Integrated International School (IIS) has switched to the British curriculum and relaunched its popular Tea & Tots playgroup programme. DR VANESSA VON AUER, the school’s founder and CEO, tells us about these two exciting developments and how they benefit mainstream as well as special education needs students.
Why did IIS decide on a different curriculum?
We’ve always dreamt about being able to offer our students qualifications that are highly recognised and that enable them to gain entry to further their studies at renowned tertiary educational institutions.
The Cambridge International Advanced Subsidiary/Advanced Levels (AS/A Levels) and the Pearson Edexcel International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) give our students the opportunity to gain qualifications that are valued by universities and employers alike.
Due to their global recognition and the range of transferable skills they support, the AS/A Levels and IGCSE also make it easy for students to move between different educational systems and countries.
What gaps does the new curriculum plug?
The British curriculum offers a wide range of subject choices, allowing students to tailor their education to their own interests, strengths and goals, thereby redefining their personal successes. We love that it’s so flexible, which fits perfectly with our inclusive school.
The curriculum is relevant to the modern world, and emphasises developing the skills, knowledge and understanding required for success in the 21st century. Through it, we promote international-mindedness, cultural as well as individual understanding and inclusion.
While other schools offer the AS/A Levels and/or IGCSE, the expert faculty at IIS is able to create Individualised Education Plans (IEPs) for a student’s learning journey, where relevant. This means that students learn comprehensively, yet at their own pace and with their preferred learning style in mind.
In summary, students of all walks of life, whether mainstream or students with special educational needs or learning differences, can now access this highly sought after qualification at IIS.
How will this benefit mainstream students with individualised needs?
The flexibility of the British curriculum allows our teachers, who are trained in recognising the needs of individual learners, to adapt lesson content and delivery to meet these needs.
A variety of teaching methods are encouraged within these programmes. This ensures that all students can access the material, make progress in their learning and reach their full potential.
Are there resources to supplement the British curriculum?
Since Cambridge International and Pearson Edexcel are our education partners, we have all of their resources available to us. These include high-quality textbook and classroom materials, online learning portals, complete schemes of work to meet key objectives and assessment guidance documentation.
Even training of faculty members is offered by these two programmes to ensure quality delivery.
IIS also utilises resources from the International Curriculum Association to further supplement the curriculum. This helps in fostering inquisitive thinking and empowering our students as global citizens.
On a different note, what is Tea & Tots? How can parents get involved in the playgroup programme?
IIS’s Tea & Tots was started in 2018 as a dynamic and interactive playgroup programme that parents, grandparents and other adult family members could be a part of. It’s more than just a baby drop-off programme. The idea was to help family members learn how to have fun with their bubs at various developmental stages.
Parents benefit from this group setting too. Our groups foster a sense of support through connecting with other adults and babies in the play sessions. Many new friendships are forged among caregivers during these sessions. It’s always nice to make other baby and parent friends to plan playdates with.
What’s the approach you use in Tea & Tots?
The playgroup uses the Reggio Emilia (RE) approach. RE is a child-centred, play-based philosophy that focuses on the whole child so it’s highly favoured in early childhood. It encourages children to be proactive and creative participants in their own learning and to explore their own interests.
RE also emphasises the importance of the environment as well as the role of teachers and parents and guardians as facilitators of a child’s learning and wellbeing.
What are some activities that happen in the preschool playgroup?
One of our favourite playgroup activities for IIS tots is touching, seeing, smelling and exploring in our sensory garden.
The other is the treasure basket. This involves placing a variety of items into a basket and encouraging our tots to use their hands, mouths and noses to discover the different textures, sounds, colours and shapes of the items.
Both activities are hallmarks of RE, which encourages sensory and cognitive development, curiosity, adaptability and social development.
If a tot isn’t getting along with the others, is there a quiet space available?
Every so often, everyone needs a little quiet-time or me-time, even our little ones. Tots who are joining a playgroup for their first time may experience sensory overload. We have two soothing rooms, the Zen Library and the Ocean Snoezelen Room, where your child can chill out until he or she is ready to rejoin the group.
Is there a recommended minimum period for the playgroup programme?
A minimum of one term is highly recommended to reap the benefits of the playgroup. It will take a few sessions for a tot to get used to his or her new surroundings, friends and activities. Once your tot feels comfortable, you will see their confidence and personality shine through.
This article first appeared in the April 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!