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BSA/BAISIS Conference: Supporting international students conference

  • Date: March 06, 2024
  • Time: 09:30 – 16:30
  • Cost: BSA/BAISIS Full Member – £215, BSA/BAISIS Additional Member Fee – £110,  BSA Affiliate Member – £325, BSA Additional Affiliate Member Fee – £140  Non-member – £430
  • Audience: SMT/SLT, EAL, Marketing/admissions, Agents, Guardians
  • Platform: Zoom (online)

Course Outline

The international market is ever-changing, so it is important to stay ahead of the curve to ensure your international students continue to receive the very best support and that your school remains compliant with regulations. The benefits of international students in our boarding houses and classrooms for all involved are significant and impactful; all the more reason to ensure you are doing the best you can to deliver the best care, education and experience possible.

At this year’s Supporting international students conference on Wednesday, March 06 2024, we will be discussing everything from international trends to language diversity, good governance and sponsor requirements to engaging with prospective international families, and the latest in providing the best and most effective welcome and induction for international students. We will hear from a range of experienced practitioners throughout the day to share best practice and respond to delegate questions.

Training topics will include:

  • International trends
  • Effective induction of international students
  • Good governance of international student provision
  • Welcoming language diversity as a whole school
  • Engaging with prospective families.




09:30 – 10:15

Welcome and keynote

Our keynote speaker will share her lived experience, facing exclusion and isolation from her community when introducing her autistic son, and her professional focus on autism and neurodivergence. Using this experience, the session will highlight why some cultures, the Chinese community in particular, are uncomfortable with neurodiversity and additional needs and provide suggestions for supporting parents in their own journey around their child’s needs.

  • Chair
    • Beth Waddington, Director, BAISIS and Programmes Director, BSA Group
  •  Speaker:
    • Hazel Lim, Founder, Chinese Autism

10:15 – 10:30


10:30 – 11:30

International trends

This session will hear from a selection of sector experts who will update delegates on the current international trends around recruitment, attitude towards boarding and British Education, competitive markets and the impact of franchising as we look towards future recruitment and marketing plans.

  • Chair
    • David Walker, Director, BSA
  •  Speaker:
    • Simon Nathan, Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Policy ISC
    • Dr Fiona Rogers, Deputy CEO, COBIS
    • Caroline Nixon, International Director, BSA Group

11:30 – 11:45


11:45 – 12:30

Effective induction of international students

A successful introduction to your school is key to the settling in of all students. For international students, schools need to not only support the settling in process within the school, but also within British culture. Families put a great deal of trust in their chosen school and a successful induction should start from the point of enquiry and finish with the students helping welcome future students as a valued part of the school community. This session will hear from an experienced educator and leader on the practical considerations and recommendations to ensure your induction process for international students is robust and child-focused.

  • Chair
    • Beth Waddington, Director, BAISIS and Programmes Director, BSA Group
  •  Speaker
    • Ellen Hesse, Principal, Abbey College Cambridge

12:30 – 13:30


13:30 – 14:30

Good governance of international students’ provision

Having international students in your school comes with specific requirements and obligations as well as enriching your boarding and whole-school community. Our panel of experts will share recommendations around good governance of the provision for international students and highlight relevant sponsor requirements and other statutory guidance.

  • Chair
    • Kate Hollyer, Legal Director, BSA Group
  •  Speaker:
    • Simon Leyshon, Director, Lleision Education

14:30 – 14:45


14:45 – 15:30

Welcoming language diversity as a whole school

This session will focus on the benefits and challenges of how we can embrace diversity to value learners’ home languages as well as to celebrate that language diversity across the school. Whether you have a few or multiple language speaking learners in your school, this session will provide lots of practical ideas to use immediately. 

  • Chair
    • Beth Waddington, Director, BAISIS and Programmes Director, BSA Group
  •  Speaker:
    • Caroline Scott, Author & Director, Across Cultures & Learning Village
    • Emma Finnerty, Deputy Head of Boarding, DLD College London
    • Aga Gurbin, Faculty Head for EAL and MFL, D’Overbroeck’s
    • Sara Thomas, Assistant Head of School, ACS International School Cobham

15:30 – 15:45


15:45 – 16:30

Brand Britain: engaging with prospective families

It’s a small world, and as we see international travel increase again after the COVID pandemic, we have the opportunity to promote the excellence of Britain for international students to prospective families. Increased travel does, of course, also mean increased competition from other international education markets: this session will discuss the key interest areas for prospective families and how British schools can engage with prospective families to promote their school and opportunities.

  • Chair
    • Beth Waddington, Director, BAISIS and Programmes Director, BSA Group
  •  Speaker:
    • John Zhang, Managing Director, Connexcel, BSA agent and guardian
    • Gareth Collier, Director, Cardiff Sixth Form College
    • Mark Brooks, MBA, Director of Mark Brooks Education Limited


Conference close


Bethan Waddington, Programmes Director – BSA Group, Director – BAISIS

Bethan Waddington joined the BSA team as Training Manager in September 2017. Bethan has worked in two independent boarding schools in the UK and Switzerland, the latter as Housemistress to 36 pupils. Following her time in Switzerland, she was a Pastoral Manager for an inner-city state academy before working in the charity sector for Debrett’s running the ‘Debrett’s Foundation’ training programme.

In her role, Bethan plans and manages all Day Seminars, Conferences, INSET and Consultancy, as well as being Director of BAISIS. She believes boarding can be a positive force for young people and in order to fully support their needs staff can never learn too much. As such she is passionate about the CPD BSA delivers to our pastoral communities in the UK and worldwide.

David Walker, Director, BSA

David is the BSA Director and joined the BSA group in August 2023. He has over 20 years’ experience in boarding schools and has worked in a range of schools in the UK and Africa, alongside being a prep school governor and a trustee of a MAT. Before taking up his post at the BSA, David was Deputy Head Pastoral at a large co-ed independent school in the South-East.

Kate Hollyer, Legal Director, BSA Group

Kate is Legal and Public Affairs Director of BSA Group and Director of BSA Group Legal Services Ltd, BSA Group’s SRA-regulated law firm. As a qualified solicitor of England and Wales with more than 12 years’ experience advising clients on UK immigration and nationality law, Kate supports members with all UK immigration matters including UKVI sponsor licence compliance. Kate is a member of the Home Office Education Advisory Group and is the boarding sector representative for this group. Prior to joining BSA in 2022 Kate was Partner and Head of Department at a leading full-service UK law firm. Having resided in state, preparatory and senior school boarding houses since 2014 with her Housemaster husband, Kate has a unique perspective of boarding life.

Caroline Nixon, International Director, BSA Group

Caroline has worked in international education for over 30 years.  She is International & Membership Director at Boarding Schools’ Association, and Director of Caroline Nixon Education Ltd., as well as a member of the advisory group to the British Government’s All Party Parliamentary Group for international students.

Caroline set up and runs the BSA educational agent certification scheme and is involved with the BSA’s accreditation of international schools.  Her background is in international education marketing and she also set up and ran a leading international school in the UK.  She has helped several UK schools to establish new overseas branches, advised an international school opening in the UK, set up a guardianship agency for an educational group, and advises schools on international marketing and academic and pastoral provision for their international students.

Ellen Hesse, Principal, Abbey College Cambridge

Ellen Hesse has dedicated her entire professional career to working in boarding schools, accumulating a wealth of experience in supporting boarders and ensuring their effective and enjoyable induction into school and boarding life. Currently, she is serving as the Principal at Abbey College Cambridge, an independent secondary school in Cambridge. She previously held the position of Vice Principal Pastoral and DSL at St Clare’s Oxford, a sixth-form IB college. Prior to that, from 2014 to 2018, she served as the Head of Pastoral Care, Director of Boarding, and DSL at The Royal School in Haslemere, an all-through school with an age range from 6 weeks old to 18. Her earlier experience includes a role as Head of Boarding at Cobham Hall in Kent from 2006 to 2014. Her teaching and boarding career started at King’s Ely. Ellen is a specialist in Science and History.

Simon Nathan, Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Policy, ISC

Simon leads the policy and political affairs team for the ISC – a trade association representing 1,400 independent schools. This includes managing ISC’s relationships with Ministers, civil servants and MPs on behalf of member schools. Since taking post in January 2019, Simon has led ISC’s work on promoting the value of independent schools within political debate and co-ordinating the sector’s response during  Covid.  Prior to joining ISC Simon worked for trade bodies in construction and the education policy team at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). He has a degree in economics and politics from Cambridge University.

John Zhang, Managing Director, Connexcel, BSA accredited agent and certified guardian.

John Zhang has lived in the UK for 20 years. Graduating from the University of Leeds with a master’s degree in Finance, he was employed by two FTSE 100 international companies as a procurement director before starting his own business. Since establishing Connexcel, he has devoted himself to helping elite private schools in China and the UK form partnerships through sister schools and cultural exchanges. John has supported schools in China with setting up new curriculums in collaboration with UK partners and training senior education personnel. He also acts a consultant for UK schools seeking advice on expanding their brand within the China. Through his consultancy work, John has built an extensive network within the Chinese Education Bureau along with schools in the UK and China, always taking the needs of each school to best allocate resources to support them.

Dr Fiona Rogers, Deputy CEO, COBIS

Fiona is responsible for the planning and management of all COBIS conferences and professional development events. After completing her doctoral studies in Oxford, Fiona worked with COBIS for three years from 2007. She returned to COBIS as Senior Professional Development Officer in September 2013 before being appointed as Director of Professional Development & Research in 2016 and taking on the role of Deputy CEO in 2018.

Caroline Scott, Author & Director, Across Cultures & Learning Village

Caroline Scott BA, DipM, NPQH, MA has worked in schools across the world, developing English language skills for young learners. Catering for beginner through to fluent learners in culturally rich, internationally minded learning environments, she has also trained teachers in Europe, South East Asia and the Middle East. Caroline was the founding Head of Primary at CES, a British International School in Cairo, Egypt (3-18 IPC school) and the Primary Principal at the International School of Milan, Italy (3-18 IB PYP school). As the founder of Across Cultures and creator of the Learning Village programme, Caroline also delivers training on EAL in schools in the UK and overseas.

Caroline is the author of ‘Teaching Children English as an Additional Language: A programme for 7-11 year olds’, ‘Teaching English as an Additional Language 5-11: A Whole School Resource’ and ‘An English as an Additional Language (EAL) Programme: Learning through images for 7-14 year olds’.

Hazel Lim, Founder, Chinese Autism

Multiple autism award winner Hazel Lim is a prominent advocate in the fight against the cultural stigma associated with autism within the UK Chinese community.  After moving with her neurodivergent family to Swansea in 2015 to complete a master’s degree in Autism and Related Conditions, she decided to make Wales her permanent home.  Since then, she has increasingly become a leading figure in the local autism and Chinese communities there, bringing together the voices and experiences of many to create a more inclusive and compassionate environment.

Hazel founded the Chinese Autism Support Group in 2016 to provide much needed support to Chinese families, working tirelessly to raise awareness and understanding of autism particularly for those in caring roles.  Then in 2019, Hazel went on to produce the first English and Chinese Bilingual Autism booklet in the UK, providing professionals with an introductory understanding of the cultural barriers faced by people living with autism in the Chinese community.  This document has been greatly utilised and appreciated by many professional bodies in South Wales, as well as internationally.  Hazel’s work on both this invaluable resource and the support group she founded was recognised by the Prime Minister in 2021, who awarded her with a prestigious ‘Point of Light’ award.

From winning additional awards such as ‘UK Chinese Women of the Year’ in the volunteering category, The National Autistic Society’s ‘Someone Who Changed My Life’ Award, and both Womenspire’s ‘Community Champion Award’ and Womenspire ‘Champion of Champions Award’, it is more than evident that Hazel’s impact and dedication is now widely recognised, especially her unwavering warmth and impressive commitment to her cause.

Hazel’s work has often been greatly challenged by cultural barriers, the unwillingness to embrace differences, and the lack of funding available to meet the needs of such vulnerable people. Despite this, Hazel’s genuine desire to help others and her determination to ensure no child or family affected by autism suffers in silence has made a significant impact on the local autism community, and those trying to understand autism in the Chinese cultural context both in Wales and all over the world.

To further support minority families affected by autism, Hazel founded Chinese Autism CIC in 2022, a project which is dedicated to empowering all Chinese families in need across the UK.  CACIC endeavours to counter the misinformed perspectives and cultural stigma that uniquely exists within the Chinese community through providing guidance, information, education, and awareness campaigns, strongly focusing on leading by example to remove barriers, address prejudice, and foster inclusion and equality.

Aga Gurbin, Faculty Head for EAL and MFL, D’Overbroeck’s

In her role as Head of English as an Additional Language at d’Overbroeck’s College, Aga is responsible for the quality of EAL teaching in the International School and the Sixth Form. Aga is also Head of Faculty for Languages and supports Heads of Department in ensuring excellent student outcomes. She has a PhD in Humanities, an MA in English language and literature, a diploma in TEFL, a DELTA qualification and is currently pursuing an MA in International Education. Drawing on her 16 years in secondary education, language schools and universities, Aga often runs training for teachers, both at d’Overbroeck’s and across the UK. Curiosity, empathy and a joy for learning drive Aga’s passion for EAL. Her areas of specialism are curriculum design and development, teacher training and CLIL. In her spare time, she likes to read, travel and go on hikes.

Sara Thomas, Assistant Head of School, ACS International School Cobham

Sara Thomas is the Assistant Head of School, leading on wellbeing, at ACS Cobham. She oversees the boarding houses, medical centre, safeguarding team, student services and the pastoral systems at the school. Originally a languages teacher (French, Welsh, English & Spanish), Sara’s other previous roles include Head of Welsh Baccalaureate, Head of Sixth Form and Deputy Headteacher. She has worked in a variety of schools both in the UK and abroad. 

Simon Leyshon, Director, Lleision Education

Simon Leyshon is a former Head, Deputy Head and Chaplain at a variety of HMC, ISA, NEASC, British and international schools with over 20 years of senior leadership experience. He is now an educational consultant with Lleision Education. 

Throughout his career in independent schools he has been heavily  involved in boarding, pastoral care and student welfare. He is particularly interested in wellbeing, community cohesion, collaborative learning, school improvement, pastoral care and school ethos.

Emma Finnerty, Deputy Head of Boarding, DLD College London,

After working as a University Lecturer Emma made the shift to Boarding and Pastoral Care 11 years ago and began working at DLD College London. Currently Deputy Head of Boarding, Emma leads the Boarding Team in the day-to-day running of the House and the Pastoral and Wellbeing provision for 250 International and Domestic students. With specialist training in Adolescence Mental Health, Resilience Development, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Trauma, Bereavement and Coaching, Emma is very experienced in ensuring the needs of Boarders are met and is always looking for new and innovative ways to support students on their way to adulthood. Emma’s pastoral experience further expands to a wider demographic through her roles with Age UK and Bookmark Children’s Charities.

Gareth Collier, Director, Cardiff Sixth Form College

After serving 24 years in boarding schools in the UK and internationally in Kenya and Tanzania, fulfilling pastoral roles of Housemaster, Head of Boarding, Head of Pastoral, Senior Teacher and Head Teacher as well as teaching, marketing and admissions roles, he joined Cardiff Sixth Form College in 2015, where he is Director.

Gareth is a passionate exponent of international boarding education and is proud to be associated with such a highly academic and top-performing institution as Cardiff Sixth Form College. As a Welshman, he is honoured to be able to contribute not only to one of Wales’ leading educational establishments, but also to one of its leading businesses.

Mark Brooks, MBA, Director of Mark Brooks Education Limited

Mark began his career as a marketing executive with the Financial Times in London and moved on to become the marketing manager for a theological college, and then for a leading boarding school in Oxfordshire. At both establishments Mark revolutionised the student recruitment processes and saw pupil numbers reach record levels. During this time, he also completed an MBA, focusing on schools marketing. His specialisms are marketing strategy, school turnaround and boarding recruitment. He has advised heads and governors at major IAPS, HMC and GSA schools in the UK and overseas. Mark has worked with the British Council, and leading schools such as Roedean, Junior King’s Canterbury, Wycliffe College, Dulwich College and over 100 others. He is a regular conference speaker (IPSEF, AGBIS, British Council, AMDIS, BBSW, and APEN). His Masters in Business Administration (MBA) focused on school strategy and marketing, his final year was sponsored by the Independent Schools Council (ISC). Mark visits at least two independent schools a week and runs marketing initiatives overseas.