It is with considerable excitement that the teachers and all the staff team are looking forward to seeing the students again on 1st September. During the summer holidays BISU has taken the opportunity to prepare for the long awaited reopening of school:
Although we are now clearly focused upon the future, we can take a little time to look back on the 2019/2020 academic year…
We brought this academic year to a conclusion in a very different manner to how it began. None of us last August could have foreseen what was to come.
The situation with the education system not only in Ukraine, but also in the world changed in an instant with the transition to a regime of self-isolation (lockdown). Changes have taken place not only in terms of the technologies of delivering skills and knowledge to schoolchildren as this process was transferred online, but also in the worldview of each teacher who finds himself/herself in new working conditions.
The school management constantly monitored the situation in Ukraine and abroad, contacted local and state authorities, embassies and medical institutions. As a founder member of the Black Sea Schools group, BISU was in regular contact with other British and international schools in the region to share information, ideas, experience and skills.
It has been said that ‘In every crisis there is an opportunity, and the deeper the crisis is, the better the opportunity could be’. BISU accepted this challenge and has been proactive in its response.
During the quarantine, the British International School continued its work in a new online format. Within 3 days of the government directed lockdown, online lessons were provided for every class. We are proud that during the quarantine not a single lesson was missed. Supported by local colleagues, our international teachers remained in Ukraine to ensure they were better able to support our students and to be ready to return to school the moment it re-opened. The entire teaching team agreed to forgo their half-term holiday to support the students and our community and volunteers continued to provide lessons throughout the two weeks of Summer School which the school provided as a service to our families.
By using a variety of platforms Zoom, Google Hangouts, Google Meet, Google Docs and Firefly to conduct online lessons BISU ensured all students had access to the school’s remote curriculum. This had been adapted to ensure continuity in terms of learning. Students received a combination of live lessons workshops and 1-to-1 support as well as home learning tasks. Teachers ensured parents were able to monitor the current progress of their children and work in partnership with the school. The curriculum offered was enhanced by the school subscribing to international educational online platforms such as My Math and Learning Village, which could also be used at home for independent learning.
The expression ‘We are in this together’ was never more true. Cooperation and consideration were vital ingredients as we worked together during this pandemic. The effect of the support and contribution of the parents of BISU was vitally important. Many had to learn new skills to be able to support their children. It is as a direct result of such commitment that the learning process continued. A huge ‘THANK YOU’ to you all.
To ensure the staff team were well prepared for this new method of learning and teaching, BISU invested in training provided by external facilitators, interschool exchanges and in-house expertise. Members of the school’s leadership team attended Lifelearn workshops provided by world leaders in blended learning practice and focusing upon the most up-to-date developments in synchronous and asynchronous learning. Teachers had training on distance learning focusing on lesson content and software and maximizing the potential offered by the use of online conferencing by employing Google Meet & Zoom.
Quarantine created a definite challenge for the entire educational system at a local, national and global level. Despite all the difficulties the staff of the British International School addressed all the tasks with professionalism, commitment and dignity. Many parents recognized this unique contribution and the many messages of appreciation were gratefully received and helped maintain morale and good spirits during this demanding time.
When we take time to be reflective we can recognise how much has been achieved and learnt this year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic (see below). Our children and young adults have been amazing in terms of what has been achieved. Learning and teaching have continued online throughout, our IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) and IGCSE (Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education) results became our best (with a mainstream cohort pass of 100% and a 86% pass rate overall, our mainstream average grade and pass rate continue to exceed the IBDP’s global results) and our Ukrainian programme results are equally impressive (there are gold and silver medals). This has been due to the way our students, parents and staff have adapted, responded and worked together in a manner that has never been asked before. This ability to collaborate in the face of such adversity is a great sign of what BISU will achieve in the coming years and bodes very well for the future.
As countries around the world take small, cautious steps to ease and eventually end lockdown, BISU has been proactively planning for September and beyond. Whether the authorities direct schools to open, remain closed or take an intermediary approach we are ready to support learning whilst ensuring everyone remains safe and healthy. In addition to the skills developed in the last months, key staff have taken part in specialist workshops focusing on remote (online) and blended learning to guarantee whether students are in school or elsewhere, they can engage successfully and have access to high-quality lessons. We will continue with the arrangement of new initiatives which include having a UK based University Guidance Counsellor, a revised Primary curriculum to further mirror the UK’s best schools, plans for a more extensive 6th form programme and continued investment in facilities and infrastructure.
We very much look forward to seeing you in September and to continuing to work together in partnership.