Admissions mean business

As the admissions cycle for 2022/23 begins, we show why, taking a look at outstanding approaches to admissions and advancement from entries shortlisted in the Relocate Awards.

Experience room at The International School of Brussels
Autumn 2021 magazine cover
This article is taken from the latest issue of Think Global People, the new home of Relocate Magazine.
Click on the cover to access the digital edition or read all of the articles on our website.

There are many compelling reasons for corporate employers and relocation professionals to look to international schools to ensure their globally mobile people thrive in new locations. Leading cities around the world have attracted top international schools to their region. There are often many excellent schools and plenty of options.Yet as Director of Advancement at the International School of Brussels, Dr David Willows, points out, it is hard for families relocating to Brussels, for example, to choose the right school for their children.This might seem surprising, but it is true for many families. Every parent wants the best for their child and their education. In international schools, future talent is being nurtured to take on the complexities of a global economy.Until relatively recently, even the most experienced expatriate family relied on word of mouth and school reputation to narrow down the options. Less knowledgeable HR and mobility teams also regarded admission to a particular school as a hurdle to be overcome, rather than a choice for the child and family that can make or break a successful relocation.Yet the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced how vital schools are in settling international families. It calls for a new partnership with international employers, international schools, the relocation supply chain and individual families.

More than just a school

As entries submitted to the Relocate Awards highlight, international schools are far more than simply an educational setting for children and young people. Their pastoral role has expanded hugely during the pandemic to include reassurances around health and safety protocols, as well as sharing local knowledge and inter- and crosscultural learning with students and their families built up over many years and easing important transitions.Finding the right school also often triggers other final key relocation decisions, including the neighbourhood to set up home, and ultimately has a serious impact on the success of an assignment and a child’s future wellbeing. By understanding these factors, employers and globally mobile populations can ensure every family member transitions well according to their unique needs and circumstances.

Redesigning admissions

Dealing with admissions can seem intimidating and complicated. As David Willows says in one of his blogs, “School admissions really shouldn’t be this game of snakes and ladders.” In a subsequent blog, he describes the journey the International School of Brussels took to redesigning its admissions experience.“In our quest to discover the core of the admissions task we found ourselves chipping away at what we knew and designing a game in which each member of the prospective family played a crucial role. Every member of the family had something to contribute. We were [also] learning to listen and not feeling compelled to speak.”

Breaking down barriers

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of engagement was growing. A significant number of families were declining or prematurely ending international assignments for family reasons, including not wanting to disrupt their children’s education.Now, with employees are on the move once more, it is even more important to factor schools into the equation for how to deliver a successful assignment. A good relationship with the admissions department really does mean good business for corporate employers and every stakeholder concerned, including pupils, parents, the school and the local economy.Dr Willows confirms that ISB’s admissions team are far more focused today on listening to families and understanding their situation first. They recognise that these life transitions can be stressful and give families the time to talk about their fears and anxieties through this process.The ISB Experience Room was developed with a conviction that the admissions and advancement team role is “not just to feed facts and information, but to help families learn whether we are the right school for their children,” says Dr Willows.“At the International School of Brussels, we have developed a truly unique and innovative space to support families,” says Dr Willows. Three years in the making and backed by significant investment, the Experience Room is a modern glass and technology-rich structure within the grounds of the school’s 19th century chateau.At the heart of the experience is an invitation to families to play a “game” in which they each select what is important for them when choosing a school. “An exceptional-quality and personalised mobility experience is at the heart of the philosophy behind the design of the Experience Room,” explains Dr Willows.Dr Willow concludes, “We have learned as a team that, if we are to be effective in supporting families, we need to have a constant eye on how our website, our admissions experience, and our school is perceived by families on the outside. We have developed a culture that is iterative – always adapting, improving, and making incremental change.”

Relocation experiences in Malaysia

Julia Love, Director of Admissions, The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) – a fellow Relocate Awards shortlisted entry alongside ISB in the School Providing Outstanding Relocation Support category – agrees the pandemic has created unprecedented hurdles for relocating families, agents and client companies at every stage of the relocation cycle.“It has not been easy, especially in Malaysia with border restrictions, lockdowns, and fluctuating periods of on/off campus learning. However, every challenge presents an opportunity to rethink, reframe and reimagine.”Julia Love refers to ISKL’s reimagined Panther Carers Relocation Programme, which has been highly successful in reducing the uncertainty, anxiety and isolation associated with relocating in a pandemic.“In addition to regular support activities, we reframed our approach, introduced new initiatives and made the most of opportunities to provide in-person interaction, as well as optimising every online challenge possible to communicate and connect,” says Julia Love.“What differentiates our programme is its personalisation and focus on wellbeing at an individual family/student level. These new initiatives created a positive relocation experience regardless of the challenging circumstances,” says Julia Love.ISKL went even further by delivering Panther Care packages to relocation agents and client companies during lockdown to share positivity and demonstrate they care about their wellbeing too.“Strong family connections contribute to positive relocation experiences, which in turn supports the performance and outcomes of client companies and agents,” she explains – a point that cannot be overestimated by employers planning international assignment budgets for 2022/23.

Award-winning welcome to Vietnam

At the International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) – overall winner of the 2021 Relocate Award for School Providing Outstanding Relocation Support category – the pandemic’s disruption transformed how the school helps families relocate and transition to their community and Vietnam.It developed one of Asia’s first virtual school-tours, crafting a personalised guided tour specific to each family’s needs and interests before arrival. Recognising the impact of the pandemic on family wellbeing and the role of schools in supporting families, ISHCMC has also invested in staff training around safety and wellbeing, communication skills, advanced customer service and empathy skills.Mrs Kim Green, Head of School, said, “At ISHCMC we aim to create a vibrant, safe and tight-knit community, making our families feel at home throughout the entire relocation process.”Parents can also enrol their children completely online at ISHCMC, with applications and assessments taking place virtually before the “Transition to Campus Learning (TTC)” programme begins. Parents also receive information on the city and relocation tips and are added to WhatsApp groups with parents of similar language and/or nationality to help with settling in. You can read more in the Relocate Awards Supplement – Summer 2021.

Preserving mother-tongue language and culture

Retaining links with home cultures and native languages and making positive transitions are also important aspects of successful international relocation for families and self-identity. The Highly Commended School in this category, The International School of London, is anIB School with an embedded mother-tongue language programme of 22 languages. It is an incredibly diverse, multicultural and inclusive place where every cultural identity is embraced and celebrated.“Everyone receives cultural awareness training,” says Claudine Hakim, Head of Advancement, Transitions & Student Support. “This is driven by our visionary leaders feeding into a school strategy group focusing specifi cally on Language Stories & Cultural Worth’.”Throughout lockdown, ISL also played an important role connecting with families and colleagues around the world. “With lockdowns causing delays and uncertainty in the global mobility industry, we supported education and relocation colleagues worldwide by sharing insights of benefi t to the industry,” continues Claudine Hakim. “Our transition team featured in numerous webinars, virtual events and presentations contributing to the global conversation on successfully navigating challenging times.”Watch the ISL webinar “Crossroads: ISL transitions programme” replay from Relocate Global’s International Education & Schools Fair.ISL also off ers a vibrant parenting club with a Virtual Transition Parenting workshop series, hosted by an experienced family therapist and parent. Each of these initiatives proves that relocation care is at the heart of the school community and an ongoing journey.

Individualised solutions for students

Carfax College in Oxford specialises in supporting students’ transitions to UK independent boarding schools and universities as well as students with SEND and specific learning difficulties.This bespoke approach supports students as they relocate from anywhere in the world and in response to individual goals, progress and changes in circumstances, so no part of a student’s education and experience is disrupted due to relocation.This bespoke approach supports students as they relocate from anywhere in the world and in response to individual goals, progress and changes in circumstances, so no part of a student’s education and experience is disrupted due to relocation.TASIS The American School in England is a leadingco- educational school educating over 600 day and boarding pupils. Situated 18 miles southwest of London, and 8 miles from Heathrow, it boasts a beautiful 46 acres campus, combining historic buildings with modern facilities.

Our highly successful International Education & Schools’ Fair will be back in November with a raft of new webinars and videos and editorial for parents, employers and the relocation professionals supporting international families on the move. Visit the Great International Education & Schools' homepage for more information

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