School leaders gather for Schools Now! 2024 Conference in Cape Town
Friday 01 March 2024
  • Themed ‘Enriching your curriculum’, the Schools Now! 2024 conference equipped educators and decision-makers with tools, insights and strategies necessary to enhance the educational experience for students worldwide.
  • Education experts from around the world presented innovations and case studies in leadership, well-being and safeguarding approaches and the integration of technology in digital learning. 
  • The conference focused on empowering subject experts within the school community to drive curriculum development and delivery.

British Council’s Schools Now! 2024 was held over three days in Cape Town, South Africa from 27-29 February 2024. The conference was attended by more than 1000 school leaders both onsite and virtually, and served as a platform for fostering collaboration, sharing best practices and insights in international education. 

The themes included digital learning, leadership, well-being, and safeguarding, adding to a rich internationalised and contextualised curriculum. Through a series of engaging keynote sessions, immersive workshops, and panel discussions, delegates explored innovative teaching approaches, curriculum enrichment strategies, and the integration of technology in education. 

Martin Lowder, British Council’s Head of Global Exams Services, said: “The spirit of Schools Now! is to establish global connections within the educational community, exploring insights and innovations in international education. By addressing emerging themes, we aim to empower educators to navigate the complexities of the shifting education landscape and drive positive outcomes for students.”

The opening keynote session was by Victoria Pendry, CEO of the Curriculum Foundation, aimed at empowering schools to develop, monitor and evaluate an enriched curriculum. She said: “In a rapidly changing world, if learners are to develop resilience, creativity and the essential skills of collaboration, the curriculum must be ambitious and enriched with local and global narratives that excite imaginations and inspire curiosity.”

Her presentation explored the interconnected nature of digital learning, leadership, well-being and safeguarding as a foundation for quality and equitable education. She summarised that “a curriculum that is rich in respect for the past, eager to consider preferred futures and committed to exploring different perspectives, will drive positive outcomes beyond the classroom”. 

Other distinguished speakers included, Dr Funke Baffour-Awuah, Head of Well-being Division and Child Protection Lead, Al Rayan International School, Ghana, Kathleen O’Hare, British Council Education Consultant, Pamela O`Brien, Deputy Head and Jo Parkes, Deputy Head Academic from British Council School in Madrid.

Tatiana Popa, Deputy Academic Director, Heritage International School, Moldova, an ISC International Education Influencer of 2023, delivered a session for virtual delegates, on ‘Digital learning’, focussing on the use of AI in schools and how this will impact all areas of work, educational tools, teaching practice and much more. 

An expert panel on ‘AI in Education’ comprising of Kudzayi Tarisayi, Senior Lecturer, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, Reham Ali, Director of Middle and High School Education, Nermine Ismail International Schools, Egypt and Jo Parkes discussed valuable tips into how schools can ensure students are prepared for future needs dictated through the use of AI. Nearly 90% of conference delegates regard AI as a friend, not foe, signalling widespread optimism towards AI’s potential benefits.

Dr Funke’s keynote addressed how to ‘Develop a Well-being Framework for a Thriving School Community through the lens of ‘A Curriculum-Centred Approach.’ She said: “Integrating wellbeing into the curriculum promotes a thriving school community: By intentionally incorporating wellbeing into the curriculum, schools can create a holistic learning environment that supports the mental, emotional, and physical health of students.”

A series of workshops discussed practical aspects of implementing key learnings through a range of key thematic areas such as, ‘Leadership Synergy: Peer Coaching & Empowering Your Success’ and ‘What is an innovative curriculum in an exam focussed school context’ to name a few. These workshops provided school leaders with engagement tools in support of enriching the curriculum so that communities are inspired and committed to helping learners to acquire transferable skills such as problem solving and critical thinking, teamwork and communication, particularly in multi-cultural realities.

Jo Parkes’ led a workshop on curriculum, reinforcing ‘the importance of reading as a fundamental aspect to an enriched curriculum. Establishing reading as the backbone of the curriculum is enormously effective but sadly often overlooked.’

Another key focus of the conference was safeguarding, recognising the importance of school community wellbeing and safety within the learning environment. Pamela O`Brien, in her workshop on ‘Developing school practices to ensure safeguarding and wellbeing of students’ shared: “Safeguarding and wellbeing are intertwined. Creating a safe environment is key and includes not only complying with relevant laws and standards but also identifying school practices which promote the wellbeing of children and act as protective factors.” She shared case studies from the British Council School, Madrid where “Policies, systems and procedures have led to consistency and best practice. We can only say a policy, or a system is working if we see it in practice and the entire school community plays their part.”

The conference also provided our Action Research Grants recipients from Partner Schools the opportunity to share valuable findings from their respective research areas. A thought-provoking session by Amira Soliman Awaad, Director of Curriculum and Instruction from Dr. Nermien Ismail International Schools in Egypt showcased how ‘Digitized Blended Learning Methods’ such as the ‘Flipped Classroom’ and ‘Exit Tickets’ save class time and yield real-time intervention data, translating them into needed interventions for struggling students or requirements for increased rigour in the curricula.’

Schools are managing a variety of changes and development and the British Council supports our Partner Schools to approach new challenges through training, guidance and encouraging collaborative practice. As education continues to evolve in response to the changing needs of learners, the Schools Now! conference plays a crucial role in driving progress and innovation within the sector. By harnessing the collective expertise and passion of school leaders and decision makers, the conference serves as a catalyst for transformative change, ultimately enriching the educational experiences of students worldwide. 

By championing safety and wellbeing, embracing technological advancements, and leadership in schools, and thereby promoting an enriched curriculum, the outcomes of Schools Now! Conference focused on empowering educators to create engaging, student-centred learning environments that prepare learners for success in the 21st century and beyond.

Key takeaways from the event will be available on the Schools Now! website page:

Notes to Editor

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About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language.  We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2022-23 we reached 600 million people.