The British Association of Independent Schools with International Students (BAISIS) is continuing to go from strength to strength after celebrating its first anniversary as a member of BSA Group.

In the past 12 months since joining the group, BAISIS has significantly increased its membership and expanded its offering of CPD and training, successfully building on the work it began nearly 25 years ago to help give international students studying in British independent schools the best possible chance of academic success.

BAISIS became part of BSA Group last summer (2020), bringing with it almost a quarter of a century of specialist expertise in academic and pastoral provision for international students in British independent schools.

BAISIS originally formed in 1997 as The Association of International Study Centres (AISC) and was set up by Sherborne School, Taunton School, Rossall School and Bedford School. At the time, these were the only four schools in the UK with international study centres. These were stand-alone units, separate to their parent schools, which were led by Principals who had pioneered teaching English as an additional language, as well as a range of academic subjects for students with limited English. The centres were designed to help students to prepare academically, pastorally and culturally for successfully integrating into a British boarding school, which many schools were not set up to provide at that time. The Principals of each centre would meet regularly to network and share ideas of best practice.

AISC later became the British Association of International Study Centres (BAISC), before rebranding as BAISIS when, under the Chairmanship of Caroline Nixon, former Principal of Taunton School International, the organisation’s constitution was amended to allow independent schools to join.

Caroline, who alongside being Director of BAISIS is also now BSA Group’s International Director, says: “In many ways, the aims of BAISIS have changed very little from when we first launched as AISC in 1997. At that time, there was almost no knowledge for teachers or houseparents to draw on, or any training they could undertake, to help them with the challenges they or their international students were going to face.

“So, from the very first networking meetings AISC held, providing CPD for subject-specific teachers, EAL teachers and house staff, was one of our top priorities. We broadened our membership to admit independent schools after a few years, as it became clear that these schools were also doing similar work in preparing international students for studying here, but using different methods to the study centre model.”

After this change was made, membership of BAISIS grew from eight to 62. But to take the next step and grow further, Caroline believed BAISIS would need to find a like-minded organisation to join forces with.

Caroline says: “We’d reached a point where it was going to be extremely difficult for us to get any bigger on our own. BSA expressed an interest in us joining the group, and to me, it made perfect sense.

“We had many of the same shared objectives. Training and development have always been key parts of BAISIS’s offering to members, as they have for BSA. By combining our expertise in academic training with the quality of the pastoral training that has been one of BSA’s strengths for many years, we’ve been able to offer more rounded training for all our members, as well as increasing the number of webinars, seminars and conferences on our training calendar, which we’d always wanted to do. 

“Also, our member schools face virtually all of the same challenges, especially at the moment when issues surrounding transport, logistics and testing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, are affecting all schools. By joining forces, sharing our expertise and resources, we can provide a better service for members, and that’s vital at a time like this, when they need our assistance more than ever.”

Robin Fletcher, CEO, BSA and BSA Group, says: “We were delighted to welcome Caroline and the BAISIS team into BSA Group 12 months ago, and the knowledge they bring from nearly a quarter of a century working with students from all over the world has been absolutely invaluable in this past year.

“British boarding schools enjoy a reputation as being some of the very best in the world and continue to be an attractive option for parents who want their children to receive an education of the highest quality. BAISIS has played a key role in helping schools to support thousands of international students and will undoubtedly continue to do so.”

Caroline says: “We’ve enjoyed a very successful first year as part of BSA Group; our membership has already grown to nearly 100 since we joined the group. Going forward, we’re aiming to continue expanding our membership base internationally, and offering the best possible support and guidance to staff and students. Having the resources of BSA Group behind us puts us in a great position to be able to achieve this.”