Transitions care in international schools – Research findings

Only half of international schools have a transitions care programme to help students arriving and leaving the school community, and just six per cent feel confident that their programme is flourishing.

Those are the findings from research by Jane Barron of Globally Grounded and Ellen Mahoney of Sea Change Mentoring, which looked at how well international schools are equipped to welcome and say goodbye to their students. The findings were presented in a webinar as part of Relocate Global’s Great Education and Schools Fair.The webinar looked at three key questions which international schools should consider:
  • What is being done to address cross cultural transition care?
  • How does your school compare?
  • How can you make it better for parents, students and staff?

The research findings

The research by Jane Barron and Ellen Mahoney found that only half of international schools have transitions care programmes and only 6 per cent said that programme was flourishing.It found that in schools with an international clientele, arrivers were prioritised but fewer than half of schools supported leavers or those who were graduating.What’s more, few of the schools surveyed had a successful way of assessing the success of their transitions care programme and few used alumni to provide feedback on how transitions were handled. Yet, Jane Barron persuasively argued, alumni can provide valuable feedback for schools and also help formulate future programmes with their input.

The authors of the research

Jane Barron, founder of Globally Grounded, has 27 years of experience in education and is an educator, researcher and consultant specialising in student cross-cultural transitions. Founder of Globally Grounded and Safe Passage Across Networks (SPAN) Board Member, Jane consults and presents to international and local schools (day and boarding), along with students and their families, developing understanding of the impact of cross-cultural mobility, evaluating and designing transition and cultural integration programs, and implementing support mechanisms to enhance learning and life. With a lifetime of experience in mobility, she is currently based in Sydney, Australia.Ellen Mahony of is an alumna of international schools, the CEO of Sea Change Mentoring, and a Council of International Schools Affiliated Consultant. She is the only professional working with international schools who is certified in mentoring program supervision. As founder of Sea Change Mentoring, The Circulus Institute and the Sea Change Podcast, Ellen provides consulting, program design, and professional development for international schools developing Social and Emotional Learning, mentoring, advisory, wellbeing, and transitions programs. She is currently based in New York City and San Francisco.

How can schools improve their transition care?

In the webinar the two experts presented their independent research project.The aim was to look at how transitions care was currently being managed, and how school leaders could improve their offering in a way that benefited students, parents and staff.Jane Barron explained how she first become aware of the effect of mobility on the performance and wellbeing of young children when she was a school teacher.In international schools around the world, each year will see new children arriving at the school, and also leaving, either at the end of the year to move to another location, or because they are graduating. Nor is it unusual for some students to leave in the middle of term – something that is difficult for the leavers and well as those they have left behind.While transitions are part of life for international schools, the research found that only half of the schools surveyed had any kind of transitions care programme in place. The better the transition care, the better students can navigate the challenges of being third culture kids in a new cultural and geographical environment.

Why is transitions care important?

The level of care shown to students arriving and leaving is important but it was important not to forgot those students who stayed, and who represented the core of the school, the research found. Different transitions care needs exist across the school community and it was important to take this into account when putting together a care plan.Jane Barron explained how it was really important to assess the success of your transitions care programme.Previous research in 2009 had found that mobility was the single most detrimental factor for learning, she said, and having revisited the research three times subsequently, it still remained so.The objective of having a robust transitions care programme was to ensure that for students mobility could be a positive thing.“By providing transition care to students, and also to parents, and staff, we equip each individual to navigate the triumphs and trials of transition so that rather than inhibiting, it actually activates and enhances learning, relationships and life,” she said.

What are the recommendations from the research and where do opportunities lie?

The authors had a number of recommendations for schools, which are dealt with in greater detail in the webinar. They are:
  • Develop a programme and make sure your team is representative of the larger community
  • Ensure the school’s leadership are on board and support students at all lifestages within school – entering, leaving and staying
  • Build your transitions care programme into the school culture and make it part of your mission statement and values, both curricula and non-curricula.
  • Use your alumni programmes to assess success and find out what works
Coivd-19 has made so many changes to our communities, and for some international children that has meant that they have lost loved ones and had to say leave without a proper goodbye to friends.Fiona Murchie, Relocate Global managing editor, pointed out that it was important for employers and schools to help globally mobile families by ensuring that students were able to say goodbye in a meaningful way before they moved on to new locations. This might also be the case when an employer decided that a family needed to stay in a particular location long term, and how that localisation was handled in order to help internationally mobile families cope.

Meet the speakers

Find out more about all of the speakers and panelists who participated in the autumn 2020 Great International Education & Schools Fair.

Find the perfect school from the comfort of your home

Now is the ideal time to discover the right school for your child. As schools hosted Open Days and Virtual Events throughout the autumn, we used the opportunity throughout November to showcase the schools around the world that welcome relocating families and international students, not only at the beginning of a new academic year, but also at any time, with rolling admissions to meet the needs of families on the move.

The next Great International Education & Schools' Fair is coming in spring 2021

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