Written by Colin Bell, COBIS CEO
There are a number of routes to COBIS membership available. Our range of recognised routes demonstrates both our continued commitment to robust quality assurance and to providing choice for the British international school community. As a reminder, these routes, which we see great merit in are:
1) Our Patron’s Accreditation quality assurance scheme, now in its 5th year of operation, which enables schools to evidence high standards of practice against the COBIS Accreditation Standards.
2) BSO accreditation, which is the voluntary inspection scheme of the Department for Education for England. BSO standards are based on those for independent schools in England.
3) CIS and COBIS have a long history of mutual support and collaboration, no more so than in our approach to safeguarding and child protection. The CIS route to membership enriches our collective voice.
4) From March 2022, we are excited to recognise NEASC Accreditation as a potential route to membership. Again, this relationship is all about recognising a broad array of school improvement resources.
COBIS Patron’s Accreditation and Compliance
After launching the Patron’s Accreditation 5 years ago, people asked me if I was worried about the risk of repositioning COBIS as an accrediting body as opposed to just a membership body. If I was kept awake at night about the risk of the scheme failing? Of it not making an impact? The answer is never. Why?
Because we had consulted widely. With our members, with non-member schools, with Ministries of Education around the world, with the DfE for England, the British Council, the UK Department for International Trade, multiple associations, in New York on the banks of the East River direct with the UN as our Standards are so closely linked to the UN Convention for Rights of the Child.
We researched, we benchmarked, we planned, we modelled the finances, we developed and tested the excellent tech, and we piloted the scheme with Dubai College, St Georges International School Luxembourg and British International School Kuala Lumpur. We created an environment for success.
5 years on, COBIS recognises that every British international school is unique, operating in a particular context and at a different stage of development. We strive to understand each school and appreciate its special qualities, context and operating conditions. Our differentiated approach is based on the validation of evidence provided directly by schools, which is curated by harnessing British EdTech. It is not an inspection regime, it’s not a helicopter view, nor does COBIS form judgements.
It is not a pass/fail regime, nor a one-off snapshot. Instead, it is an interactive process over a five-year cycle involving supportive dialogue with Lead Improvement Partners, Peer Accreditors and our truly outstanding Accreditation team.
Core to our philosophy is a commitment to our high standards. As you would expect, connected to safeguarding, child protection, student welfare, learning and teaching, leadership, governance and more. These standards are high and unimpeachable. What else would you expect?
In terms of Covid-19, you will know that COBIS has adapted to the restrictions of the global pandemic by delivering in the region of 30 virtual quality assurance visits. The rigour of the standards and scheme has certainly not been compromised or diluted.
COBIS firmly believes that the Patron’s Accreditation scheme strengthens the high-quality British education brand, across all sectors. A clear opportunity exists for the British Government to formally recognise the scheme. This will further enhance the reputation of the British international school sector and the wider British education sector worldwide. It’s the view of COBIS and other organisations that formal recognition of our accreditation scheme would complement the option for schools to access the DfE British Schools Overseas inspection scheme, which is now in its eleventh year of operation.
Through my appointment to the Ministerially Chaired Education Sector Advisory Group for the UK Department for International Trade, I was asked to share our 5 year accreditation story. ‘Yes, Minister’. I thought. And I decided to return with evidence and hard data. The team and I completed some internal research, direct with schools which had completed wither COBIS Compliance or full Patron’s Accreditation.
Here are 6 of the key headline results:
1) Do you feel that engagement with COBIS accreditation has had a positive impact on school improvement/safeguarding at your school? 97% of schools said yes.
2) Do you feel that engagement with the COBIS accreditation scheme has had a positive impact on teachers/staff/parents? 91% of schools said yes.
3) Do you feel that schools which have successfully completed Patron’s Accreditation should qualify to deliver Early Career Teacher (ECT) induction overseas? 94% of schools said yes.
4) Would you encourage the British Government to formally recognise Patron’s Accreditation? 94% of schools said yes.
5) Would British Government recognition of the scheme strengthen the educational reputation and overall brand of your school? 91% of schools said yes.
6) Would you recommend the COBIS Patron’s Accreditation quality assurance scheme to other schools? 97% of schools said yes.
Amongst other questions to the UK government, what have I asked?
1) Working collaboratively, can the DfE and COBIS develop a pilot scheme to strengthen teacher supply in England and overseas by widening access to ECT induction, by delivering ECT induction in high-quality COBIS accredited schools?
2) What challenges and/or barriers exist for the DfE (and/or the DIT) to recognise the rigorous COBIS accreditation scheme?
3) How can these challenges and/or barriers be addressed, tackled and overcome?
COBIS is not in isolation in its wish to constructively explore and discuss these questions. Whilst progress appears glacial, I have been assured that this matter is on the radar of the DfE. Of course and as always. I will keep you all posted.
Like your schools, COBIS has exceedingly high expectations of itself. This goes for our Exec Team, Board and myself. You can relate to this. A healthy culture of challenge and scrutiny – as well as radical generosity, as seen by the volume of our open source educational resources.
So, with this culture of scrutiny. It’s important that we walk the walk and that we talk the talk. Therefore, we have explored options for our accreditation scheme to be externally quality assured by a rigorous external validation body with a world class reputation. More on this significant development to follow.
Why? What is our motivation? This is clear. It’s to:
1) Help strengthen and modify as appropriate our standards, accreditation visit protocols and practices, policies, mechanisms re. reporting, evaluation and feedback loops, LIP/PA recruitment and training, etc.
2) To provide an even better school improvement service to our established, new and potential member schools.
3) To support formal recognition by governments, Ministries of Education, regulators etc.
4) In short, it’s to benefit from external expertise, a chance for the bonnet of our V12 engine to be lifted and the engine to be diagnostically evaluated and for fine tuning recommendations to be made.
Positive in spirit and strong in purpose, we continue to create a healthy and high-performing operating environment, which sets up member schools, their staff and children, for success.