British international schools have seen a further increase in student numbers over the past academic year, a new survey has suggested.
The 2022 COBIS Annual Research Survey, based on responses from 130 schools globally, found that 62% have increased student numbers when compared with the previous year, up from 51% reporting an increase in the 2021 survey.
“This report paints a positive picture of our sector and our member schools, with student numbers continuing to rise, strong examination results, a wide range of opportunities alongside the formal curriculum, and new initiatives around virtual schooling,” COBIS CEO, Colin Bell, said.
The survey also found that increased wellbeing issues, selected by 70% of respondents, and mental health issues, selected by 58% of respondents, were the biggest impacts of the pandemic that respondents said had hit their respective schools.
A further 58% of schools felt that a small proportion of students have fallen behind academically.
“[The report] also highlights some of the challenges and priority areas for our sector, including student wellbeing and mental health; diversity, equity and inclusion in an international school context; and the increasing variety and complexity of higher education routes and locations,” Bell added.
COBIS’s Development Plan 2022-25 articulated the organisation’s commitment to supporting member schools with these priorities, he continued.
“The report also highlights some of the challenges and priority areas for our sector”
The survey identified that 88% of schools have a member of staff with specific responsibility for wellbeing (other than the head), and nearly three quarters of respondents (74%) thought their school had made progress on diversity, equity and inclusion in recent years.
However, 62% of respondents felt that students had increased technology skills as a result of the pandemic, and the report suggested that schools are continuing to retain some practices developed during this time.
Seven in 10 said they still offer virtual parent/teacher interviews (down from 80% in 2021), 66% nodded towards increased use of technology for personalised learning or support (down from 75% in 2021) and 65% indicated an increase in pastoral or wellbeing support (down from 68% in 2021).
“Two thirds of schools felt that teachers were still using technical and IT skills developed during the pandemic most or all of the time (66%),” COBIS added.
Recruitment practices are still being adapted, with increased use of remote/virtual interviews mentioned by 73% of respondents, earlier advertising of vacancies (43%), increased recruitment of international staff who are already in the country (36%) and increased social media usage for recruitment (36%).
Previous research has found that nine in 10 school leaders find recruiting quality teachers ‘somewhat’ or ‘very challenging’.
The report, carried out between October 4 and November 4, 2022, also found that of 2021/22 leavers, 96% went to university.
Those opting for further studies in the UK rose from 42% in 2021 to 44% in the latest survey. However, it remains far from the heights seen in 2019, when 53% of leavers went on to UK universities.
The most common factors respondents said were influencing to choose other destinations were: cost (65%, up from 51% in 2021), preference for a university closer to home/family (41%), Brexit (35%), and lack of access to financial support (34%).
Some 52% of responding schools indicated that the percentage of leavers choosing a UK university stayed the same for 2022/23 compared to the previous academic year, and 29% indicated that the percentage of leavers doing so had decreased (down from 42% in the 2021 report).