The International School Aberdeen community is thriving in both virtual and actual environments – here’s how.
From Aberdeen city centre, a ten-minute drive along the North Deeside Road takes you to International School Aberdeen (ISA). Its spacious purpose-built hillside building is easy to miss, shielded by trees and set back in its own extensive grounds.
Parking is never a problem and it is a short walk through lush green to the reception, which is part of a traditional Scottish manor house, leading to the impressive modern body of the school.
But for the last two months this incredible campus, unique in the North East, has not housed the international school. Instead, it has been empty during lockdown while ISA’s teaching moved online providing the ISA Virtual School.
Students and teachers will be back onsite from August, but the time away has reminded everyone that a school is not a building, however incredible it is; it is a set of relationships. A community.
The last few months has seen one of the worst public crises of our lifetimes and as we have been asked to stay apart physically, sticking together emotionally has never been more important.
As an international school, ISA has always been a lot more than just a place to go and learn stuff. For years, people from all over the world have made it the heart of their lives in Aberdeen.
One parent wrote: “ISA is not just our school; it is our family and our community. We always appreciate the important and unique role that you play in our lives all year.”
ISA is the family away from home; it is also uniquely placed to deal with change and disruption.
Many of its students are from the local area, but many others join from around the world. When they join ISA, they are not just moving to a new school but a whole new way of doing things.
ISA has one of the best staff to student ratios in Scotland. It’s a school of just 450 but has two full time counsellors, a nurse, two learning support teachers and English as ‘Additional Language’ support. Most classes have no more than fifteen or sixteen students.
Supporting students now and in the future
ISA knows how to support children through the ups and downs of life.
Another parent commented recently: “Every day you foster a community filled with kindness and respect; you make learning fun and engaging; you love and challenge. We’ve seen wonderful transformations in our kids this year and we know you have played a monumental role in each of their lives.”
During lockdown, ISA ran an acclaimed virtual school offering live online lessons as well as online concerts, assemblies, exhibitions, competitions and fun nights.
Nevertheless, without a doubt the success of online study has depended on the qualities of ISA students themselves: resilience, self-management and an openness to new ways of doing things.
An ISA education culminates in the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, prized by universities in Scotland, the UK and worldwide.
A recent report asked university admissions officers what curriculums best developed independent inquiry and 87% identified the International Baccalaureate (IB) compared to just 47% for Scottish Highers and 37% for A levels. There were similar results for an open mind (71% for IB, 26% for Scottish Highers and 15% for A levels) and self-management (76% for IB, 30% for Scottish Highers, 26% for A levels).
These qualities don’t just prepare ISA students for the challenge of university and enable them to thrive in a fast-changing global economy after that; it enables them to thrive through present challenges as well.
ISA provides a safe and secure learning environment, whatever the circumstances. As one parent put it: “I am always impressed at how our teachers know our kids so well.”
From this context both local and international students develop the personal and academic skills they need for future success. ISA is a small school, but recent graduates have gone on to universities as prestigious as Oxford, Durham, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
As lockdown eases, in August students will again travel along the North Deeside Road to ISA’s magnificent campus. Restrictions will still be in place and ISA’s blended learning approach will be fully implemented.
The 25-metre indoor heated pool may be out of action for a couple more months, and the state-of-the-art theatre may not be used to its maximum potential. But the extensive outdoor facilities – the tennis courts, the hockey pitch, the football fields, the wooded play area and the incredible pre-school garden – will be used more than ever before.
The spacious indoor rooms will enable ISA to easily adhere to government social distancing rules and keep a wide range of activities going.
ISA is fronted by a traditional manor house with an eighteenth-century tower, with 21st century learning spaces behind. The school itself is located in Aberdeen, but is also a gateway to a wider world beyond. It is a community that, like its students, learns and adapts; that thrives in both virtual and actual environments. Get the best of all worlds, go to ISA!
Why not join ISA’s first ever virtual open morning on Saturday 20 June? For more details and to register, visit its website here.