What is it like to teach in Belgium, specifically, SHAPE International School?
I had the privilege of visiting The British Section, SHAPE International School, in Mons, Belgium. The school with ~100 pupils on roll serves the families of those working in the British Forces and forms part of 29 nations which make SHAPE International School.
Two schools, one building…
Imagine walking down a school corridor to discover two different pedagogical approaches to curriculum, operating within the same school? Well, although subtle differences may exist in all schools between classroom to classroom, largely determined by syllabus and teaching style, walking inside the British and Canadain Sections of SHAPE International School – who share the same physical corridors – allowed me the opportunity to see two schools co-existing alongside each other; both operating with different pupils, staffing structures and curriculum.
A unique school setting…
Six months of planning led me to experience something in education I’ve never seen in 25 years. Working with Jens Niedzwiedzki, the headteacher of the British Section of SHAPE International School, I visited Belgium for three days to work with his primary teachers exploring Mark Plan Teach and my Verbal Feedback research – both designed to reduced teacher workload and increase impact.
The teaching staff are incredibly happy, empowered and absorb the same challenges as any other school, but their unique context makes SHAPE a very special place to work… When I shared my visit with my Facebook group, I was overwhelmed by the response from the community. Life in the forces, living and working on camp, alongside the contracts make the job interesting, but this certainly does not outweigh the positives of MoD schools…
SHAPE International School Infrastructure
The international school consists of 11 different countries, I believe operating in 9 separate buildings, sharing the same campus within the NATO base. There is a similar ethos to a university environment, but in this setting, the students are as young as 4 years old! The British Section of the international school campus, serves families from the British forces, as well as some NATO personnel, at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), in Belgium. Belonging to NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Allied Command Operations – since 1967, it has been located at Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons, previously located from near Versailles, France in 1953.
The video below explains the setup of the school, whereas this video has a SHAPE teacher explaining life on the inside.
Representing 30 countries, not languages, could SHAPE International School be the most diverse school on planet Earth?