Saturday, 26 November 2016

PYP Authorisation


This past year has been a great learning experience for me. One of the highlights of the year came on Saturday the 10th of June when our principal sent out a message saying that we had become an authorised IB PYP school. This was something that our primary team had been working towards for years and something I became very much invested in when I became PYP coordinator. In this blog post I would like to share some of the learning in this journey, in order to hopefully help other schools work towards their verification visit.

The Standards

As you prepare for authorisation it is important to be very clear about which standards the visiting team members will be measuring your school on. There are about 111 standards and practices in the PYP. Each of these standards must be addressed in your self-study report but not in a school's initial authorisation. There are about 30 standards to be met for authorisation. It is of the utmost importance that the pedagogical leadership team and at least the PYP coordinator (PYPC) clearly understands what these 30 or so standards are. This information may be clearly found in the document, "Guide to school authorization: Primary Years Programme (2010)". Knowing exactly what these standards are make the process much clearer and much more easily attainable.

The PYP Guide to school authorisation shows standards that must be in place.
The Consultant

A PYP candidate school is provided a consultant from the IB. The experience of this person is a big factor in the success of the authorisation process. Fortunately for us an extremely knowledgeable, caring and experienced lady by the name of Di Fisk became our consultant. She was one of the main reasons behind the success of our program. Other important factors are: the commitment of teachers to the program, support of the pedagogical leadership team and the organisational and communication skills for the PYPC. The consultant communicates with the school via an online portal called Basecamp and through Skype. I would strongly advise the PYPC to communicate with the consultant as much as possible. This is your most valuable source of guidance.

The Consultancy Visit

As part of your consultancy process there is a visit. This serves as a chance for the consultant to see first hand what stage the school is at and to provide the school with a detailed report. It is also a chance for the school to have a practice visit in order to prepare for the real one. Your consultant would also be a visiting team member (though of course not for your school) so this is a good chance to plan as this were the real thing. Some useful tips are to personally pick up the consultant at the airport, provide a car and driver for him/her to and from a nice hotel, as near to the school as possible. A nice meal at the end of the visit and parting gift is always a nice touch. This would not be appropriate for the official visit but it is important for a young school to spend as much time as possible with the consultant as they should be a font of PYP knowledge for you. Remember this person has a good relationship with the IB and it is a small community! At the end of the visit the consultant will provide the school with a "traffic light report". This will show you the standards you are meeting, are not meeting and the ones that are in progress. The standards you are not meeting must be addressed immediately, and well before the verification visit.

The traffic light report shows standards that were not in place.

School Leadership

It is of the utmost importance that the school leadership is on board. Some standards that will show this are standards B1, B2 and C1. One immediate way to know if the leadership is on board is whether Standard C1.2 is a priority. Collaboration meetings should be timetabled throughout the week. An agenda for these meetings should be kept and be saved for the visit team. It is obvious from the class timetables as to whether the school leadership prioritises collaboration or not. In 2014 I wrote my thesis on PLCs and found that meetings after school are not nearly as effective as meetings timetabled during the day.
Sample agenda for the visit.
The Verification Visit

The visit is a two day event, when two IB educators come out to see if you are meeting the standards. There are a lot of documents that need to be uploaded to a site called IB DOCS prior to the visit. Ensure these documents are filled in accurately and thoroughly. Have a room prepared with hard copies of any requested documents prepared. I would also advise appropriate snacks and drinks to be prepared in the room. Ensure that the interviews with key stake holders such as the Head of School, parents, students and teachers have been carefully planned. Expectations should be clearly explained. A very important part of preparing for the visit is to have regular information sessions for parents like the ones I blogged about here.

Best of luck on your journey. It is a great learning experience!

References

IBO, 2010, Guide to school authorization: Primary Years Programme, Cardiff.

Lalor & Abawi (2014) Professional learning communities enhancing teacher experiences in international schools, International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 9:1, 76-86, DOI: 10.1080/18334105.2014.11082021 

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