We hope everyone is enjoying preparations for the festive season. As announced towards the end of term (see http://wis-wavelength.weebly.com/), following the resignation of Mr Dwight Mott, Deputy Head of School Ms Rachel MacKinnon was appointed Acting Head of School. The Board is working towards recruitment of a permanent Head of School in 2017.
Immediately following Ms MacKinnon’s appointment as Acting Head of School, her husband Steve Johnston tendered his resignation from the Woodford Board owing to potential conflicts between his responsibilities and interests as a board member and his responsibilities and interests as Rachel’s spouse. His resignation was accepted by the Chair, with thanks for his service to the Woodford community in 2016.
Steve’s resignation leaves a vacancy for a parent representative on the WIS Board of Management, which we are obliged – and keen – to fill. As such, the Board welcomes nominations/applications from Woodford parents to join the Board for the remainder of its term – that is, until the Annual General Meeting (and election of a new Board) in mid-March 2017. This vacancy provides an excellent opportunity for parents to get a ‘taste’ of Board membership without needing to sign up for a full term. (There are currently only two more Board meetings scheduled ahead of the March AGM.) Board positions are not paid but all current Board members have found their roles to be both personally and professionally fulfilling and rewarding. Details on the Board’s role, structure and procedures are set out in its Governance Manual, which is available under the ‘About Us’ tab on the school website (www.wis.edu.sb). Interested parents are also very welcome to contact any current Board member for further information about the duties, responsibilities and rewards of Woodford Board membership – we can be contacted via email@example.com.
Current board members have a range of professional and business backgrounds and skills. The Board is hoping to recruit someone with complementary skills who shares all Board members’ passion for ensuring the best possible future for Woodford International School, including the best possible education for all our students. Interested parents are invited to submit a brief statement of no more than 300 words outlining what skills and/or perspectives they would bring to the Board as a member. Nominations are open until 5pm on Tuesday 6 February 2017 and should be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in hardcopy to Lynette Adomea at reception (once school has resumed).
On Saturday, 3 December, we farewelled the Head of School, Dwight Mott, at Honiara Airport. Mr Dwight made significant contributions over 2016, particularly in supporting the Woodford Board in the development and finalisation of our Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2021. Over the course of Mr Dwight’s tenure, the school’s business planning processes, budget oversight, strategic polices and governance arrangements were dramatically strengthened, setting Woodford International School up for exciting development in all aspects of the school’s operations in the years to come. For Mr Dwight, Honiara was a long, long way from home and having elderly parents with failing health, the distance was all too great. We thank Mr Dwight for his service to the school – his enthusiasm for learning, for evidence-based decisions and for building Woodford’s culture as a ‘community of learning’ will stay with the Board and many others in the years to come. We wish Mr Dwight’s father the best possible recovery from surgery this week, and improved health for his mother, who suffered a stroke just a few months earlier. Thank you and best wishes, Mr Dwight!
There cannot be too many international schools of our size in this region who can claim to have two highly qualified educational leaders at one time. With Mr Dwight’s sudden departure, the Board feels great relief and good fortune to be able to appoint Ms Rachel MacKinnon as Acting Head of School, pending recruitment of a permanent Head of School in 2017. Ms Rachel holds a Master of Arts in Education Management in International School and has over 19 years of experience as a teacher and school leader, including 16 years in international schools. Ms Rachel was also a student at various international schools around the world from the age of seven. Ms Rachel joined WIS in January 2016 as the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) Coordinator and in March was promoted to Deputy Head for Learning (covering Kindy to PSSC) in acknowledgement of her expertise, experience and substantial contributions to date. Having attended the Academy for International School Heads (AISH) ‘New and Aspiring Heads Institute’ and serving as a school inspector for international agencies such as IB PYP and the Council of International Schools (CIS), we are confident that Ms Rachel will rise to the challenge of continuing the significant work started in 2016. We are equally fortunate to have among our Woodford community, several teachers with the capability and commitment to take on additional responsibilities to support our existing leadership team. The Board is confident that, under Ms Rachel’s leadership and within the framework of our new Strategic Plan, WIS will achieve our mission of developing globally-ready learners equipped to shape their future and achieve their dreams.
The end of year is a busy time in any school but this has been, and remains, a particularly busy period for Woodford, including the Board. At our meeting on Wednesday, 30 November, the Board adopted its draft budget for 2017, as well as our final strategic plan for 2017 to 2021, which has now been posted on the school website at http://wis.edu.sb/InternationalSchool/Solomon-Islands/UploadFiles-Images/NewsLetter/WIS%20Strategic%20Plan%202017-2021.pdf
Thank you to all students, teachers and parents who attended one of our community consultations and contributed comments and suggestions. All contributions were considered by the Board’s Strategy Committee and most were reflected in the final plan. Other comments will be reflected in the Operating Plans or other documents that are guided by the Strategic Plan.
Congratulations to all students and teachers for their efforts and successes throughout 2016 – we look forward to a super fun packed final week of school and to seeing you all for an exciting year ahead when school resumes in 2017.
The WIS Board is very pleased to welcome to its membership Lei Prasad! Lei was co-opted to the Board to replace former Chair Greg Terrill, who resigned to return to Australia. Lei is already a very active WIS parent (with children in both high school and primary school) and brings a wealth of skills and energy to the Board. She will have special responsibility for re-establishing and re-energising the WIS Parents Teachers and Friends Association (PTFA) – please reach out to Lei (or any Board member) if you are interested in joining Lei in strengthening our Woodford community in the re-energised PTFA. Lei can be reached via email@example.com.
As 2016 draws to a close, the Board is focused on setting up Woodford International School for an even better 2017 and beyond. We are in the final stages of settling a draft, Board-endorsed, Strategic Plan for the period 2017-2021 which charts a very positive course for our school community. The draft Strategic Plan has been developed by the Board with substantial input from the Senior Leadership Team, following ‘focus group’-style market research with parents, meetings with major employer-sponsors on their priorities, as well consultation with teachers and students on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing WIS. Some key themes emerged across the input from all these groups, that are reflected and addressed in our draft plan. We look forward to sharing the Draft Strategic Plan with you at one or more of our forthcoming community consultations (6pm, Thursday 17 November and following primary assembly on Friday 24 November). Please come along and share your own views about where WIS should be heading over the next five to seven years!
As many of you may have seen in press reports and in communications from the school, in its recent review the Solomon Islands Ministry of Education commended WIS for having the strongest Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate (PSSC) program in the country. The Board congratulates and commends all the hard-working teachers and leadership team for their exceptional efforts and this outstanding achievement in WIS’ first year offering a PSSC program. We wish all our PSSC students the best of luck as they finish off their final exams and await their results!
As always, the WIS Board welcomes your comments and suggestions –please do not hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or any one of us in person – we would love to hear from you.
We are so excited to have started our newly established Career Guidance Program (CGP) at Woodford International School.
What is the CGP?
The goal of the CGP is to guide students through an exploration and planning process to ensure a seamless transition from secondary school to their chosen post-secondary pathway.
What is currently happening in CGP?
This semester, Dawn Bennett (a volunteer with a number of years of experience in career coaching, international recruitment and counselling) and Rachel MacKinnon (Deputy Head for Learning) are helping PSSC students explore interests, careers, colleges, scholarships, and more. The process involves self-exploration, career exploration, career planning and management activities, in which students learn about themselves and the options available to them.
What about the other students who are not in PSSC?
Alex Haro (Secondary School Principal) has arranged guest speakers to speak at assemblies about their careers and has been running an after school activity encouraging entrepreneurs. We hope to extend the CGP to IGCSE 1 and IGCSE 2 students in the near future. Following this, we will extend the program to students in Years 6 – 8. IGCSE 1 and 2 students will be involved in our Career Encounter Sessions this term. Our Career Encounter Sessions are times when we invite guest speakers into school to speak with IGCSE 1 through PSSC students about their career and the various pathways they have taken to get where they are today. We have had a number of speakers this term and are excited to welcome more throughout the rest of the year.
What can I do as a parent or guardian?
Our CGP is not complete without participation from the family. Parents and families play a critical role in helping students plan for post-secondary success by providing support and guidance alongside educators. Talk with your child at home about their strengths and talents, their future aspirations, and what type of post-secondary pathway they might be interested in: career, technical school, two-year college, four-year university, apprenticeships, military or volunteer service, etc. Encourage your child to explore various avenues in an effort to find the correct ‘fit’ for them.
PHOTO 2 and 3 - Coen Butters (Pediatric Education) and Kim Ackhurst (Pediatric Nurse) and Florence Rocky (Nurse Educator) working at the National Referral Hospital spoke to us about the wonderful world of medicine and exciting initiatives here in Honiara.
At the beginning of each school year our teachers identify areas in which they want/need to improve to become a more effective teacher. This happens in the form of targets. Each teacher, with recommendations from the Principal, sets two targets in the area of teaching and learning (teacher effectiveness) and two targets for their personal professional development (enhance teaching). Six of our teachers identified their English skills as an area for improvement. To help these teachers achieve this target, the school has enrolled them in the IELTS exam, which is in October. The teachers have been taking classes twice a week to get ready for this exam.
IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is designed to assess the language ability of people who want to study or work where English is the language of communication.
IELTS is recognised and accepted by over 9,000 organisations worldwide, including universities, employers, professional bodies, immigration authorities and other government agencies.
Academic or General Training
IELTS is available in two test formats – Academic or General Training –and provides a valid and accurate assessment of the four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking.
The level of the test
IELTS is designed to assess English language skills across a wide range of levels. There is no such thing as a pass or fail in IELTS. Results are reported as band scores on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest).
IELTS nine-band scale
9 Expert user
8 Very good user
7 Good user
6 Competent user
5 Modest user
4 Limited user
3 Extremely limited user
2 Intermittent user
1 Non user
0 Did not attempt the test
This year is a trial so the school can review if the IELTS exam and the practice that is involved to get ready for the exam, is effective for the improvement of the level of English of our teaching staff. If this is the case, we will continue to enroll teachers for the exam next year.
The Board recently held its first meeting of term 4. You will already be aware of one decision – as the library was reported to be unsafe, the Board decided that it should be closed immediately. This is clearly an inconvenience, but a minor one in comparison to the imperative to ensure the safety of students and staff. Next steps will be considered following inspection by a qualified engineer.
Fees for 2017 will rise by 2% - unchanged in real terms, and adjusted only for inflation. The Board and management are looking closely at the cost structure of the school, aiming to ensure high quality teaching and learning at the lowest possible cost. This will not be achieved at the expense of teacher salaries, where the Board has asked the Head of School to continue working with teachers on a proposal that can be fair and transparent, and create longer term career pathways. The Board aims to agree a longer term plan for fees as part of its strategic planning exercise currently underway.
The Board and management are nearing a final decision about whether to extend Woodford to year 12 (Solomon Islands Form 7). While we are keen to offer a full educational program, the Board is concerned that this must be done to a high standard. We hope that a decision on this will be announced very shortly.
Finally, after two and one half years as chair – the longest serving chair for over 20 years – Greg Terrill has resigned to return with his family to Australia. Emily Follett was elected by the Board to replace Greg. Emily brings a wealth of experience to the position, through her experience as a diplomat, lawyer and having lived in a number of different countries. Emily is supported by a very strong Board. Please do not hesitate to contact us on email@example.com, or any one of us in person – we would love to hear from you.
Woodford is a unique place. It occupies a privileged position in Solomon Islands, though while it may be elite it must never become elitist. Through the efforts of teachers in particular, Woodford strives to share with the community some of the benefits of its position as the country’s leading school.
The school is fortunate to have some wonderful, dedicated teachers, and supporting them is a critical part of the Board’s function. The Board has for a long time advocated more assistance and training for teachers, and is delighted at the progress being made this year, and the plans for the future. This will help our teachers realise their potential, and in turn our children achieve theirs.
Woodford charges, in the context of Solomon Islands, high fees. The reason for this is to enable it to deliver an international standard education – and to demonstrate that it is doing so. One of the most significant developments of recent times is that, later this year, Woodford will for the first time begin to benchmark itself against international standards. Having objective information is long overdue, and will help parents better understand what their children gain from Woodford, as well as assisting the school to plan for continual improvement.
Education is a three-way effort – between children, teachers and parents/guardians. Each have a role to play, and must take the initiative to play it. This year good progress has been made in strengthening three-way communication though (as is always the case in regards to communication) more could be done – on all sides.
Woodford is making excellent progress to delivering a world-class education, and must keep striving to do so.
Woodford is fortunate to have a strong team of parents willing to serve, giving their time to help make the school a better place. I have had the pleasure of working with some excellent Board members, and wish to particularly acknowledge the current Board – Emily Follett (chair), Bronwyn Besley (now in her second term as deputy chair), Dennis Lee (also in his second term, as Treasurer), Bevan Vollrath (now in his third term on the Board), Josua Naisau, Bernadette Ombu and Steve Johnston. These parent representatives work hard, for free, and without much that is visible to show for their efforts. They are ably supported by the Board’s teacher members, Leonora Houma and Denis Smith (both serving their second terms), and of course the Head of School Dwight Mott.
The school is now going through a stage of community engagement and enhanced professionalization, after years of good growth but underdeveloped engagement, information and systems. It remains in the most capable of hands to deliver on its motto, ‘Higher Aspirations’.
I am honoured and excited to have been elected by the Woodford Board as its Chair. I have very big shoes to fill – Greg Terrill has been an outstanding Chair over the last two and half years and, on behalf of the Board, I thank him for his vision, energy and commitment to Woodford International School.
While Woodford is my first experience of an international school, I have been fortunate to have the benefit of studying in different countries (Australia, where I am from, as well as Japan, China and Canada), as well as the opportunity to live and work in a number of countries. These experiences have helped to shape my understanding and expectations of ‘international education’ and I look forward to sharing these ideas and skills with you as I take on responsibility for leading our ‘international’ school board.
I am committed to continuing the Board’s work to strengthen Woodford’s governance arrangements, to build on our many strengths and to ensure the school has the resources, systems and culture to provide the best possible international education in Solomon Islands.
If we have not yet met, please introduce yourself to me – I can often be found around the Kindy and Prep classrooms and will be regularly attending both primary and secondary assemblies and other school events. Please also feel free to reach out to me with any concerns, suggestions or other input via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.