Opportunity and Challenge

COBIS Conference 2021
Leading in a Climate of Change: COBIS Annual Conference, May 10 – 13,  2021

Colin Bell, CEO of the Council of British International Schools extends an open invitation to members and non-members to attend this year’s Conference.

The value of connecting

As the global pandemic continues to present barriers for international travel and face-to-face events, COBIS is preparing to welcome participants from around the world to our virtual Annual Conference. This year we’ll be exploring the theme of ‘Opportunity and Challenge: Leading in a Climate of Change’. The value of connections with other people and professional networks has never been greater: the whole international schools sector has been on a remarkable learning journey and has embraced the possibilities of technology. While virtual togetherness may be no substitute for in person interaction, debate and networking, our virtual Annual Conference will harness the best of technology, bringing people together (in a sustainable, cost-effective way) to share their experiences, learn from one another, and reflect on how we have all been Leading in a Climate of Change.


The past 18 months have clearly presented great challenges for our international schools sector, but also tremendous opportunities. As educators, this global pandemic has had a profound influence on every aspect of all our lives and on the lives of the children and families which we serve. It is for this reason that we have chosen a conference theme that will enable delegates to view the impact of the last 18 months and beyond through the complex and realistic lens of multiple and variable global contexts.


The themes explored within the programme demonstrate our shared commitment to: Wellbeing; Pedagogy and the future of education; Diversity and inclusion; Environmental sustainability; Safeguarding; Leadership and Governance.

These themes will be explored across a range of seminars, workshops and roundtables including:

  • Embedding and promoting diversity, equality and inclusion
  • Are We Preparing our Learners Today for the Future of Tomorrow?
  • Safeguarding and child protection for international schools
  • Strategic commitment to using data and research to inform pupil and staff well-being initiatives
  • Intercultural and international mindedness in the face of rising nationalism
  • The science of learning from face to face to blended pedagogies
  • Where next with teaching and learning?
  • Governing for high performance and strengthening organisational change muscles
  • Exploring changes, challenges and opportunities in Early Childhood education
  • Lessons from neuroscience and behavioural psychology
  • Coaching for change and leveraging the power of middle leaders

In addition, our high calibre keynote speakers include:

  • Kehkashan Basu (Founder President, Green Hope Foundation, UN Human Rights Champion, International Children’s Peace Prize Winner) on The Role of Young People and Schools in the Sustainable Development Process
  • Dr Andreas Schleicher (Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD) on Learning for an Interconnected World, Results from PISA’s First Assessment of Global Competence
  • Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE DL (Actor, Broadcaster and Advocate for Children’s Welfare and Education) on Changing the World
  • Professor Steve Munby, Consultant on Leadership and System Reform on Imperfect Leadership

As a member or non-member of COBIS, you will be very welcome to join us.

Year on year, our annual conference is the largest event of its kind, specifically for British international schools. It is anticipated that we’ll be joined by more than 300 Heads, Governors, Proprietors, Senior and Middle Leaders from schools around the world, including COBIS member and non-member schools. Our programme will run over a period of four days, with timings designed to accommodate our diverse global audience and time zones. Whether you are able to join us for a few sessions, or immerse yourself in the full conference experience, there’s certainly reason for you to engage, talk, and perhaps even raise a virtual hand alongside numerous thumbs up.

Breathe . . . .

Our flagship event provides the opportunity for all participants to take a breath and reflect, to horizon scan and consider the future and also to re-play ‘even better if’ moments during the last 12 months. Plus, it’s a time to pause and appreciate collective and individual triumphs over adversity. As self-effacing professionals, this is something we should remember to allow ourselves permission and time for.

. . . . and connect

Connectivity, engagement, value and relevance are the lifeblood of COBIS. We have moved quickly to adapt and respond to changing demands and needs, including our strategic move to deliver virtual quality assurance through our Patron’s Accreditation and Compliance external validation scheme, and increased online networking through COBIS ConnectED which facilitates rich dialogue and meaningful exchange between school leaders. Through this process, we’ve learnt lots along the way, which we’re delighted to share during our conference.

Online makes it possible – and sustainable

As we work towards conference delivery, it’s really exciting for us to see that this year we have increasing numbers of first-time participants. These are school leaders and governors from schools which have indicated that the cost of international travel was prohibitive to in person attendance. This small example of increased connectivity from across our sector is to be celebrated. Plus, in terms of the COBIS commitment to environmental sustainability demonstrated by our annual Planet Mark accreditation, from a carbon reducing perspective this is also excellent news. In addition, and for similar reasons, we’ve attracted attendance from multiple representatives from Ministries of Education and regulators worldwide. The influence and global reach of high-quality British education will certainly be part of the narrative from the UK Government’s International Education Champion, Professor Sir Steve Smith, during his opening address on 10 May.


To wrap up my open invitation for you to join us at our online annual conference, what I can guarantee is a lively and honest event, full of professional energy and enlightenment. Regardless of whether you’re joining us over your breakfast, elevenses, lunch, dinner or supper, we’ll provide you with a realistic and optimistic lens, with which to view a plethora of possibilities, opportunities and challenges in our sector, all set in and amongst multiple, diverse global contexts.

Look forward to having you join us. A warm COBIS welcome awaits you…

Unity in our diversity. Together as a sector, we’re not on mute!


Colin Bell is the  CEO of the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). To reserve a place at the conference please click here: https://www.cobis.org.uk/professional-learning/annual-conference



Feature Image: by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Support Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Other images kindly provided by COBIS