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What is a top-tier school?

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by Millionsandmillions, Feb 29, 2020.

  1. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    What is the criteria? Who decides?

    I'm asking because it seems to be a widespread understanding here on the forum of which tier a school belongs to.

    What about smaller schools that don't belong to a chain? Can they be a top tier school if they are innovative in terms of education, are fair employers, have good academic results, offer autonomy to teachers, report high student satisfaction etc?
  2. colacao17

    colacao17 Senior commenter

    *Settles back with a cup of tea to enjoy this one*
    bedby9, b7031475 and migratingbird like this.
  3. PuRe

    PuRe Occasional commenter

  4. Powergnome3

    Powergnome3 Occasional commenter

    There is no such official rating system...
    However, in every location there will always be certain schools that have the best reputation - and normally they are able to domino the results, the leadership, the pay, the students.
    But work life balance with that is the holy grail - to get the first four, its normally at the expense of the fifth.
    But these are the 'tier 1' schools for that location.
    Sure others will have their own interpretation - because that's all it is - an interpretation.
  5. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    Maybe I should clarify my reasons for rasing an apparantly contested subject. I work in, and I am responsible for the recruitment for a small school in an urban but remote location in Norway. The school is highly state subsidised and is a not for profit organisation. Teachers and students are happy. Teachers have a high degree of autonomy and are genuinly interested in innovative teaching. Work life balance is good, there is a big focus on the social well-being, and there is a high degree of trust in leadership. We are very much a close-knit school community. Much of our recruitment thus far has been through our own networks. Although we belong to a geographical network of schools for collaboration, attend workshops and conferences internationally, and have an international group of teachers, we are in many ways not part of "the circuit". When we do recruit from outside of own networks, we see that we don't know the "unspoken truths of international schools", perhaps because many of them don't apply to us? In job interviews, we find it necessary to spend a lot of time presenting our context. I believe that even though we are a great place to work, with low turnover and happy teachers, we are probably missing many of the ticks that make a top-tier school. By speaking to candidates, and reading comments on this forum, I see that some people have had some truly shocking experiences, and understandably their guards are up and they have their lists ready of school and package expectations.

    The issue I'm trying to raise is that maybe "good" is dependent on context? I've posted a guide to living and working in international schools in Norway, and without fully understanding the differences between tiers, I both doubt that a Norwegian, state subsidised school would make the cut as top-tier, and that teachers would experience the horror stories reported in many other locations.

    YNWA1892 and PJ1984 like this.
  6. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    So it depends on location? While I would be able to identify the individual strengths and weaknesses of the international schools in Norway, we're subject to the same legislation, culture, funding structures and expectations and it's a pretty even playing field. Also, you will find many schools being the only international school in its city, while schools in cities with multiple international schools have the same long waiting list as the schools that are alone in their cities. Therefore we're not in competition with each other for students and we offer the same pay. Together, we top the lists for national tests, but it's not a competition. The law doesn't permit us to be academically selective, and as the majority of the schools are small, we know our results may fluctuate from year to year.
  7. stopwatch

    stopwatch Lead commenter

    Sometimes the tier is in the eye of the beholder (pun intended) ;)
    tb9605, T0nyGT, mermy and 2 others like this.
  8. shakes1616

    shakes1616 Established commenter

    What's the pay there in Norway gross and net?
  9. grdwdgrrrl

    grdwdgrrrl Occasional commenter

    Do you want be recognised as “top tier”?
  10. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    Not necessarily, its more about the negative connotations with not being a duplicate of reputable named chains of schools or doing things the same way as in expat hubs when trying to recruit teachers.
  11. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    I'd say keep doing what you are doing and stick to it. There are plenty of independent international schools that many deem as lower tier simply because of the pay. But consistently presents and demonstrate what you described. Close-knit community, happy teachers and students, autonomy when it comes to practices etc.... Their staff turnover is low and produce good student results.

    What you need to realize is that there are also negative connotations and for real life consistently horrible situations and working conditions being associated to a chain of schools. Not all schools, but with so many of them, they produce their "top and bottom schools."

    In terms of recruiting. To be honest, I am sure many think the same, aside one chain of highly reputable and 'united' school, didn't think Norway's demand for international teachers are there.

    May I ask, which avenue or platform does your school use to recruit new teachers?
  12. kpjf

    kpjf Occasional commenter

  13. frogusmaximus

    frogusmaximus Occasional commenter

    Oxford and Cambridge are widely considered top tier universities. They are highly placed in the The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and how that is determined is here:.


    Top Tier International School? Well according to this, the 'best' school is a little subjective:


    Neither the IBO or the Council of International Schools (CIS), which accredits schools, publish league tables. The following list of the top international and IB schools across the world are based on a combination of factors, such as exam results, school facilities and extra-curricular activities offered, but it's also based on word of mouth and those schools recommended by expatriate teachers and parents.

    Another source says that what you pay for schooling is a sign of a top school. So in each country, if your fees are the highest and your exam results are the best, you can probably call yourself a top tier school. One would assume for staff, posts are well paid and hours are long. Good luck to them.
  14. Penny10p

    Penny10p Occasional commenter

    "Teachers have a high degree of autonomy and are genuinly interested in innovative teaching." I like to think I keep abreast with developments in teaching but I have seen the phrase 'innovative teaching' used a lot recently and I am not exactly sure what it means. In job adverts many schools seem to be looking for innovated teachers. So what are they looking for? What does an innovative teacher do that is different from other teachers?
  15. Luvsskiing

    Luvsskiing Established commenter

    Just change the name of the school to Top Tier School.

  16. yasf

    yasf Established commenter

    Drunk educators sat on bar stools in exotic locations - usually with incomplete information.
    Money / package / school facilities / reputation from the above mentioned bar stool conversations and ego. Also the ethnicity of the students, the number of students on roll and whether or not the school is for profit.

    In all seriousness, having read your description of working in Norway, I'd say that the only thing standing in your way is package. To be considered top tier by the bar stool crew, salaries would need to double. That said, you seem to be doing extremely well without the title of 'top tier' so I wouldn't worry. Notice that the actual quality of education provided to the students plays little to no role as it's difficult to quantify.
  17. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    The current maximum is 58 000 GBP gross which would be around 3500 GBP net.

    The current average at our school is 48 500 GBP which is around 3000 GBP net.

    The exchange rate does not favour the conversion from NOK to GBP right now.

    When people ask how much they can save I tell them University students get 700 GBP per month from the state, they usually work a bit part time and end up with 1000 GBP per month net, so if you're willing to live like a student you can save quite a bit, but if you're coming here solely to save up money you would have more success elsewhere.
  18. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    Maybe it is an overly used phrase. I think what I'm trying to say is that teachers who enjoy autonomy and who want to try out new things will be supported in doing so, and that we attract teachers who like this way of working.

    At the local public school, all year 5 language teachers co-plan the same lessons, and teachers who want to deviate from it are discouraged because they would lose the collaboration flow. So they stick to the textbook and the most experienced teacher decides. Some of those teachers would dread working at our school because they like the predictability of following the textbook.

    Of course inquiry-based and constructivist teaching is much more the norm in international schools, but I think we are still at such a size that we can be more flexible and try more new things than a larger school. I know we make an interesting case study for the local university's many research projects, and that other schools are showing an interest in our models for age-mixing in PYP and yearlong units on social competence. Both initiatives that come from our PYP teachers, not from leadership.
  19. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    Thank you taiyah.

    It varies, I don't know if we've found the most successful platform yet. We have used TES, Search associates leadership posting and IB school jobs. I think we might use a search and select recruiter on a retainer next time, someone who knows their candidates and who can identify who would be motivated for our school (and maybe even see the climate as a positive thing! A skier ;)).
  20. Penny10p

    Penny10p Occasional commenter

    Your school sounds great. I was asking more out of personal interest because I am applying for jobs at the moment and innovative teachers seem to be what some schools want. At least they say they do. I teach mainly GCSE and A Level where the skills and knowledge that the students need is explicitly set out. I'm not sure there is much room for innovation but maybe I'm missing something!

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