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Reaching at RISS: educating for self-awareness, curiosity and integrity in a changing world

Rotterdam International Secondary School are celebrating the successful introduction of an innovative new two-year Middle Years course: RISS Reach.

By Melanie Ward, Head of Middle Years at Rotterdam International Secondary School.

The recent pandemic reminded us that we never quite know what is around the corner. Similarly, conversations about the much-debated ‘21st-century learning’ and ‘soft skills’ are frequent in educational circles. The pandemic has also reinforced the interconnectedness of countries, whilst sadly highlighting inequalities and global challenges. Rotterdam International Secondary School (RISS) is responding to these demands of the future, and fostering global citizenship, through the introduction of an innovative new Grade 9 and 10 course that complements its existing IGCSE curriculum.

Courage, relationships, respect and responsibility

The ‘Reach’ course has been developed collaboratively by a team of RISS teachers and was first launched in September 2021 in line with the school’s vision—educating for self-awareness, curiosity and integrity in a changing world—and core values: courage, relationships, respect and responsibility. July 2023 sees the successful completion of the course’s two-year pilot, with feedback gathered from students, parents, and teachers being used to guide the ongoing development of the course.

RISS Reach is structured around the six concepts of character, citizenship, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication (Fullan and Scott, 2014). In line with the RISS’s mission—for every student to enjoy their youth—student agency is at the forefront of the ‘Reach’ course. Learning is driven by the students’ own experiences and interests, and individuals are given choice in how they demonstrate their learning. The two-year pilot has seen animated videos, poems, vlogs, video games, short stories, podcasts, musical compositions, and paintings (such as the pictured exploration of identity as part of a project by Grade 9 student Clara). Students document their learning journey and share final Reach products on a self-designed website.

Global citizens in a complex future

In contrast to the traditional quantifiable A*-G IGCSE grading system, ‘Reach’ uses standards-based criteria that exemplify mastery at different levels: ‘not yet reached’, ‘reached’, and ‘reached and exceeded’. Ongoing assessment plays a vital role: students who do not reach the criteria on first submission are given the opportunity to respond to feedback and re-submit. Reflecting the value placed on the learning of the course, completion of ‘Reach’ is a requirement for progression to Grade 11 and excellent preparation for the ‘core’ components of the school’s IB Career-related Programme and IB Diploma Programme.

The Reach course is just one way that RISS is purposefully creating learning opportunities that will stand our students in good stead as global citizens in an uncertain and complex future.


Fullan, M., & Scott, G., 2014.  New Pedagogies for Deep Learning Whitepaper: Education PLUS.  Seattle: Collaborative Impact SPC.  Available from: https://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Education-Plus-A-Whitepaper-July-2014-1.pdf [Accessed: 21 October 2021]

(This article is amended from an article previously published in the TIE Online in January 2022).

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