UK Boarding School Curriculum


Many qualifications are avalable including GCSEs, GCE AS-Levels & A-Levels, BTEC Qualifications, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge Pre-University (Pre-U) Diploma and AQA Baccalaureate.


GCE AS & A Level Curriculum


Students are advised to choose A Level subjects that will help their future career and/or university application. A-levels take two years to complete (ages 16–18, Years 12 and 13). In the first year, students study four or five subjects at AS-level, which is both the first half of an A-level and a qualification in its own right. In the second year, students select three or four of the subjects they studied at AS-level to continue through to A-level. This part of the A-level is known as A2. A-levels are being reviewed at the moment and there are changes planned, with new A-level exams being considered for 2019.


BTEC Qualification Curriculum


A BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma is equivalent to A Level and IB (studied in Years 12 and 13 at age 16 to 18 years). They are vocational qualifications that deliver industry specific skills, the delivery is of a practical nature and assessment is by course work. BTEC subjects include Business Studies, ICT, Travel and Tourism, Countryside Management, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, Creative Media Production, Sport, Music Technology, Health and Social Care, Performing Arts and Outdoor Education.


International Baccalaureate


The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an international programme of study for students aged 3–19 at schools and colleges around the world. A series of programmes for different age groups are offered, including:


The IB Middle Years Programme


The IB Middle Years Programme is aimed at students aged 11yrs to 16yrs. It is intended to encourage students to make links between traditional subjects of study and the real world, and to learn to think critically and reflectively. MYP students study eight subject groups – their mother tongue, a second language, humanities, sciences, mathematics, arts, physical education and technology. In the final year, a personal project is undertaken to allow students to demonstrate what they have learnt and the skills they have developed during the Programme.


The IB Diploma


The IB Diploma is a two-year programme for students aged 16–19yrs. It is currently on offer at around 200 schools and colleges in the UK. The programme allows internationally mobile students to transfer more easily between schools. IB Diploma students study six subjects chosen from specified groups, in addition to three compulsory core requirements. Three subjects are studied to the equivalent of A-level standard and three to the equivalent of AS-level. Students must also complete an extended essay on one subject and take part in a course on the theory of knowledge, as well as extracurricular activities. The programme leads to a single qualification rather than separate ones for individual subjects, but students who don’t achieve the full diploma are awarded a certificate for each subject taken.


IB or not IB?


More and more students are considering the International Baccalaureate, but what is the IB? Where does it come from and how does it compare with A Levels?


The stated aim of the IB is “to develop intellectual, personal, social and emotional skills”.


As well as the six main subjects (which include English and Maths, plus at least one science and a foreign language), you have to do a self-researched Extended Essay of 4,000 words, a philosophically based Theory of Knowledge project and 150 hours of CAS (Creativity Action Service), involving arts, sports and community service.


The IB movement was founded in 1968, by a group of teachers at the International School of Geneva. The first director of the IB was Alec Peterson, a former Headmaster of Dover College.


In the UK, 222 schools offer the IB Diploma (for 16 to 19 yr olds), and some 139 different countries now have IB schools. The total number of IB students worldwide is 876,000.


You have to study six subjects for the IB; you choose your best three to take at Higher Level and your weaker three at Standard Level.


To study the IB successfully you need to be diligent and organised.


The IB is not for everyone, the principal objection being that it requires students to take subjects for which they may have no aptitude and less affection. The A Level system lets pupils who struggle with maths, or hate languages abandon these subjects once GCSE’s are over, it is important to think carefully as to which system would best suit each student.


Cambridge Pre University Diploma


The Cambridge Pre-University (Pre-U) Diploma is a post-16 qualification, the Cambridge Pre-U is proving popular among the UK’s independent schools. It has been developed in consultation with universities, which have welcomed a qualification designed to prepare students for self-directed learning. The Pre-U not only provides students with a keen grasp of their subject, it also encourages independent thinking.


Students choose up to four subjects from a range of 26, and may study them individually or as an interdisciplinary combination. Each element is equivalent to an A-level and can gain the qualification of Pre-U Certificate. Students successfully studying three principal subjects together with an Independent Research Report and a Global Perspective Portfolio are awarded a Pre-U Diploma. Students may also substitute other equivalent qualifications, eg A-levels, for up to two principal subjects and still gain the Diploma. Studies last two years.


AQA Baccalaureate


The AQA Baccalaureate is another post-16 qualification that is becoming more popular in the independent school sector is the Baccalaureate offered by AQA, the largest of the three English exam boards. It uses A-levels plus three other elements to provide a broad academic and life skills education.