Risk Management for International Schools: Protecting Students & Staff

According to research by the International School Consultancy there are about 8,000 international schools operating around the world and year on year that figure is rising substantially. Proof of which is that in the last year, about 100,000 teachers from the UK alone were hired to work at international schools.

Moving to a foreign country to take up a teaching position is an exciting prospect for a skilled professional looking for a new learning experience. With teaching skills in high demand, especially those teaching English in the Far East, qualified educators are able to pick and choose employers. In this regard, demonstrating to prospective employees that you have the right protections to safeguard them and their family is a critical recruiting tool. Additional protections are needed for the school to shield itself from criminal acts by teachers and other staff.  The following article shares many of the challenges teachers and schools will face operating abroad.   

International school protection against political unrest and acts of terror

International schools can often be located in areas prone to political unrest, war and crime. For example, in late 2014 a British head teacher David Richard Bolam, who worked at International School Benghazi in Libya, was kidnapped by Islamic militants while out on a shopping trip. He was only released four months later. His kidnapping sent ripples through the international school’s community in these areas, with many realizing that their international schools coverage needed to extend to kidnapping and ransom events.   More recently, in just August of this year, two professors from the American University in Afghanistan where taken from their car at gunpoint – a coordinated attack that defeated existing safety protocols. 

International schools around the world should ensure they have kidnap, ransom and salary continuation insurance for employees.  While these examples highlight examples in high-risk markets, kidnappings happen all around the world.  A kidnap & ransom policy includes training modules as well to help prevent this tragedy for your staff. 

International schools need staff protection in war zones

Sometimes teaching staff move to an area and stay for an extended period, building a life there. In that time, things change and the country could turn into a war zone, leaving the international school and its staff vulnerable.

Last year, a British teacher asked for herself and her daughters to be evacuated from war-torn Yemen, after living there for 27 years. Her family were living in Sanaa and were caught up amongst the fighting. It is important for international schools to conduct a risk management assessment regularly, to ensure the area where the school is operating is covered for military conflict and that, if necessary, they are able to ensure that staff can be evacuated safely.

International school political evacuation policies cover any unforeseen financial consequences associated with the evacuation of personnel due to political instability or military confrontation.

International school coverage in the case of natural disasters

Between 1994 and 2013, 6,873 natural disasters occurred worldwide, claiming 1.35 million lives (according to EM-DAT). Natural disasters frequently affect schools around the world. Sixteen thousand schools, most for domestic students, were damaged and destroyed in the 2015 Nepal earthquake (according to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs). Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines damaged 2,500 schools, and floods in Malawi recently closed hundreds of schools. Many international schools are located in areas that are prone to earthquakes, typhoons and hurricanes. As such, the right international school protection for such an event is essential, particularly for property coverage.  Ensuring the property policy covers catastrophic perils with no or adequate sub-limits is important for schools at high-risk for these types of events.  If the school is damaged and unable to continue operations, income protection to pay staff under contract may also be required, which can be covered by a business interruption policy.

Protecting your school from teacher actions

Working in a foreign environment can present challenges, especially with regards to cultural differences and legal complexities. Such differences might give rise to cases of sexual harassment, wrongful termination and discrimination. Staff of international schools should be fully briefed on local laws and cultural norms.

Issues such as differing disciplinary procedures in the classroom, employment law and cultural nuances should all be addressed right at the beginning of the employment relationship. Fully briefed members of staff will then be more comfortable in their new environments, allowing them to settle into the teaching routine as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, an international school could also find itself in the position of having to protect itself and its reputation against the actions of its staff. This was the case when a Canadian-British teacher working in an international school in Jakarta was rearrested for sexually abusing children at the school. International schools should ensure that adequate checks are in place before they employ staff to work with children as well as a continuity plan that creates check and balances to protect students from the extremely unlikely advances of staff, including teachers, administrators, maintenance, etc. 

In another case, an international school in India made news when it suspended a pupil who had accused a teacher of harassment and assault. The teacher was accused of slapping the boy, and the boy’s parents claimed corporal punishment had been used. The teacher was reinstated once the boy was suspended, but the legal case is continuing. A lawsuit against the school, warranted or not, is extremely expensive Insurance for international schools should protect the learning facility and all of its stakeholders and employers from liability claims that could be brought against them in their role as teachers.

Another risk for international schools is employee theft. Even with thorough background checks, employees may be hired with criminal intentions.  In April this year, an assistant at an elite international school in Hong Kong was arrested for fraud and money laundering. This action by a staff member at an international school demonstrates the fact that schools need to have the right crime coverage to protect themselves against the actions of staff, which could lead to financial loss as well as reputational damage. 

International school medical cover

Medical insurance for expatriate staff needs to be designed for their unique needs, including possible evacuation needs.  Another trending medical issue is disease outbreak and other medical hazards.  Staff in tropical locations might contract diseases as their immune systems might not be used to a new set of bugs. Having medical coverage for staff with access to resources dedicated to tropical diseases and other medical hazards is imperative. Before staff arrives for their new post, they should also research recommended inoculations against prevalent diseases.

Finding the right medical insurance with medical evacuation and repatriation included as a standard option and access to specialists on medical conditions found in developing countries is one of the most important recruiting tools available to a school.  For decades international schools have relied on Clements Worldwide Scholars Health Insurance program for coverage designed for the unique needs of teachers and administrators at international schools.

When you have peace of mind, the world is your oyster

Teaching is a rewarding profession; being able to travel the world and learn while imparting knowledge is a perk. In-demand teachers from around the world are doing their homework as to which schools offer the right protection against a range of things that can go wrong in foreign locations.

If staff at international schools are protected, they can be free to worry about what is really important – empowering their students with the right knowledge to be able to go on their own adventures one day.  Therefore, international schools need to concentrate on overall risk management within their organization.  To read more about creating a risk management plan to prioritize staff and student safety, check out our article with partner Clearpath EPM: Keeping Our Children Safe Around the World.  Also, Clements Worldwide is happy to do a complementary assessment of your  existing insurance policies so please reach out to us at +1.202.872.0060 or 800.872.0067 or email request@clements.com

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