Choosing your study programme
We offer two types of post-16 study: A-Levels, and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.
As you will be aware, A-Level is an examination specific to the UK, and, naturally enough, is the means whereby most university students in this country gain access to their courses. Each A-Level is a free-standing qualification, taken alongside others but completely independent of them, and any combination of subjects can be chosen so long as your school can staff and schedule it. Traditionally, the standard number of A-Levels taken by a student has been three, but this norm has been creeping up towards four in grammar schools especially, with five and even six not unheard of. Many people regard A-Level as an opportunity to specialise in one ‘side’ of the curriculum, so that combinations of subject such as Maths-Physics-Chemistry or English-French-History continue to be very popular. The strength of A-Level has always been its close focus on the content and characteristic methods of each individual subject – the courses tend to be what one might describe as densely packed. There is no doubt that these are tried, tested and respected qualifications.
The IB Diploma, founded in Geneva in 1968 and now taken every year by over 50,000 candidates worldwide, adopts a very different approach to the curriculum. Its designers sought to create a qualification which would preserve a broad range of study all the way to age 18, would be an integrated programme rather than just a collection of subjects, and would give access to universities across the globe. Young people wishing to opt for the IB need to be firm believers in a balanced education, because their programme of six subjects must include their own native literature, a foreign language, a mathematical course, a scientific one, and a humanities subject. That said, its founders were realists who recognised that students, for various reasons, would not necessarily want to study all six subjects at the same intensity, and they therefore decided that only three should be taken at Higher Level, and the other three at Standard (a considerably less demanding option). More detail on the structure of the Diploma, and on the famous Core elements that bind it together, will be found on a later page. In general terms, though, the IB will appeal to students who like the idea of a broad and international programme which emphasises independent learning and the making of connections between different areas of knowledge. It is welcomed as an entrance qualification by over 2000 universities worldwide, including all of those in the UK.