Perhaps we can be grateful that the omicron variant, combined with the level of vaccination we enjoy, seems to provoke lesser symptoms in general than previous waves of this virus, but the impact on schools is considerable. Through it all, I’m thankful for the ongoing cheerfulness of the children, the dedication of staff amongst the most challenging possible circumstances, and the support of our families. There is an underlying resilience which is encouraging. Let’s hope for easier days and brighter futures.
Speaking of brighter futures, it’s been a pleasure this month to see so many families in a series of meetings to plan out the Year 6 trip to Doñana, the Year 8 trip to the Sierra de Gredos, and the Year 9 options meeting to lay out choices between the IGCSE programme in English and our 3º and 4º ESO programme in Spanish. I don’t envy families the choice we offer between two high-level programmes, but please remember that we’re here in school to help guide you with any doubts or concerns you might have in making that choice.
We have another meeting coming up on Wednesday 9th. February, where families can meet Sarah Rimini, Head of School Exchanges at Inspired, who will explain about the possibilities the Inspired group offers for children to spend a term, a year, or a month in the summer at one of the other schools across the world, experiencing a broadly similar educational project but in a way which I trust will broaden their horizons, help them grow in self-confidence and personal autonomy, and make friends across the world – as well as having a very good time.
In the line of international opportunities, we’ve spent time in January working on a potential International Baccalaureate programme for Kensington School, with a view to September 2023. It’s important to stress that we intend to offer the I.B., a request from Kensington families for some time now, as a complement to our traditional Spanish Bachillerato, a tried and tested path to university entry for our students, with the two paths running side by side.
The I.B. is overseen by the International Baccalaureate Organisation, an NGO established in Geneva in 1968, initially with the aim of developing a Baccalaureate course which could be followed by students in any country of the world, independently of their national education system. In time, this has developed into a mission to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through education which promotes intercultural understanding and respect – an objective making perfect sense in the age of globalization and instant global communication, well ahead of its time in the 1960s.
The IB combines both a breadth and a depth of study, enabling students to specialise and study in greater depth where there interests and strengths might be, but retaining a broad general education. Each student chooses 6 subjects to study, with two languages, Maths, Science, and a Humanities subject being obligatory, the sixth subject being one of the Expressive Arts, a second Science, a second Humanities subject, or a third Language. Three subjects are studied at Higher level, and three at Standard level, with the Highers having more dedicated teaching tim, and consequently a higher level of expectation of student performance.
What sets the IB apart from other educational systems is its core, and its focus on methodology. The core of the IB promotes a broad, holistic understanding of both the student as an individual, and academic development in general. Each student has to take part in a programme of CAS, Creativity, Action and Service, where they have to dedícate time to some aspect of Creative Arts, outdoor activities or sport, and voluntary service to their community. As a key part of their programme, each student prepares a 4000 word Extended Essay, a monograph on an academic subject of their choice, supervised individually by one of their teachers, and appropriately researched, referenced and footnoted, an excellent preparation for the more independent nature of university study. All students also study a course in Theory of Knowledge, Critical Thinking where they examine how knowledge is constructed in the Sciences, in History, through language, in Mathematics, and what it actually means to say we know that something is true. In the age of Fake News, T.o.K. is perhaps more important to students thanat any previous time.
Add in an international focus, and a progressive methodology encouraging students to be reflective, independent, open-minded and communicative learners, and the fact that the I.B. is accepted in Spanish universities without the need for students to present for the EvAU, and I’m sure you will see why I believe the International Baccalaureate is an appropriate choice of curriculum as we look to develop an English-language pre-university programme at Kensington. I look forward to explaining our work on this to you at greater length in meetings in the near future.