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Starting a New International School

Discussion in 'Teaching overseas' started by FredGrod, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. This is a question for the "old-timers" amongst us, but everyone who has experienced starting in a brand new international school, please comment.
    I may be getting an offer very soon to be part of the first cohort of teachers. There will be about 100 students to start (a high school). The problem is that there is no package info yet, there is no schooling for my children, though I've been told that they will be schooled at a "K-8 school" with a reciprocal policy (it's a high school opening and my girls are 4 and 12 years old) and the Head got his job about a month ago.
    Is this the norm for a school starting in September? (I'd hope not, but have to ask).
    So if any of you have been involved type of situation before, I'd appreciate any advice. My family is pretty adventurous and I'll enjoy the chance to shape the school, but with my girls, I'm worried about their education first and foremost, and I don't think I'll get the chance to choose where they go.

     
  2. This is a question for the "old-timers" amongst us, but everyone who has experienced starting in a brand new international school, please comment.
    I may be getting an offer very soon to be part of the first cohort of teachers. There will be about 100 students to start (a high school). The problem is that there is no package info yet, there is no schooling for my children, though I've been told that they will be schooled at a "K-8 school" with a reciprocal policy (it's a high school opening and my girls are 4 and 12 years old) and the Head got his job about a month ago.
    Is this the norm for a school starting in September? (I'd hope not, but have to ask).
    So if any of you have been involved type of situation before, I'd appreciate any advice. My family is pretty adventurous and I'll enjoy the chance to shape the school, but with my girls, I'm worried about their education first and foremost, and I don't think I'll get the chance to choose where they go.

     
  3. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    If this is not given at interview walk away.
    Quite normal. I know a school nearby which hired the head in May for a Sept start.
    I started more than a year in adance of my school opening, but sadly it isn't typical; there better schools will have the founding head in place more than a year in advance but plenty of schools wait until the last minute.
    Unless you don't mind risking a dodgy year, think carefully before heading out. The first year will often bring about a bit of turmoil and many founding heads don't last longer than the first year (sometimes by choice, smetimes because the numbers aren't good enough) and this will impact on the quality of learning at the school.
    Be sure you know which schol this is and which curiculum they follow. Some national curriculum schools are to be avoided in some countries, and it could be that is where they'll end up..
    Which county is this school in?
     
  4. Arepa

    Arepa New commenter

    Joining a new (start-up) international school is very much a leap into the dark, even more fraught with uncertainty if you have a family. I have seen both the positive and negative aspects of starting a school, as a teacher, and as the spouse of a Head. I have also observed a former colleague starting a school. The later was a disaster when the school owners (a consortium of oil companies) decided to reduce the faculty by 50% in October of their first year. My colleague could do nothing but pass on the bad news: it was simply a business decision by the companies (he resigned at the end of the year). I, on the other hand, have had positive experiences. I have observed school Heads who quickly adopted quite acceptable packages and hired outstanding faculty. As an aside, I have found that faculty willing to take such leaps into the dark are usually quite adventurous and this makes them fun and stimulating to be around.
    In my opinion, your decision should take three factors into account. The first is school ownership. Who owns the school: are they individuals, companies, parents, or Embassies? Are they reliable and responsible? Are they able to overrule a promise by the school Head? A second factor to take into account is the country/culture the school is in. You should find out what is the value of contracts and promises by the school Head. Finally, you need to judge the Head. Does he/she have international experience (making contracts/promises in the U.K. is different from doing so in Nigeria and Colombia). Does the Head have experience with starting a school? I have observed my wife's duties with considerable awe as she started a new international school. These duties ranged from the critical (establishing a curriculum) to minutiae (finding the appropriate sealant for the bathroom tiles). And while dealing with all of this she had to establish an effective school culture. The question is, do you think you potential new Head is capable? You can, I think, judge him/her by the rapidity with which they prioritize their duties: find a school site, hire faculty, etc. and also by their effectiveness in clearly establishing faculty packages (including schooling for faculty children). Your new Head has been on the job a month and hiring faculty is of vital importance. They should have a clear package very soon. If they do not, in my opinion again, you should think twice.

     
  5. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Some very sensible advice from Arepa.
    I have never been in a school that started up from scratch, but I was there in the fairly early stages of TBS in Egypt (the place for ex-alcholics). Yes, in some ways it can be exciting and stimulating. In the mad rush to get everything ready for September, little and unimportant matters like staff accommodation issues tend to be forgotten.
     
  6. I have been involved in start ups and rescues of start ups on several occasions now and to the above good advice I would add.
    1.Do the school owners have a clear idea of what they want? Capricious owners are the bane of school management and I have known them change their minds on several occasions over several weeks. This has produced two kinds of Head - the ones who cringe and grovel and the ones who walk. make sure you know which one is yours.
    2. Find out if the school has a plan. This doesn't have to be set in stone but aims need to backed up by a credible plan. Ask to see the plan but expect it to change as it contacts with reality.
    3. Try to get a sense of the power structures. Are you, for example, going to do all the work and then be replaced by someone - not necessarily but often, a local with no gumption but better connections?
    4. don't kid yourself about how much you will be able to shape the school. Many owners want Snooty Towers at once and have no concept of building an ethos - they think they can buy one out of the box. Other owners see a school as a social adjunct to their social life or local status, in which case having an expat is just the same as having a mascot to parade around. You might be suprised at how often this happens with primary schools.
    5. Find out the recruiting policy. Often owners want the maximum of fee paying bums with the cheapest bodies in classrooms and then expect 100%Oxbridge entry.
    The short answer is, I suppose, unless this is a new branch of an established chain and you have kids to educate well...I'd avoid.
    Don't worry though - there will probably be several more opportunities to gain a leadership position in this school over the next few years ....probably lots more...
     
  7. To all, thank you.
    Many of the things you've noted, I've noted already. Some, not so much. One of the worrying things about the Head is his lack of international experience. He's been a Principal in the States for many years, but not overseas. BUT, he comes across as wanting to do what's right, talking about competing with the American school in the city (SH), talking about going slowly - it's an US High School, so they will start with a 9th and 10th grade, total 120 students - and building from there; and, me being a "creative arts" sort, he's mentioned that this will be one of the driving forces in the school.
    I'm in no way pushing forward with this one, but I'm intrigued by the idea. I'll know much more in the next few weeks, as I have interviews for KL and Beijing this weekend. SO, it's off to study now, but thanks again to all for your advice/knowledge.

     
  8. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Be very wary. An established school near mine took on one of these types (inexperienced to the whims of teaching overseas) recently and it has been a disaster, For a new school things would be even worse; at least the one nearby me will survive as it has the reputation to do so.
     
  9. Yup - gotta agree. The guy has probably got some strange ideas about ethics, laws, contracts, treating people decently.
    He won't last two minutes.
     

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