Case study: English in the International Baccalaureate

One teacher explains how the IB has breathed new life into her English teaching but has also brought its own hurdles to overcome

teacher

Lorraine Bradstreet has taught English as part of the International Baccalaureate at the Anglo European School in Essex for four years.

Having also taught the mainstream curriculum, she says the subject has its pros and cons.

Anglo is one of the few state schools in the country that offers the IB curriculum alongside traditional GCSEs and A levels.

The diploma was introduced to the sixth-form in 1977 and, in 2010, they introduced the IB career-related programme.

“I was a little nervous on whether or not I could meet the criteria,” Bradstreet says. “But very quickly I realised that it was essentially still teaching.

“There are frustrations, of course but, generally speaking, across the school, we have really good, well-motivated students, and students who are prepared to put themselves out there.”

Bradstreet praises many elements of the programme, such as the assessment modules (which include oral tests looking at the development of students’ articulation skills), but says there are certain drawbacks.

“While the philosophy of the IB is fantastic, we have constraints that other schools don’t have; particularly time and money. 

“I think the biggest problem with IB for our students is that they have to work independently in order to get through the syllabus. It can feel like they’re floundering a little bit," she says.  

What makes it different?

Although she tries to use similar models for the IB students as her A-level students, Bradstreet finds that the overlap with other subjects in IB makes replicating lessons more difficult.

“What you want as a teacher is to take those [class] discussions off on tangents and the IB really encourages the exploration.”

Because the IB course isn’t offered by many state schools, she continues, there can be a lack of awareness among students and parents. 

At Anglo, however, the philosophy of the IB is encouraged across the whole school.

“They hear about it in Year 7 and it’s referenced all the way through school,” she says. 

“I love the philosophy of the IB and the breadth of texts. I feel equally confident with it as I do with all the other teaching I’ve done over the past 20 years.” 

Bradstreet explains how teaching the IB has brought new life to a subject that was very familiar. 

Anglo has fewer hours than other schools to do what the IB wants them to do and Bradstreet says this has knock-on effects in the department.

“The IB programme offers so much, but A-levels are cheaper – or free, or online – and the whole department can do it. In our department, our sense of A level and GCSE is stronger than perhaps IB is. 

“However, I do think it’s a reason as to why teachers come to Anglo – we’re one of the few state schools that offer it.”

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