Shame on those who pulled funds on Bacc

9th May 2008 at 01:00
The international baccalaureate (IB) aims to "develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect"
The international baccalaureate (IB) aims to "develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect". What could be better? What head does not have similar aspirations for their students?

After many years of discussion, we decided to apply for authorisation to deliver the IB diploma from September 2008. Following a very rigorous process, we were delighted to be welcomed into the IB family of schools. We were equally pleased when we heard that the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) was funding each local authority for one school to offer the IB in a "collaborative", to ensure choice and diversity.

So we were shocked to read the 14-19 qualifications strategy, which is now withdrawing this financial support. The reason: "We now wish to focus on promoting the national entitlement to the 17 diplomas and the extended diploma."

This means the IB is now to be exactly the same as other accredited qualifications. There will not be an entitlement to make it available for students. I think the reason for this U-turn is more about fear of competition than about offering real choice or diversity.

Nervousness about the new diplomas is to be expected, and it is no wonder some 300 schools have opted to take part in the IB instead. This is because the IB is tried and tested, and quality is guaranteed.

As a head, I am used to taking risks - and signing up to deliver the IB diploma in our inner-city comprehensive is a big one. Ours is not a high-flying academic institution at the top of any league table: we are a fully inclusive school on a steady improvement journey. But we are a humanities specialist school, with citizenship at the heart of our vision. Our population is traditionally inward-looking, lacking in aspiration and very dependent on staff.

We want to break this cycle. Our sixth form is small, but offers a range of courses from entry level to level 3 (A-level equivalent). Next year, we will be offering two new diplomas as part of our 14-19 collaborative, alongside the IB diploma programme, so choice and diversity are alive and well in our school.

But we have not chosen this route because we distrust the new diplomas; we are doing it because the IB mission statement is very much in line with our school's aims and aspirations, and we believe it will enhance and strengthen our inclusive philosophy, and promote the education of the whole person more than a traditional A-level curriculum.

Our school is near Canary Wharf, which employs many people from across the UK and the world (but very few from the East End), and who come with a range of international qualifications. Students with an IB will stand a better chance of getting into the "right" universities and high-level jobs in the future. Active citizenship is a really important aspect of our school, and the IB helps to develop a practical, caring aspect of students' lives, and enables them to contribute to their communities and to the global community.

We already run a volunteer programme, which allows us to deliver the "creativity, action, service" part of the diploma without doing things very differently. Crucially, the IB diploma programme will allow our students to become reflective and independent learners, able to take risks with their learning and take on the world.

We will continue with our plans, despite the lack of support from the DCSF. I am sure many schools will do the same.

Kenny Frederick, Headteacher of George Green's Community School in Tower Hamlets, east London.

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