The IB: Here’s to the next 30 years

Jo Sale, Vice Principal, Impington International College

Following my teacher training at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, I visited several schools in search of the right job. Ahead of my interview at Impington Village and International College, I carried out a great deal of research and background reading on the College, and it was the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum that stood out for me, more than any other school or curriculum that I had looked at. The ethos and structure of the IB is something that I continue to be inspired and motivated by today, and I am in no way surprised that, as a College, we are celebrating 30 years of offering the IB Diploma Programme (DP); it is the only post-16 curriculum that is truly just as relevant today as it was three decades ago.

Since I first started co-ordinating the DP in 2009, there has quite rightly been a shift in how students, parents and also university admissions officers perceive the DP. When I started, we still had to explain what the IB was on our students’ UCAS applications, whereas now it is widely recognised, established and acclaimed. The latest report from the IB supports this, confirming that DP students are three times more likely than matched A level students to enrol in a top 20 UK higher education institution. Opposed to its A Level counterpart, the IB develops the whole student and sets students up for life beyond the school gates, allowing them to flourish as they take their next steps.

The 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”, a mission statement that fundamentally ensures that its curriculum is just as relevant in today’s society as it was when we introduced it here. Although society will have been faced with different issues in 1991 compared to those we face today, the DP remains relevant because the programme doesn’t just focus on teaching content and building knowledge, but on developing the whole person with the skills needed to thrive throughout life. For example, with the development of social media, a frequent discussion in my classes is the rise of fake news, how we process information and which sources we can trust, something that was not previously important. I often wonder how this will be developed even further over the next 30 years.

The DP encourages students to develop their knowledge within a real-world global context, often challenging views and asking them to explore and understand the opinions of their peers. These skills are fundamental for success in higher education or the world of work. So, what better time to learn these skills than at sixth form, when students can grow and develop them within a classroom environment? This gives them a real advantage over their non-IB peers.

As well as having grown at our College over the past 30 years, seen in the increase in our student numbers and the introduction of the groundbreaking IB Career-related Programme, the IB itself has gone from strength to strength over the past three decades. The DP curriculum undergoes a seven-year cycle review to ensure that the content taught in the classroom reflects real world context. For example, with Language A, our students are encouraged to speak and express themselves both verbally and in their written work, something of particular importance when demonstrating the skills needed to secure a job. Young adults nowadays are likely to have numerous jobs in their lifetimes; having a post-16 curriculum that is broad and balanced is a necessity to ensure that they are able to keep their options open and not specialise too early in life.

Something that I have seen consistently during my time at Impington International College is how our students develop strong academic, social and emotional characteristics. After graduating from our College, students often email to let me know the impact of the DP and how the skills they’ve developed are useful within their day to day lives. I have no doubt that this will continue to be the case for many years to come!

At Impington International College, we genuinely believe that educating the whole child for the purpose of creating a better world is what education is all about, and ensuring that our curriculum highlights real world issues, and enables our students to discuss these with confidence and understanding is just as important to us now as it was 30 years ago. We pride ourselves on being an IB World School; the IB runs through all elements of our school life – academic, extra-curricular and pastoral, from Key Stage 3 to 5 – and we wouldn’t be who we are without it. What other post-16 curriculum remains as powerful and relevant today as it was 30 years ago? The answer is none – the IB is in a league of its own.