnerable have been hardest hit by the pandemic.  By supporting international school professionals, COBIS and nasen aim to improve the educational experience of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities around the world, and now invite schools to participate.

For full details about the next COBIS – nasen training opportunity in March 2021, see below.



Colin Bell is the  CEO of the Council of British International Schools (COBIS)  





Kamal Bodhanker is Head of International Development at the National Association for Special Educational Needs (nasen).


How to become part of this new initiative

Find out more how staff at your school can attend the four one-hour sessions led by nasen and hosted by COBIS here:


Theme: High Quality Teaching to Support Pupils with SEND Tier 1

Dates: March 10, 17, 24, 31.

Time: 10.30 – 11.30 UK Time (4 one-hour sessions)

Cost: £125 per COBIS member delegate; £135 per non-member delegate.

Target audience:  Teachers of SEND who may be new to the profession or less confident in their approach to SEND, and who want to understand SEND better.

Presenter: Dr Jamie Galpin

Jamie is an Education Officer at nasen and leads on the development and delivery of the organisations CPDL programme. He is also a chartered Developmental Psychologist who specialises in universal difficulties that children and young people experience. He has been working with children and young people with SEND for the past 18 years. Whilst working both as an SEN teaching assistant and then as an SEN teacher, he completed his master’s degree in Child Development.

His interest in the practical applications of research then led him to complete a Master’s in Research in Education. Jamie went on to complete his PhD in Developmental Psychology where his focus was on emotion in children’s drawings and the relationship between language and drawing. Jamie continues to work in developing practice-based evidence and putting theory into practice in education.


FEATURE IMAGE:  by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 


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