How do CIS International Accreditation standards impact schools’ child protection policies and practices?

by Chris Durbin, Dave Stanfield, and Jori Nanninga

The CIS Research & Development team recently conducted a study to answer this question. Our most recent accreditation framework was designed inline with the recommendations of the International Taskforce on Child Protection’s School Evaluation Committee, thus we felt confident that our standards covered the areas critical to protecting children in our schools. Yet, we wanted to gain a better sense of how schools were responding to these new standards throughout the accreditation cycle and in what ways. Furthermore, we anticipated that this research might reveal some potential areas for further enhancement of the standards.

CIS International Accreditation is designed to help schools improve regardless of their current stage of development. Our accreditation framework uses a rubric and criteria model that outlines expectations for each standard at the three stages along the accreditation journey. Schools that exceed expectations can focus on “future aspirations”, which are challenging to even the most advanced schools.  

On a practical level, this structure allowed the Research & Development team to analyse how schools developed their child protection policies and practices over time by comparing how schools were performing at each of the stages. The research made especially visible the impact that CIS standards were having on schools between the Preparatory and Team visit stages of accreditation. For example, at the preparatory stage, 33% of schools did not meet the full requirements for effective child protection policies. These schools fell short in one or more of these areas: adopting a clear definition of child abuse, clearly stating leadership responsibilities regarding child protection, and child protection professional development for staff.

By the Team Evaluation stage, all schools had met these important requirements. We can also see a clear improvement in the thorough background screening of employees and regular volunteers. While just 17% of schools met this requirement at the preparatory stage, all schools had met or exceeded the standard by the team stage.

Not only did the research allow us to quantify the effects of the standards, but it allowed us to see where CIS schools were going above and beyond the minimum requirements, often encouraged by the “future aspirations” criteria and recommendations from CIS evaluators. 

Examples of leading practice were also revealed. Amman Baccalaureate School, for example, translated their safeguarding policy and training into Arabic to make it available to all staff. Likewise, The International School Ho Chi Minh City had “the most intensive and well executed screening protocols the evaluators have seen” through a safer recruitment policy that starts the moment the school advertises a position and lasts until well after the candidate has been hired.

Lessons from this research on the impact of these standards and child protection, as well as feedback from school leaders and evaluators, has recognised the need to maintain the emphasis on policy and practices that are of the highest international standards. CIS schools are situated in more than 100 different countries, each with a distinct legal and a cultural context. Both research and feedback also indicated that there is a need to strengthen the criteria related to implementation of these policies and how well they are understood by not only leadership and staff, but also with the students themselves and their parents. From our report evidence to date, board members too are a group where there are varying degrees of understanding of their role and responsibilities and this too has been strengthened in the revisions of CIS International Accreditation:

  • strengthening standards and criteria related to the roles responsibilities for child safeguarding and child protection within governance and/or ownership and leadership;
  • clearer developmental criteria in stages within the standard related to child protection policy development and implementation with all constituent groups;
  • clearer developmental criteria in stages the standard  with reference to safer recruiting practices; 
  • clearer developmental criteria in stages the standard  with reference to safer premises security and safety;
  • strengthening standards and criteria for child safeguarding and child protection in a boarding and homestay context.

If you wish to share a leading practice in child protection or safeguarding, please write to Katie Rigg, CIS International Advisor for Student Well-being.