Bolton leads the way on 'baby baccs'

15th February 2008 at 00:00
Primary schools in Bolton have become trailblazers by offering their pupils the "baby bacc".

A second primary in the northern town has been accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), making it one of just two state schools in the country accorded this status.

St Columba's Catholic Primary has joined Top o' th' Brow Primary as the only two state schools licensed to follow the project-based primary years programme.

Five more of the town's primary schools - St Stephen and All Martyrs, Tonge Moor, St George's, Sharples and Blackshaw - are also interested in the programme.

If they all took it up, Bolton would have seven junior IB state schools, compared with just four in the rest of the country - all independent schools.

Noreen Collins, headteacher of St Columba's, said: "The enquiry-based approach is about giving children skills for life, not just for passing exams. We were concerned about teaching to the test.

"The baccalaureate is motivational for the children and the teachers. The staff plan and mark collaboratively. We knew we were taking a risk by introducing something new, but it is working and we are delighted."

The IB approach is usually only offered at successful and mostly fee-charging secondary schools.

When Tony Blair was prime minister, he said he wanted one state secondary in every town to offer the senior version of the qualification.

The primary years programme, for children between 3 and 12, does not have a subject-based curriculum for most of the school day. Instead, pupils conduct investigations in different academic disciplines: social studies, maths, languages, arts, PE, science and technology, and personal, social and health education.

The aim is to develop the whole child, including their emotional needs - not just their academic performance.

It costs schools pound;25,000 to become accredited. This includes staff training in Europe. There is also a yearly subscription fee of pound;2,900.

St Columba's is part of an education action zone, which gives extra money to schools in deprived areas.

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