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Q&A: ISF Waterloo and St Paul's schools to merge

22:17 01/04/2017
Changes in Europe, and a different type of expat coming to Brussels - we find out why two international schools have joined forces

ISF International School in Waterloo and St Paul’s British Primary School in Vossem-Tervuren have announced a merger with immediate effect.

The two schools say they are "stronger together" and "look forward to sharing knowledge and experience". Orla McLoughlin, until now ISF's head of primary, has become head of St Paul’s, replacing Brett Neilson who recently announced that he was leaving to take up a new role.

We asked ISF chairman Kevan Keegan what the amalgamation would mean for the schools, parents and current and future pupils.

Why have ISF Waterloo and St Paul’s British Primary School decided to amalgamate?

We anticipate that over the coming years the educational needs, expectations and attitudes of the internationally mobile families will be different from the past two or three decades. There’s also a slightly different kind of expat coming to Brussels these days - very often they're both professionals, and it was a moment to strategically look at what our future customers (parents) want and who they will be, while also looking at how we meet the needs of the parents we already have.

It became quickly obvious to both ISF and SPBPS, in the light of the changes taking place in Europe, that the two schools would be better able to serve their customers by joining forces and creating the means to anticipate and capitalise on the opportunities that these changes will eventually reveal. We believe that parents will always look for a nurturing and caring school for their children’s primary education, but also one which wholly embraces the changing world in which their children are growing up.

What does the amalgamation mean for the existing students at the two schools?

The schools have already built up a relationship with each other over the past three years, through soccer matches, inter-school quizzes, choir competitions and occasional shared learning at professional development workshops. The amalgamation will result in sharing school trips and residential experiences, enhanced sporting and performing art opportunities, and enhanced opportunities to become multilingual.

Educationally the collaboration will be fantastic for both schools because, with the small class sizes, it will give them an opportunity to work together on topic work and gives teachers great opportunities for collaborative planning together. For students to have the opportunity to do activities in a larger environment, to have more friends, and to play sports together is something that the students are very excited about.

More importantly, St Paul's students graduating from primary school will now be offered an enhanced pathway into secondary school education in ISF Waterloo once we have resolved the necessary transport logistics. We expect to announce full details on this in time for the new academic year 2017-18.

Will ISF and St Paul's be sharing resources and teachers?

"Back office" administrative functions will eventually be combined, and the maintenance teams will be shared between the two premises. There will not be any sharing of teaching staff in core primary school functions. Each school will have a full-time class teacher for every class. We do not wish to combine classes at any level, so we will be hiring more teachers even if class sizes remain small. Where there are specialist subjects that do not require a full-time teacher in each school we will seek to deploy the best teacher for that subject across both schools.

However, there will be combined training programmes for skills such as first aid, emergency procedures and ongoing professional development. ISF Waterloo’s expertise as the first Google for Education School in Belgium will be transferred to St Paul's staff over the coming year. However, each school will retain its own control and ownership of budgets, teaching aids and equipment.

Will the schools be coming together under one roof or will you be keeping the two separate premises?

No, each school will remain in its original premises. ISF Waterloo bought its own campus last year and St Paul's just signed a new 20-year lease on its campus.

Will the name of the amalgamated schools change?

St Paul’s British Primary School recently celebrated 40 years in Tervuren-Vossem. It became St Paul's BPS 10 years ago, following a change of ownership and a strategic decision to align itself with the British curriculum. Unless that alignment ceases to be meaningful and important to internationally mobile parents or becomes a possible disadvantage, the name will remain the same.

Written by Noreen Donovan