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Post-16 education options: What is the IB Diploma?

Jon Cooper, Head of Sixth Form at Redmaids High School

By Jon Cooper, Assistant Headteacher, Sixth Form and International Baccalaureate 

Here at Redmaids’ High Sixth Form, students have the option to choose between studying A Levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. Whilst A Levels are the option most of us in the UK are more familiar with, the IB Diploma is an internationally renowned qualification that is studied in 119 countries around the world, which makes it an excellent choice for post-16 education. But what exactly does the IB cover?

The subjects

Doing the IB Diploma, you will take a two-year linear course, in which you’ll study six subjects; three at ‘Higher’ level, where the subjects are allocated more course and study time, and three at ‘Standard’ level. For many people, the ability to keep up more subjects, rather than having to narrow their choices, is a real bonus of the IB.  It allows you to specialise whilst also recognising that subjects don’t exist in isolataion, and helps maintain the skills you’ve developed in studying a range of subjects earlier in your school life.

To reflect this, some subjects are compulsory; maths, literature, a science and a language. You can study your favourite subjects at higher level,  and leave the rest to standard level, about x hours a week.  Having compulsory subjects aims to  prepare you for life beyond school by making you super employable (a second language is valuable in just about any career) and boosting your ability to plan and manage your adult life. Budget planning, for example, is a key part of most senior level job descriptions as well as being helpful for sorting your bills/rent/social life expenses. This is made much easier if you have a good grasp of maths!

The Core

An advantage of the IB Diploma is the ‘core’ which is taken into account in your overall grade. As part of the core you’ll undertake an Extended Essay (EE) on a topic of your choice, with guidance from a tutor. This is excellent preparation for the types of essays and dissertations you will be writing at university and allows you to deep dive into something you are really passionate about.

Another part of the core is your commitment to community, activity and service (CAS), central to the IB philosophy of self-reflection. This encourages you to learn ‘soft-skills’ beyond the classroom, beyond academic knowledge, shown through anything from voluntary work or mentoring, team sports or fundraising. Taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh award, for example, would be a great evidence of CAS!

The last crucial component of the IB core is ‘Theory of Knowledge’ or TOK classes. In TOK you’ll question the very concept of ‘truth’, and in a time when fake news and social media filters show stories through a specific lens, it’s never been more important to consider how we know, what we think we know.

The IB at Redmaids’ High

The exciting thing about the IB is how all topics, subjects and elements inter-connect. It is a truly multi-disciplinary course, with a focus on the part you play in wider society. International mindedness and whole pupil development are central to the IB philosophy, as they are to the wider philosophy of Redmaids’ High School.IB Diploma Programme

We’re one of only two places in Bristol where you can study the IB, and we’ve been offering it for 12 years. Our graduates go on to achieve incredible things. They’ve been selected for Oxford, Cambridge and other top-ranking universities for their chosen courses. They have been first in line for the best graduate schemes and apprenticeships. We’ve seen their careers take off in anything from river geo-morphology and natural flood management to technology and data delivery within the civil service and EVERYTHING in between!

Find out more

If you are curious to explore if the IB Diploma might be the right option for you, then get in touch to arrange an informal chat with me or one of the other members of the Sixth Form team here at Redmaids’ High. Or join us for our virtual Sixth Form event on 14 June, which will explore both the IB and A Level curriculum.

Register now


Date Posted: 12 May 2021
Sixth Form

Articles for: Sixth Form

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