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24 April 2020

EIS Meadows is a prime example of how BlueSky has helped a school drive improvement by putting a clear emphasis on staff development and sharing expertise

At BlueSky, we work with more than 1,500 schools, including more than 100 international schools in over 35 countries around the world.

International schools, while they operate within different systems and are teaching young people from an array of national backgrounds and cultures. Yet many have turned to BlueSky to help them address the same fundamental tasks of streamlining processes around performance review, observations, capturing and sharing good practice, and improving collaboration drive improvement. Our 2019 COBIS award for Supporting Member of the Year recognised our work with our partner schools.

Emirates International School (EIS) Meadows in Dubai is a great example of how our relationship with international schools has developed over time.

The school, an International Baccalaureate School within the Meadows and Springs Community has 1,663 students aged two to 18, including 85 different nationalities. It teaches all four categories of the International Baccalaureate and the results are outstanding with students moving on to some of the world's most prestigious universities, including Oxford and Stanford.

In the latest PISA results, the school raised its score to 60 points above the PISA average for reading – a ten-fold increase on the previous position. Like other schools in the region, EIS Meadows is aiming to meet the UAE national agenda target whereby all students will rank among the best in the world in reading, maths and science, as well as knowledge of Arabic, by 2021.

Driving professional development

The journey with BlueSky began when the already highly-rated school needed a more robust system to enable it to capture staff performance and associated data; it needed to be straightforward for staff to use and also provide teachers and support staff with benefits to help them drive their own professional development without being overly-complicated or creating extra work.

A key area was lesson observations where, as part of efforts to maintain morale among the team, the school wanted to widen the focus to encompass identifying and sharing good practice alongside pinpointing a teacher's development needs.

BlueSky was introduced in 2016 and used across the school for every lesson observation, all performance management and professional development, as well as providing space for staff to record their views and reflections.

Recording lesson observations in a systematic, detailed and swiftly accessible way was a powerful improvement. Not only is the information quickly and securely stored but it enables managers to provide feedback swiftly.

"Whereas in the past I would have been entering data into spreadsheets and then making comparisons, the system does it all and the head of department can discuss the evidence with the member of staff almost immediately," says Andrew Williams, Head of High School, who has led the development of BlueSky across EIS.

Sharing and reflecting

Using BlueSky led swiftly to some key insights. Many teachers were achieving outstanding grades in their observations. More importantly, it proved a powerful catalyst for discussions with teachers more willing to reflect on and share the areas where they could make progress and the sorts of data and other evidence required to demonstrate success, alongside the professional development they might need to underpin their development.

It led, in short time, to the improvement in quality of lessons that the school was looking for. Staff constantly look back at the results of previous observations, reflect on areas for development and check to see if they have addressed them in their planning.

Saving valuable time means saving money and there has been a spin-off benefit in terms of efficiency. As staff are sharing their good practice more openly and the willingness to reflect on practice has become embedded in how the school operates, it has revealed hidden talents among the staff opened up opportunities for formal professional development run by those staff whose expertise was previously only shared in a limited way.

Expertise in key areas such as innovation with technology in teaching, spotted during a lesson observation, can be swiftly shared with notes, lesson plan and samples of work made available on BlueSky so everyone to whom it is relevant can see the content and approach the teacher took and potentially adapt them for their own use and also form the basis for discussion and analysis in departmental meetings. The ability to respond and share swiftly means expertise has the widest possible benefits to learning for the students, while the staff are constantly learning from each other.

"If I have seen something in a lesson, I'll share it with my middle leaders on a Sunday and that can be shared with their teams on the Monday very quickly," Andrew says. "It makes us more responsive and flexible and means we're all learning developing all of the time."

Collaborating on research

Beyond day-to-day teaching and planning, staff now use BlueSky to work collaboratively on action research projects each term focused on pedagogy and recording all of their data and findings on the system. Research is often linked to the school development plan and to an area where staff have a specific interest. Working in triads, they are given time to meet and observe each other and the research gathered is all captured on BlueSky. It forms a key part of their professional development in school but, thanks to the portability of BlueSky, is also something they can take with them when they move on to the next stage of their career.

Recently, the school has also moved to develop its approach to student voice by using BlueSky. Student feedback in the form of discussions with pastoral, department or year heads is recorded on the system. If any issues or concerns are raised, the proposed actions are logged and at the next meeting. Student insights into their school experience can then also be triangulated with input from parents as well as staff, all recorded on the system, to produce a thorough, balanced picture of the school experience and how issues that arise are being handled.

EIS Meadows has also begun using the BlueSky Projects module to support collaboration between teams across the school and plans to explore further how this element of the system can support the school and its staff on the next stage of their journey.

We are offering an extended licence for new memberships this term to schools in the region – so if you become a member your first annual renewal will be September 1st 2021, giving extra months in the first year to support planning, collaborative working and implementation for the new academic year. Find out how we can support you today and arrange a free online demonstration click here to enquire.

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You may also be interested to read our Fact File on Lesson Observations - 'The Quiet Uprising: The Changing Shape of Observations in Schools' click here to download
BlueSky Education

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BlueSky Education