COBIS – promoting good practice

With over 90 schools in more than 40 countries around the world, the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) fosters an active and vibrant network which promotes good practice and helps to reduce the elements of risk for anyone considering moving overseas to live and work. Colin Bell, COBIS Executive Director, took time out to tell us more about the organisation, and what it does.

colinSo firstly, what is COBIS and what does it actually do?

COBIS is a global membership association of quality British schools worldwide and this year the association is celebrating its 30th year. The association, which is a constituent member of the Independent Schools Council (UK) supports school heads, teachers, support staff and governors by offering conferences, training courses, guidance and professional networking opportunities. COBIS is committed to representing ‘Brand UK’, promoting quality assurance by providing formal British accreditation to British Schools overseas. A COBIS accredited school has undertaken an inspection approved by the DfE (UK); this provides quality assurance for pupils, parents and members of the school workforce.

What are the main benefits of membership for British schools?

Well, where do I start? The main benefit is being part of an active and vibrant network which directly serves the needs of member schools worldwide. Benefits include representation to the British Government, educational bodies and the corporate sector, access to information about trends and developments in the UK and international education, professional development, support for good governance, CRB checks for overseas staff and of course formal British accreditation.

What kind of institutions are members and whereabouts are they?

COBIS has member and affiliate schools in each of the five continents worldwide, with large schools of over 1,500 pupils, to smaller schools with less than 100 pupils. Some schools are cross phase, others are linked to international consulates and embassies, and all cater for a mix of host country pupils and overseas nationals. Overall there are over 45,000 pupils being educated in the COBIS network with large number of school leavers returning to the UK to continue studies at university level. COBIS schools are based in major cities including Beijing, Ho Chi Minh, Sao Paulo, Abu Dhabi, Prague and Ulaanbaatar. When looking to work in a COBIS school the world is your oyster…

What are some of the main issues for these schools and how does COBIS help?

British Schools overseas enjoy being part of a professionally supportive network which enables them to share good practice covering a wide range of areas including curriculum development, pupil assessment, expansion of school buildings, professional development and, of course, links with the British Government, education and corporate sectors. The COBIS network has many ‘experts’ in the field and requests for support and advice are always met with many ready, willing and able responses. COBIS is also proud to work with over 60 corporate supporting members; each of these have their own areas of specific expertise. For example Eteach is always available to offer recruitment solutions for COBIS schools. 

What’s the significance of COBIS for those thinking about working overseas as teachers?

Moving overseas to teach at an international school can be a daunting task. However by choosing to work in a COBIS school, candidates can be assured that their institution has been quality assured and COBIS member/affiliate status has been awarded following a robust membership application process which focuses on pupils, staff, curriculum, examinations, school finances, employment contracts, facilities, inspections and policies including pupil safeguarding, child protection and health and safety. All COBIS schools have agreed to work in accordance with the COBIS code of ethical practice which again helps to reduce the elements of risk connected to moving overseas to live and work. Also, such is the reputation of COBIS schools, teachers will find the transition back to the UK a simpler route as curriculum knowledge and pedagogy can be developed via quality professional development opportunities.  

Representatives from Eteach have recently returned – enthused – from the COBIS conference in Prague. There are several pieces on the Eteach blog relating to this. What went on, and how was it for you?

The conference was excellent – judging from the evaluations we certainly addressed the theme ‘Moving Good Schools to Great Schools’. Lots of stimulating key note speakers and workshops which really engaged delegates. The conferences are such a delight to be involved with, as the energy and quest for knowledge is infectious. It’s great to meet colleagues from COBIS and non-COBIS schools and to be able to create a learning environment for international school staff which enables them to interact, have fun, enjoy a new city and of course sample some fine dining: the COBIS Gala Dinners are always special, and this one was no exception. We are already planning the next COBIS Teachers’ conferences in Madrid and Prague next academic year. Further details are on the COBIS website.

You have your annual conference coming up in London in 7-9 May for heads, governors and members of school senior leadership teams. What will the main highlights be?

Again, the programme includes talks and seminars on developments in British and international education and gives delegates an opportunity to meet and listen to leaders of education. Speakers include Nick Gibb MP, Schools Minister, Marin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council and all six DfE approved inspectorates responsible for Inspecting British Schools Overseas.

Highlights also include being able to introduce new COBIS school members and corporate members to one another. We are also delighted that this year the COBIS Patron, HRH Princess Alexandra KG GCVO will be joining us at the annual reception to help celebrate the COBIS 30th anniversary year. Again, the conference is open all: non-members are welcomed. For full details and delegate booking forms, please visit the COBIS website  for the latest information.

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