The 2023 IH Directors’ Conference in London was at its foundations, a celebration. Of course, it was an opportunity for our directors to network, share ideas, ask advice from their peers and look forward to the future of our organization, but in the 70th year of IH, we were there to commemorate too.
We marked the milestone year with a beautifully designed cake, complete with the 70th logo. In the plaque ceremony, Marco Cremades’ speech upon receiving the first 70 years plaque was a stirring reminder of the significance of 7 decades of existence.
A big thank you to the IH London team for hosting us on Sunday and Monday. The image of Mark Rendell welcoming the directors flanked by two Beefeaters was very memorable. They embraced the Coronation celebrations that swept the city that weekend and hosted a fantastic Coronation-themed street party complete with signature cocktails, finger sandwiches and scones. Fizzy Arbuthnott and Laura Jenkins went to great lengths to ensure things ran smoothly and the result was a great success.
The first day of the conference was held at IH London, it was a great opportunity for directors to explore the school’s facilities. The delegates were greeted with their 70th-anniversary pin badges and notebook embossed with a quote from Brita Haycraft “We became not just a school but a ‘Casa Internacional’.”
To open the conference, the directors participated in a leadership and team-building workshop created by EML. It was based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and emphasized the importance of having different personality types in a team. After lunch, we heard from IH directors on a range of topics such as sustainability and university collaborations. The IH Study Abroad schools gathered to discuss market trends and challenges.
After a jam-packed first day, delegates headed to The Old Bank of England where the platinum sponsor, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, hosted the annual charity auction and raffle raising money for the IH Foundation. Gavin from IH Cape Town and Joel from Cambridge kept the audience entertained and skilfully auctioned off the beautiful items that the IH directors had brought from all over the world to be prizes. One of the most notable was donated by Tanya of IH Kyiv and was an album of stories of Ukrainian women artists and their paintings created in the first 111 days of the war with Russia.
Standout highlights were the three plenary speakers. Grant Leboff from The Sticky Marketing Club regaled the audience with thought-provoking anecdotes to highlight the importance of emotion in decision-making. Alastair Campbell, author/strategist/activist/journalist and host of the UK’s number one podcast, spoke about the far-reaching benefits of learning languages and the importance of advocating for them to be prioritised in education systems. The final plenary speaker, Diana Osagie, received a standing ovation from the audience following her captivating session on ‘Courageous Leadership’. Her mix of humour, powerful messages and mesmerising delivery had our directors on the edges of their seats.
We enjoyed sessions on a range of topics such as teaching the skills of emotional intelligence through the RULER programme (currently implemented at IH Bucharest). We heard from our EDIB chair, Hannah Youell, and our Partner guard.me International Insurance about creating and maintaining a culture of belonging in schools. Other big topics were workforce evolution at IH Sydney Training Services and bringing education for sustainable development into the ELT environment from Cengage.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most touched-upon topics was digital innovation. A digital panel including Alex Asher from LearnCube, Jo Sayers from LearnJam and Tricia Thrasher from Immerse, discussed how digital learning has impacted language schools post-pandemic. They identified emerging trends and how IH schools can harness digital learning to drive enrolment. On a similar note, Shaun Wilden, Manager of IH OTTI, explored the rise of AI and other digital trends.
The plaque ceremony is always a proud moment for both schools and the network. This year we presented:
- IH Riga with a 20-year plaque
- IH Mexico City with a 25-year plaque
- IH Sydney with a 25-year plaque (from 2022)
- IH Toruń with a 30-year plaque
- IH Kyiv with a 30-year plaque
- IH Viseu with a 40-year plaque
- IH Newcastle with a 45-year plaque
- IH Huelva with a 55-year plaque
- IH Cordoba with a 70-year plaque
Although they weren’t at the conference to receive their plaques, we also want to announce that
- IH Ho Chi Minh City has now been affiliated for 20 years.
- IH Bielsko-Biala has now been affiliated for 30 years.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the conference took place at the beautiful venue of BMA House in Tavistock Square. We all remarked on the great location of the venue and its beautiful surroundings. As the conference came to a close on Wednesday, we made our way to the iconic London landmark, the OXO Tower, to enjoy a fabulous gala dinner hosted by platinum PLUS sponsor, PSI Services. The view overlooking the River Thames was spectacular and the perfect ending to a great few days.
As the programme read, ‘John Haycraft said of the Directors’ Conference, “One objective was to share ideas which might transform a school overnight. It also gave a sense of unity and a chance to find out how everyone else was doing.”
And we did just that, we shared ideas, celebrated the unity of our community and looked forward to the future of language education and International House.
Thank you to our partner guard.me International Insurance. Thank you to our platinum PLUS sponsor Skills for English from PSI and our platinum sponsor Cambridge University Press & Assessment. Thank you to our gold sponsors Trinity College London and British Council. And finally thank you to our silver sponsors Avallain, Cengage Learning, GEL Guided e-Learning, CEMDESK, Schoolworks, LanguageCert, Swoosh Transfer, Macmillan Education, IDP for IELTS, OET.