Since its establishment in 1886, academic excellence has been a hallmark of our centre.
By excellence, we refer firstly to students who have attained the best academic results from among local schools.
Historically, and more specifically, in recent years, our school has ranked among the top five schools in Seville in terms of university entrance examination results ("Selectividad" in Spanish), with an average "Selectividad" mark of 8.1, and a sustained difference of more than half a point with respect to private schools, more than eight tenths with respect to state-subsidized schools and more than one point with respect to state schools.
All our students continue their studies at university, and most are able to pursue their first choice studies thanks to their high average final grades. In recent years, leading international universities have admitted students from our school.
Similarly, International Baccalaureate students have been achieving grades that are six points above the international average, from the more than one million students from 146 countries participating in this program. In addition, all our Diploma students follow the bilingual syllabus, compared to 25% worldwide.
And all this is achieved without leaving anyone behind because the school has managed to virtually eradicate school failure. The percentage of repeaters is zero per cent at Primary level and 1% at Secondary and Baccalaureate levels.
The pursuit of excellence naturally also applies to Teachers, who are key to the achievement of these results. To enhance teacher and teaching excellence at our school, we have been developing the following five main strategies:
Training: Colegio San Francisco de Paula is the school that invests most in professional development in Spain, approximately 2% of our budget. Since 2008-2009, when we started measuring excellence, the number of annual hours devoted to training has increased fivefold. Today, each and every Primary teacher receives an average of 90 hours of annual training, and each Secondary Teacher over 100 hours. All our teachers have received specific International Baccalaureate training. This has allowed a large group of our teachers to become International Baccalaureate evaluators, teachers and/or examiners, and they can share their knowledge and practices with some of the best schools in the world. A specific plan has also been developed to train our teachers in the application of new technologies in education.
Recruitment and Selection: Our school attaches great importance and also devotes much time to the selection process. The selection criteria are: the degree (priority is given to PhD holders and candidates with more than one degree); language proficiency (at least C1 in English, not to teach in that language but to be able to receive training in that language as lessons in foreign languages are only taught by native speakers or by teachers with at least C2); teaching experience; proficiency in the use of technological resources in education; and international experience, which is also extremely important for an educational project, ours in this case, which is becoming increasingly international in scope. However, the main criteria are teaching vocation and capabilities as well as their openness to change and innovation.
Integration: The effort to integrate teachers starts from their very selection, when a welcoming programme is launched that includes the assignment of a mentor to accompany the new teacher, providing him/her with knowledge about the school and his/her fellow teachers. In addition, once the teacher is hired, the Department Head regularly visits the new teacher's classes to jointly analyse strengths and areas for improvement.
These visits are not only made with new teachers. At our school it is customary - and has been for many years - for teachers to be supervised by their Department Heads to see how they teach their classes and to be help them to improve. Moreover, academic and tutorial best practices are shared on an on-going basis in weekly departmental and coordination meetings. This is supported by the fact that part of the training is given by members of the school's own teams, normally teachers who have received that training externally and who, in turn, share that training internally, after this has been adapted very specifically to the methodology and way of working in the school.
Outreach: We strive to combat the isolation of teachers not only within the school but also with respect to the community in which we provide education services. Thus, our school's connection with the business and civic fabric of our community is such that prestigious figures from the world of business, academia, politics and culture in Andalusia collaborate voluntarily in the development of our strategic plans.
Furthermore, our school's outreach is both national and international in scope. Integration in the International Baccalaureate program, accreditation by Advanc-ED International and membership of CICAE (Private International Schools Association) have allowed us to discover what some of the best schools in Spain, Europe and the world are doing.
We are currently participating in pioneering international educational projects such as the digital examination at the end of the MYP (Middle Years Programme). This outreach to the outside world and access to the practices of other schools has also helped us improve and progress significantly in core aspects for the education of our students.
Evaluation: All the teachers at our school receive constant feedback about their work. Their development is facilitated through monitoring and evaluation by the school's directors and the students themselves. From Year Two, students annually evaluate aspects such as the ability to explain clearly, preparation for exams, the requirements of the subject, order and respect in the classroom, enthusiasm, recommended reading, the use of new technologies, the resolution of doubts, the ability to motivate, gradual progress, fair assessment, or guidance on work and projects. And, of course, parents also evaluate teachers through surveys, which they can complete at the end of the academic year. Consequently, teachers receive information that helps them grow professionally. Our school also provides a system of incentives and variable remuneration, calculated based on these evaluations and on results and teaching innovation projects.
Career development and retaining of talent: In addition to a variable remuneration system known to all our teachers, our school has a professional promotion and improvement policy that seeks to train staff for promotion to higher posts with greater responsibilities within the school's organizational structure. Also, integration in the International Baccalaureate program has opened up another avenue for the professional development of our teachers as trainers, examiners and members of visiting IB teams.
In addition, the school has also developed policies aimed at retaining talent that have significantly reduced unwanted staff departures, even among the community of foreign teachers, culturally more given to job rotation, and for whom measures have been introduced to help them settle and support their integration in Spanish culture, in the city and at the school.
Leadership: Leadership at our school is enshrined in the current management model, with its principal and four deputy principals and clearly defined operational areas, allowing support to be provided to all innovation initiatives and the on-going improvement of our students, and which also guarantees a single uniform educational project at different levels and in different areas of knowledge. The deployment, consolidation and functioning of that organizational structure has been possible thanks to the development of a specific training program and the training of managers and middle managers.