‘Cobis schools have shown resilience, but the pandemic isn’t over yet’

The impact of Covid on British international schools is lessening, but the virus has still been a catalyst for change, writes Colin Bell

Covid has had an impact on COBIS international schools

Last week, COBIS published its Annual Research Survey, conducted in partnership with GL Education. The survey, which was conducted in October and November of 2021, collected information from schools belonging to the Council of British International Schools worldwide about assessment and curriculum choices, pupil and teacher numbers, and university destinations. The survey also included questions on the impact of Covid-19 and diversity in the workforce.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the overall picture regarding pupil numbers in COBIS schools is positive. We found that 51 per cent of responding schools reported that pupil numbers had increased for 2021/22, compared with 22 per cent in the 2020 survey.

The survey also shows that there is an ongoing impact of the pandemic, although it has been reduced in some cases. Many schools continue to implement changes due to Covid, but the proportion of schools reporting these changes has decreased.

“Many schools said that the pandemic brought about positive changes, which they intend on keeping in place.”

A total of 69 per cent of responding schools offered families the opportunity to pay in instalments for 2021/22, down from 90 per cent in 2020/21. Forty-eight per cent of schools have reduced spend budget areas such as school trips, down from 65 per cent in the 2020 report.

Many schools have indicated that the pandemic brought about positive changes, which they intend on keeping in place. A total of 80 per cent of schools plan to retain their virtual parent/teacher meetings, and 75 per cent will maintain their use of technology for personalised learning or support. While we are by no means “post-pandemic” yet, Covid has been a catalyst for change in schools around the world.

Of course, challenges are ongoing for the international education community, however COBIS schools continue to demonstrate the resilience and the attractiveness of their high-quality offer.

COBIS schools have all been quality assured against external validation schemes such as our rigorous and popular Accreditation and Compliance standards, and parents value this.

The survey also indicates a downward trend in admissions to UK universities. While 96 per cent of graduates from COBIS schools went onto tertiary education, only 42 per cent of those leavers went on to a UK university – down from 50 per cent in 2020 and 53 per cent in 2019.

“While most students went onto tertiary education, only 42 per cent of them chose a UK university.”

This is in keeping with the anecdotal evidence from our member schools that their internationally-minded students are considering a much wider range of destinations for HE.

While this global outlook is to be encouraged, if the UK Government is to meet its target of increasing the number of international HE students studying in the UK to 600,000 per year, they will need to consider what further support and recognition they can offer to British schools operating overseas.

To support our schools and their students, COBIS is committed to strengthening long-term strategic partnerships with the UK HEIs in both domestic and transnational educational provision.

Following on from this research, we will shortly be embarking on the third iteration of our research project on Teacher Supply in British International Schools (delivered in partnership with ISC Research). This will build on the findings of previous Teacher Supply reports, but also further develop some of the findings from the Recruitment and Retention section of the Annual Research Survey.