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How to choose the right curriculum for your child

For most families in the UK, the National Curriculum of England and Wales, known universally as the British curriculum is the only choice on offer, however in the independent schools sector, schools can be more experimental and can offer a wider range of options either alongside the traditional GCSE and A Level paths.

In the final two years of secondary education (Years 12 and 13 in the British System) students prepare for their school leaving qualification completing the secondary or pre-university phase of their education. There are a range of curriculums and qualifications to choose from but all of the externally academically validated ones are internationally recognised and are accepted by Universities across the globe.

A Levels are offered in a broad range of subjects from the traditional facilitating subjects such as Maths, Science, Humanities, Classics and Modern Languages to subjects such as Art, Dance, Sport and Design related subjects. Some of these courses will be an extension of those which have been studied at GCSE level and others can be taken up ab initio for example, Economics, History of Art. The International Baccalaureate (IB) The IB is a globally recognised qualification and focuses on academic excellence and extensive extra-curricular enrichment. It is a challenging programme that meets the needs of highly motivated students and leads to a diploma that is recognised as the premier external examination by leading universities around the world.

The IB programme prepares students from a young age to be active participants in a lifelong journey of learning. Life in the 21st century, in an interconnected, globalised world, requires critical thinking skills and a sense of international-mindedness, something that International Baccalaureate (IB) students come to know and understand.

The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world. IB learners strive to be:

  • Inquirers

  • Caring

  • Risk-takers

  • Balanced

  • Reflective

  • Knowledgeable

  • Thinkers

  • Communicators

  • Principled

  • Open-minded

The Diploma Programme The curriculum is made up of the DP core and six subject groups. The six subject groups are:

  • Studies in Language & Literature

  • Language Acquisition

  • Individuals & Societies

  • Sciences

  • Mathematics

  • The Arts

The DP core is made up of the three required components and aims to broaden students’ educational experience and challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills. The three core elements are:

  • Theory of knowledge, in which students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know.

  • The extended essay (EE), which is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.

  • Creativity, action, service (CAS) in which students complete a project related to those three concepts.

The Career-related Certificate – For ages 16 to 19 years This is a two year curriculum that increases access to an IB education and is specifically designed to provide a flexible learning framework tailored by the school to meet the needs of students. CP students undertake a minimum of two IB Diploma Programme (DP) courses, a core consisting of four components and a career-related study. 1. IBCP programme The IB Careers Programme is divided into three key areas:

1. Students complete at least two DP courses in any of that programme's subject groups.

2. CP core components give context to the DP courses and the career-related study, drawing all aspects of the framework together. Through the CP core, students develop personal qualities and professional skills, as well as intellectual habits required for lifelong learning.

3. Each school chooses the career-related study most suited to local conditions and the needs of its students. The career-related study must satisfy IB criteria for accreditation, assessment and quality assurance.

In many cases this element is delivered via a BTEC programme but schools can choose to partner with external study or work experience providers to create a unique experience for their students. 2. BTEC BTECs typically cover subjects such as Business, Sport, Creative Media Production, Hospitality, Equine Management, Performing Arts, Music, Sport, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, Countryside, Management and Art and Design. BTECs are assignment-based qualifications, continually assessed over two years, teaching project management skills and collaborative work alongside individual research and development relating to a particular industry.

  • Students are assessed with a combination of continual assessment tasks which prioritise practical skills alongside theoretical understanding. Typically, there is currently a 20-25% exam weighting in each subject and the rest is continual assessment through project work.

  • BTEC’s are particularly suitable for students who learn by doing.

  • BTEC Level 3 courses carry the equivalent weighting to A Levels. 95% of universities and colleges accept BTEC qualifications on entry. Level 3 BTECs hold the same points as A Levels, with a Distinction being equivalent to an A grade.

  • BTECs can be studied alongside A Levels. There is a year-on-year increase in the number of school leavers holding BTEC qualifications, either alone or in combination with A Levels.

  • BTECs prepare students for university study, especially for those courses which place greater onus on coursework as this type of assessment is closely aligned to that used in BTEC. Universities are becoming increasingly aware of the changes in the level 3 market place and this is allowing them to understand and meet the needs of different types of students more effectively.

  • They are a particularly good fit for students who are considering doing a Degree apprenticeship with one of the many top companies who increasingly recruit via this route.

Curriculum Advisory Services with Carfax Consultants Our experienced team of Consultants at Carfax Education are here to provide impartial advice and support during the school selection and application process. Our guidance will ensure that your family make a clear and informed decision. If you would like to arrange a consultation, please click here.


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