Director’s Update February 7th

Dear Parents,

We have just passed the 100 day mark in this academic year. EC and some Elementary classes were busy celebrating that. To follow their example I think we, as adults, should also join their celebration.

By now you will have received End of Semester report cards for you children. The vast majority of students are progressing well across the school in all subject areas. Our MAP and AP scores show that our students are above average worldwide. Ms Davies keeps an accurate track of all records and scores and would always be happy to demonstrate and explain to any interested parents, please just make an appointment. We would also encourage parents to attend evening sessions on academics where this kind of data is regularly presented.

For a school our size we have a very broad curriculum with specialist subjects reaching right down to EC classes. This academic year we have completed the Arts cycle by adding a music teacher. Ms Thoronjo has really made a big impact in the short time she has been here with people asking for more music classes during the school day, with visiting marching bands and we already have our first group of students signed up to take ABRSM exams. Many larger schools require students to choose only one art or science subject at a relatively early age while we believe that every student should be exposed to all subjects and then choose where to specialize when they reach AP classes.

Validation that we are on the right track comes from a number of sources. We are the only school in Rwanda to be jointly accredited by the Middle States Association (a US accrediting body) and by the Council of International Schools (an international accrediting body based in the Netherlands). We have already had a preliminary visit in preparation for a full visit next November. The main visitor, from CIS Head Office in the Hague, was very impressed at how far the school has moved forward since their last visit just over 3 years ago. So much so that both bodies have since asked us to supply expertise on teams that go to evaluate other schools. I lead a visiting team to a school in Lesotho in November and will participate in a team visit to a school in Maputo in April. Ms Powell will participate in a preliminary school visit this month to a school in Tanzania and in a full team visit to a school in Kenya in May. In October Ms Davies participated in a team visit to a school in Kuwait. Also in April Ms Shroff and Mr Roze will go to Cameroon and Ghana respectively to lend their expertise there. Participating in team visits allows us to help other schools improve and also allows us to learn about good practice elsewhere.

We also ask you as parents and your children to validate what we do in school through surveys and other feedback methods. Our latest poll of the community was through the CIS survey that you filled in last November. (Thank you again to the 90 out of our of 120 families that took the time to fill this long survey). Ms Powell is now working with the Hague to analyze this feedback and prepare a short version that we can publish. I would like to share some of the results with you.

Here are some statistics from the student survey: (All students from Grade 4 to Grade 12 participated)

89% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I understand the school’s expectations for my behavior.”

93% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I know what to do if I or any of my friends experience bullying in school.”

82% Agree/Strongly Agree – “The school provides a healthy & safe environment for all members of the school community.”

87% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I feel safe going on school trips.”

93% Agree/Strongly Agree – “Secure environment for all members of the school community.”

95% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I am taught to use Information Technology (IT) and social media in a responsible way.”

Parents survey results:

99% Agree/Strongly Agree “The school promotes a supportive environment for students’ learning and well-being.”

97% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I trust that my child is safe at school.”

96% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I understand the school’s expectations for my child’s behaviour.”

94% Agree/Strongly Agree – “The school provides a healthy and safe environment for my child.”

87 % Agree/Strongly Agree – “My child is appropriately supported emotionally.”

88% Agree/Strongly Agree – “My child is appropriately supported socially.”

97% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I trust that my child is safe on school trips.”

90% Agree/Strongly Agree (60% STRONGLY, the rest “N/A”) “The school helps my child to use Information Technology (IT) and social media in a responsible way.”

While we are very happy with these responses and with the results and scores we are achieving in academics we do not sit back and rest on our laurels. We care about each individual student; we care about the 1 to 10% of students that might not feel supported socially; we care about the 6 students in this survey who said they do not feel safe going on school camps.

We have a very strong system of child protection in place and all staff have been trained in this area, from outsourced catering and gardening staff to every member of faculty. All incidents, no matter how small, are taken seriously and dealt with by a team of experts whose aim is to help each and every student who encounters difficulties.

When students face repeated or consistent difficulties, we create an Individual Student Plan (ISP). Having an ISP does not mean a student is doomed to a life of failure but that we have recognized areas in which we can offer more help. This help can be as mild as ensuring the student sit near the teacher in every class or given extra time to complete certain projects, up to us ensuring that an extra teaching assistant be on hand in classes where required. Almost 50 out of our 235 students have an ISP. Some students receive an ISP because they are gifted and talented and as such also require extra attention. The success of any ISP depends on the accuracy of data used to create it and on how well it is implemented. To this end we are very happy to have Ms Michelle Ireland coming to visit us next week. Ms Ireland is a very well qualified educational psychologist who has already traveled to a number of other international schools around Africa. The main purpose of her visit is to work with our faculty on how to make better use of ISP’s and cater to all student needs while teaching. She will also, on behalf of some families, assess the learning needs of a small number of students to help us create even more accurate ISP’s.

On behalf of the whole leadership team I would like to thank parents for the constant support and help you give on a regular basis. We are all far more successful when we work together and all students benefit from this. Please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s teacher or coordinator if you have any concerns. Even if you think something is insignificant please do talk to the teacher immediately, as a stitch in time saves nine!!!

Also we look forward to meeting you all at the Valentine’s event on the 15th of this month.

Séamus Hennessy