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Case Studies

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), 2019 – 2023

The Best-Laid Plans: Adapting to the unforeseen

The Best-Laid Plans: Adapting to the unforeseen

When the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines contracted with International School Leadership in 2019, the goal was to draw on our expertise and proven approach to equip leaders with powerful tools that would strengthen learning and foster accountability throughout the education system. But while that goal never changed, the methodology certainly did. The COVID-19 pandemic required flexibility and innovation as we consulted with Ministry of Education staff and worked with school and system leaders despite travel restrictions and technology deficits. Volcanic eruptions and associated earthquakes in Saint Vincent in early 2021 led to evacuations and affected everything from the electricity supply to air quality. Although the project faced more hurdles and took more time than anyone could have predicted, ISL trainers and dozens of school and system leaders shifted from in-person delivery to an online approach, ensuring an unwavering focus on excellence and practical application. When we returned for a final round of onsite work in January 2023, it was clear that participants had grown in their profession and we had learned a great deal ourselves. ISL’s globally respected frameworks and techniques are already helping shape the education system to benefit learners in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Consultation: Laying the groundwork for success  

A hallmark of our work is the time we spend in conversation with clients to ensure we understand their needs so that we can provide the right programs and products. In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the relationship began with four ISL leaders visiting the islands in November 2019 to meet with senior Ministry of Education officials and the Minister himself, as well as school leaders and focus groups, and to tour several schools. Using insights from this time, we created a six-phase work plan and several products geared toward developing a stronger school system for learners. 

A core piece of the project was the creation of two leadership frameworks, one each for school and system leaders. These frameworks applied global research insights to the SVG context, bringing clarity and consistency to education leaders’ efforts to improve student achievement and well-being. We worked closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure the planned instruction models suited the needs of both the participants and the SVG school system.  

Extensive consultations also shaped the Principal Performance Appraisal Handbook for School Leaders and mentoring program guidelines we produced, each of which will help to continue the transformation of education in SVG. Over the course of three years, the performance appraisal was developed, piloted, and revised to ensure the result was dynamic, helpful, and specific to the needs of education leaders in SVG. The handbook builds on similar material developed for the Ontario system to provide practical guidance for school leaders looking to continue to improve their own performance and, ultimately, student success and well-being. The mentoring program drew on ISL’s experience in other settings where a traditional mentor-mentee relationship was less effective than a leading and learning team approach that proved beneficial to both new and experienced school leaders. As required for each of these three items, we created detailed forms, checklists, guidelines and more to ensure the tools would be practical, easy to use, and immediately applicable. The figure below illustrates the constellation of products and practices related to leadership development. 

Delivery: Training school and system leaders  

The original plan to deliver our customized school program and systems modules in-person had to change quickly after initial successful onsite sessions early in 2020. Although the material could be adapted to a COVID-suitable online delivery model, the lack of computers and reliable internet service in SVG hampered the revised approach. Disruptions stemming from the volcanic eruptions and earthquakes presented further problems in 2021. Partway through the program, participants had a chance to reflect in guided online discussion forums on what they’d learned and how it was already affecting their practice. Practical projects saw system leaders applying data insights to specific case studies in SVG.  

In the end, even the busiest school and system leaders expressed appreciation for a program some had been reluctant to undertake on top of their considerable existing workload. Indeed, 86 per cent of participants said the program has had either a very effective or extremely effective impact on their practice. A survey of school leaders showed the training had the most impact when it came to participants’ ability to monitor progress in student learning and school improvement, create high expectations, build trust with all members of the school community, and improve relationships with staff. Despite concern that the program was too long (a result of the unforeseen factors already noted), an impressive 83 per cent of the school and system leaders enrolled ultimately completed their studies. Their persistence is a testament to their dedication and their desire to become even more effective in their professional roles. Participants immediately began incorporating what they’d learned, making improvements that are already helping the country’s young learners increase their success. 

[School testimonials

“The program is an excellent one that can only make principals and assistant principals in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines more effective and competent in the execution of their duties.” 

“As a school leader, this leadership course has helped me tremendously. I have been able to build on what I have been doing and implement the new things I have learnt to enhance my leadership skills and develop my school.” 

“The program and the information shared is very relevant and can only help in improvement for our students once the information is put into practice.” 

[System testimonials

“Having more knowledge about the operation of the school system makes it easier for me to perform my roles and connect with school leaders to work collaboratively towards improving achievements in all desired areas.” 

“I think the ISL team is very approachable and makes an effort to accommodate all participants.” 

“The course has caused me to reflect deeply on my practice. It has also helped me to try to improve on, and to plan to improve on, my practice as an education officer.” 

Building for the future  

Our work with school and system leaders in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is already making a difference. While participants are putting their practical skills and knowledge to use for the benefit of students throughout the country, it is perhaps the less tangible outcomes of the program that are the most important in building on the foundation that has been established.  

Leaders now have a greater understanding of the personal competencies needed to be effective in their work and are aware of their own leadership styles as well as how their style affects interactions with others in the education community, whether staff, parents, students, or officials. Participants honed emotional and cultural intelligence, which are proving invaluable in boosting collaboration and trust. The relationships they developed with each other endure far past the end of the program; they now have a group of peers they know they can appeal to for guidance and with whom they can share ideas and experiences, mentoring and supporting each other to sustain the program’s impact.  

What they have learned so far also cements the importance of continued professional development, something that will be further enhanced by the Ministry of Education’s adoption of aligned structures and processes. With powerful tools including the Leadership Frameworks for School and System Leaders, the School Leadership Development Plan Framework, Mentoring: Learning and Leading Teams, the Handbook for School Leaders, the School Leadership Certificate Program and the Principal Performance Appraisal Procedure, SVG education leaders are well positioned to achieve even greater success in the years ahead.