Supporting students to succeed
The vast majority of international students are happy with the support they are given in New Zealand schools.
The 2015 International Student Barometer (ISB) survey for the school sector found that 93% of students were happy overall with support services.
Satisfaction had increased with all services since 2012, particularly with disability support, IT support, support for different religions, and school canteens.
Education New Zealand commissioned the survey to investigate the decision-making, expectations, perceptions and experiences of more than 2,000 students aged 16 and above.
Four of the top-performing schools in the support category were Papanui High School, Macleans College, Auckland Grammar School and Awatapu College. Below, the four schools describe how they support international students.
Create a family atmosphere
Papanui High School
Angela Craw, Director of International Students at Papanui High School in Christchurch, believes bigger programmes often have the necessary staffing and infrastructure to support international students.
To help market the school’s international programme, staff in Papanui High School’s international office make a point of responding to agents promptly. Angela says that agents, students and families become frustrated if they phone a school and can’t get hold of someone to talk to.
She says it’s important for the whole school to understand the staffing requirements of an international programme, and for the international director to work alongside all staff.
“The international students really support each other here, too - we’re like a family,” says Angela.
During orientation, students write about their families, schools, hobbies and ambitions. The introduction is given to form and subject teachers to help them develop a stronger relationship with the students. Often this information is held only in the international department and sharing this with staff increases the chances of supporting the students.
Students with limited English are supported with an orientation intensive English class which includes maths, science, art, music, PE and food technology. Students stay until they have built up the confidence, both academically and socially, to move into mainstream classes. By the time they make the move, they are more familiar with the layout and structure of the school and find it easier to adjust and settle.
Reinvest funds into services
When Macleans College in Auckland began fielding many requests from year 12 Chinese students with limited English, it decided to set up an offsite language academy in the local community.
Students with limited English are able to take an intensive English language programme at the academy, while students with stronger English can attend the main school and take English language classes on-site.
Macleans College has about 340 international students. Deputy Principal Melissa Irving believes it’s critical for schools to reinvest the money they make from their international programmes into providing a great service.
“All staff and students are aware of the school-wide benefits of international students, which might include things like more teachers, more management units, a new turf, better resourcing and interactive data projectors in every classroom. The value we gain as a school is phenomenal,” says Melissa.
“Students also bring more to our school than just money. We have 30 Papuan students at the moment who add huge value to the school culture: they come from incredible poverty and they cherish every opportunity they are given.
“We also get many Chinese students who are very academic and contribute to our academic results.”
A commitment to putting students first
Auckland Grammar School
Having staff with the right attitude and being student-centric is crucial to giving international students the support they need to succeed, says Rachel Fenton, Director of International at Auckland Grammar School.
“A lot of it is to do with staff passion, and recognising how influential our interactions are on these young people,” says Rachel.
“I notice the commitment of international staff and Grammar staff as a whole towards best practice, continuous improvement and review, and putting students first.”
The school encourages a ‘culture of contribution’ by having senior international students volunteer as peer tutors for junior students at lunchtimes and after school.
“It is pleasing to see how many international students are quick to volunteer their time to give back to others,” says Rachel. “They really understand and assimilate to the ‘Grammar Way.’”
Rachel suggests schools consider their admissions criteria and make sure the school’s value proposition aligns with the marketing outreach to ensure it attracts and enrols the right type of student for the school and therefore meets students’ expectations early on.
“We’re not all the same, so it’s important to understand your school’s niche and what it has to offer different markets, and then communicate that clearly through various marketing channels.”
Involve international students in academic, school and community life
Awatapu College in Palmerston North is well staffed and has robust systems in place to provide in-class support across the curriculum, and to track and monitor the academic and pastoral care of its students. It has good processes in place to integrate the students and encourage inclusiveness.
Building stronger relationships across the school community has also paid off for Awatapu College.
Mary Cherian Mathews, Director of International Education, says the school organises regular socials with students, homestay families and Kiwi buddies, and has introduced a system to involve international students in the wider life of the school and community throughout the year.
“We have also created a greater awareness among our New Zealand students of our international students. We hold meetings with them and invite them to our International Department socials,” says Mary.
“We endeavour to give our best to them and expect the best from them - just like we would for our children.”
Top tips for improving support for international students
● Reinvest some of the profits from international programme into strengthening services to support international students.
● Make it a priority to foster strong relationships across the school community - between staff and international students, between domestic students and international students, and between school leaders and homestay families.
● Respond quickly to queries from students, families and agents.